With a new acquisition and fresh features, Cognos aims to improve its performance management platform.
Posted Dec 18, 2007
Business intelligence and corporate performance management solutions provider Cognos last week announced several improvements to its performance management solution. New releases include further developments on Cognos's integration with memory-based business performance management software Applix's TM1 Solutions, an online innovation center, Performance Blueprints, and Cognos Performance Management book. All these developments are "part of our performance management commitment we have to our customers," says Doug Barton, vice president of marketing at Cognos Corporation.
After finalizing its $339 million acquisition of Applix in October 2007--and being acquired itself by IBM in November--Cognos will be complementing its current performance management solution, Cognos Planning, with the advanced analytics of Applix TM1, a 64-bit in-memory, multidimensional online analytical processing (OLAP) server. The larger addressable memory space is a "big deal" for in-memory analytics, explains Mychelle Mollot, vice president of strategic communications and marketing strategy at Cognos, as it allows for "continuous updates to metrics across multiple operational data sources as well as the ability to immediately alert key stakeholders when critical exceptions occur in order to take corrective action." Cognos has rebranded the solution as Cognos TM1 Server, Cognos TM1 Excel, Cognos TM1 Web, and Cognos TM1 Executive viewer.
According to Mollot, the technology will specifically help to address customers' challenges in financial performance management in the following ways:
"I think memory-based is the future," says David Kasabian, research director at AMR Research. With the ability to process high data volumes that require intensive calculations, "it will allow BI to be more pervasive throughout organizations, [and] will allow it to be distributed more widely with less overhead, which i think is important. For those reasons, I think memory based will become the standard over the next couple of years."
- extend planning capabilities for complex business modeling and analytics;
- deliver financial performance analysis and optimization against rapidly changing, complex and large data sets with real-time response; and
- add the ability to address new solution areas like profitability analysis, sales mix, and price or volume variance analysis.
Because the BI work is done so quickly in-memory, Cognos TM1 can be an ideal solution for small and medium-sized businesses as well, Barton says. "Smaller enterprises don't have the stack of technology that large companies have. They might have a small company ERP system and then they have spreadsheets," he says. "TM1 is a fantastic solution for taking data from that ERP solution without having to set up a relational database, a multi-dimensional database, a bunch of BI reports, and a separate planning system. It's a really effective, all-in-one solution for a small enterprise."
Through its acquisition of Applix, which has been gaining market presence in the past 18 to 24 months, Kasabian observes that Cognos will gain access to a lot of new deals that they may not have been able to win without Applix's analytics capability. "I think [the acquisition] does help augment [Cognos's] suite to be able to really meet all of the planning and financial analytics needs through one vendor instead of two vendors," he says.
The challenge Cognos faces now, similar to many of the companies who have been a part of this year's shopping spree of acquisitions, is achieving a smooth integration. Cognos will have to "rationalize the product lines and the technology that they have," as the acquisition has undoubtedly brought together different technologies and different applications on top of those, Kasabian says. "Now, it's time for the companies who have bought to take a look at what they have and decide exactly how the pieces will fit together."
This does, however, give players like SAS at a slight advantage, as it remains mostly a single technology platform. "They've done some acquisitions but none as significant as the ones we have now," Kasabian says, adding that SAS continues to be one of the leaders in the performance management area as well. But SAS, he says, is not as highly regarded in the market place as a traditional BI PM vendor. Still, Kasabian adds, "I don't think it has anything to do necessarily with their capabilities. I think it's just market perception."
Cognos also introduced an online innovation center, or, as Barton says, "a center of excellence," where customers convene to communicate and exchange advice online about how to improve their business performance. Barton describes it as having "many successful innovation round tables and events and bringing [them] online to have it be a more continuous and structured interaction." Performance Blueprints, Barton explains, are similar to templates. Blueprints are applicable horizontally, such as headcount and compensation, or vertically, such as sales quota allocation within the different therapies in life science companies.
Finally, with 30,000 copies in print, Cognos's Performance Management book that addresses the issues surrounding performance management, including lessons learned from the customer. "[This] book is not only useful to users of our software but to the market at large," Barton says. Moreover, access to these books are accessible to anyone who wants to "learn what the thoughtful application of technology can do," not just Cognos customers.
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