Business Objects S.A. announced Tuesday its XI release, the fulfillment of the product roadmap the company laid out after it acquired Crystal Decisions Inc. late in 2003.
Business Objects XI combines query, reporting and analysis technology from Crystal Decisions Crystal Reporting, Crystal Enterprise and Crystal Analysis products with several pieces of Business Objects BI technology, most notably the semantic, or metadata layer, which all applications in the suite will share.
The result, company officials said, is an application more accessible to so-called "information consumers," less technically sophisticated business users who need access to data without having to develop complex analytical formulas.
"XI is a really important software release," said Gene Fichtenholz, senior software engineer at Meriwest Credit Union, who was a beta tester for XI and is currently a customer of version 6.0 of Business Objects namesake software suite. "You can easily get the information you want out of the data warehouse. You dont have to wait for complicated things."
In addition to speed and ease of use, IT intervention has also been lessened in this release, Fichtenholz said.
"Our users can create a complete report themselves," he said.
He also likes the Report Viewer in XI, which he termed "Excel on steroids."
While Fichtenholz said there will still be a place for Microsoft Excel on desktops in his organization, the XI release supports the creation of Excel pivot tables in the Report Viewer, allowing users to manipulate OLAP data.
Many enterprises are trying to get a better handle on Excel in their organizations and prevent data from being changed at users desktops, something that developers of business intelligence software such as Business Objects, Cognos Inc. and Actuate Corp. are responding to by including Excel-like capabilities within their reporting products.
BusinessObjects XI also supports live integration with Excel and other Microsoft Office applications such as Word and PowerPoint, so that users can embed live data from reports into documents created in those applications.
Customers can migrate to Business Objects XI directly from Business Objects 6 and Crystal Decisions products version 7.5 or later. In addition, Business Objects officials said the company will discontinue support for Crystal Decisions version 7 products this year.