Info Builders Updates Dashboarding Solution
March 23, 2010 Alex Woodie
Information Builders last week shipped a new release of its Performance Management Framework (PMF), a suite of software for developing and deploying Web-based dashboards, scorecards, and other analytical programs from i/OS and other servers. With version 5.2, IBI made it easier to customize dashboards, and added support for third-party content to create dashboard mash-ups with Web 2.0-style collaboration capabilities. This release also gets certified key risk indicators (KRIs) to go along with existing key performance indicators (KPIs).
PMF is a suite of products designed to allow organizations to quickly roll out BI applications that help understand how their operations are performing. The software contains more than 400 pre-built metrics (called “gadgets” within the PMF paradigm) that deploy over the Web via pre-defined dashboards and scorecards.
The software is based on the company’s core WebFOCUS business intelligence query engine and also uses integration tools from Info Builder’s subsidiary, iWay Software, to get at data stored in ERP and other business applications. PMF ships from the IBI factory with a pre-defined business model that contains more than 60 tables. That saves a lot of development work right there. Customers can deploy this model on their choice of SQL Server, Oracle, or DB2 databases. And yes, it runs fine on DB2/400 (officially known as DB2 for i by IBM). The software also comes with its own scaled-down extract, transform, and load (ETL) tool, eliminating another source of expense and complexity.
PMF is basically a purpose-built, best practices WebFOCUS application that’s already been developed and is ready to use, says David Cook, director of performance management at Information Builders. “We don’t expose the ad hoc tools necessary for WebFOCUS. Everything’s already there,” he says. “So from an IT perspective, you install it, make the data sources available to business users that they use to measure things, and they pretty much run it themselves. It’s easy to deploy to generate a high ROI [return on investment].”
With a starting cost of $50,000, customers get full access to all of PMF’s capabilities, which allows them to roll out polished-looking performance management applications, without the configuration or setup work that would be required if a customer built it themselves. For example, a user could set up a dashboard with several KPIs that graphically display profitability across different customer segments or time periods. Alternatively, PMF gives users access to trend analysis and predictive analytic capabilities to see how things might turn out in the future.
Once a dashboard or scorecard has been selected, users can populate them with an array of gadgets, or pre-built reports, graphs, grids, Adobe Flex components, spark lines, user alerts, KPIs, and KRIs. The information displayed through these dashboards is updated continuously from transactional data, and can be viewed on the Web, or exported and distributed as PowerPoint or PDF documents.
The pre-built metrics included in PMF maintain stringent operational performance management (OPM) disciplines, such as balanced scorecard or Six Sigma, Cook says. These advanced users utilize the Strategy Designer component of PMF, which allows users to link cause and effect, and measure results over time. The Strategy Designer makes up about one-third of the PMF suite, but is probably the most underutilized aspect of the product.
With the launch of PMF version 5.2, IBI has added another 60 pre-configured gadgets to the catalog. It also made it easier to set up dashboards through the addition of drag-and-drop capabilities in the dashboard designer. Instead of assigning X-Y coordinates to position gadgets on the page, users simply select from the catalog of pre-configured gadgets, and drop them in place on the dashboard page.
This release also opens PMF to third-party content, such as the iGoogle gadgets from Google, or even Twitter feeds. This support for mash-ups in PMF 5.2 gives users access to the Web’s powerful collaboration and social networking capabilities.
PMF also introduces a handful of pre-configured KRIs, which IBI licensed from the Risk Management Association. These KRIs allow PMF users to quantify and communicate the amount of risk the organization is exposing itself to through its operations.
For example, the KRIs may be used to measure and alert users to instances of unauthorized access to physical assets, like a building. This could spur the organization to beef up security if a trend continues, Cook says. PMF customers have been asking for formalized KRIs, and Cook expects the KRIs to be widely adopted by companies in the financial services industry. “Risk is a very big thing for them. It’s how they make money,” he says.
But the KRIs could also be useful for companies in other industries. For example, a retailer may use KRIs to forecast new markets and business opportunities. “They can say, ‘I’m increasing my profit by entering some new market, but I’m increasing my risk because it’s a new market, or I might alienate some partners in that market,'” Cook says. “Being able to articulate a risk-balanced strategy makes a lot more sense these days, and so now they can do it very easily with PMF.”
PMF version 5.2 is available now. Starter packages begin at $50,000. Additional named users are available for $1,000 per seat. For more information, visit www.informationbuilders.com.