While much of the BI battle ground has been at the enterprise level in large companies and public agencies, market share in the small to midsized business (SMB) is shaping up to be the next battle ground. Microsoft has largely dominated this space, with its “BI for free” included in SQL Server and Share Point, SAP BusinessObjects has also pursued this segment with its Edge Series. But how much this market has grown is most apparent through QlikTech QlikView in which 50-user deployments are the norm, and revenue growth has been over 40 to 80% for the last few years (BI overall has been 8 to 10%, according to most estimates).
One of the tricky things with BI for SMBs is that the IT department may be a one-person show, with limited resources and rarely the expertise to build a data warehouse or to deploy complicated BI tools. Fast deployment time and simple administration are key. I’ll find out in a few weeks just how well the just-announced IBM Cognos Express addresses these aspects when the product will be available for trial download.
However, the product already has some differentiators that its competitors lack. Planning capabilities are part of the product. The TM1 OLAP cache is a differentiator versus SAP BusinessObjects Edge; its ability to act as a data mart makes me think of the early successes of Cognos PowerPlay, a product that has had to evolve to the enterprise. In this regard, Ben Plummer, Director of the Mid Market Business Unit, noted that one of the biggest challenges in Cognos Express will be in deciding what not to put in the product. This is where the product is also different from MicroStrategy’s free Reporting Suite approach that can grow from departmental to enterprise: Cognos Express is more squarely targeted at deployments that will never grow to more than 100 users. Which components and content can migrate to the enterprise Cognos 8 BI is not yet clear, but if you are an SMB and not a departmental BI customer, that may not be a consideration.
Beyond the product, one of the most interesting aspects to Cognos Express is that it qualifies for IBM Global Financing. In a down economy and amidst a credit crunch, offering potential customers the ability to finance their BI deployment may prove to be what makes BI possible in this growing market segment.
Cindi Howson, BI Scorecard