Analytics

Dealing with High-Volume Transactional Documents. Do I really need an ECM system?

The same way you wouldn’t try and put out a blazing bushfire with a squirt gun, you probably wouldn’t use a stump truck to uproot garden weeds. It’s all about using the right tool for the job. Having said that, we live in a world where feature-rich products, promising to deliver a wide range of functions, are abundant. It’s always tempting to go for a “value-for-money-bigger-solution” to solve a smaller problem. For instance, when we talk about a document repository, generally we tend to think of a full blown ECM system with all the bells and whistles including complex branched versioning, virtual documents, unlimited number of attributes, evolutionary classification schemes, rigorous security architecture and what have you. Although features like these are a must for an enterprise-wide, source-of-truth ECM system, in certain cases, a light-weight, high-performance, cold document repository where you can retrieve and deposit large volumes of transactional documents, is all that you need. A re-depository if you will. It’s hard to argue a case against an ECM system which can also act like a HVTO (High-Volume Transactional Output) repository but, by the same token, it’s hard to find such an ECM system. A feature-rich ECM, generally, is built on a complex engine which, inadvertently or otherwise, has the performance penalties that aren’t suitable for a high performance HVTO repository. So what are the features to look for in an HVTO repository? I am glad you asked. In my opinion, here are a few to consider: Performance, Performance and Performance! An excellent HVTO repository is the one that outputs high-volume/size documents to multiple delivery channels at higher speeds. It may not support complex versioning schemes but, again, for high-volume transactional documents, like customer statements, it may not be required. Support for Printstreams Printstreams are one of the major sources of high-volume transactional documents. A good HVTO repository must support industry standard printstreams like AFP, PCL, Metacode etc. An intuitive and fast way of ingesting as well as spitting out printstreams is expected of a good HVTO repository. Integrated Transformation Capabilities An HVTO repository is expected to provide a built-in transformation engine where content can be ingested, indexed and reformatted as required for storage, viewing or printing. Integration with Information Silos In large enterprises, a purpose-built HVTO repository is almost always found side-by-side with one or more enterprise repositories and other storage systems. Its ability to source/search data and documents from multiple sources is needed due to its, largely infamous, role as an Enterprise Document Cache. Ability to Reduce Storage Footprint Better HVTO repositories should significantly reduce data storage requirements by extracting and storing only one copy of common resources, such as graphics, fonts and metadata, for high-volume printstreams and reconstituting them back together upon retrieval. Fit-for-Purpose Security and Audit Even though HVTO repositories strive for simpler security architecture, the reality is that compliance requirements, both internal and external, call for a tighter level of security and audit on the documents stored in the repository. A good repository should have the right balance of meeting customer needs, regulatory compliance requirements, as well as keeping it all simple to implement and manage. Now that you know some of the things I take seriously while deciding which repository to use, let me tell you about the smart TV I recently bought. It has hand gesture control, amazing sound, 3D screen, voice commands and ability to show streaming 3D and other content from the internet. Turns out, I do not have a big enough room where I can enjoy the amazing sound, hand gesturing is a bit annoying, with no way to bring ethernet cable to the TV and my slow wireless router and internet connection speed – streaming is not an option anyway. Guess what? I am still using my old TV to watch channel 9 news.

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Update on AODA for Document Accessibility

We’ve been asked to comment on a whirlwind of activity around AODA or the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. In our Fall Document Accessibility Seminar series, we learned that AODA has very specific timelines in place that mandate specific compliance for organizations with over 20 employees. One of the early deadlines just passed, January 1, 2014. By this time, organizations must be WCAG 2.0 Level A compliant and have an accessibility plan outlined and documented. AA compliance accrues to a future date. This is having some specific impact on organizations which have not put a plan in place, and notably, one of the largest property & casualty insurers in North America recently sent out a notice to all Ontarian customers informing them that: “Due to technical limitations, starting December 8th 2013, most or possibly all documents you view online will no longer be available. Unfortunately, this is a necessary step as we improve the overall accessibility of our site.” In the age of online customer service in which virtually all organizations not only have extensive website service channels, they actually use the website to reduce more expensive call center traffic. The impact in terms of brand damage and sheer cost we know is huge. This is completely avoidable. The technology exists to quickly remediate websites, but even beyond that, there is now readily available technology to remediate high volume documents, including insurance documents, insurance cards, policies, bills, notices, claim letters, and the like. Don’t let this happen! Email me if you would like to attend an Actuate webinar or seminar on document accessibility and find out what you can do!

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Customer Communications Management Trends in 2014

The Customer Communications Management (CCM) market is demonstrating healthy growth as enterprises recognize that improving the way they communicate with their customers reaps benefits. By making communications more relevant, timely, and communicating with customers using the channels they prefer, enterprises see favourable uptick in customer loyalty and buying behaviour. There are 3 main trends that will be impacting the CCM marketing in 2014: 1. Focus on best practices to overcome implementation challenges In my conversations with enterprises I often notice a very strong desire to learn about best practices on how to overcome the challenges associated with implementing CCM technologies. Implementations are usually technologically complex, there are many stakeholders involved, thousands of document templates that need to be ported (and “modernized”), and often the implementation process takes a long time to complete. It does not come as a surprise that many enterprises are still working with legacy systems that impact their ability to benefit from the latest technological advancements around targeted, synchronized, multi-channel messages. InfoTrends wrote a whitepaper for Actuate on this topic that I highly recommend. 2. Marketing getting more involved in CCM CCM, especially statement production, is an area that traditionally is seen as a cost to the business and in many organizations ultimately is managed by the CIO or COO. However, there is a clear trend that marketing is getting more involved in CCM than just branding – they want to make sure that the messaging is purposeful, authentic, and engaging. For this, marketers rely heavily on data analytics, business intelligence and customer insights. It will be very interesting to see how enterprises are going to deal with those challenges – eventually it is my expectation that CCM and Multi-Channel Marketing will converge but it requires new organizational structures, especially around funding. It is unlikely that the CMO wants to pick up the tab for a cost that has always been charged to the CIO/COO. 3. Centralization for better tracking and distribution Progressive enterprises are actively looking to centralize their communications. This way they can rationalize the number of CCM systems, and enable centrally tracked, synchronized and orchestrated messaging. Business users (as well as customers) can be given access so that they can have a clear understanding of what has been communicated. A big complaint on the consumer side is that large enterprises send non-orchestrated, sometimes even conflicting communications, giving the impression that they don’t really understand their customers. While printed communications generally have been pretty well tracked, it’s embedding the electronic and mobile communications into the mix that is causing challenges. We expect CCM vendors to build out their electronic and mobile communications capabilities, as well as social media listening technologies so that enterprises can increasingly use those tools for their digital, mobile and social communications.

