IBM Debuts BI Tools With Cognos

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IBM executives said they expect a majority of sales of the pre-integrated solutions to go through IBM and Cognos channel partners. They also promised to maintain Cognos's channel program at least through 2008 and perhaps beyond while Cognos solution providers migrate to IBM's PartnerWorld program.

Channel partners, for their part, see the new packages as an opportunity to sell business intelligence solutions with more value-added capabilities to business customers, rather than BI "tools" to IT departments." "We don't want to sell these solutions to IT. We want to get to the business community," said Gary Shiller, vice president at Sky Solutions, a Hasbrouck Heights, N.J.-based solution provider that partners with Cognos and IBM.

Many of the joint IBM-Cognos products unveiled in a press conference in New York City were already under development before the two companies announced the acquisition plans in November. (IBM and Cognos have been business allies for 15 years.) So when asked about the logic behind the buyout, Steve Mills, IBM senior vice president and general manager of the IBM Software Group, said customers today are demanding tighter linkages between BI applications and the underlying data management and integration software that IBM already provides.

"It was time to bring these things together and make them one contiguous set of capabilities with deep optimization," Mills said. "We have built out an incredible portfolio of products around data integration. The Cognos acquisition really [creates] a complete end-to-end set of capabilities."

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He said IBM acquired Cognos to leverage its technology, not just add its revenue to IBM's top line.

IBM is positioning Cognos's business intelligence and performance management applications as a layer atop its data integration, data warehouse and master data management middleware software [recently renamed "InfoSphere"] and the company's database and content management systems. IBM obtained many of those technologies in recent years through its acquisition of such companies as FileNet, Ascential, Venetica and DataMirror. "Information on Demand" is the name of the effort IBM launched in early 2006 to link all those products under a single strategy.

Mills said the Information on Demand products fit into what he called the "business optimization" IT market, which he put at $117 billion this year, a market that includes IT products that deal with managing and presenting information rather than automating business processes.

The new BI and performance management packages are designed for smaller companies with 500 to 1,000 employees and IBM channel partners that service such SMB customers, said Ambuj Goyal, general manager of IBM's information management organization of which Cognos is now a part.

"This allows us to be more proactive in positioning an overall solution for our customers," said Sherlock Holmes, president of Genware Computer Solutions, Wayne, N.J., a long-time Cognos channel partner who also became an IBM partner two years ago. The new business intelligence and performance management packages are more "business-centric," he said, and so provide partners like Genware with more sales opportunities. Companies that built custom BI applications on top of IBM data management and integration systems also present opportunities for selling BI packages, he said.

Line-of-business organizations control greater portions of IT budgets today than in the past, noted Sky Solutions president Elan Seidenman. He plans to bring the new IBM-Cognos solutions to midsize companies. But he also raised a concern that Cognos channel partners might find themselves competing more with IBM's services operation.

Wednesday, IBM held a Web broadcast to reassure Cognos channel partners, said Marc Andrews, IBM director of Information-on-Demand and Cognos marketing integration. He said IBM promises to continue the Cognos channel program for at least a year and keep its management in place.

The new packages that combine IBM and Cognos software include IBM Process Management with IBM Cognos 8 Business Intelligence, IBM Cognos 8 Business Intelligence with IBM Data Integration and Quality, and IBM InfoSphere Warehouse with Cognos Reporting and Dashboards. The first two are available now while the third is due out next month. IBM Cognos 8 Business Intelligence with Actionable Intelligence is in beta testing.

Also debuted was a Cognos 8 BI "starter pack" to work with IBM's InfoSphere Warehouse and IBM said it will include Cognos 8 BI with its C-Class Balanced Warehouse systems. The company also announced the IBM Compliance Warehouse for Legal Control, a system for managing legal compliance tasks, that incorporates Cognos monitoring and reporting tools and IBM Tivoli and Lotus software. Also available are IBM pre-configured templates for integrating Cognos BI 8 with IBM Filenet Business Process Management.

The new vertical industry solutions are financial risk for banking, risk-adjusted profitability for banking, health analytics, life sciences promotional spend and compliance, retail store operations and planning, crime management and insight, municipal performance management scorecard, manufacturing sales and operations planning, financial planning, and workforce analytics.