IBM Focuses on 'Engaging' Business Users with Latest Version of Cognos 8

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New V4 is all about supporting better decision-making by supplying timely and more accurate information in a personalized way.

By Chris Smith

IBM Cognos last week released a new version of IBM Cognos 8 business intelligence software that is intended to help push more timely, accurate information into the hands of business users and better align the roles of the IT and finance departments to achieve a more efficiently running business.


V4 of Cognos 8 has been under development a relatively short time. V3 was released less than a year ago, but V4 has some impressive new features that allow users to determine what information they get, based on personal preferences and job requirements, thereby freeing IT from having to generate an endless stream of reports based on individual needs.


The challenge of providing timely and highly accurate information in today's fast-paced business environment appears to be increasing as cycle times shorten and businesses grow larger. According to IBM, surveys show that some 47 percent of users don't have confidence in the information they are given, and 59 percent report they missed information that they should have used in their decision-making. A shocking 95 percent of the workforce doesn't understand corporate strategy, and less than half the organizations surveyed bother to link that strategy with their budgets.


The move toward giving workers more useful information more quickly is balanced against the need to protect personal and corporate interests from the unauthorized dissemination of inappropriate information, and IBM Cognos 8 addresses that dilemma with a security system that is characteristic of the best IBM has to offer.


While IBM Cognos 8 doesn't run natively on IBM i, it can access DB2 data, and part of the thrust Cognos developers have been charged with since the company was acquired by IBM in January 2008 has been to integrate Cognos applications with IBM systems and software. That integration takes a major step forward with every new version.


The Cognos acquisition is part of a major push by IBM to gain market share in the growing business intelligence market and information management business. Big Blue launched an initiative beginning in 2006 that it is calling its Information on Demand (IOD) strategy and so far has spent more than $8 billion and acquired more than 25 companies to realize its goals. Some 15,000 business consultants have been devoted to the Information on Demand initiative, a commitment that has started to pay dividends. Revenues from the company's information management portfolio have grown by 20 percent (compounded annually) as a result of the IOD initiative. The company will host an IOD Conference this month in Las Vegas (October 26-31) to address the future of information management.


"The overall theme for the release was to deliver information to business users on their terms but to IT and Finance standards," said Ian Gordon, IBM Cognos Product Marketing. "We were particularly concerned with this release about enlarging the audience that could actually access the information so it would be better informed, engaged, and aligned. The ultimate thing we're trying to do here obviously is improve decision making so people have better business outcomes, and to do that they need trusted information."


Among the new features in V4 are the following:

•·         Go! Dashboard--This allows users to self-assemble their own dashboards with interactive Flash-based components using a drag-and-drop user interface.

•·         Business Viewpoint--This new business modeling software is designed to help provide a two-way street between IT and business users to allow the business users to control how they see information delivered by the business intelligence performance management system.

•·         New Financial Performance Analytics--New package solutions are available for financial performance analysis of the general ledger and accounts receivable/payable for people who have either JD Edwards or Oracle E-Business Suite ERP solutions.

•·         New Planning Interface--This is designed to let more people participate in the planning, budgeting, and forecasting process. Updated enterprise planning capabilities blend planning and analysis features to help increase productivity and accuracy of planners, who can build persistent views of the organization to provide better context for forecasting.

•·         Business Glossary, Data Lineage, and Annotations--These are designed to help team members better understand the meaning of the information they see. They allow users to add their own comments, views, and insights onto the information they are seeing and share it with others. This brings the features of a wiki or enterprise dictionary of terms to the world of business intelligence. It is designed to reveal what a term might mean and where a report or displayed data comes from. The idea is to tap into the collective intelligence of the organization and share it with everyone.


Enhancements to Cognos 8 features include these:

•·         Enhanced Go! Search Capability--This allows users to search all business intelligence content for both structured and unstructured information. Go! Search was designed to integrate with existing enterprise search engines.

•·         Improved Go! Mobile Capabilities--Providing access to information via BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, and Symbian devices, Go! Mobile now can utilize GPS information to deliver regional-specific information to users. There is also support in this release for "prompted" reports where the user is asked for more-specific information before delivering the report. It also supports scheduled and burst reports.

•·         Platform Advances and Deeper Integration with IBM--With V4 of Cognos 8, IBM is introducing a new system management methodology to help system administrators improve how deployments are managed by accelerating the implementation of proven practices. IBM is making available technical white papers, sample reports, models, and tools as part of the initiative. There is enhanced support for IBM InfoSphere Warehouse and an expansion of the IBM Cognos OLAP portfolio. There is also tighter integration with Cognos Now! and Cognos TM1. New metadata integration with Rational Architect will enable users who model their data to integrate their work without duplicating effort. The solution now supports 64-bit application servers as well as IPv6.


"With this release what we were focusing on was putting more flexibility and freedom into business hands while retaining IT standards and Finance control," says Harriet Fryman, IBM Cognos Product Marketing. "The real focus in this release--and where you will see the excitement from our customers--is in enabling that business person to engage with the information," she says. "If we can make that more engaging for the business person, what we have done is brought them to where they can use information to make a change in their business for the better."


Users who wish to learn more about the upcoming IOD conference, or register, can do so by visiting