Cognos Acquisitions Bear Fruit

Cognos debuts branded dashboard appliance, revamped Controller software

Last week was a busy one for Cognos Inc., which announced the first fruit of its acquisition of the former Celequest Corp.—its Cognos Now! dashboard appliance—as well as an updated version of its Cognos Controller financial performance management (FPM) tool. Call it a case of two acquisitions bearing fruit: after all, Controller, like Cognos Now!, is an outgrowth of another, albeit more distant Cognos purchase.

Cognos positions Now! as a one-stop-shop for self-service dashboarding, analytics, and reporting. Like its Celequest predecessor (the Lava appliance), Cognos Now! ships as either a prepackaged BI appliance or as a hosted service. In keeping with Celequest’s existing arrangement with Salesforce.com, Cognos offers a Salesforce-ready version of Now!, too.

Now!’s hosted aspect marks Cognos’ first foray into software-as-a-service—a development that owes much to Celequest, with its SaaS-based reporting and dashboarding offerings. “Celequest gives us our first native SaaS offering. It is absolutely something that’s unique. It’s great for channel partners who really like the ability to get something up and running very quickly for their customers. It’s also very helpful for us in broadening our offering for customers who don’t have sufficient IT resources to do that themselves,” said Leah MacMillan, vice-president of product marketing with Cognos, in an interview earlier this year.

Cognos Now! is mostly a rebranding of the existing Lava appliance, albeit one which boasts improved integration with the Cognos 8 business intelligence (BI) suite. Cognos Controller 8.2, on the other hand, is the latest evolution of a much older Cognos investment. About thirty months ago, Cognos Inc. acquired Frango, a little-known performance management (PM) software vendor based in Stockholm, Sweden. Frango was one of several more or less contemporaneous EU acquisitions by Cognos, which also nabbed Softa Group Ltd. (a UK purveyor of PM tools) and Optima Analytical Solutions in the space of about a year. (http://tdwi.org/Publications/display.aspx?id=7420&t=y)

Cognos quietly assimilated both Softa and Optima into its product families. Frango, too, was assimilated by Cognos—albeit in a slightly more visible way. Cognos Controller—which the Ottawa-based BI giant updated just last week—is nothing less than a rebranded, and substantially revamped, version of the former Frango technology.

“Version 8.2 is kind of the next major release of Cognos Controller. We’ve had Frango 30 months now, and this is the third major release of that product under Cognos hands. We still have obviously the key development and support people from Frango, but this is the third major release where we get to apply some of Cognos’ strengths to the product,” says Delbert Krause, director of performance management product marketing with Cognos.

Krause describes Controller as a “fit-for-purpose” tool that helps analysts reconcile and improve the financial consolidation and corporate reporting processes. It’s a fraught subject area, he maintains: “Typically in any organization, there’s a number of different statements concerning the numbers of financial data. Typically what you find when you dive into the details is that [these multiple financial statements are] the products of people issues, procedural problems, and internal control problems. Cognos Controller is really built to address these problems, along with other gaps in the financial close process.”

That’s the first objective, Krause says. The second is to augment FPM by piping “validated and certified financial data” into key (extra-financial) performance management processes. “It’s a very good place to be when customers leverage key financial metrics that come from a general finance and console system that have the wrappers for internal controls and data quality or accuracy built into the processes. This way you can ensure [that they’re consuming] accurate financial data,” he maintains.

Elsewhere, Krause continues, Controller 8.2 delivers better integration with Cognos 8 BI. In this respect, it’s an improvement over its predecessor, he argues. “Controller 8.1 already leveraged some of the aspects of the Cognos 8 foundation—things like security, single sign-on, and the portal. What we did with 8.2 is really complete the integration, and we leverage all of the data services inside Cognos 8 right now together with Cognos controller,” Krause explains. “Cognos 8 has a business data layer that manages access to all of the external data systems, across heterogeneous systems and types, so you get one single view across all of the major data types.”

Above all else, Krause maintains, knowing the lineage—the who-what-where-when-why-and-how—of data is of paramount concern to Controller customers. In this respect, he concludes, Controller 8.2 marks a distinct improvement over its predecessor.

“It’s really about facilitating better control of the data and information within Cognos Controller. Data lineage is a really important aspect for systems these days, so we built in the ability to track data, the origin, the date and time, who was responsible for accessing it and processing it,” he explains. “We can also track the original data source value as well as any transformations that took place—these kinds of things are really important for auditing, so the people can go back in and understand the original data source, what it was and where it came from. Any changes around those attributes or behaviors is also tracked or stored. For audit and control purposes, it’s really important to prove what was the old structure like, when did it change, who changed it, and why.”

About the Author

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