I was recently asked if I would write the foreword for the SAP Press book, Web Intelligence 3rd Edition BI 4.1 SP3. It made me think about my experience with BusinessObjects and Web Intelligence and how far the product has come so I thought I would share it. I definitely recommend getting the book too.
When I first saw BusinessObjects in 1991, it ran on Windows 2.1 and was quite impressive. Then the 3.0 version was released with a fully graphical drag-and-drop user interface and this just blew me away. It was so far ahead of anything else in what was called the Decision Support space at that time, that one demonstration was often enough for organizations to buy it right away.
This was what was known as BusinessObjects Full Client and was a client server solution that ran on the desktop either standalone and offline or connected to a server repository online.
The mid-Nineties saw a move towards web browser based solutions and Business Objects released both a thin client version of the Full Client known as ZABO (Zero Administration Business Objects) and a brand new web-based version known as Web Intelligence. At that time Web Intelligence only had about half the functionality of the BusinessObjects Full Client tool and there was very little user adoption.
However, with each subsequent release of BusinessObjects, more capabilities and functionality was added and user adoption steadily increased.
With the acquisition of Crystal Decisions in 2003 and the adoption of the Crystal Enterprise platform (known as XI), Web Intelligence was the first BusinessObjects tool to be ported to the new platform ahead of the Full Client tool which was later renamed Desktop Intelligence. With the BusinessObjects XI R2 and XI 3 releases, cool new functionality was added to Web Intelligence while the deprecation of Desktop Intelligence was underway. This included a Rich Client version that provided the offline capability that so many BusinessObjects users utilized.
Web Intelligence dominated as the BusinessObjects tool of choice because it seamlessly combined versatile business intelligence query and analysis with rich report creation and formatting capabilities. As the BusinessObjects suite became the most widely used and popular business intelligence solution around the world, Web Intelligence clearly stood out as its flagship product and remains so today.
The last five years have seen even more usage of Web Intelligence than ever before providing powerful business intelligence insight for organizations everywhere. And one of the premier reference resources to both drive and support that increased usage has been this book.
This third edition brings a further update to the latest functionality in Web Intelligence 4.1 SP 3 which includes one of my favorite features – freezing headers. Yes, I know this has existed in Excel for a long time, but it is just cool to have it now in Web Intelligence alongside all those other super neat features.
This book has become the bible of Web Intelligence users everywhere and it is easy to see why. It has everything in it in one place and goes beyond the standard documentation and tutorials available with the product itself. It has also become popular as a reference guide and support aide in Web Intelligence classes which, I must say, is an excellent usage.
Recently I saw a demonstration of an integrated location intelligence solution for pharmaceutical sales representatives where they could track patient diagnosis and drug prescribed across hospitals around the USA. The map was completely interactive as well as integrated with the data so you could see diagnosis and drug by State, County, Zip Code, City and distance from any location or even just select your own area on the map on the fly. This also fed into a dynamic heat map which, in turn, was connected to drillable graphs and tables with colored threshold alerts. It looked like a state-of-the-art data visualization dashboard and it was simply stunning. It was a Web Intelligence application and clearly showed that this product is at the top of its game.
So how do you create a Web Intelligence application like that?
Well, start with this book and the rest will come easy.
I have had the honor to meet all of the authors of this book and have had the privilege to work as a colleague with one of them. They are all truly Web Intelligence gurus who have gained that status from working extensively with the product in real world situations. Their experience has been forged through living and breathing Web Intelligence and their combined knowledge and insights have been condensed into the pages of this book.
Web Intelligence has earned and deserves its status as the premium Business Intelligence tool in the marketplace today. Use this book and go forth to continue to “Webify the World”!”