Cloud

3 Questions: Randy Pennington Discusses Data’s Role in Organizational Change

If there’s one thing today’s CIOs understand, it’s change. Everything about the CIO’s job is changing: technology, staffing, vendors, delivery models, and – most importantly – expectations. But ask CIOs if they have mastered change – and can deliver positive results from it – and their answers may not be so positive. That’s why Randy Pennington was asked to deliver the afternoon keynote address at CIO Perspectives in Dallas on February 26. Pennington has spent a quarter-century helping organizations deliver positive results in a world of constant change. Pennington is author of three top-rated business books, a consultant to companies large and small, and a sought-after public speaker. (Learn more about him at his website.) Pennington made time in his busy schedule to discuss how data and analytics can support organizational change. OpenText: In your keynote at CIO Perspectives you plan to talk about how successful IT leadership requires constant change and adaptation. Can data help CIOs navigate the changes they face? What data – and data analysis tools – are most effective and helpful? Pennington: Data can absolutely help CIOs determine what needs to change and how they are progressing in their efforts. The key point to remember is that the data has to be important from a business perspective, and that means looking at it through the eyes of the customer – or, in many cases, customers. Data analytics tools that show how the change will enable the operation to run faster, better, cheaper, and/or friendlier are critical for gaining initial buy-in from senior level stakeholders. And once the change is underway, showing continual progress against agreed upon metrics helps you fine-tune, and most important, maintain the effort after the initial push. People buy into change because it seems like a good idea or they see others doing something similar. They continue to support and sustain it only when it produces results that are important to them. CIOs must also remember that the data that is important to senior leaders may not be important to end users. To get the buy-in from end users, we should also look at the data from their perspective. We tell our clients that there only three things you can measure in an organization: activities, results, and perceptions. Results (the hard numbers) and perceptions (the feelings) are actually lagging indicators. Data related to the activities required to produce the desired result is the best leading indicator of success. OpenText: You write, “Too often, we have treated people like data and things to be managed rather than as human beings with dreams, aspirations, and choices.” With that in mind, does data play a role in how organizations are organized and run? How can it be effectively marshalled to support change? Pennington: Data plays a critical role in how organizations are organized and run. The best organizations are data driven in how they make decisions. But, there is an emotional aspect to every human decision, even those that are framed in the context of logical, factual analysis. Leaders run into problems when they assume that everyone will respond to the facts supported by the data. People support and take action to change for their own reasons, not for ours. There should be a good business reason to initiate change within the organization, and that decision should be supported by some form of data. But, that alone will not energize and engage people. We have to translate and connect that data to something that is important to the individual in order to secure buy-in for change. OpenText: One theme of your book Results Rule! is this: “Delivering results is more about what you do than what you know. The heroes of the marketplace minimize the gap between knowing and doing.” How can people – particularly those in IT – translate what they know into what they do? Pennington: One question that I often ask when I begin work with a client is this: “Do things need to change around here?” Everyone says yes, and everyone has an idea of what to do. Then I ask this follow-up question: “How long have you known that needs to be done?” The answers range from weeks to years. And that is the point. Most of us are aware of actions we could take, or at least areas on which we should focus, to improve our operations. We may not always have the knowledge or tools to do what we need to do, but we know what it is. One specific practice that IT leaders can use – and this sounds really obvious – is to put our good intentions about empowerment into action. Everyone on your team knows something that must be done to make things faster, better, cheaper, and/or friendlier. For instance, one client reduced the length of time to process travel reimbursements from three weeks to a little over four days. All it took was the leadership deciding to truly empower people who knew what needed to be done. I think it is the same for many IT leaders. They are failing to utilize fully the knowledge and ideas of their staff, and that extends the gap between knowing and doing. Randy Pennington (@RandyPennington) will share more ideas on Making Change Work in a closing keynote at CIO Perspectives, held February 26 in Dallas, Texas. Also on the program, OpenText’s Brian Combs will appear in Straight Talk about SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud), a panel moderated by IDG Enterprise SVP and Publisher Adam Dennison (@adamidg). Learn more and sign up for CIO Perspectives today.

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OpenText Enhances Portfolio with Analytic Capabilities

    By Mark Barrenechea, President and Chief Executive Officer, OpenText Analytics are a hot technology today, and it is easy to see why. They have the power to transform facts into strategic insights that deliver intelligence “in the moment” for profound impact. Think “Moneyball” and the Oakland A’s in 2002, when Billy Bean hired a number-crunching statistician to examine their odds and changed the game of baseball forever. Across the board—from sports analysis to recommending friends to finding the best place to eat steak in town, analytics are replacing intelligence reports with algorithms that can predict behavior and make decisions. It can create that 1 percent advantage that creates the 100 percent difference between winning and losing. Analytics represent the next frontier in deriving value from information, which is why I’m pleased to announce that OpenText has recently acquired Actuate to enhance its portfolio of products. With powerful predictive analytics technology, Actuate complements our existing information management and B2B integration offerings by allowing organizations to analyze and visualize a broad range of structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data. In a recent study, 96 percent of organizations surveyed felt that analytics will become increasingly important to their organizations in the next three years. From a business perspective, analytics offer customers increased business process efficiencies, greater brand experience, and additional personalized insight for better and faster decisions. In a Digital-First World, organizations will tap into sophisticated analytics techniques to identify their best customers, accelerate product innovation, optimize supply chains, and identify the drivers of financial performance. Agile enterprises incorporate consumer and market data into decision making. People are empowered when they have easy access to agile, flexible, and responsive analytical tools and applications. Actuate enables developers to easily create business applications that leverage information about users, processes, and transactions generated by the various OpenText EIM suites. Customers will be able to view analytics for the entire EIM suite based on a common platform to reduce their total cost of ownership and get a comprehensive view for more elevated, strategic business insight. Actuate is the founder of the popular open source integrated development environment (IDE), BIRT, and develops the world-class deployment platform, BIRT iHub™. BIRT iHub™ significantly improves the productivity of developers working on customer-facing applications. More than 3.5 million BIRT developers and OEMs use Actuate to build scalable, secure solutions that deliver personalized analytics and insights to more than 200 million customers, partners and employees. Designed to be embeddable, developers can use the platform to enrich nearly any application. And, these analytics-enriched applications can be delivered on premises, in the cloud, or in any hybrid scenario. We are excited to welcome the Actuate team into the OpenText family as we continue to help drive innovation and offer the most complete EIM solution in the market. Read the press release on the acquisition here.

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Will the Creation of ‘On Device’ or ‘On Thing’ Based B2B Transactions Ever Become a Reality?

