Pentaho courts business users with new interface

The UI of the company's flagship business intelligence software is geared toward users with nontechnical backgrounds

Adhering to the trend of simplifying business intelligence tools so they can be used by a wider audience, Pentaho has revamped the user interface of its Pentaho Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition, in order to make it easier for non-IT professionals to use.

"This release is essentially geared towards the business user with a nontechnical background," said Pentaho founder and CEO Richard Daley.

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The newly released version 4.0 of the open-source software features a new interactive, Web-based designer, which allows business users to build out their own reports.

With the designer, the user can sort, filter, group, and summarize data found in existing reports, placing the results either on a dashboard or using them as the basis to create a new report. Users can also upload their own data from a spreadsheet or some other source, such as organizational data from Salesforce.com. The visual interface can be easily customized to blend in with an organization's existing applications.

Most early users of Pentaho have been either IT administrators who built reports on behalf of their superiors or analysts who dedicated a considerable portion of their jobs to interacting with BI software, Daley said. Over the past 12 months, however, more than half the visitors of the Pentaho site have been individuals with line-of-business or managerial backgrounds, so the company focused its efforts on tweaking its software for this new user group.

The revision was aimed at cutting out many of the steps required to build reports, thus making the software more intuitive to non-specialists. The ability to easily discover new sets of data, for instance, has been made more intuitive.

"The biggest road block that business users had is getting to the data, and getting that data into a form that they can analyze," Daley said. The new version has a number of software wizards that can walk through the process of finding or uploading data.

The software also includes new visualization capabilities, such as the ability to do multidimensional charts.

"Say you want to analyze [sales in] six different regions, and for each region you want to see a bar chart for sales over time. Now we can put all those charts on the screen at the same time so you can see patterns and trends," Daley said. "Instead of drilling in and out of single charts on the screen, this is a much more digestible format. It makes it much easier to spot trends and patterns."

The software has been expanded on an administrative level as well. It has been integrated with EMC Greenplum and Ingres Vectorwise data warehouse software, so it can encompass all the brand-specific dialects of each product. It also has been tailored to work with MongoDB databases.

The basic Pentaho software package is available as a free download, though some features -- such as the interactive reporting modules and some data discovery capabilities -- are only available on the commercial edition.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's email address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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