A high-end business database isn’t worth much if the workforce cannot easily assimilate the data it contains. That’s exactly what can happen if the data remains locked away behind an unfriendly user interface. In the past, the emphasis was on back-end systems and their interoperability with existing legacy systems. The user interface took a back seat to the more important task of getting disparate systems to communicate. That is, until now. Business intelligence (BI) software aims to break down the data into manageable bite-sized chunks of timely information your user group can actually use. One BI product looking to break down the barriers to data access is Informatica’s PowerAnalyzer. I’ll take a look at some of PowerAnalyzer’s unique features that make it such a user-friendly BI software package.

Seeing by the dashboard light
When designing the PowerAnalyzer software, Informatica recognized the power with which speedometers quickly and easily display complex information. This design feature is prevalent within the main screens users see when first logging in to the system. The individual gauges, collectively entitled the dashboard, provide up-to-the-minute analysis of critical business data.

Wizard-driven reporting has been around for a while, but PowerAnalyzer approaches the task with a bit more zeal. The wizard uses just four screens to drill down into popular business metrics and provides easy-to-use filters for weeding out unwanted data. To highlight trends, the data within the reports can be changed to alert users based on a defined set of criteria. If a metric becomes out of range, the cell can change to something as subtle as a different color or as noticeable as a flashing red light.

Also included are Analytic Workflows, which include a series of linked reports to steer the user to a problem area in the report that is out of range from some predefined criteria. By selecting a segment of information within one report, the user can move to another report using the data samples as a filter. By following this guided path method, users can track down the report that is showing a problem area faster than traditional hunt-and-peck methods used by most reporting engines.

Excel integration
Taking advantage of the ubiquitous nature of Microsoft Excel, PowerAnalyzer tightens its integration with the venerable spreadsheet package by offering embedded programming within PowerAnalyzer. As an added bonus, your users will not lose complex formulas they created earlier in PowerAnalyzer when they export them to Excel.

Mobile support
With so many users working with mobile devices, getting them accurate data in the field can be a real challenge. PowerAnalyzer appears to be designed with the mobile worker in mind by offering several mobile device choices that it can work with, including text pagers, PDAs, and RIM Blackberrys. The PowerAnalyzer server software is device-aware to download the most appropriate interface for each type of device connecting to it.

Because the timeliness of information plays such an important role in business today, another area of concern for mobile workers is getting updates while away from the office. PowerAnalyzer allows users to define when alerts occur and have them delivered to their mobile device.

PowerAnalyzer is a single server solution that encompasses many BI features that traditionally were required to run on multiple servers. And, because the entire package is Web based, your existing infrastructure does not require as much updating or reconfiguring. For instance, PowerAnalyzer’s integration of communication tools such as Microsoft Exchange, LDAP, and IMAP allow access to calendaring and e-mail without leaving the PowerAnalyzer interface.

For larger user environments, the software offers failover and load balancing to achieve better uptime. Because it is based on Java 2 Enterprise Edition, PowerAnalyzer does not care what hardware or operating system it is working with, so you are free to make server changes should the need arise. As an additional bonus, PowerAnalyzer comes with a Portal Integration Kit to allow the software to integrate with portal vendors BEA, Plumtree, and Epicentric.

The future of business intelligence
Enabling knowledge workers is what BI is all about. With years of data on many different systems, the challenge has always been focused on getting that data to communicate within a Web-based architecture. This focus made it difficult for companies to get real-time and useful information out to the people who can actually use it. With tools like PowerAnalyzer, however, IT managers are beginning to see the emphasis shift to the person BI was originally intended to help.