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Analysis

BI - The Next Generation?
Dave Waddington By: Dr Dave Waddington, Senior VP and Head of Research, The Information Difference
Published: 21st August 2008
Copyright The Information Difference © 2008
Logo for The Information Difference

Earlier this year (BI: The Inconvenient Truth) I drew attention to the mounting frustration within the business community focused squarely on business intelligence (BI). Organizations the world over have invested significant amounts of time, effort and money in BI. While they have in part seen the value that successful adoption of BI tools and techniques can bring them, this is the tip of the iceberg. There is growing frustration that they have not realized the full potential of these investments. A consequence is that companies have masses of information they don’t have confidence in and are unable to analyze to deliver the key performance management information they desperately need now and in the future.

Web 2.0 has shown the world at large the benefits of collaboration, social networking, utilizing collective intelligence and user self service with revolutionary products such as MySpace™, Wikipedia™, Facebook™ and LinkedIn™.

Leveraging, for example, sales and marketing data within a company to derive performance management information is a highly collaborative process, yet few current BI tools effectively support this. The next generation of BI tools will need to embrace Web 2.0 to bring to BI just these collaborative and social networking features that have proved so effective elsewhere.

Enter Antivia. Ex-Business Objects employees Mark Sands and Mark Hudson founded Antivia in 2007 with offices in Australia and the United Kingdom. Their mission; to utilize the power of Web 2.0 technologies to deliver content and capability to a business community of collaborative users in more interesting and intuitive ways. Their flagship products Antivia Desktop and Scenario, first released in October 2007, herald the next generation of BI tools.

Desktop is the framework on which their range of second-generation BI solutions is being built. It takes full advantage of a company's existing BusinessObjects™ (supporting WebIntelligence, Crystal reports, Desktop Intelligence and Xcelsius) BI investment by delivering functionality to enable users to enjoy the benefits of next generation web in today’s business intelligence environment. It extends traditional BI functionality with community forums, the ability to rate and tag reports, to designate reports as ‘hot’ (or not), to have ‘my favorites’, to initiate and manage community polls and much more.

The rating features help users across your business community to instantly see which reports might be most useful and relevant to them. Desktop also automatically assigns ‘hot’ reports based on the user ratings and viewing patterns. Anyone can become a member of the community so it will spread BI virally throughout a business thus improving and encouraging participation and collaboration across functional and geographic boundaries. Making use of users everyday activities to both improve the system and lower the overall administration cost.

Scenario is even more innovative since it harnesses the power of BusinessObjects XI and extends this to allow users to:

  • Manage the information hierarchies within their reports.
  • Manipulate hierarchies and instantly see changes on reports.
  • Save hierarchies and re-apply them at any time to newer versions of documents.
  • Share hierarchy ideas with other users in their community.
  • Keep track of changes to hierarchies over time.

The current hierarchy manipulation functionality based on ‘drag and drop’ with audit tracking is impressive but plans are at an advanced stage to extend this to cross dimensions. This brings a whole new power to business users enabling them to analyze and explore data in a way that hitherto always required intervention by IT.

Antivia has embraced many of the usage paradigms pioneered by e.g: Facebook and MySpace to make the user experience really intuitive. Anyone with experience of using one of these tools will make the transition to Antivia tools without blinking an eyelid.

This powerful and intuitive tool would make the ideal ‘front end’ for many master data management tools currently on the market.

But this is only the start. Given the history of its founders Antivia initially focused on delivering their innovative functionality on top of the BusinessObjects platform. They now also support Microsoft Reporting Services and plans are already advanced to extend to other BI platforms. The underlying modular architecture of the Antivia platform has been built to make it easy to link up to other BI tools. Next releases of Desktop and Scenario are due to appear soon bringing the ability to link BI style reports with Office documents and the like.

Of course all the usual caveats apply. Antivia is a relatively young company and has yet to gain momentum but to someone coming from a business background its clear that it is meeting a real business need.

Any organization using BI products today, and BusinessObjects in particular, should take a serious look at Antivia. Desktop and Scenario likely provide the functionality you have long sought after atop your BI environment.

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Published by: IT Analysis Communications Ltd.
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