Over the past five years CIOs around the world have been rolling out their cloud based B2B strategies. Whether deploying B2B on premise, on cloud or as a hybrid environment, companies have been able to deploy B2B infrastructures according to their budget, strategy and technical capabilities. Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service and Software-as-a-Service initiatives have been deployed with great effect, and numerous other ‘as-a-Service’ definitions have evolved. So where next for B2B based infrastructures?, well with nearly every CIO formulating a strategy in support of the Internet of Things, how about an On Device or On Thing based B2B strategy? I have posted twenty or so blogs relating to cloud infrastructures since 2010 and over the past year I have spent some time looking at the Internet of Things and where this may go in relation to supply chains of the future.  In a couple of my IoT related blogs I provided some examples on how I thought IoT connected devices could connect into an enterprise infrastructure, (read about it here), and then initiate some form of closed loop ordering process as part of a replenishment or predictive maintenance scenario. I read an article on CIO.com last September where the author described something called the Internet of ‘Things as a Service’ or TaaS for short.  I didn’t realise it at the time of writing my own blogs but this is exactly what I was describing, namely a connected device will be able to analyse its own consumption trends or wear rates and then be able to place some form of order for replacement parts without any human intervention.  OK, sounds a bit far-fetched but I can guarantee this is where things, no pun intended, will be going in the future. Billions of dollars are being spent on developing onboard or embedded processing, sensing, storage and analytics based technologies for IoT based devices.  Many companies such as Intel are betting huge research budgets to develop next generation semi-conductor chips that can be embedded on ‘things’. In fact only last week, OpenText acquired a leading analytics company , and they have been looking at embedded analytics for IoT devices. I will take a look at embedded analytics in relation to B2B in a future blog entry as I believe it will transform how companies visualise, interact and manage B2B related information flowing across the extended enterprise. Two weeks ago I had an interesting discussion with ARC Advisory Group relating to device or ‘thing’ level creation of B2B transactions. ARC use the term Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to describe their take on this area as they are keen to differentiate themselves from more consumer focused IoT devices such as wearable technology and home automation equipment. As I have mentioned before there are many big players entering the IIoT space, for example GE (who originally coined the IIoT term), Cisco and Bosch to name but a few. Could we see a piece of equipment in the field, for example a generator or excavator, initiating a B2B transaction by itself to order a replacement part that is just about to fail? For the purposes of this blog I just wanted to introduce the idea of a device or ‘thing’ derived B2B transaction and you can read more in the ARC article that was written to support this.  

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Expert Advice on Embedded BI with Howard Dresner [Webinar]

For once, your CEO and CIO agree on something: Your company needs to embed analytics into its applications. You’ve been tasked with researching which platform is best for you, and you probably have two items on your to-do list: Learn from an industry expert who thoroughly studies the many different embedded analytics platforms, and hear from a company that has successfully embedded analytics into its software. You can do both on January 22 by attending  Embedded BI Market Study with Howard Dresner, a free webinar sponsored by Actuate. Dresner, you probably know, is Chief Research Officer of Dresner Advisory Services, a respected technology analyst firm. Dresner (@howarddresner) coined the term “business intelligence” in 1989 and has studied the market drivers, technologies, and companies associated with BI and analytics ever since. It’s safe to say that nobody knows the sector better. In this webinar, Dresner will highlight the results of his recent Wisdom of Crowds report, the Embedded Business Intelligence Market Study, published in October 2014. Dresner’s study taps the expertise of some 2,500 organizations that use BI tools, focusing specifically on their efforts to embed analytics in other applications. In the webinar, Dresner will cover three main subjects: User intentions for – and perceptions of – embedded analytics, segmented by industry, types of users, architecture and vendor Architecture needs and priorities (such as web services, HTML/iFrame and Javascript API) for embedding, as identified by technologists who implement embedded analytics Ratings of 24 embedded BI vendors, based on both the architecture and features the individual vendors offer, and the reasons Actuate garnered the top ranking To add the user’s perspective, Dresner will then give the floor to Kevin Larnach, Executive Vice President of Operations at Elcom. Larnach will explain how Elcom embeds Actuate’s reporting solution in PECOS, its cloud-based e-procurement solution. Embedded analytics enables users of PECOS – a user base 120,000 strong, in more than 200 organizations, managing nearly $20 billion in total procurement spending annually – to access standard reports, slice and dice data for analysis, create custom reports and presentations of the data, and export transaction history to many different formats, all without IT expertise.  As this diagram shows, PECOS touches all aspects of the procurement process. PECOS users include the Scottish Government (including health services, universities and colleges, and government departments), several health services groups in Britain, the Northern Ireland Assembly, several school districts in the United States, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and many other organizations and companies. Elcom has identified over a billion dollars in audited savings that its customers have accrued thanks to embedded analytics – more than $500 million in the healthcare sector alone. Elcom’s application is truly an embedded analytics success story. The embedded analytics capability in PECOS, delivered with Actuate technology, is an important competitive differentiator for Elcom. Its competitors’ products either have limited fixed reporting, or don’t offer any standard reporting at all. Those competitors “are scrambling to adopt a flexible embedded approach such as the one enjoyed by PECOS users,” Elcom says. You’re sure to have questions for Dresner and Larnach, so the webinar will include a Q&A session. (An Actuate technical expert will also be on hand if you have specific questions about our embedded analytics capabilities.) The webinar will be accompanied by live Tweets using the hashtag #embeddedanalytics.  Register today.

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Data Driven Summit – Customers Rave Over Embedded Analytics [Video]

Once in a while a term comes along that encapsulates the spirit of technology so well that it is broadly adopted by business leaders and analysts. Some examples that come to mind include the Cloud (to describe the broader Internet), eCommerce (to describe online business), Big Data (to describe volume, variety and velocity of information) and app (to describe a software application, typically for a mobile device). Recently, the term embedded analytics has resonated with people and organizations that track the next big thing. In a recent article on AllThingsD, Gene Frantz, Principal Fellow at Texas Instruments, gave credibility to the term, noting that “embedded analytics involves gathering data from sensors, processing it in real time, using algorithms to make conclusions and then initiating action.” We at Actuate knew early on that business intelligence was only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to extracting value from business data. The real value lay in the ability to embed analytics in other applications and their business processes. As the data science industry grew over the last 30 years, the platforms and measurement tools to derive context from information shifted. Business leaders today constantly scream out for data to be ubiquitous in any location and on any device. And because Actuate has tracked this trend for years, our products were ready when the concept of embedded analytics became mainstream. Actuate was ranked as the No. 1 vendor in the “Dresner 2014 Embedded Business Intelligence Study.” The study is the latest in Dresner’s “Wisdom of Crowds” series of market insights. (Feel free to browse through the study results yourself) During Data Driven Summit 2014 – Actuate’s annual series of customer events – we heard about the importance of Embedded Analytics from our customers and industry analysts in seven different global centers. Here’s what customers said about embedded analytics at the Data Driven Summit in Santa Clara, Calif. and New York, NY. We’ll be posting more of the Data Driven Summit 2014 video series here, including the other demonstrations, BIRT data visualization insights and panel discussions with industry insiders.

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Top 10 News Stories from Actuate for 2014

