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Slice it, dice it, drill down and analyze - Vendors offer array of BI ingredients

This article appears in the issue March 1999 [Volume 8, Issue 3]

BackWeb (www.backweb.com) provides accelerator applications that deliver information, sales tools and document updates, automated delivery and alerting technologies to hasten the response to change.

The first of those modules, the Market Intelligence Manager Sales Accelerator, is specifically for business intelligence. It gathers information about competitors, customers and the marketplace from any Internet or intranet location.

According to Mark Gaydos, BackWeb product manager, installing a BI system requires buy-in from the IT department as well as line of business managers. "You have to be sure both the user and the network administrator have a positive experience," he said.

One way BackWeb excels in that area is in delivering content. "We call it polite communications," said Gaydos. "We back off if you go to use the network." An additional network feature is a "Bandwidth Regulator," which limits the amount of bandwidth used by the system.

Abuzz (www.abuzz.com) has developed Beehive, an expertise management solution that addresses the management of tacit knowledge.

Targeted to distributed, information-intensive organizations, Beehive builds adaptive profiles that 'learn' who knows what, routing requests for knowledge directly to experts, and automatically archiving those knowledge exchanges for reuse. In addition, Beehive's management tools evaluate how expertise is being used and shared, and identify gaps in an organization's knowledge base.

Beehive addresses three principles of expertise management: location of expertise (who knows what), assessment (mapping an organization's expertise) and collaboration (mediating interaction based on the location and assessment of relevant expertise).

Beehive also integrates with existing collaboration tools, such as Exchange and Lotus Notes.

Getting information as needed involves substantially more than gathering data. "The trick," said Open Text (www.opentext.com) product manager Dan Latendre, "is to bring information into areas where you work; if we can automate that process it takes it a step farther." Products like Open Text's Livelink improve access to information across work environments, platforms and locations. Collaboration is based on projects and information gathered as needed.

Livelink features a secure repository and knowledge library functions--including version control, audit trail, security privileges; store and manage every type of object from simple to compound documents, from search queries to URLs; and provides predefined user access to all those objects.

To ensure universal access, Livelink converts documents to HTML for viewing in any browser. Users can search for information in documents, files and objects using sophisticated search tools such as intelligent relevance ranking and Boolean searches.

Livelink LiveReports provide insight into the knowledge, actions and activities that develop throughout an organization. Livelink combines powerful knowledge library management, virtual team collaboration, business process automation and information retrieval functionality.

Cognos (www.cognos.com) provides end-to-end business intelligence, including infrastructure products and user tools for OLAP (online analytical processing), data access, reporting, analysis and forecasting.

Cognos BI tools include:

  • NovaView (formerly Aristotle)--Cognos' client optimized for Microsoft's SQL Server 7.0;
  • Impromptu--database reporting tool that gives users the ability to create their own queries;
  • Impromptu Web Query--extends Impromptu's capabilities from the desktop to the Web;
  • PowerPlay--tool for multidimensional analysis of corporate data, OLAP without custom programming;
  • PowerPlay Enterprise Server--OLAP server that can support and deploy Web, Windows and mobile users from a single, centrally administered server;
  • Scenario--data mining tool;
  • 4Thought--modeling software that detects the underlying influences, relationships and trends in business data;
  • DataMerchant--securely packages, distributes and merchandises the contents of a relational database over the Internet, extranets or intranets.

Net.Analysis, the flagship product from Net.Genesis, (www.netgen.com), correlates enterprise data (customer information) with Web data, allowing a company to change its Web site in response to changes across the enterprise. Its Design for Analysis methodology offers site design with future analysis in mind. Essentially that means creating a flexible site that can be modified over time in response to analysis.

"Design for Analysis represents a giant step in the evolution of E-business intelligence," said Larry Bohn, president and CEO of Net.Genesis. "Business-based metrics and analysis for evaluating sales, marketing and customer support initiatives are critical to the success of Web-based enterprises. DFA with Net.Analysis empowers organizations to understand, optimize and accelerate their online business and stay ahead of the competition."

According to Ben Barnes, general manager of IBM's Global Business Unit, IBM (www.ibm.com) started using the term business intelligence to replace the term decision support.

"For the past year, IBM has focused on the business intelligence market," he said. "This focus has come as businesses seek to differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive, global and deregulated environment. Integrating hardware, software, consulting and services, IBM has developed its business intelligence, E-commerce and knowledge management strategies."

