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First Look – Information Builders

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I recently got a briefing from Information Builders, an independent business intelligence (BI) and enterprise information integration/management (EIM) vendor founded in 1975. They sell their BI and EIM solutions separately, though they are increasingly selling these solutions together. They have 1,350 employees and 12,000 customer sites as well as a strong OEM portfolio. They find the combination of BI and EIM increasingly powerful as companies move to more real-time analytics. They focus on being number 1 for customer service, partnering with their customers and being innovative in products. Recent expansions include China, Africa, Scandinavia and Italy. They have clients across all verticals.

The Business Intelligence product – WebFOCUS – is focused on “everyone makes decisions” with widely deployed reporting and analysis, management dashboards and increasingly advanced analytics (visualization, GIS, predictive analytics). iWay, their integration platform, handles Enterprise Information Management and a wide range of business process and application integration issues – “Everything Works Together” as they say. In both product areas they try and deliver intuitive tools to less analytically skilled people – making it easy for people to use tools to analyze and understand data. Information Builders sees growing interest around data governance, information management, data quality and an overall rise in master data strategies in addition to large numbers of traditional integration projects. WebFOCUS has a spectrum of users from non-technical to highly technical from the folks who use active technical interfaces to those using guided-ad hoc interfaces to application development people and tools.

While their focus has historically been on people as decision makers, they are also seeing more interest from customers and prospects in analytics embedded in processes using rules, models etc. In fact, like me, they see the embedding of analytics into operational processes, into event processing, becoming increasingly pervasive. They feel they have a lot of functionality in this space given their iWay product and its supports for real-time data integration, service integration etc.

Information Builders focuses on a number of critical domains– improving customer relationships, business process optimization, employee productivity, supply/value chain optimization and revenue/cost management. Their largest customer base is financial services and banking but manufacturing, consumer packaged goods, communication insurance, retail, natural resources, federal and local government, logistics, healthcare all have significant representation in their customer base. Within financial services they are very focused on the processors and outsourced service providers for check clearing etc. Retail and consumer packaged goods are expanding fast with a particular focus on reporting and monitoring in operations.

Partnerships are a major focus for Information Builders. IBM, Oracle and SAP are all big strategic partnerships and they increasingly work with the new database vendors (Aster Data/Teradata, ParAccel, Netezza/IBM) and enterprise warehouse vendor Teradata. For their expanding Geographic Information Systems (GIS) business they partner with ESRI and Google. Information Builders is also getting better at working with larger SIs such as Accenture, Deloitte, Unisys, Ciber etc.

iWay supports the full range of data access/integration, ETL, real-time data transformation functions you would expect. It has data profiling and quality management as well as MDM and geo-coding. WebFOCUS has the full range of Business Intelligence and dashboard capabilities with active reports/dashboards (distributable but interactive PDFs) as well as Office and mobile support. The platform has a set of over 300 universal adapters – 85 are database-driven but others that are industry-driven and some are document-centric. All of these feed into an integration server.

Predictive Analytics is a focus and they see an increasing demand for people to have analytic models in their data visualization and reporting. To respond to this, Information Builders has developed a relationship with the R community. In particular Information Builders has made it easy to deploy predictive analytics into their operational reporting environment. They have built a graphical environment that uses the R packages and then embeds them into the WebFOCUS environment. The UI is open sourced (though you need to be a WebFOCUS customer obviously) and is supported by Information Builders.

They are seeing some interesting trends:

  • They see a lot of interest, as do I, in embedding analytics into Complex Event Processing systems for real-time decision making.
  • Predictive Analytics is generating a lot of interest. While most customers are focused on embedding predictive analytics into reporting, iWay can also embed R models into services and business processes, although this is still an emerging demand from their perspective. The collapse in the division between operational and analytic systems is happening but there is still a long way to go.
  • Real-time data warehousing, data federation (of warehouses with operational data stores for instance) as well as data integrity (profiling, quality, MDM governance) and geo-location management are all hot topics on the integration side.
  • On the BI side they see customers using the product to support strategic decisions, analytical decisions (what I call tactical decisions) and operational decisions.
  • In addition going outside the firewall to support decisions in the whole supply chain for instance is getting great ROI for early adopters. A large and increasing body of customers is using the tools to push information out to their customers and to partners.
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