This has been a huge year at Actuate. Between new products, acquisitions, and growth in our community, we’ve been busy providing great software across all of our divisions that help our customers meet their challenges in novel ways. Today, as 2014 winds down,  we’re highlighting ten of our biggest news stories of the year.     January 21: Actuate Patents PDF Accessibility Solution for Automated Tagging and Delivery of High Volume Content to the Visually Impaired. We were proud to kick off the year by receiving U.S. Patent 8619272, called “Automated Assistive Technology for the Visually Impaired,” for our PDF Accessibility Solution. This software integrates with an organization’s existing document management system to capture high volume print streams and automatically create properly tagged, accessible documents. February 5: Actuate Acquires legodo ag to Expand its Accessible Customer Communications Management Solution. The company develops software for generation of personalized customer correspondence via any communication channel, including mobile devices, and its software allows organizations to tap into their existing ERP, CRM, and other applications when creating customer communications. February 6: Actuate Launches New Generation of BIRT Content Services to Streamline End-to-End Accessible Customer Communications Management. Called BIRT Content Services 5.0, this new version of Actuate’s CCM product is now integrated with the BIRT iHub 3 deployment platform to enable end-to-end management of high volume customer communications. April 9: Actuate Introduces Document Accessibility Appliance to Automate Remediation of High Volumes of e-Delivered Customer Communications for Access by Vision-Impaired Customers. This virtual software appliance converts high volumes of electronically delivered documents into universally accessible PDF files (PDF/UA). Complying with WCAG 2.0 standards, the appliance helps organizations format and tag statements, bills, invoices, explanation of benefits and policy documents. May 7: BIRT Gains 500,000 New Developer Customers in Six Months; Community Grows to More than 3.5 Million BIRT Developers Worldwide. A quarterly survey by an independent, global developer research firm found that the community of BIRT developers keeps growing. “[T]he growth in the number of developers following Actuate is clearly reflected in the surge in our social media engagement levels,” said Nobby Akiha, Actuate’s Senior Vice President of Marketing. “Actuate’s BIRT social media profile continues to grow organically, with new followers on Facebook, Twitter and Google+, indicating a vibrant and active BIRT community. We have also observed a 50% increase in the number of visitors to our new developer.actuate.com site since its introduction last fall.” July 10:Actuate Launches BIRT iHub F-Type – Free Server for Over 3.5 Million BIRT Developers Building Data-driven Reports, Visualizations and Applications. A freemium version of our enterprise deployment platform, BIRT iHub F-Type has metered output capacity that can be expanded with an in-app purchase. Within 15 minutes of downloading BIRT iHub F-Type, a developer can import a BIRT report, schedule secure distribution, and export their report as a full-function Excel spreadsheet. Interactive personalization capabilities are automatically enabled, and developers can use BIRT iHub F-Type to embed dynamic reports and visualizations in applications. July 21: Actuate Announces BIRT Analytics 4.4 for Even Easier and Faster Big Data Advanced Analytics for Business Professionals. Our upgraded big data analytics platform for business analysts and users got powerful new algorithms and functionalities. “BIRT Analytics allows the business professional a way to easily explore and pivot billions of rows of data in seconds, while gaining immediate insights though visual representations of statistical models and advanced analytic techniques,” said Peter Hoopes, General Manager of Actuate’s BIRT Analytics Group. August 11: BIRT PowerDocs from Actuate is Now Available for the Salesforce1 Mobile App – Empowering Companies to Run their Businesses from Their Phones. Available in 10+ languages, BIRT PowerDocs is a cloud-based app designed to automatically incorporate ERP and CRM data and simplify generation of customer sales quotations and other correspondence within Salesforce1. It’s available for test drive and deployment on the Salesforce AppExchange. October 21: Actuate, Braille Works and Venatôre Collaborate to Deliver Industry’s First Cloud-Based Document Accessibility Service. Through key partnerships we expanded our offerings for the visually impaired community and for organizations that must comply with regulations such as Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. “Equal access to information is a basic right that every government agency must afford to individuals with vision loss,” said Paul Schroeder, vice president of Programs and Policy for the American Foundation for the Blind. “The Cloud508 service makes it possible to generate information in accessible formats to meet the access needs of people who are blind or visually impaired.” December 5: Actuate Signs Agreement to be Acquired by OpenText. The next chapter in Actuate’s story should begin within a few weeks. From the press release: “The addition of Actuate enables OpenText to enhance their products with embedded analytics as well as enter a growing market. Together Actuate and OpenText will seek to extend the benefits of embedded analytics to more geographies and industries.” We had to make some tough choices to whittle this list down to just ten entries. While we haven’t noted them all here, we’re also proud of our increasing profile among analysts and experts including Conformit, Dresner Advisory Services and Forrester; our growing profile in developer, open source, and social media communities; and our satisfied customers and partners like Phototype, IDS, and New York City Transit Authority who step up share their success stories. And we’re very proud of our Data Driven Summits, so we’re sharing videos of many great demos and panel discussions on the Actuate blog. With all of this in mind, 2015 promises to be another banner year for Actuate. We’re glad to have you – our customers, partners and prospects – with us during this exciting time. Subscribe to our blog (at left) and you’ll be the first to know when the next big things happen. Calendar image by Dafne Cholet.   

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Fax to the rescue – again!

Most of us can’t imagine a business day without email. It’s the lifeline of most communication both inside and outside an organization. But what happens when you can’t use your email? That’s what Sony employees and executives are faced with right now, in light of the recent hack to their network and email system. It seems that Sony employees have taken to picking up the phone, handwritten notes and, you guess it – fax, as a way to communicate with one another. Old school, you say? Old reliable, we say. Among those alternatives, fax is the only form of communication that is reliable and completely secure. Since a fax is a secure point-to-point communication between two parties, it can’t be intercepted or hacked. A phone call can be overheard, a handwritten note stolen. An electronic fax can go from one party to the other, safely and securely. The next time you need to communicate something that you don’t want to see in a headline, we suggest you FAX it. See the story here: http://uk.businessinsider.com/sony-execs-use-fax-machines-after-hack-wiped-out-email-2014-12

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Accessibility and Government-Produced PDFs

First published on G3ict.org Government agencies are huge creators of high-volume personal communications. Tax documents, benefits and health statements, and other critical information is distributed everyday – and the U.S. federal government aims to deliver more and more of these digitally, cutting costs and making them easier for citizens to obtain. Yet, to reach all citizens, they need to ensure these digital documents are accessible to everyone – including the visually impaired. Through the accessibility conferences and events I’ve attended – including Freedom Scientific’s recent Annual Accessibility Showcase – I’ve had a chance to speak to many government audiences. They’re wrestling with how to best create equal access in the digital documents they distribute – as well as meet compliance with their own Section 508 accessibility standards – which is why I wanted to address the issue here. Government accessibility, after all, is about to become even more important, as the U.S. federal government initiates its ICT Refresh – an update of the Section 508 Standards and Guidelines, issued under the amended Rehabilitation Act. What will the changes to Section 508 cover? Section 508 standards mandate federal government agencies on how they procure, use, develop or maintain information and electronic technology – and aims to make this information accessible to people with disabilities. The update is expected to tighten accessibility regulations further, bringing them up to standards outlined in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. It’s also expected to include a full scope of communications not currently specified including: Public-facing content Content that is broadly disseminated within the agency Letters adjudicating any cause within the jurisdiction of the agency Internal and external program and policy announcements Notices of benefits, forms, questionnaires and surveys Emergency notifications Formal acknowledgements Educational and training materials What is expected to be exempt from covered content would include: Archival copies stored or retained solely for archival purposes to preserve an exact image of a hard copy Draft versions of documents Although Section 508 is a mandate for federal government, it has had a trickle-down effect into the private sector as well. That is solely due to the procurement regulations. With federal government constituting the largest consumer of electronic and information technology, those supplying that technology must make their products, including their documents and documentation, meet Section 508 standards in order to sell it to government. So, the new refresh will apply equally to government agencies, and to companies in all industries and of all sizes that supply to them. How can government meet these needs? In my opinion, meeting the need for accessible digital content means two things: creating the right types of documents, and finding the most cost-saving and least invasive way to build accessibility in. With that in mind, consider two things: 1. Many of these government communication documents – from tax notices to health and benefits statements – need to be offered in a digital format that’s accessible as well as portable and secure, in order to be archived for official purposes. While HTML has become a popular way of providing many types of documentation, and has its uses in government as well, it doesn’t meet these criteria. PDFs do. 2. High-volume, personalized communications such as the ones government agencies produce aren’t created by individuals. They’re created by applications that can handle those large volumes. Individually building in accessibility manually after the fact can be expensive and time-consuming – often with extended delivery times versus the instant access through secure web portals afforded to those who don’t require an accessible digital format. The right technology, though, can help get around these challenges. And it’s why Actuate introduced Cloud508 for federal government. Cloud508 To meet the needs of government, Actuate recently announced Cloud508 – a collaborative partnership between Actuate, Braille Works and Venatôre – which was specifically designed to meet the stringent security requirements of federal government. Cloud508 automates the generation and remediation of accessible PDF documents on demand and meets Section 508 requirements and WCAG 2.0 standards for accessibility. What’s more, Cloud508, powered with Actuate technology, allows for the automation of traditional formats like Braille, large print and audio, all while reducing costs and significantly speeding up delivery time. Highlights include: Automates generation/remediation of accessible PDF documents Cloud-based service First and only on the market, patented technology Secure – meets federal government’s stringent security requirements Real time conversion service Designed for high volume personalized communications such as tax, health, and benefits notices Section 508, WCAG 2.0 Level AA, PDF/UA compliant formats Automates and streamlines production of Braille, large print and audio formats I think it’s the answer a lot of government agencies are looking for as they search for ways to save time, resources, money, and comply with Section 508, all while providing a comparable experience to the blind and visually impaired. For more information on Cloud508, visit www.cloud508.com.

