Sep 26, 2005 (01:09 PM EDT)
Business Intelligence With Smarts

Read the Original Article at InformationWeek

Business Objects SA will push the boundaries of "ease-of-use" in business-intelligence tools Tuesday by debuting a release of its software that allows users to create database queries using plain English text.

BusinessObjects XI Release 2 includes a new tool called Intelligent Question that provides drop-down menus of words and phrases that users assemble into queries such as, "Who were my top 10 customers last quarter?"

Many business-intelligence tools are complex and difficult to use, and that's been a tough hurdle to overcome as companies try to deploy them more widely to managers and information workers. Generally, most business-intelligence software is used either by analysts with programming experience or IT programmers who develop pre-formatted reports for users.

For several years, business-intelligence tools have been steadily making their products friendlier, but Business Objects says the Intelligent Question software represents a major step in simplicity.

About 350 managers and employees at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City use Business Objects software to analyze information about claims, members, and health-care providers. But about 250 of them largely read static reports, says Erik Brokaw, enterprise systems architect. Today the organization's Information Services and Information Access groups often have to field requests from users to develop queries for them.

By tightly integrating Crystal Reports, Web Intelligence, and other tools in the Business Objects product line, BusinessObjects XI Release 2 will make it easier for Brokaw and his group to train more employees to develop their own analytical queries. "This is the release we've been waiting for," he says, adding that BCBS of Kansas City, which has been beta testing the software, will implement the new software as soon as it's generally available later this year.

Brokaw says Intelligent Question "is a big plus" for users who have little or no technical expertise.

BusinessObjects XI Release 2 can also integrate data from relational and OLAP data sources into a single report. The new software offers unified metadata-management capability and improved report life-cycle management. And new data transparency features that detail the origin and currency of information will help companies meet regulatory requirements about data accuracy.