IBI: Building an information integration

Information Builders has rebranded as ibi and its CEO says the business is ready for the growth in automation.

"When you plan to automate parts of the business processes, having gaps in your data impedes your ability to automate," says Frank Vella, CEO of ibi, the new name for Information Builders. Vella explains that the new brand, and an increased focus on open data and information integration, for the 45-year-old data management technology vendor, reflects its expanding role in the enterprise. Automation, open data and integration are set to be key initiatives for CIOs, as optimising the use of data is seen as a way to increase efficiency and profitability. 

In the last week of June, Vella presented the first annual summit for Information Builders under its new guise, and the first time the event had to take place virtually, as the Coronavirus pandemic has put an end to physical technology events programmes, at least for the time being. 

As ever, these events, whether physical or virtual, are an opportunity for technology service providers to set out their stall and mission statement for the foreseeable future. Of greater importance than the new name was the commitment by ibi to its new Open Data platform, which brings together the full set of ibi tools into one web application. Organisations using the ibi Open Data platform will have the data access, discovery, management, preparation and analytics housed in one place. 

Alongside the new platform, ibi also announced Open Visualization, an integration tool that enables organisations to continue using the visualisation tools they have invested in, and more importantly front line staff like to use, but ensure that the data is connected up, and that the organisation can see the data sources that the various visualisation tools are using to create business reports. 

"In BI and analytics no one has one investment, you go into a financial services institution and they have 40 to 50 investments," CEO Vella says. "Not all of them will be in place forever, but they are all there because some business process is reliant on it." 

"Our Open Visualization allows you to use what you already have, while using ibi to connect to hundreds of other data sources", adds Keith Kohl, ibi SVP Product Management. Vella says health and financial services are the two sectors he sees the most demand for open data services coming from, as there is an imperative to get new products to market more rapidly.

"Saying I have APIs that connect to the data means nothing. Everybody has that," Vella says, adding that organisations are struggling to connect the data that can come together to improve the outcome for the customer. Focusing on open data is likely to increase the integration role of ibi, something the CEO says the business has "always been known for". Vella says he wants to help organisations use the tools they have already invested in, and make sure these are connected to the data engines of the business. "Asking people to move off a visualisation investment to get a better reporting engine is futile.

"A year ago we had a hypothesis that a business user doesn't get what they need from IT fast enough, so they build or buy data that is already residing in the organisation, but they needed to do that to respond to a business need," he says of why integration of data sources and tools is going to become vital to organisations looking to automate. With the economic downturn the world is undergoing, businesses will be looking to extract more value from their data assets, and at a reduced cost. 

"COVID-19 just made automation a boardroom imperative," wrote Forrester Analyst Leslie Joseph. "Automation has been a major force reshaping work since long before the pandemic. Now, it's taking on a new urgency, not just in the context of cost, but also as a tool for risk mitigation and business resiliency." Joseph's analysis advocates Vella's belief, but a number of discussions amongst the CIO community indicate that automation will increase in importance in the post-Covid economy, but just as with the adoption of cloud computing, automation is not a simple lift and shift, the data has to be analysed and prepared if the automation is work, and achieve savings for the business. 

According to Vella, organisations are realising much of their data is difficult to access, and for many businesses there is a trust problem with the data because they cannot be sure that the data is complete, up to date, or from a silo.

As well as integrating data, ibi has launched 25 educational courses as it looks to increase the level of knowledge amongst customers and end users. The free courses were announced alongside a commitment to a new managed service offering, in partnership with AWS and Microsoft Azure. This will provide customers with a multi-tenant cloud offering that includes onboarding of the data. Asked if ibi would add Google to its list of managed service partners, Vella said they would work with Google, but the ibi customer base doesn't consider Google a serious enterprise contender. 

"Companies want to know that their data is their data, and no one wants to buy back their own data, and they fear that with Google, we do all see that same concern towards AWS," he says. 


Rebranding & reconnecting

"A rebrand is something that you put a lot of thought into, and with respect to the past of the business," Vella says. Alongside the new name, a forum has been launched, called Myibi, to give ibi and its customers the same community benefits as software-as-a-service pioneers Salesforce and Workday have benefited from. The customer community platform will enable ibi users to share best practice advice on data challenges. "We did extremely well with our existing customer base and it had a great sense of community," Vella says of an earlier forum that was essentially physical. Myibi will allow prospects to join the community. 

Vella took the helm in January 2019 and sees the vendor partnerships - a new one was announced with ASG Technologies; the Myibi community, new brand name and focus on open data integration as the culmination of his first year in the role. "You could see the greatness in the architecture and the founders always innovated," he says of what attracted him to the organisation. He has spent his time building up the sales and marketing team, as well as the product offering. Despite the pandemic, Vella believes Europe will be a key growth market for ibi: "We were spread thin, but now we are doubling down on France, Germany, Spain and the UK."