The Boulder BI Brain Trust


May 2010 Archives

River Logics Focuses on Corporate Performance Management

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RL logo.pngRiver Logic presented with Philip Higginbotham, VP Business Development, Carlos Centurion, VP Strategy and Marketing, and Shan McAdoo, VP Development. In the early 1990's, River Logic founded by Dr. Robert Whitehair, an expert in mathematically modeling of complex business processes. Teaming with a group of special Russian mathematicians, hundreds of models in a variety of industries, such as chemical, manufacturing, etc. Gradually shifting from services to products as their offering. Currently they are at 55% to 45% for service to product.

Carlos refers to their area as constraint-based modeling. When asked what's new, Philip answered, "The older modeling did small problems involving thousands of constraints, while their modeling can do big problems involving millions of constraints. Their product is Enterprise Optimizer as explained as "backbone of our Corporate Performance Management (CPM) solutions: Integrated Business Planner, Trade Promotion Optimization (TPO) Planner, and Integrated Delivery System (IDS) Planner. They working through partners who define the business problem of the actual corporate client, does the system integration, and branded into partner offering.

RL model1.pngShan explained a simple example of a manufacturing firm, showing the process linking into financial variables. Good discussion of the 'semantics' under the icons. For instance, the BUY object contains a set of tables that can be linked into the data warehouse tables. When the SOLVE button is invoked, current data is imported into the model processing.

Philip elaborated on six specialization packages of Enterprise Optimizer. The first was a medical delivery model. A live demo showed various optimization scenarios for a paper mill operation. An interesting outcome was to reduce production to increase revenue, since the efficient capacity limits were exceed.

Philip summarized their value proposition as: "For the first time, you can represent a business problem realistically without sacrificing complexity, run scenarios very quickly with low cost of ownership, and identify actions that maximize value to the organization with fact-based support across all functional silos."

My Take...

River Logic is pushing a contemporary marriage of Operation Research with Business Intelligence. Although the approach has a long legacy, their claims are innovative: reduction of requirements of deep modeling skills for business analysts, increase of the analytic power to solve large problems, and reduction of development time to days. 

The issue is how to clearly demonstrate the business value of constraint-based modeling to enhancing the current corporate BI/DW infrastructure and applications. They have tricky decisions ahead about strategies to leverage a value-add partner network. Several options are possible, such as enhancements to popular ERP modules and extension major analytic suites.

Information Builders is Launching WebFOCUS 8

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IBI logo2.pngInformation Builders Inc (IBI) is presenting with Kevin Quinn, VP of Product Marketing, and Mitchell Nitzan, Director of Analyst Relations. Mike Corcoran, SVP & CMO, was not able to attend.

IBI was founded in 1975, 35 years ago! Their original 'focus' was 4GL (Fourth General Language) with their FOCUS product and has retained that focus over those 35 years. As the second largest privately owned software vendor, IBI has 1,450 employees, and 12,00 customers sites. Lots of partners, such as Netezza for high-performance apps. In 2009, their revenue was $283 M consisting of $47 M from services (17%) and $236 M from software sales (83%).

IBI arch.png Tagline for IBI is... "Because everyone makes decisions" implying an emphasis on pervasive BI. Kevin asserted that  BI only taps into 20% of data resource and touch only 20% of corporate users. He continued by showing their overall architecture, showing a battery image that combines WebFOCUS information analysis with I-Way information integration, both supported by a common platform.

Kevin showed a couple of nice demos of "Active Reports" as ordinary HTML and normal PDF to do an impressive array of functions on the report data. This allows widespread dissemination of rich analytics. Later a demo of Visual Discovery tool showed simple clicking can surface complex relationships quickly.

IBI has released a version of RStat as part of WebFOCUS, as described here. A developer studio license is required; however, the RStat software is free. When an application is deployed, a fee is also required.

Kevin ended with an overview of WebFOCUS 8, which is shipping in this summer with portal enhancement in December. New features include data profiler, data quality, master data management, customizable portal, better dash-boarding, in-memory visualizations, R-based predictive analytics, etc.

I had to smile when seeing 8 cartoons about "when you need a better BI". Great content (with attribution) for your next talk.

My Take...

IBI is a long-term, established vendor in the BI market. The FOCUS lineage is impressive, having solid global customer communities. The product continues to evolve, expanding its features into a full BI suite...a long way from simple reporting on tape files. IBI tends to be omitted from discussions of BI suites. You would be smart of include them on the list. 
I gotta say that I was surprised listening to the BBBT meeting with Information Builders. I tend to think of myself as somebody who is reasonable knowledgeable about tooling in the BI realm. Either I was wrong (nahh ;-)) or there is something going on with the message that is not conveyed properly.

To name a few with regard to IBI and WebFOCUS;

- IBI was founded in 1975 (35 years old - that almost as old as I am!)
- 12000 major customer sites, lots of vertical market propositions
- Coupling heterogenous sources
- Data integrity tooling (profiler, etc..)
- Complex Event Processing
- Realtime dashboard
- Performance Management (strategy maps, key metrics, etc..)
- Collaboration functionality
- RIA based BI application development (with AJAX controls)
- Predictive analytics (based on the OS R system)
- A platform for making apps (they seem to offer a lot of embedded functionality)
- Enterprise Search (very impressive stuff btw)
- Visual Discovery
- Active Reports (cool......offline HTML/PDF reports with embedded functionality)
- One unified metadata layer - also integrated with there Data Integration software (iWay)
- ....

And I am not even incorporating iWay stuff.....

IBI is offering a platform and in my opinion they are trying to sell this platform. Selling platforms makes selecting IBI a very high profile investment within any organization, in that realm the competition is tough as well as internal opposition. Why not break the platform marketing-wise into several functionalities? One example would be the Data Integrity tooling, it can easily be a separate functionality, separately marketed and priced. As I said I am not very familiar with IBI software, but I like the angle of WebFOCUS being some kind of informational development platform where you can develop and distribute data-oriented apps very quickly. It is certainly an angle that would differentiate IBI from its competitors!

Do not get me wrong; I enjoyed the session with Information Builders, a proud and independent company with solid software and a proven track record. They got some great functionality under the hood and I would like the see this software shine more often.

Thx IBI, thx Kevin for a great session. Learned a lot.



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