IBM Announces Analytics System for Businesses on a Budget

IBM has announced a new business analytics solution for the midmarket segment, IBM Cognos Express.

IBM has announced a new business analytics solution for the midmarket segment, IBM Cognos Express.

Big Blue unveiled the new offering on Sept. 14. IBM Cognos Express is an all-in-one business intelligence and planning solution specifically designed and priced for midsized clients, the company said. Deployed in just a matter of hours, the new solution offers clients a low-cost and low-risk, integrated approach to planning, analyzing and reporting performance, identifying trends, and ultimately helping businesses make smarter business decisions, IBM officials said in keeping with the company's Smarter Technology theme.

A recent IBM Global CIO Study involving 2500 CIOs from 78 countries found that 83 percent of midmarket executives ranked "business intelligence and analytics" as their top priority for improving competitiveness and cutting costs. Faced with limited budgets and overstretched IT resources, midsized organizations are seeking faster and more affordable analytics solutions that can help them cope with information overload, IBM said.

The new IBM Cognos Express solution provides pre-configured business analytics and planning capabilities in a single offering, enabling midmarket executives to quickly launch their business analytics strategy and then evolve it as their needs grow, IBM said. New capabilities can then be added over time as business requirements change. The new solution also offers a centralized, Web-based console that manages all administrative aspects of installation, deployment and ongoing management, minimizing the need for any IT staff assistance.

Tim Harmon, an analyst with Forrester Research, gave eWEEK his impression of IBM's new offering:

""I have to say, there aren't many large software companies willing or able to engineer or reengineer new market-specific products these days. IBM Cognos is - and has historically been - one of the few exceptions. Think Powerhouse to PowerPlay to Impromptu to ReportNet to Cognos 8, and now IBM Cognos Express. And SMBs resonate to products specifically engineered to their needs (as opposed to watered-down or restricted-use versions of vendors' enterprise products). In the case of IBM Cognos Express, they've taken the best of their BI and performance management tools, Framework Manager, and TM1, and reengineered them into a relatively simple-to-deploy and simple-to-administer BI system - which, along with a reasonable pricing model, is exactly what the mid-market is calling for. And the mid-market for BI remains relatively untapped. Microsoft hasn't focused on the mid-market packaging requirements with Reporting Services. QlikTech and Tibco Spotfire have some momentum in the mid-market, but IBM Cognos Express will be able to fare quite well, particularly with the financing and channel model power of IBM. The looming question (and opportunity) facing IBM Cognos and all the BI vendors, with respect to the mid-market, is how well they develop a MSP/hosting channel, the preferred deployment model for an increasing number of mid-market customers.""

"In the quick-service hamburger business, our success depends heavily on understanding what our customers want, then tailoring our operations accordingly to keep them coming back again and again," said James Irvine, financial controller with the 15-outlet Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers franchise chain in New Zealand. "This is only achievable if you have the right access to information and fast and efficient means of communicating goals to the fields. IBM Cognos Express, with its deep analytics capabilities, is helping midsized companies like ours quickly glean daily sales, marketing and operations information and make the right business decisions to remain competitive."

Through its self-service environment, IBM Cognos Express allows clients to easily build reports, analyses, dashboards and multi-dimensional plans on their own, saving time and ensuring they remain responsive to competitive pressures, IBM officials said.

"The offering is cool in that, while comprehensive, it also enables users to start wherever the current pain is most acute and migrate to a broader vision that encompasses most of what they ultimately need: reporting/querying, visualization and analysis and performance management," Gartner analyst Bob Anderson told eWEEK of the IBM Cognos Express solution. "Its write-back capabilities really shine, allowing authorized users to make changes and to update data from the interface of their choice - including Excel. It handles the important things like ETL 'under the hood' so it's not just about throwing someone a dashboard-Cognos has gone beyond addressing just the glitzy tip of the iceberg; its put together all the important elements to ensure quality delivery of information."

Moreover, recent Gartner surveys show that one of the key drivers midsize companies have over the next 18 months with respect to business intelligence is aligning decision making with corporate objectives, Anderson added. "This offering goes right to the heart of that," he said.

The solution also comes with an in-memory analytics server that allows clients to centrally manage data, business rules, and calculations.

"Midsized organizations are the engines that will lead the global economy back to growth and prosperity. Even in today's unsettled landscape, midsized companies are striving to better harness their information so they can continue to innovate and grow," said Ben Plummer, director of IBM Cognos midmarket business unit, in a statement. "We are committed to helping our midmarket clients harness the power of analytics with immediate, less-costly access to the business insights, with predictive abilities they need to make better, sharper, timelier decisions."

"IBM is the first to truly deliver a solution that is right-sized in terms of both cost to purchase and cost to implement without sacrificing capabilities," added Neil Morgan, president of BrightStar Partners, an IBM Business Partner. "IBM Cognos Express represents a terrific opportunity to help us provide our clients with a simple solution that will allow midmarket business executives and employees to make truly informed decisions based on data and not simply gut feel."

Built on an open platform, the IBM Cognos Express portfolio includes three products that can be purchased together or individually to meet a specific need:

"IBM Cognos Express Reporter - lets business users securely access any type of data to create detailed financial, operational, transactional production reports and ad hoc queries using simple drag and drop authoring capabilitiesIBM Cognos Express Advisor - offers sophisticated analysis and "what if" scenario planning for long- and short-term performance forecasting. Key metrics can then be shared among stakeholders using live dashboardsIBM Cognos Express Xcelerator - helps managers transform their common spreadsheets with an underlying in-memory analytics engine for real-time multidimensional analysis, planning, budgeting and forecasting"

IBM Cognos Express Reporter, IBM Cognos Express Xcelerator, and IBM Cognos Express Advisor will be available in mid-September 2009, either direct from IBM or its network of resellers worldwide.