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Sneak Peek: BIRT PowerDocs Salesforce1 Mobile App

We want to give you an insight into the latest developments of our BIRT PowerDocs cloud software. Today we will introduce you to the new BIRT PowerDocs Salesforce1 Mobile app, which we presented for the first time at the Dreamforce 2014. Take a first look at our app, which you can use to create complex, interactive and process-integrated documents with Salesforce1 and BIRT PowerDocs. How you benefit: you will be able to use all of the features of BIRT PowerDocs on your smartphone! Complex Documents – Just One Click Away Our new Salesforce1 Mobile app lets you create complex documents with just a few clicks. With this new app you can generate all of the documents that you previously needed your PC for. Regardless of whether the documents are interactive, process-integrated or highly complex, all of the features offered by BIRT PowerDocs are supported. BIRT PowerDocs works on all devices and can be integrated into any process. Our well-known interview mode automatically adjusts to your device settings and delivers the full power of professional document generation to your smartphone. This also includes the combination of the user interaction and data retrieval from various data sources. Applications of the BIRT PowerDocs Salesforce1 Mobile App You can easily use the BIRT PowerDocs Salesforce1 Mobile App to create highly complex and yet personalized documents even while you are on the go, without having to manually intervene in the creation process. The interview mode enables to easily implement complex decision-making structures. Of course, the mobile app offers you the additional benefit: it is fully integrated into Salesforce1 and can access all required data. Here is an overview of the highlights: Mobile application is possible Same range of functions – regardless of the user’s device Professional and individual document creation – without manual intervention Interview mode enables complex decision-making structures – with ease Presentation of the app at the Dreamforce 2014 We received a lot of feedback during the presentation of our new BIRT PowerDocs Salesforce1 Mobile App at Dreamforce. Many visitors were amazed at how easy it is to create complex documents on a smartphone with just a few clicks. View this short video to see how easy it is to create documents with BIRT PowerDocs.

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DEEP Access: Highlights from “Designing Enabling Economies and Policies”

In October, I took part in two separate and very different events dedicated to accessibility. Each had its highlights and in a later blog post I’ll tell you what those were for the second of the two: Freedom Scientific’s Annual Accessibility Showcase. I want to dedicate this post to the first, though – DEEP 2014: Designing Enabling Economies and Policies. The two-day event took place from October 16 to 17 at OCAD University in downtown Toronto, and was sponsored by Actuate, alongside IBM and the Government of Ontario. It focused on accessibility in both government and education environments, looked at new innovations, and discussed inclusiveness from a variety of perspectives. As part of the program, I moderated a session on the Role of Data and Alternative Representations of Data, which also included Chris MacMillan from Information Mapping Canada illustrating how volumes of data can be more accessible and digestible by redesigning its visual display and layout, and Dr. Peter Coppin of OCAD U who highlighted the advancements, led by his efforts, made on representing data with sound. I did a segment focused on data-driven personalized PDF communications like financial, health and benefits statements and notices, and showcased how Actuate’s technology uses automation to dramatically speed up the generation of high volumes of accessible PDF documents. The Program DEEP had a range of other panels and presentations too, ranging from “What Does Ontario Need to Do to Get Back on Schedule for Full Accessibility by 2025?” led by David Lepofsky, Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, to “Building Capacity in Education: A discussion of new programs in inclusion and new approaches to inclusive content and credentials” and “Creating Inclusive Communities Through Public Engagement.” There were also small group sessions dedicated to policy, education, innovation, entertainment, etc. One of the biggest highlights for me, though, was the keynote address by Gregg Vanderheiden, a professor of Industrial & Systems Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and co-director of Raising the Roof – International and the Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure Project (GPII). GPII is the specific program I want to discuss here, though. In fact, I was so interested in their advancements, that I immediately emailed Gregg to see how I could get more involved in GPII, and was graciously invited to be the “watchdog” for accessibility of their web and documents! GPII and a New Way of Creating Inclusive Content GPII, basically, aims to make the Internet accessible to everyone, whether they’re disabled, illiterate, digitally illiterate or aging. The group behind it works with existing technologies to help make them easier to use for individuals who might experience these inherent accessibility barriers. Gregg used the case of a digitally illiterate grandmother to demonstrate. Even if her grandkids tried to explain to her how to send or receive an email, she wouldn’t understand because she doesn’t see the world the same way they do. But what if the screen popped up and instead of a traditional email scenario, it looked like a letter waiting to be written? What if all she had to do was click on that “piece of paper” to write, then press on a mailbox icon to send it, just as she might a physical letter? What if a virtual mail truck then came and picked it up, to bring it to the recipient? This type of interface would be more intuitive to her, because it’s based on what she knows. And this is the type of solution GPII is looking to offer, with different alternatives for the visually impaired and other accessibility issues. It would all be available on the cloud, compatible with existing technology. For me, that presentation was an eye-opener and one of the best moments at DEEP. And I was pretty thrilled to hear back from Gregg to find out I might be able to get involved with the project myself. For more information on DEEP, visit deep.idrc.ocadu.ca/agenda/, and to learn more about GPII, visit gpii.net.

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Transport 15 Million People? Fugged about it! New York City Transit Authority

They say if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. So when New York City Transit Authority (NYCT) officials needed a technology platform to help them visualize North America’s largest transportation network, they of course selected iHub. Challenged with moving 15 million people throughout a 5,000-square-mile area, NYCT’s Operations Planning department needed a new comprehensive way to track train movements along 24 subway lines and 224 bus routes. The data would then be broadcast instantly to its employees. The Transit Authority has collected data over the decades about its overall transit system performance. The data is used to provide answers to the public and other municipal divisions as well as benchmarks to improve services and operations overall. Coordinating the data between different transit systems seemed to be a perfect Internet of Things mashup. Subway location and other data are monitored using NYCT’s General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS). As many as 5,000 buses are monitored every 30 seconds, 24 hours a day using standard GPS tracking. The information is stored using open source database MongoDB and integrated with a Google Maps interface for commuters. The Operations Planning department also gathers diagnostic and event data from its Intelligent Vehicle Network sensors, which transmit data anytime something of note happens on a bus, such as movement of doors or if a wheelchair ramp is deployed. In total, tens of thousands of records per minute – or millions of rows of data per day – must be recorded,  distilled into usable and helpful information, and shared. “NYCT is committed to an open data environment,” says Anthony Cramer, Director of System Data Analysis with NYCT’s Operations Planning department. “That begins with making as much data possible available to our customers, from countdown clocks at subway stations to real-time arrival apps, all powered by an open, cloud-based system.” Actuate came in with an embedded analytics reporting platform that coordinates with NYCT’s automated data collection system. NYCT plans to use BIRT iHub to share aspects of its internal information with the public among the various available mobile applications. There are 78 apps for iOS and 45 for Android currently sanctioned by the Transit Authority.  

