Information Builders Summit 2015: Reducing Organizational Data Divides, and Adding Spruced-Up Features

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — "It's important that you embrace technologies that will allow you to work together, and not in siloes," senior vice president and CMO of Information Builders, Michael Corcoran, announced in kicking off day one of the company's 2015 Information Builders Summit user conference. He assured the audience that new tools from the business intelligence vendor would help organizations use data to generate revenue, by making the data more accessible to end users. "We're building technologies that will allow business and IT to work together," he said.

Hudson Hollister, founder and director of the Data Transparency Coalition and a lobbyist, followed Corcoran onstage to speak about the importance of having more organized, less fragmented data processes in place. He pointed out this problem plagues the United States government today, as its many agencies rely on faulty processes to make sense of their information, often leading to bad results. For instance, when Solyndra, a company that ultimately declared bankruptcy, was granted a $525 million loan from the federal government, there was a lack of communication between two separate government agencies, leading to lack of quality information. "If the government used consistent fields and formats for the information that is reported about spending, we could finally get a handle on the most complex organization in human history," he said.

"You cannot monetize information unless the people that need that information know what to do with it," Gerald Cohen, president and CEO of Information Builders, emphasized during his keynote. Cohen highlighted a select few of the 225 total updates capabilities the vendor has added to its WebFOCUS platform to prevent such miscommunications and fragmentation within all types of organizations. 

One of these is Responsive Portal. Powered by HTML5 and available on WebFOCUS 8.1, it allows developers to create pages that adapt to screens and devices of all sizes so a "nontechnical user" can access them and understand the information being presented regardless of where it appears. With it, users can open customized reports, graphs, charts, and maps (350 types in all) that can be combined and reconfigured at will.

Enhancements to the mapping function will make data conveyable in a more visually appealing manner, and making it easier to comprehend. Sophisticated animation coupled with geographic information systems (GIS) from Esri brings to life metrics on scatter plots for lay users, who can also customize and view the information however they need or want to. During a presentation, the company highlighted how such a function could be used to determine what part of the country would be most qualified to house a new Major League Baseball expansion team.

The company is also making use of Apple Watch with the introduction of alert Glance capabilities. "There are a lot of applications you're ignoring if you think that everything has to be in front of a browser," Cohen said. End users can be alerted to changes according to key performance indicators (KPI).

The company also announced the release of WebFOCUS Auto Linking, which helps unify the WebFOCUS platform. With Auto Linking, organizations can reduce the problem of redundant reports and dashboards that prevent cooperation and awareness, says Jake Freivald, vice president of corporate marketing at Information Builders. This feature is especially useful to organizations with multiple departments who are often dealing with the same data sets but don't realize it.

"Sales people don't want tools, they don't want to play with data, they just want answers," Freivald says. "[The new functions] will allow a rep, without having technical knowledge, to be able to tap into a lot more information than they ever were before."

Robert Fosnaugh, manager of business intelligence at Brotherhood Mutual Insurance, notes that there is a strong need within his organization to move away from straight reporting to more meaningful data analysis. Fosnaugh says he looks forward to implementing Information Builders’ new graphs and using them to arrive at better insights. "Early on in the years of WebFOCUS there were a lot of charts, but some of them weren't up to par with some of the competitors," Fosnaugh says. "Now [Information Builders] make sure they're pretty much on the cutting edge."

Information Builders also announced a partnership with Tata Consultancy Services. A new technical support site will also launch this week, Cohen says. 

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