I was at IBM’s Information on Demand (IoD) and Cognos Business Analytics Forum this week in Las Vegas where Cognos launched its next generation BI platform: IBM Cognos 10 BI.
The product became generally available earlier this month and has been in beta with 100 customers for several months.
There is a lot of new and improved packed into IBM Cognos 10 BI, including in-memory, better dashboards, disconnected dashboards, and personal data sources. (BI Scorecard subscribers can access a more in depth review here next week.) Some of these improvements bring the vendor to a stronger competitive position in the BI market place, but one aspect has the potential to be a significant competitive differentiator: collaboration.
“Collaboration meets BI” is one of those features I talk about in my cool BI classes at TDWI. It’s definitely an emerging trend, which means there’s hype, there’s confusion, but with this, ultimately value. To date, collaboration aspects of BI have been limited to cell comments at a minimum, user-driven rankings and discussions at best. For the most part, niche vendors such as Lyza and Antivia have been ahead of industry heavy weights on collaboration. In the last year, some BI vendors have been innovating in this area, such as SAP StreamWork, Oracle BI EE 11g integration with WebCenter, and Information Builders collaboration in their Performance Management Framework. But IBM Cognos 10 BI hits the ball out of the park by embedding a free license of Lotus Connections and installed with IBM Cognos 10 BI.
Much of what was demoed around this capability centered on users adding comments to reports and dashboards or to individual metrics. From within the BI environment, these comments can be easily searched, along with report meta data, as Go! Search is more integrated in IBM Cognos 10 BI. In theory, though, it is the ability for users to collaborate around a task, with supporting BI dashboards, wikis, blogs, instant messages, and emails, where I see the biggest potential. To take a recent headline grabber: imagine the BP oil spill, before the spill. Reportedly, data from the well’s pressure gauges revealed a problem. But those concerns were expressed in offline emails, not tied to the data. The integration between BI and collaboration seems further along in Cognos 10 BI than in competitive offerings.
If that’s too bleeding edge for your organization, then there is the bread-and-butter, but new, Active Report (not to be confused with Information Builders well established Active Reports … why do vendors name different things the same?!). IBM Cognos 10 BI Active Reports are disconnected dashboards in an MHT file, most comparable to MicroStrategy’s Enterprise Dashboards. For long-time Cognos customers, the disconnected capabilities are long-awaited and powerful. Authors build these reports in Report Studio via a new template and interactive controls. Personalized content can be bursted to individual recipients.
Perhaps the best news for customers is the reported ease of upgrading. One beta customer ran the upgrade last week in less than 30 minutes, converting over 40,000 reports and 3500 users, trouble free. That’s a far cry from the difficult upgrades in early releases.
Cindi Howson, BI Scorecard