Cognos beefs up dashboard expertise with Celequest deal

Canadian business intelligence software giant Cognos announced Wednesday its acquisition of American operational dashboard company Celequest.

The company already has, according to Cognos vice-president of product marketing Leah MacMillan, a variety of dashboards. “They provide an aggregate strategic view for executives and business analysts who don’t need up-to-the-minute information to manage their business — these new dashboards will have real-time data” she said. “This is for the operational manager, such as a trader in the financial industry, or a supply chain manager in manufacturing, or for inventory in retail,”

Cognos’ acquisition of Celequest is, in part, a bid for mid-market customers, and departmental workers who don’t want to have to roll out a program company-wide, said MacMillan. One of the main reasons it chose to team up with Celequest was to attract companies with limited resources or smaller IT teams, said MacMillan.

Former Celequest CEO Diaz Nesamoney (who will become a vice-president within Cognos, and general manager of the Celequest team) attributed the ease-of-use of its dashboards to the install-and-go aspect of the product. “It can come through a network appliance, which is a hardware server with all the software preconfigured in it, or a software-as-a-service model, which is a managed service mode. This will allow us further into the mid-market who don’t have the resources to set up something broader.”

“It just snaps right into the IT infrastructure,” MacMillan added.

Nesamoney said the software-as-a-service (Saas) model is a good fit for many clients.

“We’re really seeing an expansion of applications further and further into organizations that don’t have enough of an IT budget. They need a model where the user can benefit without (too many) costs,” he said.

The application doesn’t require any labour-intensive coding or meshing with Cognos products, either. “One of the reasons why we chose Celequest is because they also work on open web-based standards, so there’s an out-of-the-box interoperability,” said MacMillan. (The dashboard could also, according to Nesamoney, access for the dashboard non-Cognos files, as long as they use Web-based standards.)

Adding to the user-friendliness is the ability to craft a dashboard that fits one’s individual needs. “There’s a beautiful front-end,” MacMillan said, “where users can go in and create their own dashboard with at-a-glance views of whatever they want.”

Users could track everything from inventory levels to customer requests as they “move around in real time,” according to MacMillan, who said that the interface is bright and colourful. Users can also create alerts, or indicators in certain colours (with red, for instance, to indicate something is wrong).

The fact that it operates through the Web offers easy access. Setting up the dashboard is a snap, Nesamoney said. “You provide, through a Web interface, where the information (you want to view in the dashboard) is coming from by pointing to the data source. (The program) then pulls that information from that location and pulls it into the application, and you create the dashboard.”

As for actually using it? “It’s a straightforward web browser,” said Nesamoney. “You just log in to the appliance.”

Cognos’ acquisition comes hot on the heels of another announcement this week from the business intelligence software community: Microsoft will be working with Teradata to streamline interoperability between Microsoft’s business intelligence solutions and the Teradata Enterprise Data Warehouse.

As such a pure-play business intelligence purveyor, Cognos could suffer in the wake of the versatility of companies like Oracle and their e-Business suite, or SAP, or at the whims of mid-market companies leery of investing in a pricey range of potentially unecessary solutions, but MacMillan is confident in Cognos’ variety of programs. She said its ability cover everything from planning and budgeting to reporting and analysis will keep it away from a buy-out by a company like IBM that could come courting with offers of diversification that could make Cognos more appealing to a wider range of businesses.

“One big advantage is that we remain independent, and we sit on a number of applications across platforms and across all different data sources,” she said. When asked whether  Cognos is planning a partnership with another company in a set-up similar to Team Microsoft/Teradata, MacMillan said she couldn’t comment on the issue.

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