Information Builders providing ‘self-service’ analytics

Updated on June 12 at 11:55 a.m. ET with analyst comments.

ORLANDO – Information Builders has launched a new way for businesses to analyze their data – but it’s not just geared towards data geeks.

During its user summit on Tuesday, the New York-based business intelligence company announced WebFOCUS InfoDiscovery, a new product for analysts, power users, and business users. These are people who aren’t necessarily data scientists, but who want to analyze their data sets for themselves.

For example, it allows them to reach beyond corporate data sources to access and analyze data from spreadsheets like Excel, departmental databases, enterprise data warehouses, and third-party data sources, like social networks.

Users can create their own data visualizations by combining charts, graphs, and maps through Information Builders’ InfoApps product. The maps feature is especially handy, as it allows users to tap into spatial data with external demographics-based information, thanks to a partnership with Esri, a geographic informations system company.

Nor does InfoDiscovery prevent team members from collaborating with each other. The tool comes with features like Server and Repository, which allows users to show each other projects that are still in the works, as well as make edits on the same projects. There’s also the InfoDiscovery Portal, designed to make it quicker to deploy visualizations.

Essentially, Information Builders is trying to allow its users to access data in the spirit of “self-service,” said Gerry Cohen, president and CEO of Information Builders, during his keynote presentation.

“It ties into the notion of self-service for everyone … because we’ve always ignored the guy with Excel spreadsheets,” he said, adding people often have questions that corporate data just can’t answer. For example, a shoe company may want to know how many men in a certain age group wear brown shoes, within every zip code in the U.S. That’s a question that data should be able to answer, he said.

Other features on the new InfoDiscovery tool include a high-speed analytics sandbox, a place where users can store large amounts of data. The data can be kept within the sandbox’s hybrid, in-memory columnar data store, which prevents a huge drain on memory when a lot of users want to access a lot of data sources.

Going along with that, InfoDiscovery includes a scalability feature that allows a large number of users to access it, even if they’re outside a corporate firewall. The tool’s performance and processing speed should still be up to par, even with a big nmber of users.

And for businesses concerned about security, Information Builders built InfoDiscovery in mind, giving users the ability to manage their metadata and the quality of their data, ensuring they don’t come up with skewed answers based on what they believe the data is telling them. Plus, there are options to put in security controls, ensuring data doesn’t leak out to the wrong users.

For analyst Lyndsay Wise, president of WiseAnalytics, she said she feels with InfoDiscovery, Information Builders is taking its first steps with self-service.

“I think Information Builders is at the beginning of their journey in this particular area. Over the past couple of years they have made their development environment more intuitive to use but didn’t focus a lot on that same flexibility to help business users interact with data on a broader level to enable better data analytics,” she said in an email.

“I think in this way they are starting to provide these features while understanding that it is necessary to focus on data integrity as well … As long as they can continue to manage information on that same level they should do well meeting business needs.”

However, Wise said she feels a few of the features in InfoDiscovery already exist in some of the other business intelligence products on the market.

“I think the new products represent a continuation of what [Information Builders] has brought to the market in the past, just more robust … Most other vendors that I cover have been focusing on this type of offering already, so it shows that [Information Builders] is becoming more flexible with their offerings and how they want to be seen in the market. I like the ability to integrate screens automatically within a PowerPoint presentation, and think that it becoming a more common feature of [business intelligence] solutions in general.”

And InfoDiscovery’s mapping capabilities are also a “must-have” by this point, rather than a unique selling point, she added.

Still, the announcement of InfoDiscovery was welcome news for Andrew King, software architect at LogicBay and an attendee at Information Builders Summit. King lives near Halifax, N.S.

LogicBay is a software-as-a-service provider that provides its customers with modules for content management, learning management, and collaboration. Its customers include Caterpillar, as well as other companies in the heavy equipment industry – and they’re looking for the ability to answer questions about their business goals, King said. Up until this point, LogicBay wasn’t able to provide them with a self-service tool.

“InfoDiscovery is actually where our power clients want to go. That’s what they want to do,” he said. “They have a particular issue, or a particular need to figure something out, and they want to go through those steps.”

InfoDiscovery is currently in a controlled release, but will be generally available in September.

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Candice So
Candice So
Candice is a graduate of Carleton University and has worked in several newsrooms as a freelance reporter and intern, including the Edmonton Journal, the Ottawa Citizen, the Globe and Mail, and the Windsor Star. Candice is a dog lover and a coffee drinker.

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