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InetSoft Enhances Collaborative Features

The revamped version of InetSoft's BI platform boasts mobile and collaborative enhancements. It's also refreshingly free of big data-themed marketing.

This month, veteran business intelligence (BI) vendor InetSoft Technology Corp. introduced version 11.4 of its flagship Style Intelligence solution.

InetSoft emphasized the revamped Style Intelligence's mobile and collaborative enhancements, along with a metadata-driven BI search facility.

One thing InetSoft officials didn't talk up was big data, but that's not because InetSoft doesn't have a big data story to tell, protests Mark Flaherty.

"We haven't tried to hang out a shingle for being the 'big data analysis' company. We do feel quite confident in the ability of our software to handle ... terabytes of data in a simple and cost-effective way," he comments, adding that InetSoft expects to release a Hadoop connector sometime this year.

For most companies, Flaherty argues, BI is still overwhelmingly a reporting-focused proposition. They're moving to big data -- but slowly, in increments, that makes sense to them, he claims. "It's clear that some companies need new kinds of big data solutions, but the vast majority are the ones that are still coming to us."

This jibes with industry research. Consider the 2012 installment of BIScorecard's "The Successful BI Survey," which polls users as to how they use their BI tools, how satisfied they are with their BI vendors, which best practices are most integral to their BI programs, and which technologies or initiatives are most important to them. According to Cindi Howson, a principal with BIScorecard, "big data" polled near the bottom of the list.

BI Gradualism

At this point in its history, InetSoft Technology Corp. is a grizzled veteran of the business intelligence (BI) market. It was founded almost 20 years ago.

Back when vendors such as Arbor Software, Brio Technology, and Seagate Technology -- parent company to Crystal Reports -- were among those contending for BI market dominance. Some players were familiar -- Information Builders Inc. and SAS Institute Inc. had been around for a couple of decades, the former Cognos Inc. even longer than that -- but others, such as the former Business Objects SA, were relatively new. Longevity-wise, InetSoft is in good company: along with IBI and SAS, it's survived several rounds of market consolidation and at least two economic downturns.

The collaborative enhancements it's delivering as part of Style Intelligence 11.4 aren't groundbreaking; nor is its BI search facility. Competitors -- from new-fangled upstarts such as Lyza Inc. to more established players such as QlikTech Inc. -- have offered support for collaborative capabilities such as bookmark sharing or annotations for some time now.

Take, for example, Style Intelligence's implementation of bookmark sharing, which permits a business user to share analysis with co-workers. QlikView, for its part, supports a kind of collaborative bookmark-sharing -- in real-time -- between users.

These technological enhancements are to some extent offset by the fact that real-time collaboration -- in physical or in virtual space -- is already a commonplace in most organizations, Flaherty argues. Even with Style Intelligence's new bookmark sharing feature, he expects that business users will continue to collaborate in real time much like they've traditionally collaborated in real time: they'll collaborate in physical space in front of a desktop or tablet, or they'll collaborate virtually using desktop sharing software, which has been available for more than a decade, and which most businesses license in one form or another.

"We've been selling into mid- and large-sized enterprises where we have teams of people making those reports, sharing their work with everybody else. These are teams that have been using [Style Intelligence] collaboratively for more than a decade," he says.

"We also address discovery. Our original analysis [or] data discovery functionality went along with our dashboard functionality. We had a pretty capable visualization engine that would also render your charts for dashboards as well as your multidimensional analysis," he continues, noting that -- in addition to its upcoming Hadoop connector -- InetSoft is still formulating its advanced analytic strategy.

"We're still taking a litlte more of a cautious approach to some of the other advanced analytics, like text analytics or unstructured data. We're beginning at this point to focus more closely on structured data and multidimensional analysis."

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