At this year’s Information Builders Summit, the company’s annual conference for users and analysts (Twitter: #Summit2011) in Dallas, the long-time supplier of business intelligence and information management software showed how it has been able to sustain double-digit revenue growth thanks to highly accessible and scalable software that operates on a variety of platforms and data sources. Its recent expansion into information management, master data management and integration helps organizations link data to business analytics quickly – something our benchmark research has found to be essential. It also is continuing to advance BI on mobile devices.
Smartphones and tablets have changed businesses’ expectations about where they can access information from business intelligence tools. Information Builders is not new to delivering BI to mobile technologies, and its WebFOCUS platform and tools have been evolving to meet a new generation of needs. Now it is expanding its current platform and tools to extend the value of a customer’s investment. It takes an “assemble once and deploy anywhere” approach; that is, users can design and lay out dashboards and reports in its BI environment and access that information using mobile technology.
In March, Information Builders announced expanded use of WebFOCUS Active Technology reportsto publish and access BI information from smartphones and tablets. Active Technology provides a secure method to access analytics and reports live against a server or in an offline environment, and a common information container that operates on multiple platforms to provide native functionality. Information Builders is the only company so far to market this approach of having a native application as a container; other suppliers build native applications for mobile platforms.
At the conference, the company announced availability of the Mobile Faves application for the Apple iPad and iPhone. As part of the WebFOCUS toGo series, Mobile Faves lets users access BI information remotely.
I spent a couple of hours working with the software and also got to see a demonstration of its operation on Android-based devices, planned for future release. Mobile Faves supports an array of dashboards and reporting, and can dynamically build or adjust charts based on selections made through the user interface. It offers an impressive breadth of flexibility and interactivity throughout the application. However, it could use some improvement in taking advantage of built-in feature of the iOS platform; it does not use some of the flip motions to next pages, single touch and size motions are not as smooth as they could be, and the interactive controls are not as graphically refined as those in other applications. But Information Builders makes up for some of the usability deficiencies with useful functionality that includes save and email buttons, which are important for anyone reviewing information and taking actions based on it. Simple navigation from charts to details and into reports gives Mobile Faves an application feel.
As Information Builders brings mobility to its BI products it will need to expand the scope of information it provides. It will have to back up its charts and reports with descriptive information and support content that can be read, not just analyzed. In our recent benchmark on information applications 51 percent of participants said broader access to information on mobile technologies is important or very important. All mobile BI providers with iOS products, including not only Information Builders but also companies such as Actuate, MicroStrategy, QlikView, Roambi and SAP, need not only to differentiate their products in usability and functionality but also support the simplicity that makes Apple the market leader in mobile technologies. Any vendor that moves quickly but fails to provide equivalents of Apple’s strengths risks not gaining new customers.
If you are looking at leveraging your existing Information Builders investment and cost-effectively providing BI to your business users, you should evaluate Mobile Faves. Its Apple and upcoming Android support are a key differentiator for organizations that support a broad spectrum of devices, as many organizations do, according to our benchmark research on BI. Information Builders must improve usability in future releases of the product, but the company is definitely a player to consider in mobile BI.
Mark Smith – CEO & Chief Research Officer