Information Builders Maps Out Modern BI Strategy

New mapping tools are among some of the most highly anticipated capabilities arriving on Information Builders' business intelligence platform.

Information Builders

ORLANDO, Fla.—WebFocus' new Auto Linking feature, improved data integrity, next-generation visualizations and a new, more mobile-friendly business intelligence portal were among the major highlights featured during Information Builders' Summit 2015 conference here this week. Meanwhile, some of the company's customers are banking on other new functionalities to help them boost their BI efforts.

Thomas Janssen, manager of Memorial Health System's Business Intelligence and Enterprise Data Warehousing unit, is keen on Information Builders' expanded integrations with Esri, the Redlands, Calif., provider of geographic information systems (GIS) tools and software. Memorial Health System operates four hospitals, among other clinics and mental health facilities, in Illinois.

Geography can play a critical role in patient care, asserts Janssen. Linking health information to maps in WebFocus 8 can have a big impact on the well-being of not just individual patients, but communities at large.

Janssen recalls a troubling rise in neuroblastoma cases around Taylorville, Ill., home to a Memorial Health hospital, beginning in the 1980s. Neuroblastoma is a rare type of cancer that affects certain nerve cells in children.

Fast forward a few decades and armed with the Esri-backed mapping data, Janssen said the area's medical professionals would have had a better understanding of the cancer cluster, which has been linked to a former Central Illinois Public Service plant. Analytics information, layered over area maps, helps unearth the causes of epidemics and better prepares doctors, hospitals and neighborhoods for the health challenges that affect their communities.

Janssen is particularly interested in seeing the technology used to combat influenza (the flu) outbreaks and other rapidly spreading diseases. Using Information Builders' BI platform is a fairly trivial exercise to "look at disease codes and determine if they are more prevalent in one area or another," he told eWEEK.

Also important to Janssen's company is Information Builders' data quality enhancements. Automated tools help sanitize and consolidate records, even in the face of a misspelled name, incorrect date of birth or old address. Consistent, accurate data is critically important to Memorial Health, he said, especially given that each of its facilities has its own blend of electronic health records and information systems.

Information Builders' ongoing data integrity improvements are helping Janssen's team build an enterprise data warehouse that contains "a single version of the truth," improving everything from the company's overall operations to it care-giving capabilities, he said.

Meanwhile, in the days leading up to an early test of WebFocus 8.1.04, Tim Brynda, a software engineering consultant at Ace Hardware, said his group is looking forward to a new, more modern and secure WebFocus BI environment.

"It touches every area of our business," he said, providing visibility into the company's supply chain among other business functions. Information Builders' new visualization engine is of particular note, lending a more polished, user-friendly touch to BI reporting, said Brynda.

His company is considering deploying an executive dashboard within the next year using the technology, "very similar to the Portal views" shown during the conference's keynote, which combined several visualizations into one customizable screen, he reported. He envisions that every morning the dashboard will provide Ace executives and other stakeholders with "a great snapshot of how the company is doing."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...