Antivia: The First Real BI 2.0 Solution?

As I’ve written before, if BI 2.0 is to mean anything, it should be about “collective intelligence”: letting people add value to the BI solution through their actions.

There have been several companies that have touched on different aspects of BI 2.0 solutions, but what I’ve seen so far from Antivia takes it to a whole new level.

The company, headed by ex-Business Objects employees, has introduced Antivia Desktop, a product that can be easily (even virally) deployed on top of existing Business Objects installations to add easy-to-use Web 2.0 functionality.

The desktop interface is designed to be modular, allowing extra add-on functionality to deployed to users, independently of the underlying Business Objects architecture. The system works with any environment from version 6.5 up, and supports multiple Business Objects document formats, including WebIntelligence, Crystal Reports, Desktop Intelligence, and Xcelsius.

Antivia Desktop

Once downloaded and installed, the Antivia Desktop is “self-learning”: users don’t have to tell it anything — whenever they open standard Business Objects documents, those documents will start appearing in the desktop interface, ready for rating and other added community features.

All information collected by the system is stored either within the firewall, or securely on Antivia’s servers, making viral and partial deployments easy with minimal need for IT support.

antivia rate_reports

Screen shot: The Antivia desktop “learns” by watching user interaction with the system, and gives users easy access to a full range of Web 2.0 functionality applied to BI deployments, such as report rating, “users who liked this report also liked…”, discussion threads, etc.  

The easiest way to explain the power of the product is to take a tour of the interface:

Left-hand menu bar

Events. Users can create and sent invitations to communities, to take part in an insight discussion or a poll

Contacts. My BI / work / social contacts, just like the types of lists in instant messaging, facebook, etc., but focused on business intelligence. The list can be supplied using standards like LDAP.

My Favorites. The system automatically maintains a list of my favorites based on my viewing patterns.

What’s hot: A list of “hot” reports, based on the report’s rating, and the number of times it has been viewed. By default, people can see the names of reports even if they do not have access to it. This is an invaluable way of avoiding the traditional BI “catch 22” situation where people can’t ask for access to reports they don’t know exist. If necessary, reports can be hidden from all users.

Scenarios. The scenarios feature is part of the “let users adapt things themselves” aspect of BI 2.0. Antivia lets users change how information is categorized in existing reports by creating their own hierarchies. For examples, if I’m a manager for a region of several countries, I can easily group those countries for reporting, on the fly, without changing the database, and without having to ask for IT help. The hierarchies are saved so I can easily apply them to all my other reports, and a full audit trail is maintained for compliance purposes.

Right-hand properties bar

Content rating. Users are automatically prompted to rate reports when they use them, by applicability to their role, quality of content, and usability.

Users who like this report also liked… Using the content rating information, users are shown–Amazon-like–a list of other reports that they may be interested in.

Similar resources. The system automatically indexes documents, and finds other document that, for example, have an 80% or higher match on contents. This helps users find and share reports that already exist, without any need for central IT intervention, rather than creating reports from scratch. Given the propensity for similar users to create lots of overlapping redundant documents, this alone could be worth the investment in the product.

Applicable scenario. The scenario currently being used in the document (see Scenarios section above)

Top menu bar

New community. Users can create new communities, by dragging and dropping people from their contact lists — for example to discuss a particular issue such as “analyzing the results of our marketing campaigns”. The person creates a welcome message, and invitations are sent out. The system automatically keeps track of members’ contribution to the community, such as number of reports rated, discussions started / contributed to, polls started, etc.

antivia forum

Insight discussions. Any member can drag and drop a report into the community and create a discussion about the contents, for example a discussion about what is causing the observed results, and plans for the future. Other members can reply, and post other resources giving more information.

Polls. A BI competency center, for example, can poll users to determine whether a new report is ready for production, or any other aspect of how they are using the system. 

The system in action

Click below for a tour of the product narrated by Mark Hudson.

The bottom line

Antivia provides a web 2.0 BI solution today that goes further than most vendors’ future-vision slideware — and the team are only just getting started, with lots of other great features in the pipeline.

The product is so innovative that organizations may find it hard to get it to the top of their BI priorities, but informal discussions with IT departments have convinced me that it meets a real need for both users and administrators. By using people’s everyday activities to continually improve the system, I believe that
it will improve BI deployments while lowering IT and administration overhead. In particular, any organization that has a BI competency center today should take a long, hard look at Antivia’s solution.

So far, this posting reads like an infomercial, so some caveats: Antivia is a young company, I haven’t yet used the solution myself or talked to customers, and I can’t speak to the robustness of the system and technology used.

But I’m convinced that the type of functionality that Antivia provides is an essential part of effective BI deployments in the future, and I wish the team the best of luck. 

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