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The New BIRT Developer Center

If you’ve logged into BIRT Exchange during the past few months, you’ve surely noticed some changes! There has been a complete structure and domain change. BIRT Exchange is now the Community portion of the new BIRT Developer Center. The goal of the new developer center is to make it easier for developers at all stages of knowledge of BIRT. Whether you’re new to BIRT and just wanting to know what all BIRT does, or if you’re a BIRT guru and want to show others the cool designs you’ve created or help support the community, there’s a place for you. We’ll also be rolling out more features and areas of the site in the near future, making for an even better user experience. We’re very excited about the direction of the new site and hope you are too. Feel free to contact us and let us know what you think.

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Implementing iHub 3, What You Need to Know Now

The latest version brings a host of improvements to big data and mobile apps including animated HTML5 visualizations. I was building a custom report the other day to support a new opportunity for the sales team when I got an email from one of the guys in my group. He asked if he could access and personalize my report on both iPads and Android tablets; something I wasn’t able to do before. “No problem,” I said. “I’m working with the latest version of BIRT iHub and it should be a snap.” The latest version announced in December 2013 and currently available for download includes animated HTML5 visualizations as a default setting. This now makes BIRT a perfect presentation tool for all the iOS, Android or Windows mobile devices out there with HTML5 capabilities for running custom charts, apps and maps. Having both mobile and web compatibility is especially helpful for the growing number of people using tablets and smartphones to view data. The best part about preparing my data for this latest version of iHub is… I don’t need to do anything differently. No reconfigurations or recoding is needed. BIRT supports the best known Internet and Big Data repository sources, including MongoDB, Cloudera’s Impala, Hortonworks, and Cassandra. This is important because you can now include social sentiments around the product to alert the sales team so they know what people are saying. It’s nice to know that even if my data set became infinitely more massive, that my BIRT iHub environment could handle it. I can also make the report really stand out compared to the way other reporting toolkits handle visualizations. The BIRT Designer Professional includes more than 200+ HTML5 animated widgets for web and mobile design and deployment. BIRT Designer Professional also adds Mac OS and 64-bit Windows operating systems to its list of supported platforms to support developers’ current platforms of choice. And the cool thing is that if I don’t find what I’m looking for, I can embed any third-party HTML5 visualization such as D3. The BIRT iHub 3 revamp combines the dashboards, interactive viewer, and report studio into a single unified interface. Dashboards can be built, tested and installed by developers directly within BIRT Designer Pro, improving how dashboards perform and respond to user changes. The BIRT iHub is perfect as cloud-based software platform that can be hosted outside the company firewall and managed on or off premise. So, I got my work cut out for me in choosing from the different visualization options, but my platform of choice is easy; it’s BIRT iHub. If you want to see this kind of example in action, Actuate will be hosting Cloudera’s Impala group at SF Bay Area BIRT Developers’ first Meetup on Thursday, February 6 at 6pm. The meeting will spotlight how to create a seamless application experience by integrating BIRT’s powerful visualizations and analytics with Hadoop via Cloudera Impala, in combination with other data sources. Cloudera’s Gwen Shapira, Solutions Architect and Actuate’s Michael Williams, BIRT Product Evangelist & Forum Manager will be on hand to share their tips and tricks. We hope you can join us.

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Full House at Charlotte Document Accessibility Seminar

First published on ECM Trends from the Field. Momentum continues to build in the document accessibility space. We recently held the 2nd instalment of our Document Accessibility Seminar series, this time in Charlotte, NC. The first session in Toronto was received very well and has led to a lot of discussion on the Ontario accessibility legislation and deadlines, more on that in our next post. This second session was almost twice as large in terms of attendees with 9 companies and 22 in attendance. It’s remarkable that every single registrant actually made it to the session! Also in attendance was TJ, a handsome German Shepherd service dog. Note: it was sunny and gorgeous in Charlotte on this particular day! The presentations were on the mark with Tom Logan again providing the regulatory and litigation landscape, Shannon Kelly, working with Lou Fioritto at BrailleWorks International, demonstrated how a visually impaired person actually works with correctly tagged PDF’s. Lou remarked that it’s important to keep in mind that for a visually impaired person, this type of technology opens the door to independence. “Imagine”, Lou said, “if you had to invite a stranger over to your house to read your financial statements to you!” Jeff Williams discussed the actual technology being used to create accessible PDF files for high volume transaction applications along with updates on PDF/UA, and Will Davis provided a demonstration of both creating applications that generate accessible PDF files, and remediating already created files in accessible format. The Q&A session again proved to be one of the most interesting sessions. There were questions on what happens if the tagging is somehow applied incorrectly or the alternate text, for example is out of sync with the image it is meant to represent. The answer is that if you deploy this technology correctly, you are in fact storing a document which is the legally admissible document of record. It would be highly unlikely to apply incorrect tags, but if it were to happen, it is easily corrected and according to Matt Aranas at SSBBart, one would have a very low probability of discrimination on that specific document. Additional feedback came from an enterprise architect of a large credit card services company already using the Actuate Document Accessibility Solution, who commented that the group that sets up the templates to manage high volume remediation does not also control the content being created. Therefore, there is the possibility that somebody else along the way, either in a marketing or elsewhere could add new content that is not tagged. It would be good to catch “un-tagged” elements as part of the process and send an SMS or email alert message to get those new document elements tagged and accessible immediately. It was an excellent session and there were already next steps with a majority of the attendees either in terms of questions to be answered or more in-depth discussions and technology briefings. The next Seminar event is scheduled for New York City in mid-April, followed by Washington D.C. in the summer! Email me if you are interested in signing up for the next Accessibility Seminar in NY!

