At the Information Builders 2009 Summit in Nashville, TN the fusion of country and rock music came together to present innovation and practical use of business intelligence (BI) and information-enabling technologies to support a range of industry, business and IT needs from performance management, information management, enterprise search and even cloud computing. The Summit and keynote was led by long time industry veteran and CEO of Information Builders, Gerry Cohen, who continues to amaze most of us in the industry whose charm, wit along with technology savvy on stage over many decades is continuing to lead the industry forward. Throughout the keynote presentation there was a range of discussion and full demonstration on their technology advancements including BI, Search and the integration and information enabling technologies that can help connect your enterprise and also the Internet together. Also, in a bold move Information Builders is now making their entire suite of BI capabilities with WebFOCUS available in the Amazon cloud which appears to be the first commercial BI provider to make their suite and platform available in what I have already written about as one of the key business technology priorities called cloud computing. Information Builders also discussed and demonstrated how they are also embracing open source and extending it is as a foundation to speed up their time to market with new capabilities by leveraging this form of technology on the Internet.
At the event Information Builders demonstrated their new class of BI capabilities in WebFOCUS 7.6.9 that is now available and is a major release of new classes of capabilities. This new release extends the technology into making it easy to interactive with BI in other platforms like Adobe Acrobat and analytics that are inside of Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle Essbase and SAP BW. The support for SAP is key as leveraging every transaction in SAP in your enterpise and existing investments is critical. The new capability called Active PDF provides a method to integrate BI and have active tables and chart inside of Adobe Acrobat files. It is not just that you can use it for interactive analysis to billing statements that steps beyond their current capability to publish in PDF format but that the actual data can be included within the PDF document like they have done with Active Reports. The product called InfoAssist in its second release and operates on the WebFOCUS BI platform and is designed for easy self-service access to information and analytics has advanced to be able to generate more complex and customized views like dashboards along with deeper analytic cube browsing and analysis capabilities against SAP BW and other analytic sources as noted. With direct support already for using spreadsheets as part of WebFOCUS easily by integrating them to access enterprise information in a safe and secure environment as I wrote about last year and their support today with XBRL through what they recently announced as WebFOCUS Financial Reporting Exchange. In addition the WebFOCUS RStat predictive analytics product integrated with their BI can easily sample and build models to determine future outcomes and now has advanced with deeper analytics and also improved usability for a broader range of business analysts. Having RStat and InfoAssist provide all of these capabilities from the web browser and be able to generate Active Reports and Active PDF on a common BI platform called WebFOCUS  one of the few truly unified BI platforms and toolsets in the market today.
Most do not realize also that Information Builders provides an enterprise class search product call WebFOCUS Magnify which has over the last several years has enabled organizations to address their information search and needs to dynamically integrate BI into search results. The product is built on top of the open source search product called Lucene that helps keep the cost of their product much lower than other products in the market. In the new 7.6.9 release they have introduced the ability to group together information in collections which provides a simpler method to have users get to information. For those that are needing help establishing enterprise search on their information and BI environment capability, the Magnify iWay Wizard provides a prompted method to help the process. But just as important is the advancement of support for single sign-on, and also the ability to handle multiple credentials which might be needed in providing access to different levels of information in the search results and also where information needs to be partially hidden and when authorization is not approved.
One of the key ingredients to supporting the BI and search capabilities in Magnify are the products from iWay Software which is an integrated business unit of Information Builders. The range of products from this group help with providing the largest range of adapters and interfaces to systems and platforms called the Universal Adapter Suite, and the integration and data but also support data quality and master data management needs for what I call information management. These information enabling technologies have been used for decades to support a range of business to business, business process automation and information management capabilities. The tools and technology from iWay Softare also have been bundled together into what was announced as iWay Software B2B Suite 6.0 that simplifies the purchasing but also advancing capabilities for administration, auditing and monitoring of B2B processes. All of these products and capabilities from iWay Software provides a robust set of information technologies to support a range of IT and business needs.
The Summit brought some of the most interesting deployments within organizations that were awarded with special distinction including the New York Public Library where they have an application called Metrics on Demand for managing their operations and US Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) who has an information application and BI deployment to help with the logistics and deployment of medical needs across all US military medical facilities across the world. I was even impressed with my conversations with CIO’s where some have taken BI to new levels with using geographic analytics in what I have seen as organizations becoming what I call location intelligence competent and others who are using events as part of their BI deployments for what we call Operational Intelligence. Many of Information Builders customers are integrating external data from the Internet and even financial market data for helping better understand the impact to their financials and operations in what I called Market Intelligence.
Information Builders is also more than just BI and has been helping advance their product to support Rich Internet Applications (RIA) through support of Adobe FLEX and being able to have interactive and rich content across the Internet and enterprise. In addition supporting the new forms of Adobe Flash which is rapidly become a standard method of presentation and interactive capabilities on the Internet and to mobile phones. What is clear from the enabling technology and how their customers are using it is that a new class of what I call Information Applications is becoming more easily assembled and deployed than ever before and is a future indicator to what will be a significant expansion and opportunity for providers like Information Builders as the information hungry consumers put new demands on business and government to more easily get to information and interact with it.
Of course with everything I have written about in what is now available from Information Builders they also articulated their WebFOCUS roadmap where they are busy developing new methods to reduce the cost and complexity of BI and making information more readily available from legacy systems and platforms to mobile devices and portals for use in the enterprise and the Internet. It is nice to see that the many years of my comments on usability and embracing performance management are now not just in the products but deployed and are well addressed. With new products and interfaces that can be easily used by executives to line managers and already a platform that has great scalability and performance, Information Builders is definitely a vendor to watch.
The largest challenge for Information Builders is communicating the value and potential of the large technology portfolio on what is possible to for those who have not experienced it and what it can do for their organizations. Information Builders provides a nice personal touch and charm to their customers and was clearly present at the Summit where the discussion and interactions with business and IT management along with the Information Builders staff provided indication on their future market potential. The good thing is that their customers are acknowledging this and taking the stage in droves and telling the story of what they have done. I am sure that the road ahead is going to be quite good as they are one of the few independent technology vendors left in BI and have been meeting the needs of this industry for over 30 years.

Mark Smith's blog can also be found here