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Hyperion Touts Next-Gen BI Platform Release

Project Avalanche provides a single workspace for operational reporting and ad hoc query and analysis

Hyperion Solutions Corp. welcomed more than 4000 users to its Solutions 2005 user conference last week. Taking center stage was its upcoming business intelligence (BI) platform release, code-named Project Avalanche. Officials positioned the still-gestating deliverable as the logical evolution of Hyperion’s BI stack.

“It’s our new business intelligence platform. It’s a product we’ll be launching later in the summer/early fall timeframe. It really builds on, directionally, where we’ve been going for quite a while,” says Tobin Gilman, senior director of product marketing with Hyperion. “The big idea behind this is really for the first time providing one single workspace where any kind of user, be it a power user or a casual information consumer, can access information in a personalized workspace for any kind of analytics or business intelligence, whether it be production reporting, query reporting, or ad hoc analysis.”

Doesn’t Hyperion already provide a single workspace in which users can access information that cuts across multiple BI domains? More to the point, isn’t this the holy grail of every BI vendor—not to mention something that Hyperion, along with competitors like Business Objects SA and Cognos Inc., claim to be delivering today? Gilman concedes the point, to some extent.

“After 25 years, business intelligence is still pretty hard for people to use, and this is something that we and our competitors haven’t always understood,” he says. “Depending on who you talk to and which research you look at, anywhere from 15 to 25 percent of a given company population actually has access to business intelligence, and the other 75 to 85 percent [doesn't].”

Why does Hyperion believe Project Avalanche will successfully drive end-user adoption of BI technologies where other efforts have failed? To put it another way, why does Hyperion want customers to accept as much?

For starters, says Gilman, Project Avalanche’s client-side component features a significantly revamped user interface, courtesy of Frog Design, the same firm that designed the original Sony Trinitron television and the legendary Apple Macintosh.

The key to driving end-user adoption of BI tools, says Gilman, is an intuitive user interface (UI). “Definitely just the UI itself is going to have a major impact. One of the big problems that you have today is that you have to go from one tool to another if you want to go from, say, operational reporting to analysis,” he indicates. “And this is true of any BI tool. Like Cognos, they’ve had a lot of success with ReportNet, it’s been a very good reporting tool. But once you go beyond any sort of basic reporting and want to do multidimensional analysis, you’ve got to go beyond ReportNet and use PowerPlay.”

Dashboards also took center stage at Solutions 2005, which isn’t surprising, given Hyperion’s past efforts—e.g., 2003’s “Dare to Dashboard” program—in this arena. At this year’s show, Hyperion set up a proof-of-concept demo room that modeled the dashboard experience of different kinds of users across a fictional company. Interest, Gilman claims, was through the roof, with many attendees standing in line to check it out.

Hyperion, for its part, traditionally promises rapid dashboard implementation times (that was part of the pitch behind Dare to Dashboard, after all), but recent research suggests that many dashboard adopters are dissatisfied with their experiences. This is by no means a problem exclusive to Hyperion, but encompasses all dashboard implementations.

Nevertheless, Gilman believes the industry has only scratched the surface in terms of demand for dashboards. What’s the allure? In part, he says, companies see the dashboard as a simple way to drive uptake of BI technologies.

“More and more companies are looking at dashboards as a means to drive user adoption,” he comments. “Dashboards are really just another way of saying BI made easier. But they’re not as easy as they could be yet. That’s the direction. The easier you can make dashboarding from a deployment perspective as well as a user perspective, that gets you to the 80 to 85 percent adoption rate in a company, as opposed to the 10 to 25 percent.”

Finally, Hyperion used Solutions 2005 as a coming out party for what Gilman describes as its newest competitive differentiator—Master Data Management Server, which is based on technology Hyperion acquired earlier this year from a small company called Raza. According to Gilman, BPM master data defines enterprise standards by means of KPIs and reporting structures for BPM processes. “Most companies have master data—dimensions, charts of accounts, organizational structures, customer masters, product masters—but most have that scattered in multiple systems,” he says. “This is a tool that can help them consolidate and expose this siloed, but business-critical, data.”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a technology writer with 20 years of experience. His writing has focused on business intelligence, data warehousing, and analytics for almost 15 years. Swoyer has an abiding interest in tech, but he’s particularly intrigued by the thorny people and process problems technology vendors never, ever want to talk about. You can contact him at [email protected].

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