Hyperion plans analysis repository in rebound bid

Executives at data analysis software vendor Hyperion Solutions, which is trying to rebound from losses in two of the past three quarters, this week began detailing plans to roll out new repository technology that would let users access and analyse disparate data from a variety of systems.

At Hyperion's annual user conference here, the company said it's looking to offer a central point for end users to get at information produced by corporate general ledger, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management applications. Business managers and other workers could then use Hyperion's Essbase online analytical processing (OLAP) software to run complex queries on the data.

The new technology, referred to by Hyperion as a "business intelligence repository," is scheduled to be released later this year as an add-on module that will work hand-in-hand with Essbase. John Kopcke, Hyperion's chief technology officer, said the repository will translate data coming in from different systems and make sure the information is synchronized and kept up-to-date.

Hyperion currently doesn't provide an automated way to tie numerous data sources together and set up business rules for how the information can be used, Kopcke said. To help support the repository, he added, Hyperion also plans to add new tools to Essbase to provide failover and load balancing capabilities for heavy workloads.

The repository plans come at an important time for Hyperion, which competes with software heavyweights such as Microsoft and Oracle. The company this week reported a US$1.3 million net loss for its fiscal third quarter ended March 31, returning it to the red after a second-quarter profit. Total revenue increased 4 percent over last year's third quarter, amounting to $130.2 million, but new software sales dropped from the year-earlier level of $62.2 million to $55.1 million.

Jeff Rodek, Hyperion's chairman and CEO, said in a statement that company executives "are disappointed in our results for the quarter" and will now become more conservative in their business planning. Hyperion also is "actively assessing our business model, product mix, distribution strategies and productivity levels" in response to the results, he added.

Analysts last week said Hyperion needs to convince users that its software is evolving into a Web-based product line capable of handling more sophisticated data analysis applications. And at this week's conference, some attendees indicated that the repository plans outlined by the company sound intriguing.

That sort of technology could make it much easier for different departments at a company to share reports and data, said William Armstrong, a financial information analyst at Allmerica Financial Corp. in Worcester, Mass. Right now, he added, it can take weeks to redefine sets of information from different ERP systems because there's no common data translator.

Allmerica, an insurance and financial services firm, installed Essbase three years ago and uses the OLAP software to analyse data from its PeopleSoft finance applications and to support its budgeting and statutory compliance processes. Eventually, Armstrong said, Allmerica wants to make Essbase available via the Web to provide remote offices with access to the software.

For some users who are still in the early stages of their Essbase rollouts, though, the upcoming repository technology may not be an immediate priority. For example, Gary Golden, senior vice president and corporate controller at Blockbuster, said the video-rental chain already has a number of Essbase-related projects on the board.

The software was installed within the last 12 months and is now being used as part of Blockbuster's budgeting and planning operations, Golden said. Future plans call for expanding the use of Essbase to areas such as merchandise planning, he added, saying that the company hopes the software can help cut annual costs by $30 million in the next few years. "I don't think we've even touched [the full extent of its capabilities]," Golden said.

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