Information Builders Releases WebFOCUS Business User Edition

RENO, Nev. — Organizations that hope to get the greatest value out of their business intelligence (BI) and analytics investments must provide business users with access to data that is trustworthy and consistent; furthermore, they must work to ensure that this data is offered to those end users in a visually appealing manner, which allows them to glean insights that lead to better decisions, speakers stressed on day one of Information Builders' annual user conference at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino.

"[Information Builders'] focus is all about starting with data, making sure you can simplify the access, lower [its] latency, and…[ensure] that it's accurate and consistent," said Michael Corcoran, the company's senior vice president and CMO, to the 1,000 attendees.

To that end, Information Builders unveiled its WebFOCUS Business User Edition, which "is geared to help people—without having the full WebFOCUS platform—start to analyze and visualize data," Corcoran said. "We feel it's the most complete tool on the market for all kinds of analytics requirements, because it's not just about data visualization—good old reporting is still the number one issue in analytics…[and] being able to put that all together with dashboarding and unique capabilities is really important to people." 

The WebFOCUS Business User Edition allows users to unite company data with their own data to produce customized charts and reports, without forcing them to turn to IT or BI developers for assistance, explained Kevin Quinn, Information Builders' vice president of product marketing, during a presentation.

Quinn noted that users can now install the product in one click, and are immediately presented with a "getting started page" as soon as they open it. In this space, users can access videos that provide overviews into the environment, as well as an introduction to InfoAssist+, "which is the primary tool for the business user to develop reports, charts, documents, and visualizations," Quinn said.

A home page provides users with "quick links" to the most common actions taken by users—creating new content folders, uploading data, managing users who are entering the environment, and generating new reports. A samples folder shows users examples of the kinds of documents—like Excel spreadsheets and reports—they can create.

When a user uploads a file, the system works to break down and process what is contained within the spreadsheet according to categories. "It inspects what is inside the spreadsheet, takes a look at the different formats of the data, and makes some assumptions about how the data and metadata should be set up," Quinn said. For a retailer, for instance, the technology can work to break down the names and titles of the fields within any spreadsheet they upload. It can categorize, for example, the data that pertains to the geographic locations of their stores, or their various product names and types. "You can override any of the things that it does," Quinn pointed out. Once this process is  finished, users can build reports, or the systems can generate sample content for them.

The Business User Edition also includes a new Portal feature that enables users to control their content, select actions, assemble analytics pages, and collaborate on their findings with others. The product includes updates in self-service, including In-Document Analytics, advanced columnar storage and visualizations, and ESRI mapping capabilities.

Also new to the InfoAssist+ tool is a "parameterisation" feature, which allows users to customize the rules that apply to their charts and access them on mobile devices.

Quinn also previewed applications "in the lab" that are geared toward generating narratives that explain large and confusing data sets. "A lot of the articles you read in newspapers today—especially things that happen very quickly—are built by computers," Quinn explained. For instance, the minute a televised sports game ends, there is often an article available to view. Most of those articles were not written by people, Quinn said. Information Builders is collaborating with third-party vendors to break down correlations in data to describe what is happening within data sets. There are many business applications for such technology, Quinn said. With financial services or insurance organizations, for instance, the technology can look at long billing statements to explain trends in a customer's spending habits and put them into brief summaries.

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