IBM Takes 'Open Distribution' Approach With New Cognos Software

The new IBM Cognos Insight offers "data discovery" exploration and visualization capabilities for business users without help from report developers, said Dan Potter, product executive for personal and workgroup solutions, IBM business analytics, in an interview.

Business analytics software vendors have long sought ways to make their products more accessible to a wider range of users beyond "power users" with deep analytical skills and programmers who can build queries and reports. This week, for example, Microsoft is debuting a new release of its SQL Server database with new PowerPivot and Power View tools the company is touting as "self-service" business intelligence for information workers.

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IBM acquired Cognos in January 2008 and made it the core of its business analytics product line. IBM Cognos is the enterprise edition of the business analytics software, offering a range of business analytics and performance management applications. IBM Cognos Express, which debuted in 2009, is a midmarket product.

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IBM Cognos Insight can be used as a standalone tool or can work with the Cognos server, IBM's SPSS predictive analysis application, and the Cognos TM1 financial planning, budgeting and forecasting software. It can work with data in spreadsheets and data files, existing Cognos reports, and corporate data sources via the ODBC interface.

IBM Cognos Insight is designed to be a low-cost, high-volume product, Potter said, with a list price of $500 per user.

Under the open distribution policy, as many as 100,000 IBM registered partners worldwide will be able to resell IBM Cognos Insight without the same kind of certification required to sell other Cognos products, according to Potter. Many partners want to be able to sell a mainstream business analytics application without having to go through the certification process, he said.

"The channel's going to have a huge role here," he said.

IBM also will sell the product online, through telesales operations, and through its direct sales representatives, Potter said.