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What Free Beer and Pizza Can Teach You About Real-Time Big Data and Visualization

  The first-ever SF Bay Area BIRT Developers’ Meetup will spotlight how integrating Cloudera’s Impala and BIRT can help make visual sense of Hadoop data. Whether it is for internal or external analysis, the importance of big data cannot be understated. Any company now has the potential to gather data from its operations, and make the data and analyses available to customers. But making sense of data requires a close collaboration between a big data storage solution and the data visualization platform that works with big data… that and a good dose of free beer and pizza. The San Francisco Bay Area BIRT Developers group is hosting its first Meetup to share tips and tricks on how you can comb through massive volumes of data in real-time and deliver important information with visualizations and analytics. This fun and informative event is co-sponsored by Actuate, The BIRT Company and Cloudera’s Impala group. The event will be held on Thursday, February 6 at 6 p.m. at Actuate Corporation headquarters in San Mateo, CA. How important is deciphering big data to businesses? An average of $8 million per company is expected to be spent on big data initiatives over the next year, according to analyst firm IDC’s 2014 IDG Enterprise Big Data research. Show up and you will hear case studies on how customers are leveraging Cloudera Impala to query Big Data in real-time as an alternative to expensive data warehouses and ETL jobs, from Cloudera’s Gwen Shapira, Solutions Architect. You can also understand how to create a seamless application experience by integrating BIRT into your Hadoop and Big Data applications, from Actuate’s Michael Williams, ‎BIRT Product Evangelist & Forum Manager. Similar to the way beer and pizza go so well together… It’s important to show how the capabilities of Hadoop and BIRT open source projects complement each other. Cloudera’s Impala project is pioneering the next generation of Hadoop capabilities: the convergence of fast SQL queries with the capacity, scalability, and flexibility of a Hadoop cluster. With Impala, the Hadoop community now has an open-sourced codebase that helps users query data stored in HDFS and Apache HBase in real time, using familiar SQL syntax. In contrast with other SQL-on-Hadoop initiatives, Impala’s operations are fast enough to do interactively on native Hadoop data rather than in long-running batch jobs. By taking advantage of Hadoop’s infrastructure, Impala lets you avoid traditional data warehouse obstacles like rigid schema design and the cost of expensive ETL jobs. Helping push data analytics to the next level requires BIRT. BIRT is a powerful framework for adding data visualization and reporting capability to your application. Creating BIRT designs and integrating BIRT into an application creates a seamless application experience. BIRT experts will be on hand to walk you through the BIRT architecture and demonstrate several different ways to integrate BIRT into your application from running reports with the APIs to integrating BIRT into Web Applications. And did we mention there will also be free beer and pizza? See you there!

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The Truth About Indexing: Making the Most of Indexing During Your ECM Migration

You have an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) migration project underway, but you’re not happy with the current indexing structure of your archives. It turns out you’re in luck, because an ECM migration can be the perfect time to consider changing or enhancing the current indexing structure of your archives. As you’re adding to your indexes, you can enhance them as well and improve what’s already there. Why is indexing important and an ECM migration a good time to restructure? Keep reading to find out. Intro to Indexing ECM repositories can store millions of statements, policies, images and other content. To keep all of that straight, they rely on metadata that describes the documents stored in the system. That metadata can be located in databases, control files, or can be appended to the document contents themselves within the source system. The metadata is used for many purposes including discovery, validation, storage, organization, retrieval, distribution, delivery and deletion of content. Indexes help the system search out that metadata. Individual document types typically possess a unique set of indexes to describe their contents: an annual financial statement may be identified by searching for a customer’s name and a year, while a monthly statement could be associated with an account number and month. Understanding those differences helps recreate the relationships between the documents, the target ECM system and the connected business applications. Indexing is a crucial part of the ECM migration process, building in metadata enrichment, searchability and performance enhancement. During a migration, all indexing information has to be maintained and migrated to the target ECM system. Sometimes additional metadata is also needed in the target system, in which case it can be acquired, potentially by mining the content during the migration process to extract index information and meet the target system requirements and business use. It’s important that everything lines up so that specific items can be found and delivered as needed. For that to happen, the right structure has to be in place. Re-Indexing and Improving Your Current Structure Other indexing issues can arise during an ECM migration. Metadata associations may be lost during the extraction phase, for example, a problem that’s particularly prevalent in legacy systems built in the days before XML, complicated by the fact that different document types often require different metadata rules and indexing requirements. To get around this, it is often necessary to rebuild indexes during the migration process through a technique called “re-indexing.” See an example of a re-indexing task within Process Manager on Figure 1 below. Re-indexing involves adding and/or changing your current index structure – maybe because you want to enhance the performance of your current searching ability, or to add more indexes that would assist in tying together more document types during a search. The goal is to enhance the end user experience and make old legacy archives more usable and efficient. And that comes back to why it makes sense to alter your problematic indexing structure during the migration process. Because you’re enhancing and adding to the indexes anyway, it’s the perfect time to change index tag names for consistency, programmatically add indexes to the documents by pulling information from external sources, and error check to ensure index fields are what they were intended to be. You can also redact indexes for Payment Card Industry (PCI) Compliance issues (i.e. masking parts of the credit card number or social security number) during this time. The migration process gives you an opportunity to do all of this, lining up your indexes so metadata is in order and everything is easy to find. For more information on indexing, as well as the other stages of the ECM migration process, read “ECM Content Migration: Best Practices in Document Archive Convergence,” a white paper co-written by Actuate and AIIM, the global community of information professionals.

