Cognos Brings BI to Excel
Cognos is angling its Cognos 8 BI software at financial spreadsheet users with new software that integrates tightly with Microsoft Excel. BI Analysis for Microsoft Excel targets financial analysts and line of business users who primarily live and work in Excel and require a flexible and consistent way of hooking up their spreadsheets to BI data. "The targeted user isn't the BI professional, it's the business professional," says Delbert Krause, director of performance management product marketing. "We want them to be able to focus on applying their business skills, not learning new software functionality."
Users of BI Analysis for Excel can select data sources and build analysis by dragging and dropping cross-tabular reports into the Excel desktop interface, allowing users to query, edit dimensions, and drill down, yet the data is continually refreshed without the user having to query and export new data sets. Because Analysis for Excel is built on a .NET add-in for Excel, users can employ these querying capabilities "all within one environment," Krause said. "Many vendors separate the query from the interaction in Excel, so you have to continually move back and forth between the two environments." While Microsoft offers a similar connection between Office 2007 and Microsoft SQL Server, Krause stresses that the Cognos offering will work with any version of Excel going back to Office 2003.
The solution extends the Excel integration capabilities already included in Cognos' Go! line of products which it released a year ago to allow users to access Cognos BI information from familiar search bar, Microsoft Office, and mobile device interfaces. Data from its financial consolidation and planning applications, such as Cognos Analysis and Reporting, can also be pulled into Excel and manipulated in a similar manner using the new Connector software.
BI Analysis for Excel provides a more "self-serve" and "free-form" way of analyzing and reporting on BI data in Excel, says Paul Hulford, senior director of product marketing. "We're building on our existing BI consumption capabilities to allow users to interact with BI data in an ad-hoc way to explore, model, and analyze data more freely. In finance you want to create different ratios and scenarios that don't exist in traditional financial reports," Hulford says.
"Organizations want to embrace Office/Excel as a BI client because they've realized they can't run away from spreadsheets," says Kurt Schlegel, a Gartner analyst. "Providing authoring as well as consumption is the next step in the evolution of making Excel a BI client." Given the timing of the announcement--well ahead of its introduction, promised "in the second half of this year"--Cognos' new feature may be matched by other vendors. Indeed, Schlegel says, "Other BI vendors including Actuate and MicroStrategy offer similar functionality."
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