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Actuate Tops Dresner Embedded BI Report, a Critical Tool for Data-Hungry Execs

A little horn-tooting first: Actuate was ranked as the No. 1 vendor in the “Dresner 2014 Embedded Business Intelligence Study.” The study is the latest in Dresner’s “Wisdom of Crowds” series of market insights. These reports comprise the only comprehensive research on BI usage and trends from the viewpoint of the customers, and virtually all BI vendors are ranked. It’s a really big deal for us to be recognized by the input of companies like yours in this kind of report. Our competition included all of the traditional and emerging business intelligence software providers. We left them all in the dust. Actuate was the only ranked vendor who met 100 percent of the Embedded BI architecture requirements, including rarely provided desktop widgets, Google Gadgets and Python API. Actuate was also ranked as providing superior custom, white-label branding for companies such as banks and telecoms who provide their customers with data driven analytics apps. Now we’ll put the promo banner down for a bit to bring you the other big news from the Embedded BI report: You and your manager are extremely likely to have embedded BI on the list of most critical software tools for your organization in the next year… so its’s best to be prepared!, Howard Dresner, Chief Research Officer at Dresner Advisory Services advises. “Across all relevant technologies, embedded BI technology falls into the top third of initiatives considered strategic to business intelligence,” the report states. “This reflects awareness and openness toward embedded technologies and an expectation that they will support more pervasive uses of BI.” The survey combines the ratings of roughly 2,500 organizations including crowdsourcing and the BI software vendor community. Dresner added the Embedded BI Report to his industry reporting to better understand how organizations are using embedded BI within data-driven apps they are creating for internal and external customers. The Value of Embedded BI It’s impressive to think that embedded BI ranks ahead of other enterprise concerns, including mobile device support, data mining and advanced algorithms, and software as a service and/or cloud computing. But why Embedded BI? What’s it good for? Typically, embedding business intelligence allows development teams to provide personalized analytics in their data driven apps. These apps let users get the maximum benefit of their data mining, ad hoc queries, dashboards and performance monitoring. Companies using financial management, enterprise resource planning (ERP), and marketing automation tend to use embedded BI in their own apps. But the specific applications targeted for embedded BI vary by industry, according to the Dresner report. Manufacturing businesses favor transactional and planning platforms, whereas retail and wholesale businesses favor embedded BI support for Web portals and workforce management. Technology companies are likely to use embedded BI to help them improve marketing and call centers. The emphasis on embedded BI could not come at a better time for the vendor community, says Dresner. This year, organizations see a broad span of targets for embedded BI that cover the full range of traditional back-office transaction systems all the way to operational and customer-facing Web applications. “Like the user sample, industry respondents have a strong view of the importance of embedded BI in 2014,” Dresner said in the report. “There is good industry support for integration resources and preferred BI features. Industry support for core embedded technologies has been increasing and in many cases is nearing 100 percent.” Other Points Of Interest There are a couple of standouts in the Dresner report that bear exploration. First off, very small companies (between 1 to 100 employees) and very large companies (more than 5,000 employees) were the most enthusiastic toward a range of embedded BI approaches. HTML, iframes, Web services, and JavaScript are the most popular mechanisms for embedded BI. Custom branding and white-label solutions are also in high demand. Vendors consider sales the most important area of focus for embedded BI, followed by marketing automation and, curiously, workforce management, which may be a function of short-term staffing. Among larger organizations, the number-one application is Web portals. Companies centered in Latin America, EMEA and Asia Pacific were most likely to identify embedded BI as a critical function of their business, although even in North America, it’s still considered a positive investment.   As more companies provide services for customers and end users, embedded BI will continue to take a lead role in shaping those data driven conversations.        

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Cloud508: A Cloud Solution for Federal Government that Automates Document Accessibility

A unique collaboration designed to build accessibility into the U.S. federal government’s most important and most distributed documents, Cloud508 is Actuate Corporation’s newest endeavor. A joint project with partners Braille Works and Venatôre, the cloud-based service works with documents such as tax, health, and benefits notices, statements and other personalized communications, automatically converting them on demand into accessible, Section 508 and WCAG 2.0 Level AA compliant PDF format. Cloud508 is not only unique, but is the first of its kind on the market. It is no secret that federal government produces and distributes enormous amounts of personalized notices to tax payers and beneficiaries, creating a significant challenge in meeting mandated Section 508 compliance allowing the documents to be accessible and usable by the blind and visually impaired recipients agencies serve. This service has been designed to eliminate the costly and laborious manual remediation efforts typically required to produce compliant accessible electronic documents. Until now, to make a PDF document accessible, human operators would use special software and manually remediate each and every page of a personalized notice. Not only is it costly and labor intensive, but with the sheer volume of documents it also slows the delivery time to the recipient. Now with Cloud508, each personalized document can be automatically remediated, on-demand, on the fly, nearly instantly! When these documents are electronically delivered via the web, blind and visually impaired recipients can receive their notices and statements at the same time as sighted recipients. The documents generated by this automation service are output as PDF/UA format meeting WCAG 2.0 Level AA and Section 508 accessibility standards. The Cloud508 Collaboration Partners To create this cloud-based accessibility solution, Actuate collaborated with two commercial and federal government experienced partners: Braille Works International is a Section 508 and accessibility expert and leading provider of reading materials for the visually impaired serving the federal government. Venatôre provides data center and cloud engineering services delivering mission critical solutions to federal government customers. Each has entered the partnership with their own area of expertise; Braille Works providing its subject-matter experience to ensure the documents meet accessibility and usability standards, and Venatôre bringing its secure cloud infrastructure required by government agencies. Actuate is contributing its patented document remediation software, designed to convert high volumes of personalized statements, notices and other communication documents into accessible PDFs. We are excited to bring this unique service to market, and Hunter Trice, President/ CEO of Venatôre, expressed it perfectly: “What excites us about this service is that it takes an innovative approach to addressing federally mandated accessibility requirements. The Cloud508 offering changes the rules by taking the industry from a mostly manual, time intensive remediation process to a largely automated, workflow-driven SaaS model. Cloud technology is enabling innovation in customer segments that have been traditionally underserved. Specifically, Actuate’s Cloud508 service makes it much easier for government agencies to deliver the same level of service, utility and convenience to the visually impaired. It makes providing accessible content a part of the standard operating procedure instead of something delivered as an exception or accommodation.” The Details Cloud508 is highly scalable and reliable, with accessible output that has been tested and approved by The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). Not only that, but its cloud infrastructure supports the U.S. federal government’s Cloud First Policy and its built-in security and encryption features meet strict government regulations. It delivers benefits to both the government agencies it services and the visually impaired individuals it is designed to help, including: Software-based automation for document remediation Secure and efficient delivery in the cloud Compliance support with U.S. accessibility legislation, including Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act WCAG 2.0 – Level AA and PDF/UA compliance for documents Equal access to government services for those with visual, cognitive, and print disabilities Along the collaborative partnership path an unexpected outcome was realized, and born from that was yet another unique and compelling advantage of Cloud508 – the automation of traditional print formats. With some clever programming and utilization of the rich accessible output, a streamlined and more efficient process for creating braille, large print, and audio formats was developed! This brings lower costs, and for those preferring these more traditional formats, an expedited delivery time – even with higher volumes. Lou Fioritto, Founder of Braille Works International, said: “The concept of an automated process for the creation of accessible documents was largely dismissed due to the complexity of the process. Cloud508 is a game-changer. It not only automates the creation of 508 compliant PDF documents, but in the process allows for the automation of a portion of the work to create traditional formats such as braille, large print and audio. With Cloud508, a Federal Agency can reduce the cost and time needed to deliver compliant documents to their visually impaired constituents.” A true wealth of knowledge, experience, services, and unique patented product have been combined to create Cloud508 as a full-service, flexible solution with unmatched accuracy in its performance, speed, and accessible output. Together this is a powerful combination!  