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Document Accessibility: Not All Documents Are Created Equal

In September 2013, Actuate hosted a three-part webinar series (on-demand webinars are available here) with accessibility consulting partner, SSB Bart Group, dedicated to analyzing various aspects of document accessibility. In this series, we examined the use of accessible documents in the enterprise, looking at business, legal and industry requirements, core solutions, and high-volume document solutions. But certain sub-topics generated a lot of interest during the webinars and we thought they are worth highlighting here. One of such topics is the difference between low-volume and high-volume documents in terms of building in accessibility for users with disabilities, including the visually impaired and reading disabled. With more and more customers demanding accessible documents and especially barrier-free PDFs, knowing the difference between how the two types of documents are produced is more important than ever. Low-Volume Documents are produced by a content authoring workflow, and are largely static, so content does not change after publication, though they may contain forms or other fillable items. They may be produced in MS Word, Adobe InDesign or another document authoring tool, and updates are also made in that tool, including structure and content changes. Altering the document format or structure is relatively straightforward. Such electronic documents can be found everywhere on the web. For example, if you copy this blog post into Word and save as a PDF – the resulting document will satisfy the definition of a low-volume document. In addition, you can think of static price lists, schedules, annual financial reports published by businesses etc. High-Volume Documents are built by software based on templates and business logic, and include dynamic user-specific information. Documents are often generated from large legacy document libraries, print streams or archives, and changing the format or structure is difficult and requires complex multi-level changes. Template updates happen in a visual design tool and changes to structure and content may require overall software changes. High-volume documents are personalized – they are not just created once and used by many. They are also not ad-hoc individual documents like those created by desktop publishing. They are most often used by financial institutions, healthcare organizations, government agencies, and in the telecommunications and insurance industries. The most common examples of high-volume documents are bank statements (see Figure 1), credit card bills, utility or cell phone bills, personalized insurance policies and other similar documents that contain personalized information of millions of people and are delivered individually to them. Because they are so different, high-volume documents require different tools when it comes to making them accessible to the print and reading disabled. Traditionally, companies have manually tagged these documents, accommodating requests from individual customers who would have to wait for their documents to be mailed out in accessible formats such as Braille or Large Print. Those solutions came with their own set of challenges and are no longer the only optimal and demanded options for an increasingly technology-savvy customer base. Today, all people want universal access to information and documents – on-demand and via a device/software of their choice. New tools are needed to work well specifically for high-volume documents. Such tools must consider universal access requirements and must make documents accessible to everyone and anyone immediately, as opposed to accommodating individuals upon their request, with delays involved and self-identification required. Tools that automate the process can help do this, creating barrier-free documents on-demand and making transactional documents accessible online through screen reader technology. The result, if done right, will be an inclusionary environment for all.

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The Must-Haves of a Document Transformation Tool

Is your organization undertaking a document transformation project? What are the challenges you’re encountering? And what exactly are you looking for in a tool as you get your project underway? Over the years, Actuate has worked with large financial institutions around the world on their document transformation endeavors. While every organization has a unique list of requirements, there are many common needs. When financial services organizations look to transform print streams, images or PDF files – hoping to encounter as few problems as possible while they do so – these 7 requirements often make it onto their list of must-haves. 1. Handling a variety of legacy formats and document layouts.Templates and document formats change over time, so there is often a range of document types and styles to consider when archived documents need to be transformed. Organizations require a tool that can handle all of them without any problems or hold ups. 2. Processing multiple files simultaneously. Companies need the highest-performing transformation tool possible to keep up with their business needs. A technology that handles multiple files at the same time will get the project done faster and more efficiently. 3. Adhering to a strict timeframe.Companies have both internal and, often, governmentally mandated deadlines to consider. It’s important that whatever tool they choose is reliable and can meet their transformation requirements in a pre-determined, often concentrated, timeframe. When technology can’t keep up, the organization in question suffers. 4. Reliably processing millions of documents a day.Transformation projects at large financial institutions can be extremely large, involving millions and millions of documents.Companies need a solution that will scale to their requirements and perform even in the most intense situations. 5. Accuracy. Performance only goes so far if the resulting documents aren’t accurate. A high level of accuracy is imperative for organizations looking for a document transformation tool. 6. High processing speed.Even a millisecond extra per document can make a difference in a large document transformation project – after all, those milliseconds add up when spread across millions of documents. No matter the environment or project in question, organizations need to be able to achieve the best processing time possible. 7. Achieving all of the above without the need for custom coding. Tools that require custom coding for each transformation project simply add time and IT resources to the project requirements. An easy-to-follow user interface will make the project flow more smoothly. What are your top 3 requirements for a tool you would use for document transformation?

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Create a PHP Template for BIRT Viewer Toolkit

In my last blog I briefly spoke about a few simple ways you can use BIRT Viewer Toolkit (BVT) and the JavaScript API (JSAPI) to easily embed your reports in HTML, PHP, ASP .NET, and others. Those simple examples work well, but what if you wanted to create a PHP template of BVT in your project? In this blog I’ll show you how easy it is to add value to your project by making use of the Smarty framework to build a BVT PHP template. If you’re unfamiliar with Smarty I suggest you read over their getting started guide here. The quickest way to embed a report into your PHP is to use the JSAPI and add your PHP tags somewhere in the body like this. <HTML> <BODY onload="init()"> <script type='text/javascript' language='JavaScript' src="http://192.168.1.110:8080/birt/jsapi"></script> <script type='text/javascript'> function init( ){ actuate.load('viewer'); actuate.initialize( "http://192.168.1.110:8080/birt", null,null,null,myInit ); } function myInit(){ viewer1 = new actuate.Viewer( 'container1' ); viewer1.setReportDesign('test.rptdesign'); viewer1.setSize(750,800); viewer1.submit( ); } </script> <?php echo "Hello PHP World from BIRT!"; ?> <div id='container1' style=' border-width: 1px; border-style: solid;' /> </BODY> </HTML> This works well, but after a while it could get old using this everywhere you wanted to embed a report. Not to mention all of these values are static. To spice this up a little we’ll create a template using almost the exact same code. After you’ve got done reading and setting up the Smarty frame work on your machine create the following template. <HTML> <BODY onload="init()"> <script type='text/javascript' language='JavaScript' src="http://localhost:8080/birt/jsapi"></script> <script type='text/javascript'> function init( ){ actuate.load('viewer'); actuate.initialize( "http://localhost:8080/birt", null,null,null,myInit ); } function myInit(){ viewer1 = new actuate.Viewer( 'container1' ); viewer1.setReportDesign('{$name}'); viewer1.setSize({$width},{$height}); viewer1.submit( ); } </script> Hello {$name}! <div id='container1' style=' border-width: 1px; border-style: solid;' /> </BODY> </HTML> As you can tell from this code we are using variable for the height, width, and report name. You can add or remove these were you see fit, I chose these parameters because you can easily see what’s changed. Now that we have our BVT template we just need to make use of it in our PHP using something like this. <?php // put full path to Smarty.class.php require('/usr/local/lib/php/Smarty/Smarty.class.php'); $smarty = new Smarty(); $smarty->setTemplateDir('/usr/local/www/apache24/data/web/smarty/templates'); $smarty->setCompileDir('/usr/local/www/apache24/data/web/smarty/templates_c'); $smarty->setCacheDir('/usr/local/www/apache24/data/web/smarty/cache'); $smarty->setConfigDir('/usr/local/www/apache24/data/web/smarty/configs'); $smarty->assign('name', 'test.rptdesign'); $smarty->assign('height', '750'); $smarty->assign('width', '800'); $smarty->display('index.tpl'); Now go to your new page and you should have an embeded BIRT report. If you write a lot of PHP this ends up being a time saver and cleans up your code quite a bit. If you have any questions or comments on this feel free to leave them here or in the forums! -Kris

