OutlookSoft's Everest 4.2 climbs beyond budgeting
Pure-Microsoft BPM play makes good use of budgeting rootsFollow @infoworld
Administratively, the Microsoft-centric approach also works well for Everest shops. For those that have already committed to a lot of Microsoft infrastructure, integration effort is minimal. Further, OutlookSoft has broken the mold of administration consoles. Rather than making the administrator deal with the classic Windows NT administrator-interface model (which is boring and minimally informative, potentially increasing operator error), Everest's admin functions are controlled from Excel. Because the admin interface is manipulated using Excel worksheets, data jockeys can take on some of the administration and app dev load and apply their better knowledge of Excel domains -- something they couldn't do in the NT admin model.
OutlookSoft breaks away from the BI pack with a query model that doesn't hinge on pivot tables. All the competitive products, to some degree, presume that users are comfortable with pivot tables. But pivot tables are hard to teach; and even though they are now an intrinsic feature of Excel, the pivot-table UI and model of interaction are incongruous with the rest of the product.
Instead of using pivot tables, Everest models primarily use hierarchical tree structures to choose dimensions and drill-down choices and classic Excel tools such as automatically applying color-coded backgrounds to highlight exceptions. The product also taps into Office concepts such as templates and template libraries, most notably for quickly creating new reports.
Summing It All Up
The interfaces to Everest's various parts are quite smooth. Administratively, it's a clear win. I found the end-user design visually consistent, and once I learned where to find the different pieces for building, distributing, consuming, and sharing reports, it was quick work to corral and personalize the data and analyses.
The collaborative features, I suspect, will undergo some evolution; all of the BPM vendors are feeling their way around this vital, but not yet mastered, model. Everest has a good chance of getting to a rational model first because it has already made those collaborative features look and feel like the rest of the product.
Everest 4.2's noteworthy shortcoming is its lack of printed documentation. Online help is thorough and well-rendered, but it should support, not replace, written documentation. Thankfully, the professional-quality online training is well-designed and well-executed. OutlookSoft promotes both live, interactive sessions and recorded sessions.
Organizations satisfied with their existing BPM infrastructure won't throw it away to jump on Everest's bandwagon. But shops that need help, especially in budgeting tasks, will find strong advantages in both the smooth interface and the simple administration the product delivers.
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