Sagent Tool: Reports for the Masses

Solution suite's iStudio module enables 'ad hoc data analysis' from a Web browser interface

When Sagent Technology Inc. releases Version 4.5i of its namesake Solution suite this week, the product will offer more than just faster data loading and better management for data warehouses.

What has many beta testers buzzing about the upgrade is the Mountain View, Calif., companys new iStudio module, its first foray into Web-based reporting. The module replaces Sagents Information Studio client/server reporting tool and delivers information from a data warehouse to users via a Web browser without the need of a desktop client.

"The real benefit [of iStudio] is being able to do ad hoc data analysis from the browser interface," said Greg Newcome, vice president of engineering for Otis Education Systems Inc., in Atlanta, which is offering iStudio to its K-to-12 education customers. "Plus, theres training and ease-of-use issues. You can roll out sophisticated ad hoc analysis to all your users with no administration for the clients."

The vein Sagent is tapping into with iStudio is a rich one for business intelligence. Query and reporting tools are expected to be the fastest-growing segment of the BI tools market and are expected to account for more than half of the $12 billion in BI tools revenue that International Data Corp., of Framingham, Mass., forecasts to accumulate by 2005.

"[Query and reporting] seem like old news, but its really very important to companies," said Mark Smith, president of Full Circle Strategies, in Truckee, Calif. "Theyre still spending a lot of money on it."

Smith said companies are finding Web-based reporting tools particularly useful, since they offer broader and easier deployment than traditional client/server tools. "Companies are focused on getting information out to more and more people," he said. "Its critical for providing more visibility."

Glen MacDonell, manager of data management and analysis at the American Automobile Association, in Heathrow, Fla., echoed those sentiments. MacDonell is overseeing a deployment of Cognos Inc. BI technology for query, reporting and analysis, including Cognos Impromptu Web Reports, for AAAs travel business. Reports are now available through the organizations intranet, but AAA plans to replace this "spoon-feeding" of reports with delivering ad hoc query and analysis capabilities to users, MacDonell said.

"The key is, in this and other industries where you sell multiple products and have tons of transactions, you can give your users early warning signs of when products arent moving and sales are flattening," MacDonell said.

Companies are also finding use for reporting technology outside their organizations. Bryan Kelly, lead developer of TManage Inc., an Austin, Texas, company that sells remote networking solutions and services, uses Version 5 of Actuate Corp.s Developers Workbench to create reports for about 100 internal users, plus anywhere from five to 10 users at each of 30 companies TManage sells to.

"Your partners and major customers want to know the issues that are affecting their business," Kelly said. "They can use [the reports] to find out about the state of their business in an easy-to-use format. You can deliver customer-specific information to them."