Actuate, a provider of business intelligence and enterprise performance solutions, recently released the latest edition of its business intelligence and reporting tools (BIRT). BIRT Performance Scorecard 9 — formerly known as Actuate Performancesoft Views — boasts improved Web 2.0 capabilities including a new Web interface, more reports, and mapping functionalities, according to Actuate executives. The company's stated aim with Version 9 is to expand adoption beyond its historical base of business users. As if a new product weren't enough of a step in that direction, shortly after the release of Version 9 Actuate announced its acquisition of data and document management solutions Xenos Group for $35.5 million.
Jeff Perkins, Actuate's vice president and general manager of performance management, explains that the development of BIRT Performance Scorecard 9 was motivated by two primary objectives:
- launching the integrated performance management solution that resulted from the company's 2006 acquisition of Performancesoft; and
- leveraging Actuate's Web 2.0 capabilities to deliver a Web interface suitable for the modern business user.
Keeping the theme of usability in mind, the solution features enhancements such as:
- a completely new user interface;
- Flash-based dashboard charts; and
- several newly designed out-of-the-box BIRT reports, raising the total number of standard reports from eight to 23.
In fact, Perkins adds, the overarching mentality around this release was to enable users to have a solution at work that bears the "flashiness and ease-of-use" people experience in their off-work hours. "The typical end user [of our solution] starts at C-level executives then down from there," he says. "Ease-of-use has to be our middle name." In other words, he adds, Actuate wants to avoid becoming a solution that requires extensive training or the need for expensive consultants. Although the company has long tried to follow this motto, Perkins admits the new release is geared toward bringing back users who jumped off the solution at various points as a result of its prior complexity.
"What this boils down to is reduced time and confusion of trying to do something from root-cause analysis," explains Mark Smith, chief executive officer and executive vice president of consultancy Ventana Research. While many business intelligence vendors have begun targeting line-of-business users, the technology is often still sold to the technology team. Smith contends that Actuate's offering is unique because it presents information and provides dynamic navigation in a manner familiar to business users -- that is, the solution provides context, "not just numbers in a pie chart." BIRT Performance Scorecard 9, he says, provides "not just the ability to do business intelligence, but actually helping organizations manage performance, customer performance, [and] operational performance."
Version 9 also gives users access to the BIRT Scorecard Exchange, an online resource that contains Actuate libraries and customer best practices. Perkins calls the Exchange an ecosystem where customers can congregate and communicate with each other — and with Actuate itself — to learn best practices as well as tips and tricks. In addition, the BIRT Scorecard Exchange includes templates and measures to help business users establish a framework that fits their needs.
Actuate's acquisition of Xenos came after discussions dating back to late summer 2009, according to executives. The impetus, according to Nobby Akiha, Actuate's senior vice president of marketing, was to "give BIRT applications the ability to bring in an enormous set of content [the product] didn't have access to before, such as print streams and documents." Essentially, Akiha says, the acquisition will provide customers already attempting to integrate these data sources a more straightforward way of doing so.
Actuate will acquire all of the outstanding common shares of Xenos at C$3.50 per share in cash, according to the company press release. The definitive agreement is expected to close in the first quarter of 2010.
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