Royal Bank puts smarts in its spreadsheets

As head of one of the busiest departments at Canada’s largest financial institution, anything that can make Andy Hanna’s life easier is welcome.

As the manager of financial reporting for the Royal Bank of Canada, Montreal-based

Hanna says new tools from the latest version of WebFocus will introduce improvements on the technical side and in how reports are generated.

“”This release showed some additional functionality that was pretty exciting,”” said Hanna, who had a chance to see the changes made by New York City-based Information Builders Inc. (IBI) earlier this week when it released WebFocus 5.

In particular, Hanna said he is pleased to see the ability to view information in a format that best suits the individual, and more particularly, the ability to automatically transport numeric values into Excel formats.

“”One of the ones I really liked was the fact that if you’re porting data into an Excel file it retains the formula,”” he said. “”Say you did your sums in WebFocus 5, it will come directly into the Excel file. That’s going in the right direction. Otherwise you have a spreadsheet with nothing there.””

This issue is of particular value to clients like Royal Bank of Canada, which employ the sort of “”power users”” that want easier reporting capabilities of financial data, said Kevin Quinn, vice-president of sales support services for IBI.

“”Anybody looking at data and reports that involve numbers are more than likely looking at it in an Excel spreadsheet, so they’re looking at that as a huge productivity gain for employees,”” said Quinn.

Users can also save reports to a library where each version can be archived in a database, allowing users to create versions of reports and create expiration dates for them.

“”Right now, most companies probably have a paper-based system where they print out month-end statements that go into a big file cabinet in the corner,”” said Quinn. “”There’s a huge cost in finding documents and managing documents that can now go be moved to an electronic archived system where they can have documents saved in whatever format they want and retrieved.””

Other features that appealed to Hanna include the ability to cluster multiple WebFocus servers together with load-balancing and auto fail-over to ensure continuity.

“”I really like the load balancing stuff. If you have four or five servers available to you, what it will do is it will use three or four different servers as it needs it so people aren’t stuck waiting for a query to happen,”” he said. “”If you have a lot of users hammering at a server it will take some and port them, balance it out so you’re not throttling yourself out. Technically, that’s great.””

On the business side, WebFocus 5 has included the ability to send alerts to notify executives of critica

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