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iTAC Helps Manufacturers Improve Operations with BIRT iHub [Case Study]

We think we live in a digital world, but manufacturing still touches every aspect of our lives today. The cars we drive, the clothes we wear, the tools we use, and even the food we eat today is the product of an integrated global supply chain and complex manufacturing processes. But the digital world of IT and physical world of manufacturing are inextricably connected: Successful manufacturers leverage powerful IT to monitor and manage their machines, resources, logistics and more to improve quality, reduce costs, and deliver the right goods at the right time. For more than 15 years, Germany-based iTAC Software AG has helped companies merge the worlds of IT and manufacturing. iTAC (short for Internet Technologies and Consulting) produces highly specialized manufacturing software. Its Manufacturing Execution System (MES) suite is cloud-based, Java EE-powered application that enables IP-based monitoring and management of every aspect of a manufacturing environment – essentially turning factories and supply chains into a real-world workbench in the Internet of Things (IoT). Automotive, electronics, medical, and other discrete manufacturers worldwide use iTAC.MES.Suite to optimize product quality and increase production. iTAC maintains a diverse team of skilled developers who clearly know how to produce powerful, useful software. So when iTAC decided to integrate Business Intelligence (BI) and analytics capabilities into iTAC.MES.Suite, the company’s developers could have built these embedded analytics capabilities on their own, from scratch. But instead, they chose the iHub platform to provide embedded analytics in their application.  iTAC selected iHub for its flexibility, speed, and ability to integrate seamlessly into iTAC.MES.Suite. “With iHub, we can produce attractive, compelling visualizations in no time from application data,” said Dieter Meuser, iTAC’s CTO. “Just as quickly and easily, the iHub platform can be integrated in any IT architecture and takes on the branding and security model of the main application.” A new Actuate case study, available for free download, explores iTAC’s use of BIRT iHub. The case study explains why iTAC chose BIRT iHub for embedded analytics and details the benefits of Actuate’s software, including secure integration, enhanced reporting, and support for the Internet of Things (IoT) – a key element of Germany’s Industry 4.0 initiative for creating smart factories. Download and read the iTAC case study today.

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Simplifying the Conflict Minerals Reporting Process

Earlier this year many North American based companies were filing their conflict minerals reports for the first time. The Dodd-Frank Conflict Minerals Law was introduced to help understand the source of conflict minerals across global supply chains, primarily in the high tech, automotive and CPG manufacturing sectors. This is an area that I have blogged about before, click here & here, however this blog will provide an update on how this year’s reporting process went. I will also be covering this subject in more detail during one of my presentation sessions at our Enterprise World conference next month. This new law was introduced by the US Senate and applies to any North American based company filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC. Companies have to provide evidence that their supply chains are not using conflict minerals. Even though it was just North American based companies that had to report to the SEC, suppliers located in other countries would have to provide evidence to their respective customers in North America of where potential conflict minerals were sourced from. Conflict minerals, namely Tin, Tungsten, Tantalum and Gold (collectively known as the 3TG minerals) are mined all over the world however this new regulation specifically relates to the sourcing of 3TG minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in Africa. Many mines in this region are owned by militia groups and the proceeds from the sale of 3TG minerals are used to fund their military operations. 3TG minerals are used in a range of every day products: The new law aims to check the source of these minerals before they enter the smelter process. In December 2010 the International Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) produced a document describing a five stage process which provides due diligence guidance for sourcing minerals from conflict affected and high risk areas around the world. Stage two of this framework specifically relates to the assessment and reporting process for identifying the source of conflict minerals. To assist with the reporting process, the Conflict Free Sourcing Initiative (CFSI) was established to help companies implement a process for assessing their supply chain and to find out where 3TG minerals were sourced from. CFSI devised a SEC approved reporting Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that companies could use for assessing their supply chains. All of the major industry analysts have produced reports offering their own analysis on the sourcing of conflict minerals, however Deloitte succinctly summarised the issues as follows, “The complexity of today’s supply chains combined with the lack of visibility into sourcing practices will be one of the key challenges of ensuring that Dodd-Frank can be adhered to”. So how did companies do during the first reporting period and what were the challenges that they faced during the assessment process? Initial estimates of the number of companies that would be impacted by this new ruling were 6000, however a study conducted by Ernst and Young in June 2014, just after the 2014 reporting process had been completed, showed that the actual number of companies that completed a standard disclosure form to the SEC was just over 1300 and of these just 1000 completed a conflict minerals report as they had reason to believe that 3TG minerals had been sourced from the DRC. The Ernst and Young report went on to say that: Average number of suppliers surveyed was 2500, but ranged from just 5 to over 40,000 suppliers 49% of respondents came from the technology, industrial and CPG sectors 43% of respondents showed sourcing of some portion of minerals from the DRC 52% of companies did not disclose supplier response rates, of those that did respond only 15% of companies had supplier response rate greater than 90% Only 27% were able to provide a list of smelters and refiners After reviewing some of the conflict minerals disclosures on the SEC website it became clear that many companies had struggled to engage with their entire supply chain and in fact there were some remarkably similar issues faced by reporting companies, namely: Ensuring that supplier contact information was up to date to allow reporting template to be sent to them Some companies received no response from their direct and sub-tier materials suppliers, partly due to the complexity of their respective supply chains Information provided by suppliers was often incomplete or inaccurate Suppliers had to be chased up for report submissions to meet SEC’s May 31st deadline Part of the problem related to acquiring information from suppliers is the reporting tool itself, even though it is relatively easy to complete, the main challenge is the distribution of the spreadsheet to a supplier community and then tracking all responses. If a company for example has more than ten thousand trading partners located all over the world then this problem becomes even more complex. OpenText™ Active Community is a cloud based community management platform that is used to manage day to day interactions with a supply chain community. Using a centrally managed archive of supplier contact information combined with comprehensive email management and reporting tools, Active Community can help remove the complexities of managing the distribution of information to a trading partner community. OpenText has re-created the CFSI reporting template within Active Community’s survey module. This means that companies can simply send an email to all their suppliers with a link to a reporting web form and all responses can be tracked and reported on. Using Active Community for the conflict minerals reporting process offers a number of key benefits: Provides an effective cloud based platform for distributing and tracking responses to conflict minerals based assessments Offers a simple and efficient reporting environment to encourage 100% participation from trading partners Ensures trading partner information is accurately maintained within a centralized environment Allows a company to meet an important corporate social responsibility objective and allow a conflict minerals report to be filed on time Even though the reporting process is only mandated by law in North America at the moment, other regions around the world are closely monitoring the US reporting process. The European Union passed a ruling earlier this year that it would allow companies located in member countries to self-certify their supply chains for conflict minerals. The EU ruling currently applies to importers of raw materials and does not include manufacturers and companies importing finished goods. The US and EU rules are intended to introduce more transparency into global supply chains, companies will therefore be ethically compelled to find out what is in their supply chains. Moving forwards it is expected that conflict minerals sourcing will become a core part of a company’s Corporate Social Responsibility initiative, which of course has board level support in most companies. OpenText has developed a number of resources to explain how we can help companies simplify their reporting process, these resources include an executive briefing document, a short webinar providing more details on the conflict minerals ruling and how Active Community can help and finally a twenty minute demonstration of the CFSI template within Active Community and how it can be used to quickly survey a supplier community. If you would like to see a short introductory video which introduces the conflict minerals ruling then please see the video below. To access our conflict minerals resources, please CLICK HERE. If you would like to learn more about our Conflict Minerals solution or any other solution that OpenText offers then why not register to attend our Enterprise World event in November? I will be presenting a number of manufacturing focused presentations at this event and you will be able to hear case study presentations from Panasonic and Michelin on how they are using B2B solutions from OpenText. Click on the link below for more information.

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Do You Deliver Customer Branding?

