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Sun 20 Nov 2005 04:00 AM

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Cognos means business

Software firm Cognos has taken the initiative in the burgeoning business intelligence (BI) market . And regional manager David Brierley believes the company has the know-how to bcome a leading player

|~|Brierly1body.jpg|~|Cognos will be taking an aggressive in the CPM space with the pursuit of OEM agreements, such as the recent deal with Symantec.|~|There will always be those who think business intelligence (BI) is the software equivalent of an oxymoron: how can a software package give a business a single, accurate picture of what a load of other software packages are delivering for it?

Cognos of course, has made its own business out of promising to do just that, and the firm now claims it is delivering with the launch of its Cognos 8BI product in September this year.

The firm claims it is the first package on the market that delivers a “complete” BI solution, with the suite including web-based querying, reporting, analysis and dashboarding functionality.

Dashboarding, like scorecarding, provides administrators with a visual display, which allows them to rack key performance indicators through the system.

That way, the performance of the different divisions within an organisation can be tracked.

This concept of corporate per-formance management (CPM) is key to Cognos’ approach to BI: while BI provides a ret- rospective look at the organisation’s performance, CPM provides a much more current view of how the business is doing.

IT Weekly discusses the issues around BI and CPM with David Brierley, regional manager Cognos Middle East.

Business intelligence seems to have been hyped as the next big thing for just about forever, certainly it has been pushed for the past decade, what is different now?

The difference now is that in the past, BI has been detached from the real live information.

Over the past few years, the business executives have said what is the point of spending millions on these executive ma- nagement systems or decision support systems, they don’t provide any real benefit to us.

Now the architecture has changed, technology now has caught up with what the businesses actually want.

For the first time they can actually have their executive management systems or decision support systems tied into their living organisation.

So the information they’re getting in front of them is factual information based on their live systems, which they couldn’t get beforehand.

That’s the reason BI is so successful now, technology has caught up with what the business wants.

What’s driving the current interest in BI?I would say the main business drivers are increasing competition, the need to react faster, these are all causing businesses to rethink what they are doing, it is very important to have that business information.

When Cognos talks about BI, it focuses heavily on corporate performance management (CPM). Would you say the terms are inter-changeable or how would you say that CPM relates to BI?

We would say that BI is the foundation for CPM.

You have your financial information, you have the dashboard and you have BI, these are the three pillars for CPM.

The financial side is very much looking at the future, the dashboard is looking at today, BI is looking at the historical standpoint.

And how does Cognos stand out from its competitors in the CPM space?

I think the major push for Cognos is being overt, more aggressive, pushing in the market, and also spreading the Cognos footprint through OEM (original equipment manufacturer) deals.

We’re getting very aggressive in OEMs, we’ve landed a number of deals in recent times, for instance Symantec was a big win for us. Symantec wanted to choose a BI vendor that they could standardise on.

Its quite interesting that Symantec made a major strategic decision to go with Cognos, three months later, their CEO left and went to work for Business Objects.

So we can say that the CEO of Business Objects validated Cognos as the number one in the market by choosing it as a solution.

We do believe that we are the leader in the CPM market space, there is more to CPM than just BI. A lot of firms are saying they do CPM but the reality is that a lot of them don’t. CPM is more than just a few reports and a dashboard.

You’re claiming that Cognos is the market leader, how are you defining that?

I think we can claim that based on what the analysts are saying. Fundamentally, the reason we like looking at the analysts, people like Gartner, is that they talk to the customers.

So they’re rating a software organisation not on what the organisation is saying but on what the customers say. They will go in and ask questions like how well did it execute, what did it deliver and so on.

You launched Cognos 8 in September, that was descr- ibed by yourselves as a major launch for the company. What are the key benefits of Cognos 8 and how does it stand out from competitors’ products?

For the first time, it is the only solution that is a single product, without any smoke and mirrors.

You have some of our competitors that claim they have a single product but the reality is that you may have one single screen of entry but from an administration point of view is it still multiple products.

For organisations that caused major problems, such as licensing, they would have to buy different licences to do different things, they’d have to do more than one installation and so on.

These products are very cumbersome to integrate, to manage, to make sure security policies are in place, to make any changes.

So with Cognos 8 it’s the first product that simplifies everyth- ing: you only have one administrative layer, you only have to set security once and it permeates across all the different modules, its very very simple and its in a new architecture which enables people to easily integrate.

Gartner says Cognos 8 is delivering on a promise that businesses have been expecting for decades.

