Information Builders: Every corporate citizen is a potential user

ORLANDO, Fla. — Information Builders Inc. Monday said it is aiming to democratize its approach to business intelligence by expanding its relationship with Google and creating more ties with Microsoft desktop tools.

The company originally announced in March its intention to integrate its iWay integration and adapter software with the Google Search Appliance, the so-called Google in-a-box for enterprises. Coming shortly from IBI will be more WebFocus search logic capabilities which will allow users to extract business intelligence from messages and transactional data.

The new mantra around business intelligence is that every corporate citizen is potentially a BI user, said David Sandel, WebFocus group vice-president and general manager of IBI, based in New York City. Google is the most highly recognized interface there is, thus the best place from which to push BI across the enterprise.

IBI is not alone in its desire to create ties with the search engine giant. Many of its competitors, including Cognos and SAS, are part of Google’s One Box for Enterprise initiative. IBI was not initially mentioned in Google’s list of seven partners, which also included vendors like Cisco and Oracle, but that will be rectified soon, said Sandel.

The “Googlization” of business intelligence has been underway for some time, said Keith Gile, an analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research. “The new users of business intelligence are everybody who makes a business decision,” he said as part of the opening-day address for IBI’s Summit 2006 user conference.

“It’s not about building a better mousetrap, it’s about trying to build a different mousetrap because you’re trying to catch a bigger rat” – in this case, almost the entire user population, Gilie said.

Gile added that most users “don’t even know that they’re doing business intelligence,” making a commonplace search tool like Google the ideal neophyte interface.

The more people involved in the act of producing business intelligence, the more valuable the results may be, said Eric Rogge, vice-president and research director at Ventana Research, based in San Mateo, Calif.

“Business intelligence is the act of comparison,” he said. “Pay attention to the context and types of comparison your users are making. It’s through those comparisons that they start to drive insight.”

But because there are more consumers of information within the enterprise, “you will require more people to be information producers,” said IBI founder and CEO Gerry Cohen. IBI will introduce Power Painter in June, a product that will allow users to create reports in a thin client environment using AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML).

Where custom reporting tools may have been built by developers in the past, Power Painter uses a “Microsoft-like” environment that’s more user-friendly and intuitive, said Sandel. “We’re finding out today that there is another constituent of users – business users that want to create customized reports.”

The company will also be introducing Electronic Publishing for WebFocus in June – a piece of middleware that allows users to drop business intelligence data gleaned from WebFocus directly into Microsoft tools like Word, PowerPoint and Excel.

The amount of potential data which can be viewed through the BI prism is growing, be it e-mail or RFID-based transactions, said Gile, making search-based tools the ideal point of entry. “I don’t think the data has to be in one place” in order to analyze it, he said. “What we need is a single version of the truth. . . . Integration with collaboration is going to be huge in business intelligence.”

Sandel said that IBI started with Google because it’s the most widely recognized search engine, but will be creating connectors that will allow users to interface with others, including ones built for specific industry verticals. Likewise, Microsoft was the obvious choice for a desktop publishing GUI, but competing tools like Corel and even OpenOffice may be added in the future.

Summit 2006 continues until Thursday.

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