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BI tools - certainly not commoditised

An about turn in BI

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Comment Given that we have had decision support systems, enterprise information systems, and now business intelligence for the better part of two decades, you would think that the market would be showing some signs of maturity or, at least, that it was consolidating and moving towards some sort of commoditisation. From the number of new BI companies that I have met lately, this seems very far from fruition.

I have previously reported on both Information Edge and ICS, both of which are new to the market, and I have similarly alluded to Inflection Point, which is addressing the need for widespread BI deployment by addressing visualisation and the 'engagement' of the user. Most recently, I have been briefed by 90 Degree Software.

90 Degree Software is a privately owned, self-funded company that was established last year in Vancouver. Now, anyone who knows anything about the BI and reporting markets will know that Vancouver was the home of Crystal (now part of Business Objects) and, therefore, it will come as no surprise to hear that many of the leading lights in 90 Degree Software are ex-Crystal.

The aim of 90 Degree Software is to enable users to get more value from existing BI investments. That is, it is primarily intended to allow you to create reports that reuse existing business intelligence assets. In other words, you can combine existing spreadsheets, graphs and charts, key performance indicators or other information into new reports.

The key is that the product provides a search capability that helps you to find the element or elements you are looking for, and then there is a simple facility for inserting that data into your report. In other words, you are re-purposing information rather than re-creating it.

A key point is that the user does not need to understand anything about the information he is re-purposing. In particular, you don't need to know its location or the relevant metadata. Moreover, the user will be automatically notified if the original source of data changes.

There is quite a lot more: the use of caching for example, run-time and design time APIs to support ISVs, the product's peer-to-peer architecture, and so on. It is also noteworthy that you can use the tool to create new reports in a conventional manner but this is very much a 'me-too' facility, as opposed to the re-purposing discussed above.

At the current time, 90 Degree Software has not released its software: it will be going into controlled Beta testing in May with a more widespread Beta to follow and then general availability around the end of the summer. At present the product is highly Microsoft-centric and, while it is not dependent on them, the product is being developed to leverage both Vista (the next version of Windows) and Office 2007.

Further, it has been designed to extract information from Microsoft Reporting Services, though the architecture of the product is such that it can easily be extended to support other environments, such as Business Objects Crystal or Cognos ReportNet, in the future.

It is too early to say that anyone (the company is targeting mid-market CIOs) should rush out and talk to 90 Degree Software, but the concept is promising: I shall watch with interest to see how the product and company develops.

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