Cognos Touts Killer App for Mainstream BI

Don’t look now, but Cognos thinks it has a new killer app for mainstream BI—enterprise search.

At one point or another, almost every vendor has touted a “killer app” to help mainstream business intelligence (BI). The idea—at least in this context—is to present BI features or functionality in such a way so as to abstract their complexity. In spite of the best intentions and fondest wishes of BI vendors, however, mainstream BI remains something of a pipedream.

Don’t look now, but Cognos Inc. thinks it has a new killer app for mainstream BI—enterprise search, in the form of its Cognos Go! Search feature.

Cognos this week notched deals with search powerhouse Google Inc. (which markets two distinct search offerings, Google Search Appliance and Google OneBox for Enterprise) and IBM Corp. (which markets WebSphere OmniFind Edition) to promote its forthcoming Go! Search capability, which the company plans to officially roll out to customers next month.

The idea, says Paul Hulford, senior product marketing manager with Cognos, is to expose BI to a much wider user base by, in effect, disguising it. True to the Web search-cum-enterprise search paradigm, Consumers can use natural language queries (such as, for example, “sales” & “Boston”) to search for relevant materials—including non-BI-related content.

The genius, Hulford argues, is that Cognos Go!—used in tandem with Google, IBM, or other search tools—presents information in its appropriate context. So rather than simply returning a list of reports, dashboards, scorecards, or other BI-related information, Go! Provides a description of the context in which the information appears in the source.

“We feel that this is truly the way to bring BI to the masses. We—all of us—have been talking about this [idea] for years now, but this is the paradigm shift. It uses an interface and an experience that users feel completely at home in [the Web browser search engine] and it lets them access BI content without knowing anything about [BI]. This means companies can expose this [BI] technology to entirely new user groups, to users who have never had access before.”

Hulford’s “paradigm shift” also shines a light on what many vendors say is an uncomfortable aspect of the BI status quo. Fact is, most existing BI tools just aren’t geared for mainstream users—in spite of countless BI-for-the-masses-oriented product revisions. This is a fact even Hulford tentatively acknowledges. “I think that’s a fair description,” he says. “We haven’t been as successful in driving user adoption as we would have liked. But that’s true for everyone.”

He insists, however, that Cognos developed Go! to target a more diverse user constituency. BI-for-the-masses initiatives have typically targeted BI consumers and a related constellation of knowledge workers, Hulford argues, but Go!—and enterprise search in general—aim to expose BI and other enterprise resources to any information consumer inside of an organization, in a manner that’s also consistent with their user roles and access privileges, of course.

“But this [Cognos Go!] goes beyond what we’ve done in the past” says Hulford. “This is something that can be legitimately used by traditional users, who will find it easier to get more out of Cognos BI, and by a whole new class of users—by people who haven’t traditionally [been consumers of Cognos BI]. Now they’re able to access and understand BI content along with other information [that’s returned to them].”

Cognos Go! integrates with the Google Search Appliance and WebSphere OmniFind edition. It also comes in three distinct modules for the Google OneBox: a Report Module, which shows users graphs, charts, tables, or maps; a Metrics Module, which provides a visual representation of key metrics with supporting status and other metric information; and a Search Module, which identifies relevant BI reports, alerts, analyses or dashboards.

In all three cases—i.e., for WebSphere OmniFind Edition, the Google Search Appliance, or the Google OneBox for Enterprise, Cognos Go! both returns and displays BI information in the context of the parent Web browser interface.

“That’s the key, because they’re not going to [an external] BI tool. They’re seeing all of this [charts, graphs, dashboards, scorecards] right in their browser,” Hulford argues. Cognos Go! also formats search information, arranging it in terms of the most relevant reports, graphs, charts, tables, and maps; relevant metrics, statuses and trends; actuals, targets, and benchmarks; and ranked BI search links (which provide links to additional BI information, such as relevant links to other BI information, including related alerts, dashboards, reports, or analyses.)

Hulford says Cognos has notched strategic partnerships with both IBM and Google in the search arena. What’s more, he indicates, Cognos developed its Go! modules for OneBox Enterprise in tandem with Google. The search giant, for its part, enlisted Cognos as one of its Premier Partners for Business Intelligence.

About the Author

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