Sunday, November 28, 2010

Boulder BI Brain Trust on WebFOCUS

Earlier this year, Information Builders met with the Boulder BI Brain Trust to brief the group on the upcoming release of WebFOCUS 8.  In case you are not familiar with BBBT, they describe themselves as "a gathering of leading, local, BI consultants and experts who attend 1/2 day presentations from interesting and innovative BI vendors."

Following the IBI meeting, two BBBT members--Richard Hackathorn and Ronald Damhof--each summarized his own thoughts on the organization's blog.

An industry veteranHackathorn remembers Information Builders' start in the mainframe reporting market and sees their current software products as an ongoing evolution from the initial 4GL offering: 
"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."

Damhof, who admits his mother gave birth to him not long before Gerry Cohen founded IBI, was either not familiar with the software vendor or confused by their marketing message. 
"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."

Damhof went on to say: 
"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!"
While Damhof seems to caution IBI against offering a full BI stack due to stiff competition from the mega-vendors (SAP, IBM Cognos, Microsoft, and Oracle), IBI should compare that advice to Boris Evelson's polar-opposite comment to the few remaining pure BI vendors: 
"Offer your own full BI stack or position yourself for an acquisition. No other long-term options in my mind."

Feedback from BBBT may indicate that Information Builders is still challenged to articulate a consistent marketing message of who they are and what their products do.  In the late 1990s, IBI had a major chasm to jump as they transitioned from selling a host-based 4GL tool to an enterprise business intelligence platform.  Even today, people may still be confused or ill-informed.

Just this week, Computer Business Review wrote an article suggesting that Information Builders is considering legal action against Micro Focus, a three-decades old software vendor of COBOL tools.  As IBI's software peer grows and reinvents itself as a legacy modernization vendor, somebody within IBI must be concerned about confusion over the "Focus" products. 

I can personally vouch for this misunderstanding-- over the years, I have talked with many industry individuals who when I mentioned FOCUS thought I was talking about Micro Focus COBOL. Of course, I also saw similar confusion by companies over the difference between IBI and IBM, which may have benefitted Information Builders. 

Despite the confusion, like Hackathorn states, Information Builders has a robust BI application development suite and companies should include WebFOCUS on their short-list of potential software purchases.  

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About Me

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I am a project-based software consultant, specializing in automating transitions from legacy reporting applications into modern BI/Analytics to leverage Social, Cloud, Mobile, Big Data, Visualizations, and Predictive Analytics using Information Builders' WebFOCUS. Based on scores of successful engagements, I have assembled proven Best Practice methodologies, software tools, and templates.

I have been blessed to work with innovators from firms such as: Ford, FedEx, Procter & Gamble, Nationwide, The Wendy's Company, The Kroger Co., JPMorgan Chase, MasterCard, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Siemens, American Express, and others.

I was educated at Valparaiso University and the University of Cincinnati, where I graduated summa cum laude. In 1990, I joined Information Builders and for over a dozen years served in regional pre- and post-sales technical leadership roles. Also, for several years I led the US technical services teams within Cincom Systems' ERP software product group and the Midwest custom software services arm of Xerox.

Since 2007, I have provided enterprise BI services such as: strategic advice; architecture, design, and software application development of intelligence systems (interactive dashboards and mobile); data warehousing; and automated modernization of legacy reporting. My experience with BI products include WebFOCUS (vendor certified expert), R, SAP Business Objects (WebI, Crystal Reports), Tableau, and others.