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Using the JavaScript API to Embed BIRT Viewer Toolkit into PHP, .NET, and More

Earlier this month Actuate released the new BIRT Viewer Toolkit (BVT) for the BIRT developer community. The BVT makes integration into your project a breeze by making use of the JavaScript API (JSAPI). With the JSAPI, you can embed whole reports or portions of reports anywhere that JavaScript can be used. Along with easy, seamless integration, BVT also has an updated look over the open-source viewer, giving your new or existing BIRT application a more modern, cleaner look and feel. In this blog I’ll show how you can quickly and easily deploy your report in HTML, PHP, and ASP .NET starting with HTML. Deploying a report to an HTML page can be done with as little as 19 lines of code from <HTML> to </HTML> and includes all of the features you’d expect to get with a BIRT Report. As shown above, this method will give you access to the toolbar which includes page navigation, access to the parameters, table of contents and more. To display your report as shown you’ll need to use the following code and make sure to change the URL’s to point to the application server that’s running BVT. <HTML> <BODY onload="init()"> <script type='text/javascript' language='JavaScript' src="http://localhost:8080/birt/jsapi"></script> <script type='text/javascript'> function init( ){ actuate.load('viewer'); actuate.initialize( "http://localhost:8080/birt", null,null,null,myInit ); } function myInit(){ viewer1 = new actuate.Viewer( 'container1' ); viewer1.setReportDesign('test.rptdesign'); viewer1.setSize(750,800); viewer1.submit( ); } </script> <tbody> <div id='container1' style=' border-width: 1px; border-style: solid;' /> </BODY> </HTML> If you’d like to strip down the viewer and embed just a reportlet you’d need to modify the JavaScript to use the following options instead. <HTML> <BODY onload="init()"> <script type='text/javascript' language='JavaScript' src="http://localhost:8080/birt/jsapi"></script> <script type='text/javascript'> function init( ){ actuate.load('viewer'); actuate.initialize( "http://localhost:8080/birt", null,null,null,myInit ); } function myInit(){ viewer2 = new actuate.Viewer( 'container2' ); viewer2.setReportDesign( 'test.rptdesign' ); viewer2.setReportletBookmark( 'myChart' ); var options2 = new actuate.viewer.UIOptions( ); options2.enableToolBar(false); viewer2.setUIOptions( options2 ); viewer2.setSize(400,300); viewer2.submit( ); } </script> <tbody> <div id='container2' style=' border-width: 1px; border-style: solid;' /> </BODY> </HTML> Now that you have seen the basics of how the JSAPI can be used to embed reports you can use this same approach with other languages. Take a look at the following code that I named birt.php. In this simple example I recycled the code from the first example into a PHP page. Using this as a starting point I can place my PHP code anywhere I need it. <HTML> <BODY onload="init()"> <script type='text/javascript' language='JavaScript' src="http://localhost:8080/birt/jsapi"></script> <script type='text/javascript'> function init( ){ actuate.load('viewer'); actuate.initialize( "http://localhost:8080/birt", null,null,null,myInit ); } function myInit(){ viewer1 = new actuate.Viewer( 'container1' ); viewer1.setReportDesign('test.rptdesign'); viewer1.setSize(750,800); viewer1.submit( ); } </script> <?php echo "Hello PHP World from BIRT!"; ?> <div id='container1' style=' border-width: 1px; border-style: solid;' /> </BODY> </HTML> The same can be said for ASP .NET and others. Instead of needing to reivent the wheel to get data to your customers all you need to do is use the JSAPI. <asp:Content ID=”BodyContent” runat=”server” ContentPlaceHolderID=”MainContent”> <h2>Hello World</h2> <p>Hello ASP .NET 4.0 from BIRT! </p> <HTML> <BODY onload="init()"> <script type='text/javascript' language='JavaScript' src="http://localhost:8080/birt/jsapi"></script> <script type='text/javascript'> function init( ){ actuate.load('viewer'); actuate.initialize( "http://localhost:8080/birt", null,null,null,myInit ); } function myInit(){ viewer1 = new actuate.Viewer( 'container1' ); viewer1.setReportDesign('test.rptdesign'); viewer1.setSize(750,800); viewer1.submit( ); } </script> <div id='container1' style=' border-width: 1px; border-style: solid;' /> </BODY> </HTML> </asp:Content> As you can tell from these basic examples you can use BIRT just about anywhere you can use our API which means less time integrating and more time working. If you’re looking for the JSAPI doc then make sure to visit the deployment center and don’t forget to ask on the forums if you need any help! -Kris

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Document Accessibility Expertise: The Power of (the Right) Collaboration

