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An Interview with Kirk Cunningham

In this interview, Kirk discusses Business Objects, Crystal Xcelsius, and its charting abilities in comparison to Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint.


Kirk Cunningham Kirk Cunningham is Executive Director, Marketing at Business Objects, creators of Crystal Xcelsius software. Prior to Business Objects, Kirk was VP Marketing and Planning at Estee Lauder, responsible for launching and growing their successful ecommerce subsidiary. Before Lauder, Kirk served as VP Marketing at InterPacket Networks and VP Marketing at Elemental Software. In 1986, Kirk founded Crossfield Marketing, a Silicon Valley consulting firm with clients including Apple, HP, Xilinx, Raychem and Tandem Computers. He has BS Engineering and an MBA, both from Stanford University.

Geetesh: Tell us more about Business Objects and Crystal Xcelsius.

Kirk: Business Objects is the world’s leading business intelligence(BI) software company. We are a billion-dollar organization with more than 37,000 customers -- including over 80 percent of the Fortune 500 -- and a network of more than 3,000 partners and resellers. Crystal Xcelsius is PC software that transforms ordinary spreadsheets into interactive charts, graphs, data presentations, Excel dashboards, visual models and more. With a simple point-and-click interface you can import your Excel spreadsheet and create stunning data presentations that will steal the show at your next meeting. Crystal Xcelsius is tightly integrated with Microsoft Office, so with one click you can exports your dashboards and presentations to PowerPoint, Word, PDF documents and the Web. It’s available in three versions:

  • Crystal Xcelsius Standard - Crystal Xcelsius Standard is the perfect way to get started in the exciting area of interactive data visualization. You get point-and-click ease, and all the functionality you need for innovative data presentations including maps, animated charts, tools and extensive custom design capabilities.
  • Crystal Xcelsius Professional- Crystal Xcelsius Professional is for those who want to take their data presentations and Excel dashboards to the next level. You receive all the features of Crystal Xcelsius Standard, plus advanced components and key features like drilldown animated charts, one-click export to Adobe PDF, broad Excel function support and more. AND, you get the capability to add-on future components, maps, skins and new functionality.
  • Crystal Xcelsius Workgroup - Crystal Xcelsius Workgroup provides everything you need to create powerful business dashboards and visual models for your workgroup that connect live to your BI system or company database via XML, SOAP Web Services or other connectors. Your team can easily share these business dashboards within PowerPoint, Word, PDF, SharePoint, and the Web.

Geetesh: How did Crystal Xcelsius evolve and what directions are you looking at for the product in the future?

Kirk: Xcelsius was the brain child of Santiago and Santi Becerra, a father and son team and co-founders of privately held Infommersion, Inc. It provided business users a method of interacting with their data that was previously unachievable -- via interactive dashboards and business models that contained the stunning graphics and interactivity of Macromedia Flash. Following its acquisition by Business Objects in November 2005, Xcelsius became part of the Crystal product line, and today works in conjunction with the rest of the Business Objects product suite, including Crystal Reports, Live Office, and more.

Geetesh: What benefits does Crystal Xcelsius offer over built-in charting capabilities in Microsoft PowerPoint and Excel?

Kirk: Crystal Xcelsius provides the business user with the ability to display data via breathtaking Flash graphs, charts, and gauges. The visual quality of these data models far surpasses anything currently available within Microsoft PowerPoint or Excel. More importantly, Crystal Xcelsius allows the presenter to modify their underlying data assumptions on the fly, simply by moving sliders or dials on their screen. The result: the presenter can display the results of an unlimited number of scenarios in real time, all within a single PowerPoint slide. Presenting the same analysis via Excel would require hours of work and dozens of slides.

Geetesh: Can you share some trivia with Indezine readers -- some tips, something funny, or just an unconventional usage of Xcelsius?

Kirk: Did you know Crystal Xcelsius can be used for more than just business dashboards and data presentations?

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