Last week at IBM’s analyst summit in Ottawa, Canada, the vendor gave an update on its BI strategy and a sneak peek of things to come in the Cognos product line.
Visual discovery and analysis was the most exciting new development in the labs. As I wrote in the 2011 BI predictions article, visual exploration of data is proving to be one of the hottest categories this year, with Tableau and QlikTech growing at a breath- taking pace, Tibco Spotfire releasing a new version, and MicroStrategy releasing Visual Insight. IBM Cognos looks poised to disrupt what has largely been a niche market, bringing visual analysis to both stand-alone deployments and as an extension to the Cognos BI 10 platform. In-memory database Cognos TM1 will be the power behind the new visualization tool. I am not permitted to mention release dates and pricing.
As part of its education and marketing of business analytics, IBM also talked about a new tool for companies to assess their Analytic Quotient or AQ. It’s a fairly simplistic maturity model with four levels: novice, builder, leader, master. I like IBM’s categories better than the more robust TDWI maturity model (does anyone want to be called an “infant” or “teenager”?), but the TDWI maturity model is more comprehensive. The real value in IBM’s model is that this mega vendor continues to raise the awareness of the importance of analytics for both strategic and operational business decisions. It’s clear to see that few companies have yet to unleash the full potential of BI. Early indications of this year’s Successful BI survey (take the survey here) again show that only a minority of companies say BI has delivered significant business impact, whether in terms of boosting revenue, controlling costs, or streamlining operations.
Six customers shared their AQ assessments and Cognos experiences. Reflecting the ongoing disconnect between business and IT, John Lucas, director of operations at the Cincinnati Zoo declared, “if we relied on the IT department to innovate, we’d still be playing on a Commodore. IT is not wired to innovate.” Instead, they relied on a Cognos partner to implement Cognos. While his comments drew chuckles and nods of sympathetic understanding, I do think (hope?) this aspect of BI success is improving. Indeed, in the wake of the economic down turn, many of those IT departments not aligned with the business have been outsourced or severely cut.
A number of customers touted the improved performance and integration with TM1 as a key reason for upgrading to Cognos 10, released last October. The other oft-cited reason for upgrading to Cognos 10 was the improved user interface and work flow, brought about by Business Insight and Business Insight Advanced (see our just-published in-depth review here). Business Insight is the interface for user-assembled dashboards while Business Insight Advanced combines the capabilities of Query Studio and Analysis Studio in a single interface. The customers on this panel said the upgrade went smoothly, but these customers did not have large user bases or 1000s of reports to migrate. One large media company with 1000s of users has decided to run Cognos 10 in parallel to their Cognos 8 deployment for now.
IBM celebrates its 100th anniversary this month on June 15th. While not part of the formal presentations, one employee shared how IBM has asked its workers to mark the event: by contributing back to the community in volunteer work on that day. Employees can recruit workers to help at their favorite charity or service organization. It seems a positive way that IBM can not only build a “smarter planet,” but a better one.
Cindi Howson, BI Scorecard