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Business Intelligence Vendors Tackle Data Quality Problem

Poor data makes business intelligence software look bad, so BI vendors are ramping up their data quality products and services. In a partnership with Informatica, Cognos today announced it, too, will tackle the issue head on.

Rather than taking the rap for bad data, business intelligence vendors are getting into the fast-growing data quality business. The latest example is Cognos, which today announced it will resell Informatica's data quality software.

"We've been relying on customers' existing IT infrastructure to address data quality problems like duplicates, missing data or conflicting data, but we've found that some customers blame the BI tool when the numbers don't look right, even if it's really a corporate data problem," says Harriet Fryman, associate vice president of product marketing. "With this move, we're going to take more ownership of fixing the data."

Cognos will resell Informatica Data Quality and Informatica Data Explorer products and offer supporting services, and the two vendors will also team up to provide customers with additional data integration software and services (with referrals going to Informatica as the challenges go deeper).

"We remain open to the data integration standards of our customers," says Fryman, "IBM is already a strategic partner. This raises Informatica to the same level and is a first step toward addressing the information problem for our customers."

Cognos does not currently resell IBM's data quality software (gained largely through its acquisition of Ascential), but it stressed that the new arrangement with Informatica is nonexclusive.

In contrast to Cognos, rival Business Objects has its own data quality portfolio, which it acquired in early 2006 with the purchase of data quality vendor FirstLogic. In July, Business Objects extended the portfolio with Universal Data Cleansing, a new product aimed at eliminating duplication and discrepancies in product- and region-specific data. And in a small deal announced last week, Business Objects acquired Fuzzy Informatik, a 50-employee company based in Germany that has contracts with more than 30 in-country postal authorities, primarily in Europe, to better support address standardization and validation within those countries.

SAS, too, is in the data quality game, thanks to its 2000 acquisition of DataFlux, a data-quality company that continues to operate as a separate business unit.

"To be credible in data quality, it would be difficult for Cognos to build its own solution," says analyst Rob Karel of Forrester. "I certainly don’t see this partnership leapfrogging Business Objects or SAS from a data quality perspective because both of these vendors offer fairly well-integrated suites of data management products, including enterprise-class data integration and proven data quality and profiling software."

In addition to the solutions available from BI vendors and IT giants such as IBM, Oracle, SAP and Sun, there are also many independent data-quality and deeper customer-data-management, product-data-management and master-data-management offerings from specialty vendors such as Siperian, Intitiate Systems, Purisma and VisionWare.

Whether you choose a BI vendor, an infrastructure vendor or an independent to provide the technology, it's becoming increasingly clear that data quality is a prerequisite to reliable customer service and decision support.

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