WebFocus-Excel Link Strengthened

LAS VEGAS -- Information Builders last week announced a new version of its WebFocus business intelligence tool set that it said improves integration with Microsoft Excel and adds portable dashboards.

WebFocus 7.6.1 adds a plug-in for Excel, called Quick Data, that connects the BI tools reporting engine directly to the Microsoft Corp. spreadsheet, the company said. It was unveiled at Information Builders Summit 2007 user conference here.

The link will allow users to build BI reports from within Excel and see accurate, up-to-date data when they open Excel, the company said.

The new Active Dashboards feature will let users analyze data in different ways, such as by product or customer segments, without having to be connected to a network, according to Information Builders.

Coty Inc. expects that the new portable dashboards will let the company provide sales personnel with their entire world, whether theyre connected to the network or not, said David Berry, senior vice president and CIO.

The New York-based cosmetics firm is in the process of rolling out the new version of WebFocus, he said.

Berry also expects that the new Excel plug-in will prove valuable to Coty users. Im surprised [Information Builders] didnt do this a long time ago, he said. You can try to convince people that there are ways other than Excel to share data. The average financial guy is not going to give up on Excel.

Other users said the updates could prove dangerous.

Steve Simon, senior technology officer at State Street Corp., said his firm wont use the Active Dashboards feature because it increases the potential for security breaches if company laptops are lost or stolen.

And Chantal Berthiaume, director of network optimization at Montreal-based Air Canada, said she would be leery of providing an Excel plug-in to users because it is too dangerous. Everyone will have their own numbers.

Information Builders said the new version of WebFocus is also integrated with the enterprise service bus sold by its iWay Software Inc. subsidiary.

Berry said he would like to use the tool to embed BI data into Cotys business processes to provide manufacturing officials with real-time data on hot-selling products.

If we have a runaway product, I want to know about it now, not tomorrow morning, he said. Today, it can take us weeks to find out we have a product that is flying through the roof.

Patrick Yip, a director at iNautix Technologies India Pvt., an affiliate of securities clearinghouse firm Pershing LLC, said his company has used other tools to embed WebFocus into its processes to monitor specific tasks like issuing a check.

Yip noted that because such oversight causes a lot of anxiety among workers fearful of corporate surveillance, iNautix reassures employees that the effort is focused on customers.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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