IBM's business intelligence products include Visual Warehouse, an integrated package of business software that provides an easy-to-use data mart or data warehouse solution, combining the functions of database, middleware and user query and reporting tools. Visual Warehouse pulls data from host systems or LANs and workstations, and prepares it for analysis and access.

The IBM Intelligent Miner family helps customers identify and extract valuable information from their enterprise data assets. It is comprised of analytical software tools that enable companies to extract previously unknown, valid and actionable business insights.

By May, IBM is expected to have available its DB2 Universal Database for the 64-bit platform.

Gentia Software (www.gentia.com) offers analytical applications that provide strategy management, performance measurement and operational analysis solutions. Gentia's flagship product, the Balanced Scorecard, ensures information delivery to key decision makers' desktops and browsers throughout an enterprise.

BI/Suite from Hummingbird (www.hummingbird.com) uses the same content, security and user profiles as well as centralized administration for both fat and thin clients from a single server. The suite includes:

BI/Query (formerly Hummingbird GQL) for enterprise query and reporting; BI/Web for Web-based query and reporting; BI/Analyze for universal OLAP; BI/Broker, a server for centralized administration, shared services and common content for both Web and non-Web users; Hummingbird Professional Services for training and consulting.

Walker Interactive Systems (www.walker.com) offers Walker Smart Financials, a suite of financial and analytic applications that complements existing ERP systems or can act as a standalone, front-end application. Smart Financials provides a consistent view of a company's performance.

Walker's analytic applications modules include:

  • Planning and Forecasting--for planning, forecasting and budgeting, thereby reducing planning cycles and facilitating continuous planning (enables multicurrency planning and analysis, drill downs, rolling forecasts, what-if analysis);
  • Financial Consolidation--manages the collection, adjustment and reporting of consolidated results for statutory, management and tax;
  • OLAP Reporting and Analysis--extends the value of Walker's analytic application suite by leveraging the performance, scalability and analytical power of OLAP technology for reporting and multidimensional business performance analysis.

Ixos-Archive is a solution that allows immediate access to information throughout a company's entire enterprise to those who need it to make important business decisions. Through its integration with SAP R/3, Ixos leverages the power of SAP Business Workflow and R/3 Document Management System, which expedites implementation, streamlines maintenance and reduces the total cost of ownership of the R/3 system.

Semio's (www.semio.com) intranet-based text-mining software, SemioMap, applies the processing of phrases of text and computational analysis of communications patterns to deduce relationships in unstructured content. Searching document collections for recurring ideas, the latest version presents information in graphical maps that can be navigated from one area to another.

Actuate Software (www.actuate.com) offers an enterprise reporting solution that can generate and distribute thousands of reports to users via networks or the Internet. Actuate replaces traditional paper-based reports with its Actuate Reporting System that enables an organization's employees, customers and suppliers access to information via intranet, extranet and Internet. The company has recently incorporated XML technology into its system.

Ptech (www.ptechinc.com) positions itself more as an enterprise modeling solution than a business intelligence solution. Ptech's Framework software promises to carry a company from strategic intent to viable applications. Combining strategic planning, enterprise modeling, business process engineering, object-oriented analysis and design, and workflow automates the process of bringing concepts to implementation.

Cipher Systems (www.cipher.com) combines competitive intelligence and knowledge management in its Lotus (www.lotus.com) Notes-based Knowledge.Works product. The software helps answer senior management questions like, "What is our competition going to do in the next three months? How can we increase the productivity of our business partner program?"

Knowledge.Works guides analysts through a highly structured process for gathering, sorting and analyzing information within the application or finding new information if more is needed.

MathSoft's (www.mathsoft.com) S-PLUS data mining and statistical analysis software provides statistical visualization and modeling tools to chart large amounts of information from data warehouses and find the significant patterns. S-PLUS is available in Unix, Linux and Windows operating systems.

Reference sites include NASA and the EPA as well as companies like McGraw-Hill, Goldman Sachs and SmithKline Beecham, which have implemented MathSoft's products to analyze and understand raw data.

Texcel's (www.texcel.no) flagship software system, Texcel Information Manager, is an XML and SGML content management system that provides workflow, version management, queries, electronic review and dynamic document assembly for multiuser authoring and editing environments.

Pilot Software (www.pilotsw.com) has available Pilot Decision Support Suite (PDSS) Version 6.0, which strikes a balance between OLAP and multidimensional OLAP (MOLAP). PDSS is a hybrid OLAP product (HOLAP) featuring the high performance of OLAP with the ability to analyze large data sets like relational OLAP. The latest version features ActiveX support and mapping abilities to graphically portray results such as customer concentration.


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