Business intelligence software maker New Generation Software is rolling out its Decision Assist-Business Performance solution.
The application, unveiled March 26, features ready-to-run customer, sales and inventory reports, as well as a DB2-based data mart, built over an IBM System i DB2 for i5/OS data mart.
"Decision Assist-Business Performance is a packaged solution that makes it more efficient and easy for companies to deploy [BI] without the staff, money and time required for what is usually an intensive project," said Mary Lynn Treadwell, customer relations manager for NGS. "It provides a data mart, prebuilt reports and dashboards."
While Treadwell said that with BI systems, the production database is typically complex and understanding data flows can be difficult. However, with Decision Assist, users can directly link in data from their ERP (enterprise resource planning) or distribution software to the data mart and reports.
"There is no programming required," she said. "The dashboards can be easily customized without programming."
Treadwell said the browser-based dashboards can provide graphical representations of data or export data to Excel spreadsheets. They can also be updated multiple times per day or per hour with automatic scheduling.
"It's almost in-the-moment information," said Treadwell. "Users are put in touch with their data in a way they may not have been before."
Aided by an OLAP (online analytical processing) module, Treadwell said business analysts can perform multidimensional data analysis. "Business analysts can have data in the OLAP module and create numerous views and drill down into it."
Ken Morris, president of consulting firm LakeWest Group, said Decision Assist is similar to other BI products that are currently or have previously been on the market, but may offer unique value with its IBM compatibility and near-real-time updating capability.
"Intrepid had an IBM AS/400-based retail BI solution that competed with JDA called DecisionMaster, but PeopleSoft took it off the market after they purchased Intrepid in 1998," Morris said. "JDA, SAP and Oracle all have BI solutions that integrate with merchandising systems, but some are not retail-specific."
He also cited retail-specific BI solutions from MI.ix and QuantiSense as having similar functionality to DecisionAssist. However, he said the solution's System i platform may be the "secret sauce" that sets it apart in the marketplace. In addition, he said the ability to update dashboards multiple times per day could prove to be a "differentiator in a retail segment that needs it."
As an example, Morris said a supermarket retailer who was failing to move cranberry sauce during the Thanksgiving sales period could use near-real-time store performance data to identify and fix a potentially serious problem before it was too late.
"The cranberry sauce would either be stuck in the back or have something blocking it on the shelf," Morris said. "Either way, you've got a bad customer moment that could potentially cause a customer to leave and never come back to your store. The capacity for updating information in near-real-time could give real insight."
In addition to running on the IBM System i platform, Decision Assist-Business Performance can also run on Windows or on a Web interface. There is also a version fully integrated to the Vormittag Associates S2K enterprise management system.
Dan Berthiaume covers the retail space for eWEEK. For more industry news, check out eWEEK.com's Retail Site.