IBM Cognos Express Hits and Misses - InformationWeek

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9/15/2009
01:03 PM
Doug Henschen
Doug Henschen
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IBM Cognos Express Hits and Misses

I'm glad to see that IBM Cognos is making the most of good assets. Rather than introducing a light version of Cognos enterprise technologies to meet the needs of midsize companies, IBM yesterday bowed an IBM Cognos Express offering that is really one part Cognos and two parts Applix TM1.

I'm glad to see that IBM Cognos is making the most of good assets. Rather than introducing a light version of Cognos enterprise technologies to meet the needs of midsize companies, IBM yesterday bowed an IBM Cognos Express offering that is really one part Cognos and two parts Applix TM1.

I have not heard much about Applix since it was acquired by Cognos way back in 2007. Apparently it's going strong as a stand-alone product, but it should have been sharing in all the attention QlikView and Spotfire have been getting these past two years. The speed and ease of in-memory-based "what-if" analysis has helped make QlikView one of the fastest-growing products in BI for the past few years.The TM1 twist will help IBM Cognos Express stand apart from what Microsoft has to offer. At least that will be the case until Microsoft's pending release of Project Gemini, which promises in-memory, on-the-fly sorting, filtering and slice-and-dice analysis of up to millions of rows of data in Excel (FYI, IBM Cognos Express also relies on Excel as the default client). Gemini is slated for release some time in the first half of 2010, but a technology preview release might give us a peek at what to expect as soon as this Fall. It will also be interesting to see how QlikTech and Spotfire react and adapt to Microsoft's entry into the in-memory analysis arena.

Like SAP's BusinessObjects Edge series for the midmarket, IBM Cognos Express is targeted at companies with 100 to 1,000 employees, but I'm a bit mystified as to why IBM is using a named-user licensing approach. Deployments of the IBM Cognos Express Reporter (reporting), Advisor (analysis) and Xcelerator (planning, budgeting and forecasting) modules start at $12,500 each for five named users. The standard edition of SAP BusinessObjects Edge starts at $19,000 for five concurrent seats, which means any five users can tap into the functionality at any given time. Edge tops out at 100 concurrent seats, which could easily support as many as 1,000 users. In contrast, IBM Cognos Express tops out at 100 named seats, so IBM is effectively saying that only 10 percent of the workforce at a 1,000-employee company will be a BI user. That's not very flexible, nor is it in the spirit of what most people say BI needs to become: a widely used tool for everyday decision makers.

Whether it's $19,000 or $12,500, these companies are still fighting a perceived five-figure gap between what companies can get from SAP or IBM and what they can get "built in for free" when the organization uses the combination of Microsoft Office, SQL Server and SharePoint. As I wrote in this story on IBM Cognos Express, the other differentiator IBM is counting on versus Microsoft (in addition to in-memory analysis) is the performance management-oriented planning, budgeting and forecasting functionality of Xcelerator. But to play Devil's advocate for a moment, would Microsoft have pulled the plug on Microsoft PerformancePoint if it really sensed strong demand for performance management functionality?

Analyst Robert Anderson says Gartner DataQuest research shows there is interest and latent demand for performance management, but he adds that he also understands why many BI vendors have stayed out of a head-to-head fight with Microsoft in the BI midmarket.

"I think vendors like Oracle feel like they have enough fish to fry in the enterprise space without fighting a battle and doing what it will take to go up against Microsoft and others who have staked out their territory down market," Anderson says.

From my perspective it's nothing ventured, nothing gained, so I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention Microstrategy, which earlier this year introduced a free "Reporting Suite" version of its software designed for up to 100 users. Cindi Howson "couldn't find a catch" in this offer, so perhaps it's another option midsize companies should download and try before they commit to one platform.I'm glad to see that IBM Cognos is making the most of good assets. Rather than introducing a light version of Cognos enterprise technologies to meet the needs of midsize companies, IBM yesterday bowed an IBM Cognos Express offering that is really one part Cognos and two parts Applix TM1.

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