Upcoming open-source analytics offering on display in NYC

The founders and co-lead of Business Intelligence Reporting Tools (BIRT) are looking ahead when it comes to the next generation of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), open-source BI software. In an event held Tuesday in New York City, San Mateo-based Actuate offered partners and analysts a peak at the company’s next release, Actuate 11.

“This product is very much on the shop floor,” Utpal Bhatt, Senior Director of Product Management at Actuate, said during a demonstration at the NYC Actuate & BIRT Customer Days conference. Actuate 11 is slated for release in June of 2010, but customers and BIRT developers were eager to take advantage of some of the upcoming software enhancements.

The company’s vice president of product development, Paul Clenahan, said there was a “perfect storm driving BI.” Enhanced Web 2.0-based user interfaces, increased user sophistication and lower costs are opening the field of BI vendors because the incumbents are unable to keep up with customer demands or industry best practices, he said. Actuate 11 will be “a broader enhancement of capabilities across the board,” Mr. Clenahan said.

Some key enhancements discussed at Customer Days included end-user configurable dashboards, integrated in-memory analytics, Google gadgets standards and the ability to use a standard off-the-shelf external database, like Oracle or IBM’s DB2. It will also run on a 64-bit architecture.

“The analytics [in Actuate 11] enables those who are less skilled, it scales to accommodate a large number of users and it’s easy to integrate,” Mr. Bhatt said.

Among Actuate’s list of users, companies in telecommunications, utilities, healthcare and financial services depend on their open-source BI and performance management solutions. Europe’s Orange and Telco telecommunications, financial services providers like Smith Barney and MetLife, healthcare providers like HealthNow and Humana, and many others, use Actuate BIRT software on a daily basis. But it’s not just customers in the private sector who use Actuate’s solutions.

The City of Dallas, City of Chicago, King County, San Diego County, Westchester County and the Florida Department of Transportation are a small sample of Actuate’s public sector client roster – where there is a growing need to help project managers show increased accountability, at costs that won’t break the budget.

Dallas, Texas is one of Actuate’s lead evangelists, and in less than six months, the city was monitoring over 3,000 measures in over 30 departments, using the Actuate BIRT score card system. The software system tracked day-to-day and long-term goals to gain a complete view of the city agency’s performance. “With the implementation of the BIRT Scorecard, performance data has become a more integral part of management. The culture of the organization is changing from reporting data for compliance to using data for management,” Dallas city officials said.

Even before the Recovery Act, agencies like Florida’s DOT used Actuate to track departmental expenses and report financial transactions against key performance objectives. “From raw data for each input item, to trend charts and graphs showing actual versus target measure or year-to-year comparisons, the system can show the ‘big picture’ of the smallest detail of any selected measure,” Larry Ferguson, Manager of the Performance Management Office at the Florida Department of Transportation, said.

But since the passage of the Recovery Act and the level of transparency and accountability increased, more state and local clients are looking for ways to meet the Recovery Act’s mandates. In response, Actuate launched their Stimulus Management Solutions offerings in mid-May, integrating their Performancesoft and e.spreadsheets with other BIRT applications to help customers measure strategic objects in the context of ARRA.

“We’re seeing a growing interest at open-source and SaaS,” John Katsoulis, senior manager in product marketing, told CivSource in an interview last July. “A shift is happening [in the public sector].”

Although Actuate 11 is not due for another seven or eight months, the company is working to make sure their open-source, SaaS reporting application continues to evolve over time and stay one-step ahead of the competition.

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