When Actuate started developing their high-volume PDF Document Accessibility Solution, they knew they needed to collaborate with the right organization: The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), an industry expert with a proven track record of helping organizations achieve compliance and deliver content that is truly accessible to individuals with disabilities. A national non-profit group, the American Foundation for the Blind is well known for its work with the visually impaired community; activist Helen Keller spent over 40 years working with them. Among its goals, AFB aims to broaden access to technology and promote independent and healthy living for people with vision loss. “We are pleased to be teaming with Actuate to ensure that the process of PDF remediation runs as smoothly and as quickly as possible,” says Paul Schroeder, Vice President, Programs and Policy Group at the AFB. “We are confident this collaboration will support our goal of generating equal opportunities for the millions of people with vision loss.” “We are eager to help the AFB spread awareness regarding the importance of providing readily accessible electronic content to those with vision loss,” adds Shannon Kelly, Accessibility Expert and Evangelist for the Content Services Group at Actuate. This collaboration has helped Actuate develop and test their PDF Accessibility Solution, ensuring that they meet the commitment to making online documents accessible and keep up with two main goals: Creating a technology that would fill a void in the marketplace by offering users with disabilities, including the visually impaired, an opportunity to interact with their transactional data online and on-demand. This technology would also enable customer-facing organizations to deliver a barrier-free experience to all. Offering a solution that would allow organizations to provide high-volume documents in an accessible, fast and easy way. This solution would automate the creation of accessible PDF documents, seamlessly integrate with the processes that are already in place, and ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 508 of the US Rehabilitation Act, WCAG 2.0 and other standards and regulations. Actuate wanted to do all of that while also considering current trends within the blind and reading-disabled community. For instance, one U.S.-based study found that only 10% of visually impaired children are learning Braille today and, among adults, less than 10% know Braille. It is clear that organizations such as banks or healthcare groups need alternative ways to communicate with their visually impaired customers. For more information on the Actuate/AFB collaboration, read the recent press release announcing the news. Document Accessibility Best Practices As part of the collaboration, Actuate and AFB will continue to help organizations understand the legal requirements and needs of the reading-impaired community to build successful strategies for compliance and providing universal access to electronic content for all. To support this initiative, Actuate and AFB have recently co-authored a white paper, PDF Document Accessibility: Regulations, Risks and Solutions for Compliance. Read the Introduction below and download the full white paper here. “This paper discusses best practices for banks and other financial institutions, insurance, healthcare, and a myriad of other institutions wishing to accommodate their customers who are blind or visually impaired regarding access to account statements and other financial and personal information in electronic formats. It will detail applicable federal laws/regulations requiring financial and other institutions to provide information in accessible formats and outline traditional problems related to meeting those requirements. Finally, this paper will focus on a solution for overcoming the problems and meeting the requirements while delivering a quality customer experience”.

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The Need for Modern Electronic Archiving Solutions

With the increasing prevalence of smart devices in this fast-moving digital world, customers demand all information available whenever and wherever they choose. Whether it’s a credit card or savings account statement, pension or insurance documents, they want it at their fingertips Today, companies are looking for cost-effective repository solutions which can store virtually all document types and make them available to customers electronically with strict security and audit measures. These solutions will store documents only once and retrieve them in multiple formats (e.g. AFP for printing, PDF/Accessible PDF for e-presentment). Organizations also want a modern repository that is easy to deploy with minimum production in order to achieve maximum ROI in less time. Moreover, many companies are looking for an archiving solution which can replace their existing legacy ECM system or work in conjunction with their existing archiving systems to fulfill their new requirements. It is clear, that, when evaluating repository solutions, organizations take into account many factors, including business requirements, cost, and expected ROI, but technical characteristics of the solution and its performance remain the key for decision makers. Below are questions that Enterprise IT Managers often ask when assessing the capabilities of the Repository solution. These questions should be considered when comparing solutions, as they provide insight into how well the repository will perform and suit modern needs. Q. Can the Repository store print streams like AFP and Metacode? A repository must have the capability to store any print stream documents, including AFP, Metacode, PCL, TIFF, PDF, PDF/A and Accessible PDF formats. Additionally, the repository must have the capability to reduce storage requirements of PDF documents by using Document Storage Reduction technology. Q. Can the Repository be installed on Mainframe? What other platforms should it support? A modern repository can be installed on Mainframe and supports all major platforms like Windows, UNIX, AIX and all the flavors of Linux. Q. Can the Repository be deployed on the Cloud? The repository must have the capability to be deployed on any Cloud infrastructure. Q. Can the Repository store MS Office documents like Word, Excel, or Powerpoint? Can it also store other document types like HTML, or XML? A modern repository must support storage of virtually any document type (see Figure 1, demonstrating a common Repository interface screen). For commonly used formats like MS Office Word, Excel, Powerpoint, XML and others, it must have the capability to parse the document to extract metadata and use it as index values for the respective documents (Figure 2). Q. Can the Repository store customer emails? Can you analyze the emails in the Repository? A modern repository solution can store emails in their original format. The repository should also have the capability to parse emails for basic information like email address, subject, from, to, CC and other fields. In addition, the repository also needs to include an Analytics plugin to analyze emails and enable targeted marketing messages to customers. Q. Can I index the documents when loading into the Repository? Is there a facility to edit the index details later? A modern repository can index the documents either using metadata of the document or by extracting the main attributes (like account number, customer id, credit card number, etc.) in the content (Figure 3) and using them as index values. It also allows editing indexes after the loading process has been completed (Figure 4). Q. Can I search for the documents in the Repository? Yes, the repository must provide multiple interfaces to search documents in various application groups. This provides the capability to search on all index fields. It also enables customers to use plain SQL type operators like (=) equals, (>) greater than, (<) less than, and percent (%) (Figure 6). Q. Is it possible to access documents from legacy archives? Can I have a federated search from multiple ECM instances? A modern repository provides multiple connectors for major ECM providers like IBM CMOD, IBM File Net P8, EMC Documentum, IBM File Net Image Services, and Microsoft SharePoint (Figure 7). It must also connect to any ECM system (as long as it supports CMIS framework) using CMIS (Content Management Interoperability Service) Adapter. The repository can also create a federated layer to search documents from multiple ECM instances. Q. Are there any restrictions on volumes or number of documents to be stored? Can the Repository support billions of documents? A modern repository must be tailored to support high volume transactional output (HVTO). The solution should not only store high volume documents, but also process high volume transactions with ease. Q. Does the Repository support COLD archiving? What other storage technologies does it support? The repository must support COLD archiving. It provides a logical physical layer for storage and it is also agnostic of the storage medium used. With just a couple of configuration changes (Figure 8), it is possible to switch from one storage medium to another. The Repository supports multiple storage mediums like Hadoop , Centera etc. Q. Does the Repository convert print stream documents to PDF? Yes, the repository must have the capability to transform print stream documents to PDF on-the-fly whenever customers want to view the documents. Q. Does the Repository support Accessible PDF documents which would be suitable for individuals with disabilities, including the visually impaired? Does it comply with accessibility regulations? Yes. A modern repository must have the capability to to convert print stream documents or existing PDFs into Accessible PDF documents (Figure 9). Look for vendors that partner with multiple industry organizations in different regions across the globe to ensure that all Accessibility requirements are met. If you would like to learn more about Actuate’s Repository solution, download the Repository Datasheet or contact Actuate.

