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With Cognos In Its Fold, IBM Gets On With BI Integration

Big Blue introduces business intelligence products and services for banking, retail, health care, and other industries.
IBM last week laid out its plan to integrate the business intelligence products from recently acquired Cognos with its own information management software. To show that it means business, IBM introduced no fewer than 10 BI packages that do just that, for industries such as banking, retail, health care, and life sciences.

The strategy involves melding Cognos' business analytics and reporting tools with IBM's content management and database middleware. One offering, for example, adds Cognos' Store Operations and Planning blueprints to IBM's Retail Integration framework. Such combinations take "us deeper into business analysis and analytics," says IBM senior VP Steve Mills.

For banking, IBM introduced the Financial Risk Insight Solution, which couples the IBM Banking Data Warehouse with Cognos 8 Business Intelligence modules. It's meant to give financial services companies an enterprise-wide view of risk across products, divisions, and geographies.

Pharmaceutical companies will be able to tap the new Life Sciences Promotional Spend and Compliance Solution to stay atop evolving state regulations on drug promotional spending and determine where marketing dollars are best spent based on regional sales and clinical data. In addition, IBM's Global Services arm is rolling out services to get customers up and running on Cognos software quickly.

CULTURAL FIT
Still, there's not much entirely new here--except that businesses can now buy a fully integrated BI package directly from IBM, and IBM will be able to present a complete BI package to the business managers who frequently make the call on such technology. Those managers also will be less likely--IBM hopes--to build a Cognos package on middleware from rivals such as Oracle. Cognos' applications "fill a big void in IBM's stack," Gartner reports.

IBM senior VP Steve Mills

IBM's push makes BI easier for customers, says Mills
IBM, which completed the $5 billion acquisition on Jan. 31, will not discontinue any Cognos products and will keep the company's home base in Ottawa, says Mills. There will be no sales or product development layoffs, though back-office redundancies could result in the elimination of a few jobs.

Gartner expects the BI market to grow 8.6% annually through 2011. Businesses are overwhelmed with information--and are willing to spend big money on tools that help them make better decisions.

Take the restaurant industry. Sales can fluctuate wildly, meaning that stores find themselves with too many or too few workers at a given time. To minimize that undersupply and oversupply, Papa Gino's last year spent a high-six-figure sum to install Cognos BI and enterprise planning tools that let the pizza chain's district managers mine sales trends to predict staff requirements. "If you overestimate labor, you're wasting money," says Papa Gino's CIO Paul Valle. "If you underestimate, then you hurt the customer experience."

Cognos CEO Rob Ashe insists his company won't change. "Culturally, we're very similar to IBM," he says. IBM has promised to let Cognos operate more or less as an independent unit. "We get access to their people and technology," Ashe adds. "It's the best of both worlds."

IBM has bet $5 billion that customers will see it that way, too.

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