New IBM Cognos products targeted at business leaders

IBM’s integration of Canadian business intelligence vendor Cognos’ product line is expected to bring Big Blue closer to executives outside of its traditional base within IT departments.

At a media briefing this week IBM, which acquired Ottawa-based Cognos late last year for approximately US$5 billion, launched the first integrated products, focusing on software to assist with legal compliance and retail issues.

These include a “starter pack” to link Cognos 8 business intelligence (BI) with InfoSphere Warehouse, a data warehousing product IBM released last week.

The company will also be offering pre-integration of Cognos 8 with IBM’s Information Management Server and pre-configured templates for integrating Cognos 8 BI with FileNet business process management software.

IBM highlighted a Compliance Warehouse for Legal Control as an example of something that uses a combination of Big Blue content management and storage
hardware alongside Cognos BI software to monitor and analyze information to deal with e-discovery issues.

IBM’s retail division, meanwhile, has added “blueprints” from Cognos on how to improve store operations and planning.

Steve Mills, president of IBM’s software group, said the Big Blue has not traditionally been seen as a BI firm, it has made substantial investments in data warehousing and database products that provide a platform for building sophisticated analytics.

Cognos became more and more attractive, he said, because technology strategy is being driven by the quality of information it can provide to business leaders.

“What Cognos does is it helps position us to have the underlying technology, not just for the IT professional but to the business person who is more concerned about business outcomes than the infrastructure,” he said.

Rob Ashe, former Cognos president and now vice-president of IBM’s business intelligence and performance management unit, said analytics software should answer three questions: What’s going on in the business, why is it happening and what should be done.
“The business executive is spending more time with ‘forward information,’ rather than historical data of what’s happened,” said Ashe, adding good BI
helps consolidate decision making to the more appropriate parties in an organization. “We’ve seen growth in departmental activity, but now there’s
more of an enterprise approach.”

Ashe cite finance, budgeting and financial controls executives as the kind of decision-makers that IBM may find itself approaching following the acquisition. Internally, Big Blue uses Cognos for workforce optimization, among other areas.

Carl Try, manager of e-commerce and advanced technologies at Fiskars Brands Inc. in Madison, Wisc., uses both Cognos BI software as well as IBM Websphere portal for its online operations.

He said the garden tool maker’s next project will be bringing in point of sale data so it can get a better sense of what’s sitting on retail partners’ shelves, and when it should be ramping up production.

“Right now, for example, we’re seeing a lot of snow shovels selling,” he said. “When the sales forecasts can come in tandem with the weather information, that’s really powerful. It also helps us identify trends of (retailers) buying products when they shouldn’t have.”

Other joint products in the IBM-Cognos lineup include a starter kit designed to speed up the time it takes Cognos BI customers to create dashboards that show important business information.

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