Information Builders hosted its annual user conference last week in Orlando, Florida, emphasizing the themes of intelligence, integrity, and integration.
President and Founder Gerry Cohen kicked off the general session by reminding the over 1000 attendees of the company’s mission: to help all customers access all of their data and deliver it to all people who make decisions. The operative word here is “all,” a point of difference as Information Builders pursues both enterprise and SMBs, data beyond the data warehouse, and BI for decision makers beyond power users.
Cohen talked about the four factors he believes are most influencing the BI landscape: big data, mobile, cloud, and analytics. In terms of big data, Information Builders has continued to add interfaces for big data sources such as Teradata, EMC Greenplum, HP Vertica, 1010 data, as well as Hadoop. Beyond this, the company also recently released WebFocus Hyperstage, a columnar database that promises 10 to 1 compression but in some tests has achieved 40 to 1. It runs on commodity hardware, either Linux or Unix operating systems, with as little as 16 GB or RAM. The company has smartly bundled a trial version with the WebFOCUS server.
For mobile, Information Builders is betting heavily on HTML5 to provide device agnostic, author-once, render anywhere capabilities. The charting engine in WebFOCUS 8, released in April 2012, has been completely rewritten to render in HTML5. But with a twist and nod to iPad users, they also provide an iPad app dubbed Mobile Favs which provides off-line capabilities as well. Cohen challenged customers to pay attention to Microsoft in the mobile market, speculating that Windows 8 will change the mobile market. Time will tell!
While some larger vendors, such as MicroStrategy and SAP, have been pursuing BI in the cloud in their own data centers, Information Builders is taking more of a services and partner approach. Multitenant capabilities and more granular security are beefed up in WebFOCUS 8.
One of the coolest (and funniest) demos of the key note goes to theWebFOCUS Facebook adaptor. Sales Engineer Dan Grady took real-world Facebook comments about Wal-Mart’s promotional push in the
steak market. Customer reaction and the explicit, but well-harvested posts were enlightening. While many vendors, from niche to large BI vendors, are providing sentiment analysis, the difference here seemed to be the integration with the BI platform, ease of implementation, and degree that a business user can investigate and drill into the patterns.
Beyond the keynotes and track sessions, the customer sessions and one-on-ones shored up my view that one of Information Builders most important differentiators is its customer service. For example, International Financial Data Services Canada, a leading provider of investment funds record-keeping and services, recently selected WebFOCUS over other BI solutions. Sara Hilliard, VP Product Management explained, “We had all the vendors create dashboards and a set of reports. Information Builders did better and at every opportunity, they exceeded our expectations” Echoing this thought, CIO Maurice van Veghel from Sligro Food Group, a 2.4 billion Euro Dutch grocery chain, said in their proof of concept, they provided each vendor with sample data and business questions. Then in the POC demo, they changed the business question, much as happens to IT during development. “Whoever could best adapt to that change, that’s who won.”
What’s been your experience with your BI vendors? Tell me here in the 2012 Successful Bi Survey.
Cindi Howson, BI Scorecard