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Highlighting Duplicate Entries, Creating a Variable Based SQL Query, BIRT RAP Application Bar Chart, and More

Sometimes when creating a report, it’s beneficial to suppress duplicate entries in a table. There are also situations that might require you to draw attention to the duplicate entries instead of hiding them. To do something like this we can leverage the highlight functionality that is built into the table item. Before the table is told what to highlight, we’ll need to store the data in an ArrayList so we can check to see if there are duplicate entries. To do this I created my ArrayList in the beforeOpen() of the data set. array = new java.util.ArrayList(); After that I just added each row of data I want to compare later. I did this from onFetch() of my data set. array.add(row["QUANTITYORDERED"]); Once we have all the data that needs to be compared it will need to be stored as a global persistent variable in the afterClose() the data set. This was we use it in our highlight rule. reportContext.setPersistentGlobalVariable("array", array); The last step is to create a highlight rule using the ArrayList I created eariler. To do this I simply selected the cell we want to highlight > property editor > highlights > add. Then I used the following scripts for the logic. var array = reportContext.getPersistentGlobalVariable("array"); var first = array.indexOf(row["QUANTITYORDERED"]); first; “Not equal to” var array = reportContext.getPersistentGlobalVariable("array"); var last = array.lastIndexOf(row["QUANTITYORDERED"]); last; Now all thats left is choosing our highlight color. Once this is all done the final result should look something like this. To download the full example visit this devshare entry. Some other posts worth taking a look at: create a variable based select result report in xls output and page breaks every 40 rows BIRT RAP Application Bar Chart Here are some unanswered posts from this week: Aggregation in grid Table not centered when exporting/printing to PDF Actuate One Jobs If you have a suggestion or solution for any of these, please post in the thread! As the week comes to an end I hope everyone has a good week!

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Embracing Accessible PDF Documents: Key Learnings from the Accessibility Seminar in Toronto

First published on ECM Trends from the Field. We were joined by approximately 15 people in the Ontario Accessibility community earlier this autumn at an exclusive seminar we hosted at the Renaissance Hotel in Downtown Toronto. The presenters were Thomas Logan, Senior Accessibility Consultant from SSB Bart Group, Shannon Kelly – Accessibility SME from Actuate, Lou Fioritto, CEO of Braille Works International, as well as Jeff Williams, Director of Product Management, and Will Davis, Manager NA Presales, of Actuate. The presentations provided in-depth insight into the document accessibility problems facing organizations in Ontario in particular. We got some great content, which is, of course, tagged for accessibility. All presentations from the Seminar are available here. A few ideas really crystallized for us in this session. Shannon Kelly’s presentation – co-presented with Lou Fioritto, who is himself blind since birth – delivered a real-life experience using AT or Assistive Technology. Lou was able to give us a side-by-side narrative of using both incorrectly and correctly tagged PDF files. It was a real ear-opener! People with impairments use a screen reader such as JAWS to deftly navigate websites and PDF files and Lou showed how utterly frustrating it can be to attempt to work through a PDF bank statement with no headers, vaguely tagged graphics and tables with column headers but no row headers. Lou even commented that as a user, if you had to endure this, you’d just give up and get your information from another source! Shannon Kelly Accessibility SME Actuate Lou Fioritto Co-owner and Vice-President BrailleWorks This begs the question about the perception of PDF files within the visually/cognitively impaired community. Correctly tagged PDF files can now be created at their source and remediated with automation at high speed (see Figure 1 below). However, do decades of bad PDF with errant or no tags spoil it for today’s better PDFs? We suspect this will be debated in the coming months, but we are struck that HVTO (High Volume Transaction Output) content and the visually impaired community are just now beginning to intersect, some would say collide, at high speed. What’s compelling about PDF in HVTO is that it is a correct snapshot of a transaction oriented document with all the elements that accompanied that snapshot when it was created (i.e. logos, offers, signatures). PDF has become a de facto checkbox for those needing to comply with regulations that mandate multi-year retention of exact replica artifacts that can be produced in court. Ever hear of an insurance company coming to court with HTML representations of an insured’s date-stamped renewal notice? Nope, it’s all about PDF when the lawyers are involved. So, the thinking goes: “PDFs are not going away, so why not work with PDFs rather than other, less-structured, less-accepted formats?” Another idea that kind of blew us away was the immediacy of impending legal mandates, and for this we have to thank SSB Bart and some attendees from a top Canadian Financial Institution. First, in the US, both Title III of the ADA AND Section 508 are expected to be updated. Title III may be explicitly calling out websites as places of accommodation. Section 508 will likely point to and embrace WCAG 2.0. Both of these changes are expected by Spring 2014. In Ontario, the AODA states that if you host content on your website, the content must be accessible by January 2014, four short weeks from now. We’d like to thank our presenters and attendees. As usual, I think we learned as much at our seminar from the attendees as the other way around. It was an impressive show of community-smarts, and we were glad just to be associated. It was so successful, Actuate has decided to take the show on the road. The next installment will be held in Charlotte, NC on January 23, 2014 – check out the agenda and let us know if you are interested in taking part!

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New Changes in the BIRT Community, Chart with Zoom Functionality, and Other Topics.

