The advancements in business applications for performance management do not come very often in the industry but Actuate has one that we should all pay notice. Actuate who has been advancing the open source agenda with the BIRT community project to simplify the access and use of business intelligence and what is now called information applications across the industry has just announced Actuate BIRT Performance Scorecard 9. This release is the culmination of a significant amount of experience in development, deployments and knowledge of how business operates across executives, management and managers who need to work closely to drive improvements to performance every day and every week. This release and accomplishment is no easy task, because many technology providers have been working hard every year to advance performance management through integrating methodologies and trying new sets of capabilities to make techniques like scorecards easier to use.

Actuate has brought forward an online professional community for business and IT to advance performance management by surfacing best practices, collaboration, content and applications integrated into directly into the application. Actuate has done this by taking what they learned in the current developer community at the BIRT Exchange to bring a community called BIRT Scorecard Exchange for business and analyst professionals that want to have access to high value content and collaboration for accelerating their performance management programs and processes. This business exchange is more than just a place to get access to pre-defined scorecards, Actuate in fact has provided access to metrics and definitions by industry, function, framework and roles to help any organization get started rapidly. But most valuable for many with the professional focus to advance performance management is the need to collaborate and discuss methods for improvement from best practices and tips to having a range of applications that can be published into the BIRT Performance Scorecard technology including BIRT Stimulus Management and BIRT Sustainability Management. Actuate does not get credit for their work to advance specific industry and business needs through their applications which are great ways to not just get started but deploy what Actuate calls rich information applications rapidly.

Actuate BIRT Performance Scorecard has become an application framework where specific business applications can be accessed and deployed. This is possible through Actuate BIRT and the platform portfolio of studio and designer capabilities supporting what I recently have defined as information applications (See: “Information Applications: New Generation of Information Technologies“) that I recently assessed as part of their advancement s in the summer of 2009 (See: “Actuate Steps Forward to Power Information Applications“). This is important to note as Actuate is promoting business and consulting partners to share their applications in the BIRT Scorecard Exchange so that the industry as a whole can mature.

In this BIRT Performance Scorecard 9 release Actuate has gone well beyond just a set of features and advancements but has tackled the tough problem in integrating simplicity with sophistication for a range of executives, management and managers who have to work in concert across an organization. It is hard to appreciate these advancements unless you get into the application and actually experience the true advancement of capabilities and functionality. Actuate also brought their previous generation product into the web 2.0 world by introducing all the previous set of capabilities and also new ones into their new user experience. All of this is required as part of the challenges for application and technology providers is maintaining status quo with the latest in web and Internet technology has until recently hindered business advancements in technology.

Let’s review some of the areas that I enjoyed the most within the BIRT Performance Scorecard application and tools. To start the application has a simple home page or starting point to where you can access and navigate to the strategies, goals, initiatives, metrics and reports of an organization or collections of this and business management information within books, reports, views and maps. Most importantly is when you want to examine a key performance indicator like staff turnover rate you can easily launch a view with details of it from description and summary performance to historical and projected performance of it by any level of detail. Of course getting into the details is simply as Actuate who is known for their performance management analytic visualizations that help you perform root cause analysis by navigating through the actual detail of one or many metrics and key indicators. Again at any time you can get a summary and detailed review of information at any level of geography, product or business line focus within the same context of the application without screens changing on you while you are focused in examining issues or opportunities. This means significant reduction in wasted time in other approaches in paging through information and losing context compared to assessing performance and making decisions.

What I have always liked is that Actuate has used the briefing book metaphor and literally brought it into the performance management application by using it as a method to rapidly review and navigate through management summary or into strategy perspective or line of business and process areas. Also for those that work to create and manage strategy maps, Actuate has a visual and interactive strategy and initiative designer capability to streamline this usually manual and painful step. Actuate has fully integrated their enterprise-class BI and reporting technology and BIRT Spreadsheet into Performance Scorecard so you can get any level of formatted reports that can be dynamically generated and distributed to provide information like call detail records for an agent. In fact Actuate has bundled in over 20 standard reports to make it easy to get started. Having fully integrated their BIRT platform and capabilities, performance management is not limited to where it is used or what it can do for your organization.

What most executives and analysts will appreciate is the simplicity of review and analysis but also the rich text editing to items like auto date and time stamping information to know when it was actually created. Other small but important touches like undo/redo, gradient colors and ability to easily save sophisticated images from the product into presentations are all part of this release. Of course Actuate Performance Scorecard get’s to leverage the high scalability of the BIRT iServer Enterprise but also has specialized recalculation control and performance required as large volumes of information are dynamically recalculated as you navigate through the application. This platform focused advancements are essential as performance management should be deployed pervasively out to the entire workforce be successful.

Actuate also realizes the important of providing the application in an on-demand and software as a service (SaaS) manner and have BIRT OnPerformance for those who do not want to buy and install the software in their organization. And yes for those that are focused on advancing through the use of balanced scorecard and related methodologies are easily assembled and deployed within Actuate BIRT Performance Scorecard. I am excited to see this advancement at Actuate which more often than not does not get credit for their technology innovation and advancements to help business be successful from the executive and management level to helping their customers publish information to business partners and customers. One of these is the BIRT Scorecard Exchange and integration into the application should not be overlooked and I look forward to how Actuate can advance this further to provide business collaboration like found in Facebook and LinkedIn where open discussion on improvement can take place more easily. Of course, I am looking forward to seeing how Actuate mobile phone capabilities will add value to BIRT Performance Scorecard which is a logical advancement for Actuate in 2010 and support the viral adoption of Apple iPhone along with RIM Blackberry and other new mobile devices used by executives, management and frankly by just about everyone in a workforce today. With a little more emphasis by Actuate on this BIRT Performance Scorecard with the competitive advantage they have with this new community and set of capabilities they could find themselves with a new business channel of opportunity and most importantly value for their customers.

Mark Smith also blogs at