Information Builders gives WebFOCUS platform modernized UI to drive much greater adoption

Information Builders has enhanced the analytics capabilities in their platform, but the big news with this release is the UI changes, designed to make it much easier for a broader range of users to work with.

The new WebFOCUS UI homepage

Today, business intelligence [BI] and data management vendor Information Builders has announced their new WebFOCUS BI and analytics platform. There are improvements to the analytics capabilities, but the big news here is the enhancements to the UI itself.

“The new UI is the most important factor of the new release,” said Michael Corcoran, Information Builders’ Chief Marketing Officer. “It’s a complete modernization of our platform, with the UI rewritten from the ground up. While the UI was the emphasis in this release, going forward, the emphasis will be the AI.”

The focus on the UI is all about extending use of the platform’s capabilities to more and more users, as Information Builders expands its reach, both into Line of Business users who had not used the product previously, as well as further downmarket from their original base in the enterprise. This shift also greatly strengthens their capability as a channel play.

“Historically, we began in the large enterprise space and moved down into midmarket and the top of the SMB,” Corcoran said. “We run the largest deployment of BI and analytics in the world. We are embedded in a lot of banking and government applications, and are in a lot of telco customer care-facing applications. We fit from the departmental level up to multi-million users because we can scale up.”

Corcoran emphasized that Information Builders is already a strong play for complex data environments.

“We look at the problem beginning with data,” he said. “Lots of vendors have easy to use tools but not the understanding of complex data environments. We come out of an environment with multiple sources and different varieties of data. On a single screen, we can blend together data from traditional systems, cloud applications, IoT and social media, being able to pull that together into one clear story of what happened, regardless of volume, and deliver it in a way every user can understand. We also have data integrity capabilities, so that we can cleanse data so its accurate and then can trust their data. This expands the ways in which people can interact with data, particularly with our InfoApps.”

The new UI extends this capability to a much greater extent.

“We have by far the most scalable architecture in the marketplace,” Corcoran said. “We’ve had the crunching capabilities before but the modern UI extends the usability to more and more people. It lets us generate more custom applications for a much broader base of users.

The tooling has been upgraded significantly.

“We have improved the tooling to provide more modern user workflow experiences,” Corcoran stressed. “The market has seen an explosion of new BI vendors with modern and easy to use tools, but which tend to lack the scale to extend them cost-effectively to more users. We didn’t have that issue, but we lacked the ease of use and tooling to get rapid adoption up. We’ve removed that barrier to entry. I think if we had launched this two or three years ago, it might have been lost in the hype of the market with so many new tools coming out. More people will be able to generate business content and deploy it in more ways to more users. It will drive adoption of BI and analytics to a much broader scale because it’s easier to use.”

The continued enhancement of the WebFOCUS Designer, which created and manages all analytical assets and generates the applications, dashboards and infographics is critical here.

“WebFocus Designer has been a phased approach that started in December 2017,” Corcoran said. “We earlier enhanced the early features, particularly in the spring. With this release, this is a major fulfillment of our upgrade strategy. We made it a lot easier to generate dashboard pages in less than 60 seconds, adding intelligent search and much more consistent content and collaboration for users.”

The WebFocus BI portal has been redesigned to emphasize collaboration.

“We have made this new release much more collaborative, to make it easier to share content more easily,” Corcoran said. “Many of the new tools were built for individuals to solve problems tactically, to work in a disconnected mode, not a multi-tenanted mode, and they don’t provide great collaboration. Narrative technologies now tell you trends you can’t always see easily in visualization and narrates it. That’s new.”

Analytics capabilities have also been increased with the introduction of WebFOCUS Intelligent Objects, which let users collaboratively leverage each other’s related analytics. The key ingredient here is a new dynamic metadata layer that is automatically generated as analytics are created. A user can see and access similar and related preexisting views, enabling everyone to build on each other’s work, increasing the pace of innovation across the organization and reducing redundancy.

“Intelligent Objects support recommendation engines that guide users to the right outcome automatically,” Corcoran added.

Other additions on the analytics front include new integrations with R and Python, a new data prep wizard, data write-back functions, big data adapters for Amazon Redshift, Google BigQuery, and MariaDB, and a new tool for what-if analysis and sensitivity modeling.

All this means good news for Information Builders’ channel partners, who are an increasingly important part of the business model.

“We were founded on the direct sales model, with some really intriguing channel partnerships along the way,” Corcoran said. “We OEMed extensively, to SAP, Oracle, even companies like Informatica who we compete against at times. We have been starting to flip that channel model, however. We brought in a fairly new executive team, and took Goldman Sachs investment. One of the changes in philosophy has been moving to a partner-first mentality. We made changes to our business model and plan to accelerate that. We brought in a new team to build out the channel model much more aggressively. It will now become a much more aggressive growth engine for the company.”

The enhancements to the platform increase its attractiveness to partners.

“Because we can address a broader range of use cases and applications, there is a tremendous opportunity to reengage SIs to deliver predictive analytic applications, like predictive policing,” Corcoran said. “This provides ‘go here now’ instructions to deter crimes based on variables like traffic and weather that impact the likelihood of crime occurring. This has significantly reduced both crime and overtime pay. This is an example of the opportunity for SIs to provide very high value applications and it is something that partners can develop or embed into their own applications.”