The new search capabilities will be included in the Business Objects XI Release 2 Productivity Suite that the company plans release in the first half of 2007. The new release will include enhancements to the entire suite, including core BI, enterprise information management and performance management, according to company CEO John Schwarz.
He acknowledged that Business Objects was making an early "pre-announcement" of a significant update to Business Objects XI, which has been shipping for about a year.
However, he noted that Release 2 will not require a major migration from the current version. There will be "no need to change the underlying platform to get the new features" of Release 2, he said.
The new release will be aimed at making BI more dynamic rather than relying on the static reports that people have been relying on for years. It will provide tools to help customers "model and predict and plan" their business performance and move it along an optimized path, Schwarz said.
At its annual user conference, which convened Nov. 6 at the Moscone West Convention Center here, Business Objects has been talking to customers about building a BI platform that ensures that "information is available to all people in the organization" and about the need to build this "dynamic, future-information-centric organization on a single BI architecture."
The new search features in the productivity suite will enable users to perform key word searches to retrieve information from the core Business Objects environment, including Web intelligence, Crystal reports data and forms, and data from the Dashboard Manager, Schwarz said.
Users will also be able to directly query databases and applications so they can create new Web Intelligence reports on the fly, and get fast answers to business questions and rapid updates on how their operations are performing, according to Schwarz.
Schwarz said these search features will help BI move into applications that go beyond the typical business status reports for which the technology was originally developed.
For example, hospitals could use the technology to search out a variety of health metrics, such as cases of food poisoning, hospital infection rates or mortality rates for a variety of illnesses and conditions, company officials said.
Business Objects also announced that it was working with a number of text analytics vendors to provide technology for searching and events, relationships and trends in unstructured data and text. The aim is to give users new tools with which to extract BI data locked in unstructured data.
Some of the partners that Business Objects is working with include Attensity, BearingPoint, FAST, IBM, Oracle, Inxight Software, Clarabridge and Endeca Technologies. These companies are also participating along with Business Objects in the Open Search Initiative, which will focus on providing new and improved technology for extracting BI from structured and unstructured data.
The new search capabilities and the new features in Release 2 are essential to give users better ways to view what is going on in their organization and operations, said Business Objects Chairman and founder Bernard Liautaud.
"BI is going through as fundamental a change as the Web is going through," Liautaud said. What he referred to as "BI 2.0" will address the fact that BI "is coming through in a much different way" that will be focused on simplicity and making information "available at any time, anywhere on any device," he said.
"We firmly believe the next generation of [BI applications] is not going to be transaction-centric; they are going to be information-centric," Liautaud said. The information is going to come from multiple sources and databases and it is going to be analytic in nature rather than being restricted to the static, pre-defined reports that have been the stock in trade of the first generation of BI, he said.
The new generation of BI will be highly flexible and adaptable so it can be defined to serve an important business project, whether it is a short-term or long-term project, rather than being tied to a long-standing business operation.