Let’s set the stage: You have an application with plenty of relevant data and you have customers who want to get the most out of your data. Easier said than done: rapidly changing technology, big and small data, capacity to embed, autonomy of end-users, security, mobile, cloud or onsite deployments, software licensing agreements … all these topics will emerge at some point in time. Because I sell enterprise software licenses within a company nurturing the BIRT open source project, I run into “make or buy” decisions all the time. Don’t expect perfect neutrality from me when I blog here. Expect business-oriented views that help you make the right decisions. The first topic I would like to raise is branding. Nobody disagrees with the importance of branding. Showing a cool demo of your application to a C-level decision maker will definitely make a positive impact on a buying decision. A great out-of-box user experience creates stickiness and lets customers adhere to your brand – or even to the brand of your customers. And it is not just the graphs or images that make up the brand. It’s the user experience. Users expect good-looking graphs, but they may also want to interact and explore while maintaining the brand experience. The capacity to brand an application undoubtedly has a high value, but this value is very difficult to quantify. The impacts on the cost side are much easier to evaluate. Here are a few points you might consider: Do you have access to chart engines and can you easily customize charts via scripts or APIs? Is it possible to create reusable libraries with color themes or templates that you apply easily across your application? Is customization achieved by using commonly available standard-based tools such as HTML5, CSS and JavaScript? Consider that in two years’ time your largest customer rebrands itself and requests that you  change the branding within your application. Sit down and calculate the time and  effort it will take you to modify your application. Please feel free to share your thoughts and suggestions about branding  in the comments area.

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How do you Manage a B2B Environment Following Divestiture?

There has been one story dominating the media in the UK over the past few months, Scotland’s attempt to seek independence from the United Kingdom. Despite losing the referendum to go their own way, Scotland will gain extra powers from the UK government to help offer a better standard of living for their population and improve growth prospects for the country. The interesting thing here is what would have happened if Scotland had broken away from the UK. Everything from running the public services and utilities infrastructures, through to managing revenue generation initiatives such as setting tax levels through to the technology infrastructure to support the running of the country in an independent capacity. Not to mention the currency, border control and defence spending issues as well. Even though the independence vote was lost, there are synergies here with companies that are going through a similar situation, namely going through some form of divestiture from their parent organisation. There have been countless divestitures in recent years as companies look to cut costs and at the same time raise valuable funds to grow their business or diversify into new markets. The chart below from Deloitte highlights some of the reasons why companies divest operations. Whenever a company goes through a divestiture process, one of the most important things to ensure is that the business can continue operating with minimum disruption. This is not easy, especially when IT infrastructures have to be untangled between the two organisations. The divestiture process is incredibly complex and it will affect all areas of a business, including the external supply chain. Unravelling a B2B infrastructure from a parent company can appear at first to be a monumental task, not only having to establish the technical components of the new B2B infrastructure but also ensuring that external trading partners can be effectively managed during the transition process. For this reason many companies will establish transition teams to oversee all aspects of a divestiture process. At the end of the day the newly divested business must continue to make money from day one and so the role of the transition team, especially relating to managing the new B2B infrastructure is critical. Now there are a number of options open to the transition team with respect to the B2B infrastructure. Taking the right course of action or direction for the divested operation’s B2B strategy is a critical decision, if you go in the wrong direction it could restrict future growth opportunities for the business. So which path do you take? Firstly, a divested operation could continue to use their existing B2B platform which for many companies would probably be the easiest option for them to follow. However there are complexities with extracting the B2B platform from the parent company and then continuing to manage trading partner relationships etc. Secondly they could decide to introduce a brand new platform themselves or adopt the B2B platform from the new owner. Either of these options will mean severe disruption to the divested operation’s business processes and trading partner relationships. Finally they could decide to outsource the management of their entire B2B platform to a trusted partner. Following a divestiture, especially if the company is acquired by a private equity firm, the company will need to be focused on their core competencies. This will be manufacturing goods and bringing revenue into the business, not having to worry about how they manage their B2B infrastructure on an ongoing basis. Therefore out of the three possible options, outsourcing is the best possible route for managing a B2B infrastructure and any accompanying trading partner relationships. After all what does a private equity firm know about running a B2B infrastructure? This is where OpenText™ Managed Services can help. Whichever route the divested operation decides to take, they will have a relatively short period of time to transition to the new B2B platform. Typically, a parent company would give the divested operation anywhere between 6 to 18 months to become totally self-sufficient in how they manage their B2B infrastructure. Establishing a B2B infrastructure in a divested operation is intrinsically linked to the overall IT infrastructure that will also need to be established in the divested business. Networks and routers have to be setup, internet connections have to established, PC’s and Laptops have to be configured, email systems have to be setup for each user. In addition, ERP systems have to be rolled out, CRM systems have to be setup within the sales and marketing departments and IT systems have to be deployed in new warehouses and logistics facilities. Now I haven’t even discussed what needs to be done from a B2B perspective yet, but already you can see that the IT infrastructure alone, which will help to support the B2B platform, is incredibly complex. As for the B2B infrastructure, the divested operation will need to develop or possibly migrate document maps to the new platform, this could typically range from 100 to a 1000 maps. Not all of these maps would need to be created from scratch, in one example I have heard about recently, one third of the maps for a divested operation were brought across from the parent company, one third were transferred, but required a few customisations and the remainder needed to be created from scratch. Mapping is a complex and time consuming process, would your company be able to undertake this internally?, would your B2B team have the skills to do this or would those skills remain with the parent company? Another common area of concern is how to integrate to an ERP platform. A manufacturing company, especially one with manufacturing plants all over the world will have to somehow re-integrate its B2B platform to the ERP platform. The longer this process is delayed, the more chance there is for duplicate data being entered into purchasing systems, which then leads to a lot of manual rework and rekeying of data to ensure the view of the information in the ERP platform is similar to the view in the B2B environment. Being able to integrate these two platforms as quickly as possible, to ensure one seamless, real time view of information is essential. Again, would your company be able to undertake this integration activity yourself or would you have to seek help from an outside provider? The other area of importance from a B2B transition point of view is managing the external community of trading partners. During the transition phase, the company still needs to be able to order and take delivery of goods from suppliers, they will still need to get their manufactured goods distributed around the world and more importantly each trading partner will need to be kept up to date with what is happening during the transition to the new B2B environment at the divested operation. OpenText™ Managed Services has helped over 800 companies outsource the management of their B2B infrastructure. With many years’ experience of supporting some of the biggest companies in the world, OpenText is well positioned to help divested operations maintain continuity with their B2B platform and their trading partner community. There are five key areas where Managed Services has been deployed to help divested operations manage their B2B infrastructures. Document Mapping – This is by far the most popular outsourcing request that we have seen, potentially hundreds of document maps will need to be transferred to the divested operation. Companies could decide to move the maps as is, move and modify or write completely new maps. Either way, the divested operation is unlikely to have in-house skills to create their own maps. In fact mapping skills are likely to remain within in the parent company. OpenText has a dedicated mapping centre of excellence to create document maps of any type and skills to map to ERP systems or to any specific industry standards. ERP Integration – As with document mapping, a divested operation may lose access to valuable ERP implementation personnel following a divestiture. OpenText has been working with many companies to help integrate their B2B platform to ERP related business processes. This ensures that externally sourced information can flow seamlessly into the ERP system. OpenText™ Managed Services has been integrated with a range of different ERP platforms, including SAP where we have experience of creating a range of IDOC document types to support key business processes. Trading Partner Management – Trading partners will need to be managed during and after a divestiture has taken place. The newly divested operation will have to maintain these relationships so that supply chains are not interrupted and the supply of goods can continue as normal. OpenText offers, a number of trading partner management offerings, in local language around the world. This includes training the trading partners in how to use all aspects of a new B2B service, testing connectivity and document exchange capabilities and finally offering a number of performance dashboards so that the trading partner community can be effectively monitored. Global B2B Support – Loss of support from a parent organisation means that global B2B support services will have to be provided to maintain global trading capabilities. OpenText offers a truly global 24/7 ‘follow the sun’ support service. End users are able to speak with multi-lingual support representatives who will be fully trained in the specific capabilities of the divested operation’s business processes Technology / Legacy Platform Upgrade – Divestitures provide the ideal opportunity to upgrade or introduce new B2B technologies. In the past, the parent company may not have allowed certain technologies or processes to be introduced simply because they did not have the skills to implement or support them. OpenText supports both legacy and the latest internet communication protocols, thus ensuring that trading partners can be connected irrespective of which communication protocol they may prefer to use. OpenText also offers a number of web based B2B solutions that allow any trading partner, no matter what their technical capability, to trade electronically with the divested operation. For more information on how OpenText™ Managed Services can help your business please click here or alternatively take a look at the SlideShare presentation below. In a future blog I will discuss how companies are using periods of restructuring to undertake digital transformation projects.

