Cognos Talks up BI on the Go!

Forget thin clients, the next frontier in enterprise information delivery might be mobile, roaming, or—heck—even roving clients.

Forget thin clients, the next frontier in enterprise information delivery might be mobile, roaming, or—heck—even roving clients.

Cognos Inc. next week will announce Go! Mobile, its own take on the roving client future. Officials describe Go! Mobile as a middleware layer for the Cognos 8 BI suite that—when it ships—will help extend bread-and-butter decision-support capabilities (including charting, spreadsheets, and even query, analysis, and search features) directly to mobile users. Cognos Go! Mobile at this point seems more hype than hip: it’s currently available only as an alpha release, and a limited beta program isn’t scheduled to kick off until later this year. Nevertheless, Go! Mobile—and demand among mobile users for roving access to BI information—could just be a harbinger of things to come.

“Our goal is to close the gap between the rich client experience users enjoy with their [desktop] business intelligence software and the sort of stripped down ‘thin client’ [experience] they frequently get with mobile devices,” says Paul Hulford, senior product marketing manager with Cognos. “So our goal with Cognos 8 Go! Mobile is to give [mobile users] the equivalent of the rich client experience from their Blackberries or their other wireless devices.”

Roving users will be able to tap Cognos’ Go! Office Connection to view, interact with, and refresh reports, analyses, and metrics in Excel, PowerPoint, and Word. More importantly, Hulford promises, IT organizations won’t have to reauthor, reformat, or otherwise tweak reports, charts, or other BI content in order to make it consumable by mobile client devices. The goal, he claims, is a rich client experience with all—or, at any rate, many—of the same bells-and-whistles of the Cognos 8 desktop experience. “If you look at a lot of solutions, they require you to author specifically for the mobile device, so you only end up publishing a subset of the information to your mobile environment,” he comments. “Whereas now, through Cognos 8 and Cognos Go! Mobile, users can get access to any kind of BI content, even content that’s created on the fly.”

In addition to Office Connection, Hulford outlines several other Go! Mobile amenities, too—including support for Cognos’ Go! Search Service, which lets users remotely search for—and view—BI content. “You can actually search for reports and by definition the data points within those reports to find relevant information and then have them downloaded to your mobile device,” he explains. “It takes between 30 and 60 seconds to find a report and then have it downloaded on your Blackberry. If you’re out at a customer site and you need quick access to that information, it can be a life-saver.”

Of course, it isn’t as if roaming users can’t already access BI or other content via their wireless devices. Blackberry clients, for example, are ubiquitous in the enterprise, and many IT organizations already host Blackberry-friendly middleware. Hulford concedes as much, but says that some of the drawbacks associated with conventional wireless access—e.g., problems scrolling and expanding cells in large spreadsheets; lack of interactivity in PDFs; slow download and response times with HTML documents; and lack of support for offline content storage—limit the productivity and usability of roving clients.

“The four main things we kind of point to as being ahead of what else is available in the market are the single authoring capabilities: almost all force you to do special reports for mobile devices, for example,” Hulford notes. “The second is the rich client that we’ve spent more time on; we’re promising to deliver a much more usable mobile experience. The third is the security aspect, which is making sure that information on the device is fully encrypted, just in case it falls into the wrong hands or the device got lost. And fourth is the ability to use it offline, because people who travel are always in and out of different network coverage areas, and they also have to go on different planes and things where they have to turn the wireless off, but they still need to be able to look at BI.”

So when will roving customers get their mits on Go! Mobile? Not until later this year, at the earliest, Hulford concedes.

“We’re in alpha phase, and we actually showed an alpha at our user conference in June. That was really its first exposure. This month we’ve been working with a [limited preview] program which is really in preparation for the beta phase, and we’re just working with a couple of customers on that,” he indicates.

About the Author

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