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Data analysis a group activity, says Databeacon

Data analysis must evolve into a collaborative activity if the enterprise is ever going to be free of its bottlenecking reliance on specialized business analysts, said Andy Coutts, CEO at Databeacon. "This means packaging analytical applications into portal interfaces that ordinary people can access online," Coutts said, "and then allowing them to share not just the static report output, but the actual dynamic analytical experience through online collaboration."

Databeacon has been working to develop technologies along these lines -- which Coutts calls "analysis for the rest of us" -- since the firm was founded in 1995. Last week, at the TDWI World conference in San Francisco, the company unveiled a new version of its flagship Web-reporting and data-analysis software. Databeacon Collaboration Edition is designed to give organizations the ability to publish and disseminate live Web reports and data analysis to a large number of information consumers over corporate extranets or the Internet.

"Business analytics are typically carried out by a few highly trained individuals working in departmental silos," Coutts told e-ADT. "This approach makes it difficult to share reporting and analysis information. And while these specialists have been able to draw their own conclusions from data, it's tough for them to share their insights with a large audience in a timely way. And that's a real problem in terms of software licensing and systems infrastructure costs."

According to Coutts, the Databeacon Collaboration Edition is designed to provide any user with browsers and Internet connections with the ability to collaborate on Web reports without the need to install software or take training. Sending an e-mail message from the Databeacon Insight viewer activates a "self-defined workgroup." E-mail recipients then click on an "Analyze Report" link to analyze Web report data interactively within their own Databeacon Insight viewer, which is loaded automatically in their browser. Users are then able to add their own Web reports to share within the workgroup as needed.

After four years of R&D, followed by four years of winning over customers and developing its market, the Ottawa, Ontario-based company seems to be on the right track. In a slow economy, Databeacon has expanded its distribution from four to 27 countries, and expanded its strategic relationships from eight to 89 partners.

Databeacon Collaboration Edition introduces new capabilities and features, including:

* Updated user interface for Databeacon Insight viewer -- Enhanced Databeacon Insight viewer to better service first-time information consumers, including report selection, category selection, percent of row/column total, new title variables and mouse pointer feedback.

* Relative time categories -- Data publishers can now provide pre-defined relative time periods in their reports. Information consumers can then use relative time periods such as "previous month" to select data, apply filters and create functions.

* New presentation modes -- New presentation mode allows the presentation of data in a more natural reporting format, while also allowing information consumers to switch modes to a more powerful analysis or to an Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) format with one click.

* Exception highlighting -- Unlike most products that require exception highlighting rules to be defined at the publication stage, Databeacon Collaboration Edition allows information consumers to determine rules at any time during their exploration of data.

* PageEnhancer API -- For customers interested in tightly integrating Databeacon functionality into existing Web portal environments and applications, Databeacon PageEnhancer API provides full programmatic control of the updated Insight viewer's features and functions.

Databeacon Collaboration Edition runs on Windows 95/98/NT/Millennium/2000 and XP; standard Web servers with CGI support such as Apache 2.0+ or MS IIS 4+; and MS Internet Explorer 5.0+ and Netscape Navigator 4.7+ Web browsers. Unix releases (IBM AIX, HP-UX, Sun Solaris and Linux) and Microsoft Analysis Services support are scheduled for release this summer.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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