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Europe Trip 2010: Day 7 Switzerland – Finding a Common Language

Although Switzerland is a relatively small country, there are four distinctive cultures speaking four different languages within its borders. There are French, German, Italian and Rumantsch regions all speaking their respective languages.

This leads to some interesting situations as I discovered when meeting with perspective partners there. The first partner was primarily based in the French region and most of their clients were also based in the French region whereas the second partner was from the German region as were most of their clients. Even more fascinating was that the French Swiss prefer not to speak German to the German Swiss and vice versa even though they learned the respective languages growing up. Ironically they often end up speaking to each other in English which is not a native language to either of them!

When I enquired about the Italian region of Switzerland, I was referred to another partner that is Swiss Italian based!

In the world of Business Intelligence, we find a similar situation with the different vendors’ product suites. BusinessObjects, Cognos, Oracle and Microsoft BI all have their native tools that communicate very differently and there is no easy way to dialog between them.

In many customer situations that is changing as the demand and desire to use multiple vendor tools has become a necessity for many businesses.  The common dialog in this case is the portal or the main application where the user first logs in.  The most common portals I encounter are either the homegrown kind or Microsoft’s SharePoint. Through this portal, it is possible to seamlessly connect with different applications and different vendors Business Intelligence tools. Reports, dashboards and ad-hoc queries can all be accessed and viewed as if they were coming from the same application. Utilizing single sign-on also makes it possible to transparently pass authentication credentials to the various applications and tools without the user having to tediously log on to multiple systems and applications.

I end up discussing with my perspective Swiss partners how many corporations in North America are using mixed Business Intelligence tools through portals like SharePoint and how key solutions like Web Intelligence, Xcelsius and InfoBurst integrate easily.

As I head to Geneva airport, I spot a chocolate store and have to go in to browse and inhale the smell of heaven (I have a weak spot for chocolate). As I float through the store in my element, I cannot help wondering that while the Swiss may speak different languages, they have their chocolate as their portal to universal communication!

About Paul

Paul Grill started his career in Information Technology in the U.K. in 1978, as an Executive Data Processing Trainee for Honeywell. More than thirty years later, he still has a voracious appetite for learning as Information Technology continues to advance at an ever accelerating pace. He was first introduced to the world of Business Intelligence in 1991, in France, when he saw a demonstration of an early version of BusinessObjects on Windows 2.1. He returned to the U.S. to rave about this phenomenal product, but it was many years before BusinessObjects made it into the mainstream. Paul founded InfoSol in 1997, and made Business Intelligence one of the key solutions offered by the company. Today, InfoSol is a leading SAP BusinessObjects solutions partner, known for its expert consulting, education and innovative add-on solutions. Paul is well known within the SAP BusinessObjects community for his extensive knowledge of Business Intelligence, and he has lectured and written many articles on the subject. Paul enjoys writing, running and coaching kids soccer, and is passionate about Ancient Egyptology.

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