Have Cognos 8, Will CPM?

As customers finish up with their Cognos 8 implementations, the company’s holistic performance management pitch might look even more appealing.

When Cognos Inc. announced its revamped Cognos 8 BI suite a couple months ago, the company’s pitch was straight out of Edward O. Wilson. Sort of.

At the time, Cognos hyped Cognos 8 as a one-stop-shop for the rapidly converging usage arcs of traditional business intelligence (BI) and what Cognos calls corporate performance management (CPM). Call it (pace Wilson) a New Synthesis of another kind—Holistic Performance Management.

Cognos officials stress that there will always be a place for bread-and-butter BI. If nothing else, says Mychelle Mollot, vice-president of market strategy with Cognos, BI technologies provide a foundation for holistic performance management, which encompasses not just BI, but also scorecarding and planning, too. “[Companies are] going to realize that … they do have these needs for scorecarding applications or for applications that need a combination of planning and business intelligence, [and] that those applications should all come from the same platform,” Mollot said, in an interview this summer.

Holistic performance management—like performance management itself—is a somewhat tougher sell to many Cognos users, however. It’s not that they aren’t intrigued by the promise of performance management as a technology discipline, or by Cognos’ vision of holistic performance management in particular, it’s just that in most cases, Cognos customers are busy planning their upgrades to Cognos 8 BI.

Once that’s through—in three months, six months, a year, or sometimes more—and if there’s budget wiggling room enough, then, many say, holistic performance management will merit a closer look. “We’re implementing an ODS now. We think that’s the last missing piece—the active warehouse. We’re going to start feeding mission-critical systems from the warehouse, and it’s going to become more of an operational thing, and that’s going to get us into the next level,” says Louis Barton, director of data warehousing for Cullen/Frost Bankers Inc., a financial holding company based in the Southwest. “It’s evolving. We’re not there 100 percent yet, but Cognos is helping us get there, because it’s given [users] that missing front-end [ReportNet] that they can interact with.”

As for Cognos’ planning or performance management offerings, Barton says he’s probably going to take a pass—for now. “Until we can find a compelling business case for actually going out and purchasing [that] tool, we’ll have to make do with the set of [informal] programs we have right now,” he concludes.

John Hasenzahl, director of knowledge services and data management for transportation and logistics specialist Schneider National Inc., had a similar response. Schneider recently purchased a license for Cognos’ ReportNet tool for operational reporting, he says, and to the extent that ReportNet provides a much more intuitive and scalable foundation for reporting, he’s pleased with it. But Schneider hasn’t yet fully made the move to ReportNet. Implementing Cognos’ flagship reporting along with the rest of the Cognos 8 BI suite (Schneider is also a PowerPlay shop) is his first priority, Hasenzahl says.

“We recently did a purchase for ReportNet for operational reporting, [and] we’ve embedded the ReportNet reports within our operational systems applications, and we’re calling [those reports] directly from the operational system,” he explains. Hasenzahl, too, says he’s intrigued by Cognos’ holistic product strategy, which—if nothing else—has been a catalyst for synthesis.

“I think the integration of their products is great. They continually become more user-friendly, easier to use, easier report creation. And I think their [Cognos 8] architecture is the right architecture to be on. It definitely fits our overall architecture much better than series 7 did,” he comments.

Vivian Adashek, manager for U.S. finance with a prominent U.S. staffing firm, welcomes Cognos’ New Synthesis. She’s already a user of that company’s planning tools and says the improved integration between the Cognos 8 BI stack and Cognos’ planning and performance management solutions is a very good thing, indeed. “The ability to take the [Cognos] planning data and use it in real time in the analysis studio [PowerPlay] and not only that, but using other data sources, along with the planning data—that’s all very exciting,” she says.

At the same time, Adashek can’t stop talking about some of the new Series 8 BI enhancements. “The functionality changes and improvements that they made in Analysis Studio really made it more Excel-like, so I think we’re going to gain some efficiencies from that,” she comments, noting that it’s now possible to do “different analysis of the data on the same page.” For this reason and others, Adashak argues, Cognos 8 is the company’s strongest BI release to date. “I think [Cognos 8] definitely empowers users, especially the way it reduces [dependency on] Excel, they really are controlling the data they’re working with,” she indicates.

Mike Reeves, manager for the customer information services group at the same company, also likes the New Synthesis of Cognos 8. “From an external customer perspective, the exciting thing for me is Event Studio [part of Cognos Planning] and setting up alerts based on certain events and certain metrics,” he concludes. “In Cognos 8, it’s all there together. [External customers] see their dashboard, they click on a metric, it brings up a report right in the same window. An alert can go out to them in an e-mail… saying your metric is trending in a direction you might want to keep an eye on. It’s pretty seamless.”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.

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