Cognos Announces New Partnerships, Updated Products

BI giant announces new EII partnerships for ReportNet, revamped Cognos Planning tool, new Cognos Controller offering

Cognos Inc. last week made a flurry of BI-related moves, forging an OEM relationship with a prominent EII tools vendor and cozying up to IBM Corp. on the EII front, too. As if that’s not enough, Cognos announced a new version of its Cognos Planning tool, along with a new product offering—dubbed Cognos Controller—that’s based on technology it acquired from Frango this summer.

For starters, Cognos forged an exclusive BI OEM agreement with EII specialist Composite Software that lets it embed the Composite Information Server in its ReportNet enterprise-reporting tool.

Cognos officials position the Composite accord as part of the company’s Open Data Strategy, under which it plans to support new styles of reporting and analysis that combine historical data from warehouses with real-time operational information from a range of XML, JDBC, WSDL, and other sources. The idea, officials say, is to facilitate access both inside and outside an organization, without regard for where or how that data is stored.

“We see this as central to the business intelligence standardization, the theme and the initiatives of companies. That’s why we’re excited to add the leading [EII] vendor on an exclusive OEM [basis] with Composite,” says Doug Barton, vice president of Enterprise Planning product marketing with Cognos. “If you’ve followed Composite, they’re the only vendor to really get straight A’s from the analysts in terms of the speed of their technology and the ability to conform all of the disparate data sources.”

For ReportNet users, the Composite agreement, coupled with a deal that Cognos also notched last week to support IBM’s DB2 Information Integrator in ReportNet, should expand the number of sources accessible from that reporting platform. “We’re going to take their Composite Integration server and embed that in Cognos ReportNet, and what that’s going to do is expand the number of data sources ReportNet can natively connect to in the enterprise,” Barton says.

The IBM deal gives ReportNet users access to extremely diverse data sources, including VSAM information stored on mainframe systems and in Big Blue’s MQSeries message queuing platform.

Cognos Planning Gets an Update

This week, Cognos announced Cognos Planning Series 7 version 3, an updated version of its planning software for finance and other business areas. The new release helps companies oversee their financial and operational planning processes in real-time, says Barton, and features new capabilities designed to enable improved administration in highly distributed deployments. Elsewhere, Version 3 supports a new component-based planning approach that lets users start a plan at any point and then sync up with other planning processes across the organization in a graduated manner.

The idea, says Delbert Krause, director of enterprise planning product marketing with Cognos, is to lower usage barriers by giving users as comfortable and functional a planning environment as possible.

“It’s one thing to build a plan, it’s another thing to make sure that people adopt and are comfortable and familiar with the use of all of the related performance processes, so the more accountability and shared responsibility we can drive from a user point of view is really at the heart of what we’re doing,” says Delbert Krause, director of enterprise planning product marketing with Cognos. “When you build a plan, one of the keys is that one plan may become an input for another plan. When we think about a connected plan, we really think about modularity. So the modularity is really important in handling the independent requirements of each plan, but then also connecting them together.”

Elsewhere in Version 3, Cognos standardized and tidied up the user interface experience across Planning and the rest of its BI stack.

The result, says Krause, is that regardless of whether a user is working in Planning, ReportNet, or PowerPlay (Cognos' ad hoc query reporting tool), the interface should look the same. What’s more, customers can move seamlessly between and among Cognos applications, he maintains, thanks to Cognos’ single sign-on capabilities.

“All of the data and responsibilities that I have access to are seamless. When you start getting into [corporate performance management] processes where you have to manage security in multiple applications, that’s really one of the hidden jewels of the Cognos integrated solution,” he argues.

Also new for Version 3 are Plan to Perform Blueprints—prepackaged offerings that encapsulate processes, workflows, and best practices for certain functional areas. ”They are pre-packaged solutions that sit on top of Cognos Planning and provide an out-of-the-box planning capability,” Krause explains. “They contain workflow processes and policy processes, so that out of the box, you can start planning.”

Cognos currently offers six Plan to Perform Blueprints, including versions for strategic financial forecasting, head count and compensation, and sales and capital expenditures.

Cognos' New Controller

This summer, Cognos acquired Frango, a provider of consolidation and financial reporting software. This week, Cognos unveiled the fruit of that acquisition, a new product called Cognos Controller 2.3.

Controller is based on a Frango product of the same name. It’s not just a rebranding of the Frango offering, however. Cognos has redesigned Controller’s user interface and ratcheted up its integration with the rest of the Cognos BI stack, says Barton, and the result is a product that’s designed to provide a structured and controlled process for internal and external reporting—even in cases that involve disparate data sources and changing business conditions.

Not surprisingly, Cognos pitches Controller as an ideal solution for ensuring compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley and other regulatory requirements.

“This is really for the senior finance office, where they’re accountable for the full and fair accounting of the performance of the enterprise. That’s financial consolidation reporting, it’s reporting right up to the present quarter. They’re also responsible for coordinating the process by which resources are accountable in the business,” says Barton.

In addition to the standardized UI and improved integration with Cognos’ BI tools, Controller 2.3 supports 40 languages.

About the Author

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