Drill, slice and dice. Sounds like some sort of medical and culinary combination. In reality, these terms refer to Decision Support Systems (DSS), designed to operate data-warehousing solutions for companies. New on the front-end of this complex information management is BusinessObjects 4.0, which was introduced in Hong Kong last week. Developed by Business Objects, a provider of enterprise decision support tools, the software fills what the company's business development manager in the Asia-Pacific Michael Belakhov calls the 'DSS fracture'. The DSS fracture occurs between the query capabilities and analysis. In most DSS software, end-users can run query and reporting programs, but need to refer to their information technology (IT) department to run the analysis. That analysis, according to Mr Belakhov, can take days or weeks. 'This makes the workload very difficult,' he said. 'And what happens when people don't have the right information, they guess. That can be very dangerous for a company.' Dangerous enough for companies like Business Objects to project enormous growth. Mr Belakhov cited statistics from 1993 with the DSS market at US$90 million - by next year, he expects that to grow to $800 million. Since its inception in 1990, Business Objects has grown by 237 per cent, and now has revenue of more than $60m a year. The buzzwords in the business are end-users and security. A new feature in BusinessObjects 4.0, Explorer, addresses ease-of-use issues for the non-techie. Explorer gives online analytical processing (Olap) capabilities to the end-user, enabling complex analysis throughout the database. Users can perform on-report analysis and 'drill' into other information 'cubes'. This gives the end-user a 'living document', which can be delivered from other end-users and then manipulated or put through further analysis. This multi-dimensional performance is what IT once had to perform, but is now as easily accessible as software programs such as Microsoft Office, whose graphical user interface (GUI) BusinessObjects mimics. 'Before the user could ask what, but had to go to IT for the why,' Mr Belakhov said. 'Now we have integrated those functions.' The grab-and-pull between IT and end-users has also been eliminated, he said. Often IT is reluctant to allow end-users on to a system without proper security and precautions. The question of who is allowed where in the system is answered by the Supervisor function. Supervisor gives new security control ability. IT can use a simple GUI to administer and manage sensitive file information. The regular use of passwords defines a user's access capability. 'According to a study by the Gartner Group, there is a 'fact gap',' Mr Belakhov said. 'We believe DSS is for the masses because we don't believe that the idea of power support people [employees with multiple degrees in computer science] is possible or correct.' The fact gap is the significant difference between the number of people needing information for decision-making and the overwhelming volume of information available. 'There is a chart which shows that the number of decision an individual makes per day is rising,' Mr Belakhov said. 'The number of people making these decisions has grown as well. But the number of IT people per 1,000 employees is decreasing.' User deployment, the ability to allow these new decision makers access to information, is simplified with BusinessObjects because of its 32-bit architecture and security system. This allows IT to concentrate on infrastructure and data management rather than reports. The software is also compatible with PC and Macintosh software, working across platforms and databases. Mr Belakhov claimed that the company's software had no competitor in such a market, but SoftwareAG's Esperant is driving a close second. For this reason, Business Objects is looking to expand into data mining, which gives the capacity to look at information and find significant patterns on a global scale. No software company would be complete without Internet and intranet functions, which Business Objects hopes to release soon. 'Last year we added 60,000 users,' Mr Belakhov said. 'The market is expanding rapidly and decision support is either the fastest or one of the fastest areas in the client/server industry.'