Cognos Joins the Enterprise

With the recent release of Powerplay 6.6 and Cognos Query, Cognos Inc. ( is repositioning itself in business intelligence (BI) market by promoting its Web-based enterprisewide reporting and query tools. PowerPlay 6.6 is the newest version of the company's OLAP-based server, and Cognos Query is a new ad hoc query and reporting tool.

Prior to the new releases, Cognos was mostly positioned in the work group area. Now it has transcended to an enterprise platform. "Their BI suite went from group player to making strong noises about enterprise business intelligence and going across the corporation to a wide number of users. Cognos had these capabilities before, but they just didn't talk about it," says John Haggerty, service director at AMR Research Inc. ( "For me, this is a watershed type of announcement to their enterprisewide reporting capabilities."

The stepped-up PowerPlay allows easier distribution and management of reports. Since it is an enterprisewide server, PowerPlay reports can be created by anyone within an organization and by any user, regardless of skill level. The learning curve for both PowerPlay and Query is low. "The interface is very intuitive," Haggerty says. "With PowerPlay 6.6, the Web interface is easier to use than Windows Web interface. You can teach 80 percent of its value to someone in 10 minutes. There is just not an intense learning curve."

Reports are created using Adobe PDF format, which can be converted into dynamic reports. Once they are in dynamic format, users can drill down, slice and dice, and change views of the data. One of Cognos' reasons for choosing the PDF format is because the Adobe Acrobat Reader ( is free.

PowerPlay 6.6 now has a Web portal that lets reports be accessed online, and builds query links into reports so users can get follow-up answers, says Tom Camps, vice president of marketing strategies at Cognos. "Now you can publish reports to the portal in full format. There was no portal before, and no managed reporting environment."

Cognos Query is Cognos' new Web-based ad hoc query and reporting tool. Formerly called Impromptu Web Query, Cognos Query offers a dynamic view of e-business transactions. The query tool also has an HTML environment for broad distribution and a wizard-driven query creator.

Query and PowerPlay -- along with Impromptu and Cognos Visualizer -- combine to make up Cognos BI suite. A key feature of the suite is shared metadata, common security, and a Web-based portal. Reporting, analysis, and detailed query info can all be implemented from the common framework. "The real value is that it is tied to common metadata," Haggerty says. That way, terms can be defined once, and reused many times.

By implementing the entire BI suite, a user can drill down through data or slice and dice. If a user was in a multidimentional view, and wanted to see underlying data, PowerPlay would invoke Query to do that. If more exploration was needed, Query could then invoke Impromptu or Visualizer to drill into the data. "Each engine delivers different information, but the decision flow is seamless and occurs underneath the PowerPlay architecture so users don't even realize it," Camps says.

With these moves, Cognos has managed to avoid being labeled as just an OLAP company -- throwing themselves more fully into the BI market, and competing with companies such as Hyperion Solutions Corp. and Brio Technology Inc.

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