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MicroStrategy Joins Reporting Services Ranks

MicroStrategy has become the latest business intelligence software maker to add reporting services to its product lines, joining rivals such as as Cognos, Business Objects, Hyperion and Actuate in the process.

The Mclean, Va. maker of software that gauges customer and employee behavior to help better inform enterprises about their business decisions has now unveiled MicroStrategy Report Services, the fruit of more than a year of development.

The software can deliver scorecards to executives, "managed metrics" reports to business-unit leaders, business performance reports to divisional managers, operational reports to personnel, and invoices and statements to external consumers, according to MicroStrategy Co-founder and COO Sanju Bansal.

Bansal said his company considered buying rather than building about a year and a half ago, but eschewed that scenario because of the difficulty and uncertainty with integrating software code from an alien company into its own products.

Still, Bansal said MicroStrategy has taken stock of what the competition has built or bought and believes it has the superior product because it offers a convergence of a reporting tool with list reports, dashboards and interactive analyses in a single module that uses the same infrastructure, security, calculation engine and deployment options as the rest of the company's product line.

First, Bansal told internetnews.com MicroStrategy Report Services bridges the gap between detailed analysis and report formatting, which has traditionally been reserved for few, technically adept business analysts. With MicroStrategy Report Services, users can receive any type of enterprise report, including Web-based scorecards with performance indicators to multi-page printed operational reports sectioned across multiple dimensions.

The software features not only the summarization and data, but the visual representations in the form of pie charts and bar charts. Bansal also said the new product specializes in a type of report that is becoming increasingly popular -- a managed metrics report to help an analyst cope with 20 different metrics culled from multiple systems via the Web. And it does so rapidly, with an enterprise-class throughput of 72,000 reports per hour.

The Web-based functionality also helps reports reach more users than ever before, with each user receiving a personalized version of each report, he said. As if it were a customized portal, report contents, report language, and report drill-down paths are all personalized per user. Users can further custom-fit the way they receive information through "parameterized reporting," which provides lists of customization options.

Also, at a time when universality is important in global business, the Web interface renders reports in English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, and Swedish out of the box.

While these are options that many reporting software products provide, Bansal said his company and team looked for specific differentiators for their products by talking to customers. To wit, the company believes it has bridged the gap between reports that look great online, but don't translate so well to paper when they are printed.

That's why his development team has worked hard on a design interface to create the perfect report without programming or outside help, allowing users to create reports that rival the quality of desktop publishing for their existing data. Users create reports with pixel-perfect precision by simply dragging-and-dropping and then formatting reports for presentation, the COO said. MicroStrategy Report Services also delivers reports in Portable Document Format (PDF).

Lastly, unlike other platforms such as those offered by Cognos, Bansal said, his outfit's new product is fully integrated with the rest of the MicroStrategy Business Intelligence Platform so that users can move from reporting to analysis and back again. In this regard, Bansal said, most companies suffer a hitch because they have different architectures for reporting and analysis.

"Our new software is simply a service in MicroStrategy's service-based architecture, so the user interface stays the same as users move from reporting to analysis, minimizing product training and easing user adoption," Bansal said.

Eric Rogge, vice president and research director with Ventana Research, said the product is a boon for companies looking to cut costs by buying an integrated solution as opposed to several piecemeal applications.

"Acceptable reporting solutions must now handle any and all kinds of reporting needs from traditional production reporting to business intelligence-related reporting." said Rogge. "MicroStrategy Report Services, which offers leading-edge integration of banded and 'zone-based' report layout approaches, combined with their existing BI modules on a unified architecture will raise the standard for reporting platforms."