Business intelligence reporting specialist Actuate has released the first server-based, Excel-compatible spreadsheet reporting product, filling a need among millions of enterprise Excel users worldwide.
Data moving between Actuate's e.Spreadsheet Server and Microsoft's Excel spreadsheet will need no reformatting, while the software allows Excel spreadsheets to be viewed through a browser on, for instance, a Unix system.
"This is a killer application," said Alan Hamilton, UK managing director for Actuate. "Transferring data in and out of Excel usually involves generating comma separated files and all the formatting and formulas are lost in the process. Now this can be automated."
Judy Jerome, information analyst at Bloor research, said: "It's so obvious and so absolutely necessary. That's what makes it so compelling. There is nothing else out there and I see nothing on the horizon."
Hamilton explained that reports could be tailored to each user with standard calculations included and reports scheduled to execute at set times if required.
e.Spreadsheet Server covers all but two formats initially, which Hamilton said represented about 90 per cent of requirements. 3D graphics and pivot tables are to be added by the middle of next year.
The Actuate software can receive information from a wide variety of structured data sources including databases, flat files and legacy systems output.
Its market has traditionally been financial institutions, large telcos and government but the company has concentrated on ad hoc reporting, leaving high-end business intelligence to companies such as Cognos and Business Objects.
The new software creates the ability to populate an Excel spreadsheet automatically from extracted structured data. So a major benefit is removing the need for the time consuming manual refreshing and reformatting of data and the distribution of reports.
Excel users can also make changes to spreadsheets which are then made automatically available at the server. Being server-based, a spreadsheet can be worked on by multiple users while a large number of spreadsheets can be inter-linked.
"This means IT managers are put back in control of the system which also offers an On-line Analytical Processing-type capability," Hamilton said.
While e.Spreadsheet Server is designed for larger enterprises, the product is priced per processor regardless of the number of end users. Hamilton said that it would be price competitive simply on Excel licence costs at about 50 users.
Other features include reporting to, for instance, thousands of users with tailored output. Hamilton gave the example of a 10,000 page report with each user receiving a summary and a single page related to him/herself.
Being server-based it can also be queried via a secure browser across the web if required.
Actuate estimates that there are 120 million Excel users worldwide with nearly 60 per cent of top executives now preferring reports to be in Excel format. The product is available immediately.
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