Information Builders, Google build corporate BI search tool

Users can get data from unstructured and structured stores

Information Builders Inc. on Monday unveiled a software tool developed with Google Inc. to help its business intelligence (BI) users access internal company data using the Google search engine.

WebFocus Intelligent Search will allow users to enter keywords through a Google-like Web page to access structured data stored in corporate databases, according to officials at New York-based Information Builders. Such structured data was previously inaccessible to the Google search engine.

John Sheridan, manager of business technology and development at human resources outsourcing firm Administaff Inc. in Kingwood, Texas, said he thinks the new tool will be helpful to both BI users and report developers in his company.

The new tool supports Administaff’s goal of providing simple data-access techniques so BI users can easily get information they need to make operational decisions, he said.

“We’re trying to push a lot more self-service,” he said. “Everyone is used to a Google-like search. There is no training, but it gives people a lot of power to go in and look at a variety of information in our systems and pull that information back quickly.”

Intelligent Search will also allow report developers to more quickly find the information needed to create reports requested by users, Sheridan said. “When you’re building reports, you want to try to leverage off of what is already there rather than starting from scratch,” he said.

Sheridan said he likely won’t participate in the beta program for the software because the company is still adapting to the new features in WebFocus 7.1, which Administaff just installed in December. However, he said he plans to begin evaluating the new software as users become more comfortable with the reporting tool upgrade.

Michael Corcoran, chief communications officer at Information Builders, said WebFocus Intelligent Search uses integration tools from its iWay Software Inc. subsidiary, its WebFocus BI reporting software and the Google engine to link structured data from corporate databases to unstructured data sources like HTML files. That allows the tool to provide users with BI reports compiled from data stored across the enterprise, Corcoran said.

In addition to commonly requested searches such as those seeking to identify all information on a particular client or sales figures by region, the tool lets users search for information about internal IT systems, he said. For example, users could enter the names of employees who have left a company to find out whether they still have access to internal systems, Corcoran said.

Keith Gile, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc., said the marriage of enterprise search and BI is being driven by users who don’t want to have to know where data is located to be able to find it.

“This makes it a more compelling argument that says you can go beyond search and beyond BI and get the best of both worlds,” Gile said. “We’re seeing such a huge demand for this type of approach... and the vendors would be silly not to exploit it.”

However, he warned that, as with any search, users must include some context within a search or risk bringing back thousands of results that might not include the specific data they were requesting.

The new tool will ship in the second quarter.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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