When you bring together former senior leaders from some of the leading BI vendors, you'll probably find them creating innovative, Web 2.0 products with a fresh new approach to a common problem. When customers need, almost demand, that they gain immediate value from their existing BI system, 90 Degree Software has a unique collaborative approach for building reports and dashboards that I haven't seen in any other product.
When I was given a demonstration of what their tools could do, I had to share this with you. So I spoke with Michael Matrick, co-founder and President, about what they are doing over at 90 Degree Software up in Vancouver, BC Canada (which is the host city of the next Winter Olympics 2010).
- Question: So what made you think the industry needed another reporting product?
Answer: The industry was in need of change. We believed that reporting products have had little innovation in the past number of years. It seems that the vendors are more interested in selling servers and BI platforms versus focusing on the actual users. Reporting is the most critical element of a BI solution. If the users can’t adapt to the reporting solution, the solution will end up failing. I will add that it was our customers and partners who we’ve worked with over the past decade that helped us to realize that change was mandatory, someone needed to step up and introduce innovation.
- Question: You and others left some of the biggest BI vendors to be entrepreneurs competing in the same field. Where did you come from and what's your edge?
Answer: I think we all feel fortunate having had the opportunity to work for such large BI organizations (Crystal - BOBJ, Cognos and Microsoft) and gain the experience we did. Collectively as a company, we have over 100 years of BI experience. This includes - product development, sales & marketing and executive leadership. It was this experience that’s given us the opportunity to bring to market a much better way of reporting. I myself started my career with the early Crystal and ended it with Microsoft. In between there was a stint in where I ran a BI services company, focused on developing BI solutions. Lots of good times!
- Question: What does your product solve for customers?
Answer: Simply put - We developed Radius90 for people who create reports. Creators and users of reports are driven to use tools that are either too complex or too simple in nature (meaning not enough). In between there is a large opportunity to bring to market a reporting solution that works to benefit both users, using a single, clean and consistent interface. Radius90, I’m happy to note is doing just this. We have brought to market the first Officetm based reporting solution.
- Question: Typical BI software puts report builders in the IT department. What is different with Radius90? Who can, or should, be using Radius90?
Answer: Yes…and this is the problem. Radius90 provides a consistent designer that looks and feels just like Office. We all spend our days creating documents, spreadsheets or PowerPoint’s…why do we need to learn a new user interface to create a report. Creating a report should maintain the same work flows and behave just as any other Office product. People who create or consume reports are Office users. With this, organizations can lower their costs by reducing training costs and time to create reports.
- Question: When you mentioned that management uses Radius90 like "lego blocks", what did you mean by that?
Answer: Ahh…yes. Radius90 has a very unique feature called “Radius90 Library.” Radius90 provides users with this ability to decompose their reports or reports of others so that these report components (fragments) can then be used to construct new reports. This feature is a real blockbuster, as it enables people to assemble reporting using existing content (data connections, queries, parameters, charts, tables, matrices, etc…). to some they may say – so…think about it. Do you like recreating the same report more than once, just to tweak it or customize it for someone…I would guess the answer would be no. This is where we can realize that too much time is spent copying reports only to recreate the same report a different way. Now think about it – doing it that way means…managing 2, 3, 4, 5, 100 different reports. What happens when a change needs to occur? Using the library, users can reuse report content and leverage our semantic engine to offer version controls and centralized management. This means, IT can own the data and take the risk out of the equation for their users. Business or power users can simply leverage these existing report components and feel confident knowing that the data is accurate. For those who understand “RAD” (rapid application development) this will make a lot of sense.
- Question: So a management team could collaborate to come up with their monthly management reports?
Answer: Yes. The library is a key collaborative feature of Radius90. Management can search their library or the library of others and pull together a business view/perspective without ever having to know anything about SQL or anything of that nature. They know they want a sales pipeline chart by sales person. This fragment of information already exists so why not repurpose this information. Users like managers or others always think of what they want then try to build it. Usually they hand the request off, only to be disappointed by the results as it didn’t meet their requirement. Interpretation is usually what breaks down during this process.
- Question: For those technology-minded, what sets Radius90 apart from all the other proprietary products?
Answer: It’s a Rapid Application Development environment for building reports. Radius90 provides a rich semantic layer that allows for report content to be tagged and reused, making report creation faster. I don’t know any technically minded report designers who don’t love this feature. Radius90 also provides an extensibility model that allows developers to build report templates / theme’s, which we call report “add-ins.” This allows developers to integrate their LOB application right into the report designer. Not a runtime version of a report viewer. We are talking about a fully functioning reporting solution, leveraging your application logic giving the users the ability to customize or personalize reports.
- Question: Microsoft's published RDL (Report Definition Language) is good for customers, why?
Answer: I believe so. The days of managed report formats or vendor controlled binaries are over. We’ve seemed to make such changes in all other software manors – for example, XML – why not with report formats? Users are looking for more open standard approaches to data storage, specifically file formats. Microsoft RDL provides an open report format that empowers organizations like us to roll out feature rich solutions without having to manage the format. Microsoft makes this format available as part of their SQL Server offering meaning customers get a scalable BI reporting platform that they can make available to enterprise customers. We feel fortunate to have the relationships with Microsoft that we do, allowing us to participate in early adopter panels, forums allowing us to prepare for any changes.
- Question: What does the future have in store for 90 Degree Software?
Answer: To become the new report designer of choice for all report developers, users and consumers. It’s bold but definitely possible.
- Question: Where can others find out about 90 Degree Software?
Answer: You can find more information from our website 90 Degree Software. As well, we had a booth at Convergence 2007 – San Diego – we were the hit of the show. We’ll be at the Microsoft BI conference in May and the WW Partner Conference in July, please come check us out!