Wednesday, August 15, 2012

WebFOCUS Tipping Point

It is quite obvious that "Web" is in front of "FOCUS" in the "WebFOCUS" enterprise BI product's name. This is the FOCUS 4GL that was re-created for an internet architecture.

Still, all along it has seemed to me that the "FOCUS" was more important than the "Web."

I am ready to say that in 2012 my worldview of WebFOCUS has changed. It has become clear to me that we recently hit a tipping point in WebFOCUS where the web technologies are more important than the FOCUS 4GL aspects.

Since the mid-1990s, Information Builders has been working on GUI tools that could automatically generate the FOCUS 4GL. They are near the point where they do such a great job that painting a sophisticated report is simple. Looking under the covers is almost unnecessary.

Their upcoming re-design of the Developer Studio IDE into the new-and-improved Application Studio is proof of that. That improvement comes after their great job in producing InfoAssist, a beautiful end-user ad hoc report writer that rivals that from competitors such as Business Objects, IBM Cognos, and MicroStrategy.

The new Application Studio is intended for IT professionals but is meant to resemble the easy-to-use InfoAssist.

With each new enhancement to its GUI tools, IBI has made building reports easier. What has become harder, however, is all of the web application development work needed in the overarching web solution. Information Builders is releasing the new BI Portal in WebFOCUS 8 which should address some of this.

However, today we are building many WebFOCUS dashboard applications by hand. That means a WebFOCUS developer must be an expert in dynamic HTML with JavaScript and cascading style sheets (CSS). That skill has become more important than knowing the underlying FOCUS 4GL.

It's not just sophisticated web portals and dashboards, but mobile applications as well. A web BI developer needs to be well versed in HTML5 while keeping an eye on native mobile app technologies such as Objective-C.

If you want to succeed as a WebFOCUS developer, place more importance on your web skills than on WebFOCUS itself. If you have been specializing in the FOCUS 4GL for decades, I know this is hard to hear.

Now is the time to view your FOCUS 4GL skills as an old favorite tool to be stored away in your technology shed. Hang it on a peg on the back wall where you can get to it if you need but, by all means, stop wearing it on your belt. 

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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.