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Reporting for non-geeks

Information Builders takes the wraps off of a new reporting tool designed for the casual user. Quick Query comes without a per-user fee.

Arguably the biggest trend in business intelligence these days is "tools for the masses," and Quick Query from Information Builders Inc. is the latest to hit the market.

The new tool from the New York-based company is an add-on to the WebFocus application, and it comes without a user-based fee.

Information Builders is selling Quick Query for a one-time cost of $25,000 per server. The company is also offering up the source code to make the tool completely customizable, said Michael Corcoran, Information Builders' chief communications officer.

Aimed squarely at novice users, Quick Query displays reports in HTML, Excel 2000 or PDF. The wizard-like interface walks the user through creating reports.

"The novice end user is telling us they need more," Corcoran said. "They need to point and click against the database and create their own reports. It's a simplified tool, built to look very comfortable to them."

For example, a low-level business user might need a report on the number of recent orders shipped delinquently. While such a report might not be available out of the box, it could be built simply with Quick Query, Corcoran said.

Quick Query is built on a thin-client architecture, enabling users to build and save reports via the Internet without deploying additional desktop software, plug-ins or Java, the company said. It also enables scheduled delivery to e-mail, printers and fax machines.

Air Canada in Montreal has been testing the tool in its invoice department, and the company gives the product positive reviews.

"It really is simple. It took me an hour to show [the department] how to use it, and I haven't heard from them since," said Elaine Burgess-taal, a financial analyst with the airline.

The invoice group has been using Quick Query to build reports on topics such as the number of invoices billed to a particular customer, and at what dollar value. With access to the company database, reports that would have taken weeks and required going through old invoices are now created in less than five minutes. The pricing model is attractive as well because some reports would have necessitated seeking external technology assistance, Burgess-taal said.

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