Information Builders is a maverick. An obsessive focus on making its software fit customer requirements has allowed it to ride multiple technology waves – minicomputer 4GLs, relational databases, client/server, and, most recently, web-centric business intelligence. It has
steadfastly refused to abandon its private status, shunning the lure of Wall Street. It is still run by the trio of managers who founded the company in 1975, including uncompromising software guru and CEO Gerry Cohen. And it has never been drawn towards the obvious technology business centres, preferring to keep its headquarters in New York, off Broadway – the unglamorous end.
That character has enabled it not simply to survive over 27 years, but to grow into a business with over $300 million in annual revenues. But perhaps the company's greatest achievement has been its metamorphosis over the past five years from a middleware and 4GL software vendor into a major force in business intelligence (BI).
In 1997, the company bet heavily on WebFocus, a server-based data query, analysis and reporting toolset, engineered for web BI. Progressively WebFocus has become the company's flagship product, with sales to customers such as the Royal Bank, Tyco Healthcare, and Thomson Holidays producing a doubling of BI revenue each year – though most deals have been customers already using other Information Builders products.
Aside from broad data access and integration capabilities, WebFocus is highly scalable, leveraging a server-centric design to deliver interactive analysis to thousands of users. Royal Bank, for example, licences WebFocus for 54,000 users, generating 900,000 reports a month.
The transition has been supported by two other sources: EDA, the company's data integration line, and the company's original application development language, Focus, which provides a substantial flow of maintenance revenue.
That profile has prompted analysts at Gartner to elevate Information Builders' into the top three of front-end analytics software, acknowledging a character that is as idiosyncratic as it is robust.