Business Analysis Tools Gaining in Visualization

By Dennis Callaghan  |  Posted 2005-03-18

Several startups are leading a new charge to ease enterprise data analysis with visualization tools that allow nontechnical users to glean valuable information from business data.

Tableau Software Inc. will formally launch as a company this month with Standard and Professional editions of its namesake software built around the companys proprietary VizQL visual database query language. Meanwhile, Endeca Technologies Inc., best known for its enterprise search products, is extending its technology into analysis of structured data using visualization techniques. And Lumina Decision Systems Inc. announced last week Version 3.1 of its Analytica visual business analytics tool.

Seattle-based Tableau has some 100 customers of its visual analysis tools, which also power Hyperion Solutions Corp.s Visual Explorer tool via a licensing deal.

Users of Tableau can manipulate data through a drag-and-drop interface that lets them view data through multiple dimensions. The software is designed to let users spot relationships they might miss in a typical Microsoft Corp. Excel spreadsheet report.

Brian Haas, vice president of operations for Beacon Fire & Safety LP, in San Jose, Calif., said Tableau doesnt just ease data analysis. For his line managers, most former field technicians who know more about alarm and sprinkler systems than business intelligence, "it makes it possible," Haas said. "They just drag and drop and get a report that answers their question, even if theyre not familiar with databases or pivot tables."

Endecas new Latitude product uses the same Guided Navigation interface that the companys search tools are known for; it also adds charting and visualization capabilities. Latitude can be used to merge analysis of structured and unstructured data, and it enables search queries on structured data or mixes of structured and unstructured data, said officials in Cambridge, Mass.

Luminas new version of its Analytica product features the Analytica Optimizer, which is based on Frontline Systems Inc.s Solver add-on for Excel. The product adds visual modeling capabilities over multiple dimensions to Excel. Combined with Analyticas own Monte Carlo risk analysis technique, the technology is specially designed to simulate the results of business or policy decisions, according to Lumina officials in Los Gatos, Calif.

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