The Windward Embedded Solution and Actuate BIRT (Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools) are two
popular software tools used globally for template creation and document generation. Both tools were launched
in the early 2000’s, and while Windward has remained focused on the intricacies of template design, Actuate
BIRT has expanded into a focused Business Intelligence and Analytics ecosystem. This abundant, overlapping,
and often confusing portfolio of tools covers the entirety of the document lifecycle, including template design.
When you begin to use the BIRT Designer or Studio, you can tell by the lack of polished interface,
documentation, architecture and marketing materials that it originated as open source software. It was created
by developers for developers focused on progressive design, and that emphasis has not changed. If you’ve
worked with the Eclipse IDE, you’ll feel at home: the BIRT Designer is simply Eclipse in Actuate “clothes,” with a
few extra features. Sadly, BIRT also shares the same drawback as Eclipse, which is a lack of an intuitive interface.
With each BIRT design operation, users encounter a steep learning curve due to numerous menus and outdated
interfaces. Even the smallest formatting task can be cumbersome and time consuming. Publishing templates is
much easier, as BIRTs iHub is a modern web 2.0 application that is easy and intuitive for end users. End users
can reuse and share BIRT’s template report library components through iHub to create ad-hoc reports and
dashboards directly in a web browser with BIRT Studio.
The Windward Solution template designer (AutoTag) sits squarely in Microsoft Office (Word, PowerPoint or
Excel) and delivers a comparatively easy design experience. All options, such as charts, images, styles, and
tables, are available at the click of a button. Connection wizards, reusable library components (PODs) and drag
and drop functionality simplify the template design process. Unlike BIRT, Windward uses non-proprietary file
formats and easily works with Java and .NET platforms. Documents are published through the Windward Engine,
a component that can be embedded into any web, mobile, or desktop application in as few as 14 lines of code.
A financial institution needs to generate wealth management portfolios for its entire
client base. Each portfolio consists of multiple documents, some of which are
conditionally added and all of which must include client-specific data.
, developers collect the report requirements from their portfolio managers
and translate those into a template they build inside of BIRT and the Eclipse IDE. They
save portions of the template and the template itself to be uploaded and stored in the
secure BIRT iHub. The portfolio managers can then use the iHub server to run reports
and use the saved portions to make limited changes to the templates. In the end, developers are responsible for
most of the report design, and the portfolio managers must request and wait on non-trivial report updates.
the process is far more automated. The portfolio managers design the templates in Word,
using Windward to manually drag and drop fields or PODs to embed predefined report segments. They can
create variable filters and SQL queries (without knowing SQL) to display the current client data. The developers
build the Windward Engine into a custom stand-alone or web-based in-house application that uses the data
sources and templates to generate custom reports. Whenever needed, the portfolio managers use the
application to generate large batches of accurate client documents in a fraction of the time.