iQ4bis Aims to Simplify BI for JD Edwards Shops
March 18, 2008 Alex Woodie
iQ4bis Software, the business intelligence software developer that previously went by the name Q4bis, recently delivered a new release of its Windows-based business intelligence tool for J.D. Edwards and Microsoft Dynamics customers, iQ4bis Analysis 4.0, which features a new AJAX interface and new data visualization tools. The Southern California company also announced a new partnership with AMX International, a JD Edwards business partner to develop supply chain scorecards based on iQ4bis software.
These are exciting times for iQ4bis Software, which was founded by Herbert Schoenek more than 20 years ago to help companies analyze their data. Since it accepted $6 million in outside financing from TVC Capital of San Diego, California, last year, the company has been working to overhaul its image and become more visible to potential customers.
One of the first moves the company made was to change its name from Q4bis to iQ4bis Software. (The exact timing of the change is difficult to pin down, however, because there is no archive of company announcements on the company’s Web site.) The new name more accurately reflects the company’s goal, says Siegfried “Siggy” Plommer, general manager and chief operating officer of iQ4bis. “We want to increase the business IQ of our clients, of our customers.”
While the outside funding should help iQ4bis grow its business, the company is also committed to serving its base of 200 existing customers around the world. “The situation we’re in right now is, we’re a startup because we have the money to invest in marketing and PR, and to improve our product,” Plommer says. “But, we have customers that are still with us from the early days. In that respect we’re not a startup.”
Whether iQ4bis is or isn’t a startup, its end goal remains the same: Making it easier for JD Edwards and Microsoft Dynamics ERP customers to implement an advanced business intelligence solution. If it can’t do that, all the marketing in the world won’t help.
A startup company would rarely have the experience that iQ4bis brings to the table. It knows a thing or two about simplifying BI roll-outs in JD Edwards environments, where it has 15-plus years of experience, as well as in Microsoft Dynamics AX and GP environments, which are more recent undertakings. Plommer claims the company can get its SQL Server-based multidimensional database up and running, complete with five or six custom views of that data through the browser-based iQ4bis Analysis tool, in two to three days at a cost of $39,000. Most of the big BI vendors would struggle to complete that in two to three months, he says, and would command a much bigger payout.
Once the SQL Server 2005- or SQL Server 2008-based data warehouse has been loaded with data from the production DB2/400 database (or another SQL Server database in the case of Dynamics shops) via the iQ4bis DataServer extract, transform, and load (ETL) tool, and a schedule to periodically refresh the cube via ODBC is set, then users can create their own views using the iQ4bis Analysis tool. This is where iQ4bis’ approach really starts to pay dividends, Plommer says, because iQ4bis Analysis is intuitive enough for people with average technical skills to use, thereby relieving the IT department from creating reports.
While it might seem crazy, iQ4bis backs up this “ease of use” mantra by putting the user manual and commands on a mouse pad. “The four symbols on the mouse pad allow the end user to navigate the application and ask his own questions,” Plommer says. “The problem with [traditional] reporting systems is you have to instruct IT what it is that you want to see. Then IT has to come up with, let’s say, a “hard wired” report, and if you want to change the views of your business even slightly, you have to go back to IT and start the whole process again.
“With our front end, it’s a right mouse click and you change the dimension, you change the metrics, you jump over levels. You build completely new views, and with another mouse click, you save them to your browser favorites, and then they are yours. They may not be of interest to anyone else in the company, but for you, that’s the key report you want to see every morning. The next morning, when the cube is refreshed, you just click on the browser link, and there you are.”
With iQ4bis Analysis 4.0, users gain a a higher level of intuitiveness, thanks to the new AJAX interface, which allows the browser-based interface to function and behave more like a traditional Windows application, and the use of sparklines and bullet graphs data visualization tools.
Sparklines and bullet graphs are used to show how some aspect of the business has performed against expectations. They’re small enough to be inserted next to the actual data included in the report, and provide alternatives to other common visualization tools, such as speedometers and traffic lights. “If you know how to read a bullet graph, it’s a very powerful graphical representation tool,” Plommer says.
JD Edwards shops will soon gain even more customizable visualizations thanks to iQ4bis new partnership with AMX International, a JD Edwards consultancy with expertise in supply chain matters. iQ4bis and AMX will work together to develop a scorecard view of JD Edwards data that displays key performance indicators (KPIs) for supply chain performance. iQ4bis has worked with other partners to develop specialized scorecards for other industries.