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Not Your Ordinary BI Vendor

Published
  • February 01 2005, 1:00am EST

"We are probably the most misunderstood company in the category of business intelligence," says Pete Cittadini, president and CEO of Actuate Corporation.

Actuate is very different, and for good reasons - reasons that stem from Cittadini's overarching belief that successful businesses require that their enterprise reporting applications achieve 100-percent adoption by the targeted user population. Actuate's Enterprise Reporting Application Platform is the foundation on which organizations and packaged application software vendors develop intuitive, Web portal-like reporting and analytic applications. Deployed inside and outside the firewall, these applications improve corporate performance across business functions such as financial management, sales and human resource management. The Actuate difference is that their focus is to enable 100-percent adoption through an application paradigm versus the interactive data access tool paradigm of other business intelligence vendors.

"One of the greatest things about Actuate," says Cittadini, "is that we are very solutions-oriented. We're not trying to be all things to all people. Additionally, we always, always deliver and make customers' applications successful. Typically, companies come to us for applications that have characteristics associated with distribution of relevant information to the masses, and when they choose to do business with us, they can rely on a successful outcome. Ultimately, what we bring to bear for our customers is confidence that the solutions that they enable with our technology will indeed be successful. This confidence is backed by a management culture and company that will do whatever is necessary in order to make our customers successful," Cittadini emphasizes.

Actuate

Year Founded: 1993
Publicly Traded - NASDAQ: ACTU
Number of Employees: 500
Revenue: $104.5 million (2003)
Net income: $3.4 million (non-GAAP, 2003)
Number of Customers: 2,900

Actuate 8 and EII

Actuate 8 is a platform with development and deployment facets. Cittadini explains, "The deployment facet is primarily the server, which has a great deal of off-the-shelf functionality for applications that have been developed with our design tools. We continue to enhance this platform so applications continue to achieve the 100-percent adoption characteristic. We're very proud that the latest and greatest facet of Actuate 8 is the enterprise information integration or EII technology that we incorporated into this release. This is truly strategic because today organizations need data from diverse data sources. The traditional BI way of accomplishing that, of course, is always the data warehouse. While there are many Actuate applications that pursue data from the data warehouse, there are times when completing the data architecture exercise to get data into the warehouse as business dynamics change is costly. And, if you're not able to efficiently and effectively get data out within a certain time frame, it could also negatively impact the company's bottom line. Here is an example of how our EII layer works: If 80 percent of the data is in the data warehouse but the business dynamics have changed so that 20 percent is now across five other data stores that are more OLTP-oriented data stores, you can rather easily have the application recalibrate the way it gets its data, thus accommodating 100-percent adoption because the other 20 percent of the data can readily be accessed through the EII layer," says Cittadini.

Does this mean data warehouses are unnecessary? "This EII process can be a permanent process because it performs very well. However, if the company has a protocol dictating that everything associated with reporting should go against the warehouse, EII is still of tremendous value when business requirements dictate the need for a speedier solution. Ultimately, the data gets back into the warehouse, and EII will still be a benefit in pursuing the warehouse itself because of the meta layer and other new aspects of Actuate 8. This is very exciting for our customers. They can choose to continue to use the EII capability because they anticipate even more volatility in their business dynamics. Or, if they believe they are in a cycle where the business is going to be in a steady state for 12 to 24 months and there is enough time to justify the costs of incorporating the data into the warehouse, then it is their choice. It doesn't matter to the Actuate application - it is totally benign to data architecture decisions. The application will just continue to run for the company," comments Cittadini.

BIRT

Cittadini is empathetic to the problems faced by organizations, especially organizations in the financial services area. He is also emphatic that Actuate is the development environment to enable these organizations to create the most impactful intranet and extranet types of reporting applications - the ones they're having a hard time with today. Unlike other BI companies, Actuate incorporates the aspects of querying, reporting, analytics and OLAP into a platform from which their customers build applications specific to their needs. Actuate is currently working with the Eclipse Foundation on a project called BIRT - Business Intelligence Reporting Tools. Eclipse is a not-for-profit community that hosts open source projects, and Cittadini is openly enthusiastic about Actuate's participation in the BIRT project.

"We believe that Eclipse is the premium integrated development environment [IDE] for J2EE developers that are building transactional applications. We feel that through participation in the BIRT project, these same developers will be able to build the enterprise reporting applications that are perfectly complementary to the transactional applications they have developed. The plan is that BIRT will be ready in the first half of this year, and developers will then have a platform that is easy to use so they can create and deploy reports without the time and expense of hand-coding the report components," explains Cittadini. "BIRT is game-changing because today there are no alternatives tightly associated with a quality IDE like Eclipse that a developer can turn to for the reporting part of the application - and it's going to be free."

Actuate's Gray Matter

It all comes back to Actuate's server-centric paradigm. "Even though we've been around for ten years, we're rather the 'new kid' on the block. We recognize that the traditional BI vendors provide power user products that appeal to information producers who are producing information for themselves and would like that information production process to be easy. We, on the other hand, recognize that the value of an application lies in its ability to bring tremendous benefit to the information consumer. Consequently, our gray matter in engineering is systems software oriented. For example, we run portfolio management statement applications for companies such as Goldman Sachs where there are 120,000 high net worth individuals or small institutions that are running their statements on a daily basis to check the performance of their portfolios. For clients like this, an interactive tool for the power user is ineffective," explains Cittadini.


"When you look at our vision for the future, we want to earn the right to add value to every transactional application that organizations use to run their day-to-day business through complementary enterprise reporting applications," says Cittadini. "As we all know, transactional applications do nothing but garner data, but there are nuggets of value within that data if you can effectively and efficiently access it, transform it into information and painlessly get it to large audiences of appropriate users."


Pete Cittadini
President & CEO
Actuate


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