In fairness, your rivals are making similar claims for the products that they are releasing as well. How do you think you stand out?

We believe other products are not in the same league as Cognos. What’s most important for the business world is the new architecture: its more open so it can change as quickly as they want it to change.

Getting hold of resources now is very simple because it’s a standard web services architecture.

How important do you think web services is to Cognos?

I think its fundamental to the growth and existence of the entire software industry, not just Cognos.

Organisations are getting fed up with spending millions of dollars on software that doesn’t live up to their expectations.

Look at Siebel, it was king in the customer relationship management (CRM) market, but in the past few years it has seen declining sales, it was running out of cash and it was on its last legs. It needed to be taken over by Oracle to survive.

Look at SAP, it’s a phenomenonally successful solution, but its also very difficult to implement, it is very costly to do, a lot of projects go over budget.

Users don’t want to deal with that. What we’re seeing is that many organisations are now turning around and saying we don’t want the software industry to prescribe to us how and when we are doing things.

We are the business. It should be more of a service, you should be able to fit in with our plans, we shouldn’t have to change our business model to the way that the software industry wants to work.

One of the major points here is not just how new technology is integrated into the infrastructure of an organisation but also how it can be adapted.

Typically, many organisationss would buy a solution, they would set the plan out and implement it, but when they wanted to change they would find it would cost as much again to change it and it would take months to do.

Then, when they had changed they would have to do it all again, it was a never-ending cycle.

One of the drawbacks with traditional BI was that it was very cumbersome, you had issues of administration, you had issues about how it integrated with legacy systems etc.

What Cognos did about five years ago was go to its customers, and ask them what they wanted to see. We have something called the customer advisory board, which is a select number of CEOs from different segments of the industry, different areas of business.

We sit down and talk to them about what can we do to be a better partner.

One of the things that came through clearly was they wanted something that can be more flexible, that can be changed when they want to change and was not going to cost them an arm and a leg.

When we went to the analysts, they said much the same thing, they said we needed to change our architecture. We went for a major decision to basically rewrite everything and start from scratch.

Business Objects and Hyperion tried to acquire. They were trying to grow their market share through acquisitions.

ReportNet was the first launch of the new architecture, Cognos 8 was the first single platform for BI that is based on web services.

No other vendor has that, that is the reason our customers are very happy with us: deployment times are coming down, support costs are coming down, administrative times are coming down, many many organisations are now standardising on Cognos because we have the advantage of the new architecture.

The foundations are now there, it is now a question of building more functionality and sophistication into the system, which will drive more benefits to the competition.

The rest of the competition still have their heads in the sand, they are adding functionality to an old architecture.

That’s referring to your traditional competitors, but there is almost certainly going to be more interest shown in the BI and CPM market from the leading software firms over the next couple of years. Microsoft is looking very closely at BI for instance; it will even include BI functionality in Office 12.How is Cognos going to stay ahead of the game when these big players enter it?

We believe we will stay ahead of the curve because of our new architecture, which no one else has.

It is not just talking about technology for technology’s sake, it is a fundamental paradigm shift for our industry.

We’re gaining lots and lots of global deals now and, as we all know, large corporates don’t like swapping things out, they don’t like change.

We believe Microsoft has got another three to four years before they are enterprise ready, SAP is just focusing on BI for the SAP environment, and as we know no organisation just runs their business on SAP.

We have situations where the top five SAP customer organisations globally, they have also standardised on Cognos.

Oracle have dabbled, they have done different things, we don’t think they will get their act together for another three to four years.

We believe Cognos has a good three year window to really really cement itself in to these enterprises and at that stage it will be really difficult to beat us, they will have to buy us.

We honestly believe we will be a US$5bn company in five years time; the deal size is just getting a lot bigger.

For instance, last year we closed a US$14million licensing deal with the British government, that deal size is on a par with ERP deals.

We were told by analysts that it was the biggest ever BI deal, from a pure play perspective but we can’t really clarify that.

The point is that we have a window of opportunity for a few years. SAP had that window in the ERP space, now they dominate the market and nobody can catch them.

Oracle is trying hard, but organisations just don’t like swapping once they have settled on a solution.

So what about a competitor buying you, that has to bea realistic possibility now surely?

It is. If you look at the major players — IBM, SAP, Microsoft and Oracle — the one thing they lack is a solid CPM/BI platform, solution, product call it what you will.

It is inevitable that our industry is going to consolidate, the next question is who would you buy?

We would argue that Cognos is by far the most expensive [of the BI vendors] simply because it is the most profitable. ||**||

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