Author's note: Due to conflicting information that has recently come to light, I ask you to treat the following as speculation as to what might occur with the Excel Client and Omniture Report Builder products.
On October 26, 2007 I wrote an open letter to Omniture requesting that Excel Client would be ditched and ReportBuilder retained. On February 1, 2010 I learned that I would soon have my wish.
First the facts in the form of a rough time-line of how we arrived at this point in time:
- October 25, 2007 - Omniture announces the acquisition Visual Sciences and with it the Report Builder technology
- October 26, 2007 - I write a polite, sarcasm free, letter requesting Omniture drops Excel Client like a bad habit
- October 26, 2007 - Josh James, a devout follower of my blog, reads "An Open Letter to Omniture" and immediately adjusts the development paths of Excel Client and ReportBuilder accordingly
- Q3 2008 - Omniture announces ReportBuilder features will be integrated in Excel Client
- Q1/Q2 2009 - Omniture releases Omniture ReportBuilder, an apparent divergence from the Q3 2008 plan of integrating ReportBuilder features into Excel Client, it is only available to HBX clients migrating to SiteCatalyst
- August 6, 2009 - Omniture ReportBulder becomes available (for purchase) by all Omniture clients
- February 1, 2010 - Omniture Client Care suggests Excel Client will not receive any further enhancements. Currently some clients can exchanged Excel Client licenses can be exchanged for ReportBuilder licenses on a 1:1 basis
- Although phase out of Excel Client is possible there is no planned point in time where Omniture ReportBuilder will replace Excel Client
Second the analysis, opinion, reaction and speculation:Just like the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Cubs, Omniture is due. In October 2007 they acquired the ReportBuilder technology and a year later Excel Client functionality had not changed. In August 2008 a VP of Customer Support promised ReportBuilder features would be integrated into Excel Client “sooner than you think” and year and a half later still no evolution of the Excel Client product.
At present day, the condition of the Excel Client (EC) tool is unacceptable. It occasionally goes down and becomes unusable for days on end. Bugs are too numerous to list. The tool technically has an automatic refresh and delivery feature, but even Omniture admits that the functionality cannot be trusted (in my experience it works about 50% of the time).
So far the development path of ORB has been a series of soft releases. When it first came out it was only for clients migrating from HBX (a relatively small percent of Omniture clients), who were aware of the ORB tool (a small percent of the small percent) and specifically asked for it within their contract (a small percent of a small percent of a small percent). The reaction of a fellow analyst, who described the tool as "having the features of ReportBuilder, but the bugs of Excel Client" might explain why the tool launch was kept baby bottom soft. Within those first few months after launch Omniture had an ideal setup with a tool that could be used as a carrot to lure lingering HBX clients to SiteCatalyst and a built in limited population to beta test on.
The move on August 6th, 2009 to allow any Omniture client to purchase ORB licenses was clearly a vote of confidence in the tool by Omniture. Given that it is unlikely that Omniture will maintain two Excel integration tools in the future, this move is heavily suggestive that ORB will be Omniture's excel integration tool of the future.
As of today there is no capability to refresh EC data blocks with ORB, so if you take Omniture up on their 1:1 license swap offer, you'd have to rebuild all existing EC based reporting with ORB or run multiple versions of report building tools on a regular basis. Omniture did promise, however, that if a migration were to occur that ORB would have the EC data block refreshing technology in place.
At this point in time, I can't advocate for anyone to go swap all their EC licenses for ORB ones, but if you do have one license to spare it wouldn't be a bad idea to swap. If nothing else, the having ORB in house would be good for training purpose. Although the EC and ORB are similar, learning ORB will take time. Even those familiar with HBX's RB will need to do some relearning and make adjustment to the Omniture changes.
So will I get my wish? Maybe, but only time will tell. When I first talked to Omniture about their plans to integrate RB features into EC, they explained that the tools were (understandably) built in silos. This means that the ORB tool we see today isn't HBX's RB, just a simulation of its look, feel and (some of its) features. I did prefer the look and feel of HBX RB, but that's not what truly differentiated it from EC. The HBX RB had incredibly powerful features in its lookup/matching capabilities, copy and pasting of data requests and mass editing of data requests. Even more importantly, HBX RB could reliably update and distribute reporting. And the final kicker, HBX RB did it all (nearly) bug free.
At this point, I haven't spent enough time in ORB to give you a true assessment of the tool. Others who I know and trust have mentioned bugs, limited availability of SiteCatalyst reports and the lack of some features that were previously available in HBX RB, but I'll wait until I personally have spent 100 hours plus hours in the tool (which should be all too soon) to pass judgment.
The Saints, Cubs and Omnitures are all due, but who is going to deliver this 2010? The over/under from the Vegas bookies stands at 1.5. I'm taking the under. Mr. Brees, Mr. James -- make me eat my words.