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Generating Documents in the Cloud: 3 Reasons for BIRT PowerDocs

More and more businesses are using cloud-based software to manage their documents commonly needed for daily business. Such documents typically include quotes, invoices, service documents and contracts. The processes for generating documents in the cloud are usually handled manually or using native functionality of the cloud software. Basic functionality limits users and businesses Common documents vary from simple business letters to highly complex, multi-page documents. The more complex the document, the more frequently users experience limitations with native basic functionality of the cloud document generation solutions. Technically, the native mail merge functionality is quite limited – data from only one object can be referred to in parallel with common information about the contact. Publishing options are also limited: for example, documents can only be generated in Word format. In addition, these documents cannot be automatically combined with other Word documents and templates. Sending options often include only an option to download to the local computer. But the biggest problem with the native mail merge functionality is that it is not flexible enough to implement all customer requirements or customer processes. Scripting is (not) a solution Many cloud providers are aware of the technical limitations of generating documents in the cloud and therefore recommend the use of individual extensions. By developing such extensions, one can expand the basic functionality of the applications. This, however, calls for custom software development, a significant risk factor for the project success. Through scripting, certain objects (e.g. from the area of quote in offer management) can be synchronized with other objects (e.g. from the area of an opportunity). This feature is useful for many application cases and is especially well suited for proper administration and maintenance of selected products for a business transaction. In addition, in some cases editors can also be developed to enable template creation. Nevertheless, these extensions cannot compete with the flexibility and range of formatting options found in Microsoft Word or Excel. Therefore, it is usually impossible to add the existing documents of the customer to the cloud. Therefore, this leaves out of scope an important requirement of businesses switching their processes to the cloud. Upgrade through apps: BIRT PowerDocs Due to these limitations and deficiencies, we developed an application for document creation in the cloud – BIRT PowerDocs. This application is fully integrated with customer environments and is based on technology and platform of major cloud providers. BIRT PowerDocs offers users a significant upgrade from the basic functionality of cloud solutions. The advantages include: ability to publish documents in various formats, such as Microsoft Word, PDF, etc.; the option to refer to data from several objects at the same time; multi-channel delivery capabilities to distribute documents via e-mail, SMS, fax etc.; easy use of electronic signatures. These features make the complex world of documents easier to control. Flexibility, variety of options and powerful formatting possibilities allow for a smooth transition to document generation in the cloud. More information on BIRT PowerDocs.

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Preview: Building Data-Driven Customer Portals for Insurance

If Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards jams a finger and can’t perform the opening riff to “Start Me Up,” a Lloyd’s of London disability income insurance policy shelters him for a cool $1.5 million. Now your home, auto and health policies may differ greatly from those of the legendary rocker, but the insurance industry is transforming itself to give its customers satisfaction and understand their needs based on the deluge of data that’s now at their fingertips. For example, a commercial fleet insurer may use data from telematic devices implanted in vehicles to underwrite policies and set rates. (Yes, they may have to get that data off of their cloud.) Insurers know they have to synthesize this big data and deliver relevant policy information to their customers and agents on-demand through many channels, including the call center, web, mobile devices, and soon wearable devices. Customers have become accustomed to easy access to information about all facets of their insurance policies. For carriers, this creates a competitively defining moment of truth. If systems falter due to limited functionality and customers can’t always get what they want, they may drop coverage in favor of the competition. Conversely, insurance portals that promise too much too fast could find these enhancements cost prohibitive. Thankfully, time is on your side if you or your organization is building customer-facing applications that depend deeply on data. Actuate is sponsoring a webcast entitled “Maximizing the Value of Core Systems With Customer Portals” with UBM Technology Media, September 17. Allen Bonde, VP Product Marketing & Innovation at Actuate Corporation, will show how industry-leading applications are able to manage and deliver relevant visuals that pull data from a front-end customer portal. Bonde will also touch on how technologies like BIRT best address client reporting, APIs, interactivity, scalability, security and multi-tenancy – not to mention the ability to deploy to lots of customers. Other speakers in the webinar include: Nathan Golia, Senior Editor, Insurance & Technology (moderator) Steven Callahan, Management Consultant, Practice Director, The Nolan Company Chad Hersh, SVP, The Nolan Company Register today and get insight into how to leverage customer portals to provide a common customer experience across systems and reduce the pain of core systems transformation projects. By the way, if you think $1.5 million is a hefty price tag for Keith’s sticky fingers, consider that soccer star David Beckham’s legs are safe for $70 million, Bruce Springsteen’s voice is protected at $6 million and KISS front man Gene Simmons’ wagging tongue is sheltered for $1 million.  

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Using BIRT to Run Your Business From Your Phone

Remember the first time you saw a cell phone? The guy holding it was probably in a business suit and looked pretty successful. And you probably thought, How cool it would be to make phone calls and do business on the road, right? Well the promise of mobile phones and business on the go has evolved again with the release of BIRT PowerDocs for the Salesforce1 Mobile App. This cloud-based app is designed for the salesperson or account executive on the go. With a few clicks, you can automatically tap into your company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) data and parse it within Salesforce1, a popular mobile business app for sales. The result is the generation of customer data such as service requests or sales quotes and auto-generation of the appropriate documents. BIRT PowerDocs conveniently accesses Salesforce1 to manage the delivery of PDFs and Word docs as well as generate and continuously edit customer documents in the cloud. All processes and files associated with quotation creation and management can be saved in a file system or backup server, issued through a wide variety of channels, and even printed directly from Salesforce. Generated documents can be archived in any location. Of course, the app is designed for the modern smartphone, not the brick of a device you see above. Translated into more than 10 languages, the BIRT PowerDocs app can be accessed from any device – including a PC, tablet, or smartphone-  running either Android or iOS. The importance of document management cannot be understated. The proliferation of smartphones and tablet computers force companies to turn to mobile apps to manage documents where they need to be competitive. “For instance, the typical output management system is incapable of dialogue, which essentially strikes it out from the system requirements for managing next generation communications,” said Christian Rodrian of legodo product marketing in a recent blog. “Similarly, CRM and ERP systems alone do not allow any personalized written dialogue. For communication with customers that is both quick and personalized, a company must deploy CCM [Customer Communications Management] solutions. These CCM solutions can deliver the whole gamut of information generated by customers over social networks and through other digital services; which is necessary for creating and managing meaningful conversations with customers.” This latest version of BIRT PowerDocs is immediately available for test drive and deployment on the Salesforce AppExchange. Here’s the first in a series of videos explaining the awesomeness of BIRT PowerDocs.

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