Insights from the SQL Server industry
Business Objects Provides 4 Key BI Elements
Today, people truly understand the value of information, and we've become information consumers overnight. Business Objects (http://www.businessobjects.com) has one of the longest traditions in the business intelligence (BI) industry and has helped information consumers access their business information by adding visualization capabilities to its BusinessObjects XI Release 2 (R2) BI platform.To understand customers' BI-product needs and how fulfilling those needs will improve visualization, I recently spoke with Nic Smith, a product marketing manager for performance management at Business Objects. He explained that to address customers' needs, a BI product must offer four key elements: visual presentation, on-demand data, ease of use, and different data-access methods.
Most people more readily comprehend information in a picture, such as a graph or pie chart, rather than information in a basic report format. Data-visualization technology, offered in Business Objects' new Crystal Xcelsius Viewer, takes business information that's in a standard format (e.g., a spreadsheet) and presents it graphically so that it makes sense to customers. According to Smith, customers often say, "I want information that's focused so that I can better understand my customers, my products, and my customers' activity as it relates to what I'm trying to do on my job."
Once customers feel comfortable with a BI product's visual presentation methods, they want to access live data on demand. Additionally, the product needs to have a built-in security mechanism so that employees can view only the data that's appropriate for their jobs. Business Objects fulfilled this need by integrating the interactive data-visualization capabilities of Crystal Xcelsius Viewer with the existing security features inherent in its Business-Objects XI R2 platform.
Ease of use is often a major concern for companies that can't cover the cost or employee downtime required for training. Information consumers don't have time to learn how to use a reporting tool or manipulate the data they need to do their jobs. They want to intuitively know how to make a program "serve up" the information they need quickly and in a format they understand. Crystal Xcelsius Viewer includes prebuilt templates—designed with busy business professionals in mind—that customers can use to best present business information.
In today's mobile society, customers want the option of accessing information by using a desktop at work, a laptop at home or on the road.They might want to export the report information to Microsoft Office or a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation or save it as a PDF. Today's BI products need to cater to worker mobility; that's why Crystal Xcelsius Viewer was built using Flash technology that lets users drag information from the Viewer into various programs such as Microsoft Excel.
Business Objects' front-end BI solution, Crystal Xcelsius Viewer, offers the key elements Smith discussed by providing live data connectivity to serve up personalized data that's refreshable, security that's enabled through Business Objects' BI platform, and an extended level of simplicity. "Basically," Smith said,"I see Crystal XcelsiusViewer as a tool that provides information to more people in simple ways."
Fostering the Spirit of Interoperability
When an application must interact with a variety of systems—from the OS to the database to the Web—and those systems don't all play nicely together, developers face tough challenges. But many vendors understand the need to foster interoperability and find creative ways to make their products work well with a variety of tools. Oracle (http://www.oracle.com) is a leader in fostering interoperability.
According to Oracle Vice President of Database Product Marketing Willie Hardie, "Regarding the developer community, Oracle's philosophy has always been to help developers get the most out of their Oracle databases, regardless of the development platform." Hardie and his colleagues, Principle Product Managers Alex Keh and Christian Shay, spoke to our editors about Oracle's track record of working with Microsoft to better integrate the two vendors' systems. In 2004, Oracle entered a partnership with Microsoft to integrate into Visual Studio features that let developers work directly with Oracle objects and schema and even use a PL/SQL editor. In the recently released Oracle Developer Tools for Visual Studio .NET, a PL/SQL debugger lets developers take advantage of all the Visual Studio debugging tools they're already used to. End-to-end debugging from PL/SQL to .NET means that developers can stay in Visual Studio to do all their Oracle development.