The last few weeks on BIRT Exchange have ushered in some exciting changes for the BIRT developer community. We’ve released a whole new developer focused site that contains a large repository of information that will help developers from newbie to experts alike. In this blog, I’ll talk a little about the new site, along with the normal “This Week in the Forums” content. The new BIRT Developer Center has been broken down into five major sections. Design Center – The design center can be used to find getting started guides, documentation product manuals, and video’s all focused on helping you learn to build designs that will stand above the rest. Deployment Center – In the deployment center you can find getting started guides, deployment guides, product manuals, a video gallery, and even instructions on how to integrate BIRT with a wide selection of technologies. Community – Don’t worry, the community hasn’t gone anywhere! The forums, devshare, challenges, awards, advisory council, and social groups can be found under this section with a whole new look and feel. Want to connect your BIRT-exchange account to your Facebook? Well go to the forums and connect away! Blog – No major changes to the blog have occurred and made sure they are easily accessible from the top navigation. Actuate – Want to find more about the BIRT Company? Make sure to visit the Actuate page! Okay. Now, back to business… With all of the new changes happening on the community site I also got to work on some fun questions in the forums this week. This week there was a question that asked how you would implement zoom functionality with a chart. While there are a few different ways you can accomplish this I chose to use the built in drill-through hyperlinks in the chart builder. Imagine you have a chart with a lot of data that looks very busy like this one. The customer numbers can be rotated to allow more labels along the X-Axis but it still will not show all of them. One way to get around this problem is to implement this zoom in solution. The first step is to build a standard bar chart. For this example I had to build two data sets. The first data set will retrieve the customer numbers while the second will retrieve the payment data for our chart. Once we have both data sets we need to create a hidden and required parameter. This will allow us to tell the report what customer to zoom in on. The default value is -1 which tells us that there should be no zoom at all. Then we need to build our chart. I used the customer number for the X-Series and amount for the Y-Series. Make sure to enable Mouse Click interactivity. Now the report is setup to pass the category that was selected back to itself via drill-through links. The zoom actually happens in the beforeOpen(), beforeClose(), and onFetch() of the first data set and beforeOpen() of the second. In the beforeOpen() of the first data set we need to create a new array. customers = new Array(); In the onFetch() of the first data set customers[customers.length] = row["CUSTOMERNUMBER"]; Then we need to remember to set it as a persistent global variable in the beforeClose() reportContext.setPersistentGlobalVariable("myArray",customers); Finally we can remove data we don’t want to display in the chart creating a “zoom” in our query of the second data set. customers = reportContext.getPersistentGlobalVariable("myArray"); twoBack = null; oneBack = null; if (params["customernumber"] != -1){ for(i=0;i<customers.length;i++){ if(customers[i] != params["customernumber"]){ twoBack = oneBack; oneBack = customers[i]; } else{ i=customers.length; } } } if(twoBack != null){ this.queryText = this.queryText + " where CUSTOMERNUMBER >= " + twoBack.toString(); } You can download this example from this devshare. Some other posts worth taking a look at: Reference database columns with more user friendly names TOC with PageNumber and dots PNG’s not displaying in Firefox! Here are some unanswered posts from this week: Line chart remove second Y-Axis series space How to link database from SQLyog to BIRT Eclipse BIRT with PHP without using Tomcat If you have a suggestion or solution for any of these, please post in the thread! As the week comes to an end I hope everyone has a good week!

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Out-of-the-Box Performance: What IT Wants in a Repository UI

As you know, customers demand access to relevant and insightful information where, when, and how they want it. To keep pace with these demands, businesses must adjust and modernize their IT infrastructure. When it comes to storing and delivering high-volume customer statements, electronic documents or scanned images, the requirements for repositories are greater than ever. Repositories today must be designed to not only store high-volume customer statements, electronic documents and scanned images but to also deliver content across multiple channels to internal stakeholders and online customers – both in static and interactive formats. There are a several important features that we hear from IT when it comes to modern repository solutions. The first comment we often hear is simple and straight-forward: the most user-friendly repository solutions must have an intuitive user interface with an easy-to-use drag-and-drop environment. Second, the repository must connect to multiple repositories:  IBM CMOD, IBM Filenet P8, IBM FileNet Image Services, EMC Documentum, Microsoft SharePoint, Alfresco etc. Additionally, all of these systems must be accessible through a single interface so that users will be able to search across multiple lines of business and look at documents and statements in a single view, without having to move from one system to another. Third, statements must be available for view in any chosen format, no matter how they are being stored. For instance, one document might be stored in an AFP format, but the end-user wants to see it as a PDF – the repository must be able to transform that statement behind the scenes, in a process that is invisible to end-users. Finally, when the user interface is designed in HTML5, it is generally accessible on any browser and device of choice, which provides flexibility for IT in how, when and where they manage the repository. The most popular request of all? All of that functionality should be available out of the box with no custom coding required! When designing our Repository Solution, we listened to the market and made sure it delivers a compelling user interface, exceptional performance and drives bottom-line benefits to organizations with high-volumes of customer statements and electronic documents. To take a first-hand look at a modern Repository User Interface, watch this 7-minute Demo. Join the conversation and let us know: What are your specific requirements for a Repository User Interface? Can you share any great experiences with other archiving products?

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Introducing the Free BIRT Viewer Toolkit – BIRT TechTalk Series

By joining our TechTalk community you will be kept abreast of all the latest happenings in the world of BIRT. We’ll have experts reveal tips and tricks, share best practices, give you a sneak peek into new product features, and more. Can’t make it? No problem. All recordings will be posted to our site so you don’t have to miss a single episode!In our first 30 minute TechTalk – Introducing the Free BIRT Viewer Toolkit – Enhance the Way Your Users View BIRT Designs – onWednesday, November 13, 2013 at 11am PT we’ll cover how the newly launched BIRT Viewer Toolkit renders BIRT-based data visualizations and reports in a more powerful and user-friendly way, enhancing the experience for your internal users or in your externally-facing application.Attend this TechTalk to learn: What is the BIRT Viewer Toolkit? How does the Viewer Toolkit enhance the viewing experience of your application? How can you easily integrate the Viewer Toolkit into your existing application? Thank you for joining us and stay tuned!Event Details: Title: Introducing the Free BIRT Viewer Toolkit – Enhance the Way Your Users View BIRT DesignsDate: Wednesday, November 13, 2013 Time: 11am PT | 2pm ET Duration: 30 minutesLocation: WebWATCH THE RECORDING NOW 

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BIRT Developer vs Java Coder

Have you ever wondered just how much time and effort BIRT can save you in developing information driven, customer facing web and mobile applications? This “docu-drama” compares the experience of two enterprise developers creating a mission critical application, one who uses BIRT, and one who insists on hand coding in Java. Watch the VideoDON’T BE A LARRY!  

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