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Information Builders Readies WebFocus Release Offering More Business User-Led Capabilities

The new edition of IBI's business intelligence platform comes as the company is wrapping up a comprehensive overhaul of its channel operations.

Information Builders has launched a new edition of its flagship WebFocus business intelligence and analytics platform with expanded content development capabilities, collaboration and ease-of-use enhancements for business users.

The new release, which also boasts extended scalability, marks a shift from earlier editions of WebFocus that were designed more for an organization's IT department and developers.

"We needed more emphasis on modern content creators," said Frank Vella, IBI's chief operating officer, in an interview with CRN.

Business analytics platforms, including WebFocus, have traditionally been used by IT department developers who created reports, dashboards and other content for business users, an approach called "governed BI."

[Related: The 2018 CRN Big Data 100 ]

But that made it difficult for organizations to quickly adapt to changing user requirements and the trend in recent years, called "self-service" or "business-led" analytics, has been to "empower" business users to do more on their own.

The new WebFocus release offers a more user-friendly interface with easier functionality and improved workflow and collaboration features, Vella said. An organization can build reports, dashboards, documents and applications for users, while administrators use the WebFocus BI Portal to manage the deployment, access and presentation of those assets.

But the new edition also provides business users with more ability to create and personalize their own data visualizations, charts, graphs and infographics and manage those analytical assets using the WebFocus Designer software.

Those assets can be embedded into portals or third-party applications or deployed standalone, according to the company.

The enhancements will also benefit partners, Vella said, by reducing the amount of preparation and customization that solution providers have to do to deploy WebFocus at customer sites or that independent software vendors have to do to embed WebFocus into their applications. And it's now easier for partners to develop value-added content and services around the platform.

"You now have a more readily saleable product, a more readily demonstrable product," Vella said, adding that the enhancements to WebFocus broaden its potential audience of users. "The product is now more complete."

"I like the direction they're headed," said Gene Peters, president and CEO of Rosnet, a Parkville, Mo.-based developer of restaurant management applications that embeds WebFocus in its software for providing users with reports and dashboards. "They are providing a more modern look and feel and making it easier for our clients to use."

Rosnet has worked with WebFocus for about three years and Peters said his company would develop reports and dashboards for clients because earlier releases were too technical for Rosnet customers to build them on their own. But customers have expressed a desire to be able to build and customize their own reports and dashboards and Peters said the design framework in the new edition of WebFocus would make that possible.

The new release also provides a new, comprehensive suite of data science functions, built on IBI's data access and data cleansing tools and integrated with WebFocus. The new WebFocus Intelligent Objects lets users collaboratively leverage each other's related analytics. And the software sports a number of new data management capabilities, including a data preparation wizard, data write-back functions, a tool for what-if analysis, and adaptors for Amazon Redshift, Google BigQuery and MariaDB.

On the scalability front the new WebFocus release can support a greater number of users, as well as making it easier for an organization to easily add servers to an existing network without having to reconfigure the business analytics software.

Rosnet's Peters praised the software's updated technical functionality, including the ability for developers to create analytical content that users can easily drop into their dashboards. Peters said he's ready to begin developing the next generation of his company's applications on the new WebFocus release.

The new edition comes as IBI moves to overhaul its channel operations and the way the company engages with its VAR, consulting and OEM partners.

Vella said he has been building up the software company's channel program, infrastructure and processes, developing a more "programmatic" approach to the channel to replace the company's earlier "ad hoc" approach. That includes developing a new partner tier system and offering more market development funds for partners.

Earlier this year Vella hired channel veteran Pat Bernard as senior vice president of global channels and alliances and added partner marketing and channel operations managers to the staff.

Vella said he paused IBI's partner recruiting efforts earlier this year while rebuilding the partner program but has since resumed those recruiting efforts. The company plans a formal re-launch of the partner program in 2019.

"We want to make clear to the market that we are serious about how the company partners," the COO said.

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