IBM adds fuel to Information on Demand strategy

First result of IBM's acquisition of BI vendor Cognos is the unveiling of an array of product offerings and services that tie into Big Blue's Information on Demand strategy

IBM announced the first results of its recently closed acquisition of business intelligence vendor Cognos, unveiling an array of product offerings and services that tie into its Information on Demand strategy.

"We are off and running," said Steve Mills, senior vice president and group executive of IBM's software group, during a press conference on Wednesday.

IBM's long-standing partnership with Cognos allowed it to quickly pull together the new products, Mills said. They include a Cognos 8 BI "starter pack" for IBM's InfoSphere Warehouse; integration of Cognos 8 with IBM's Information Server data integration platform; templates for linking Cognos 8 with IBM's BPM (business process management) software, Filenet; and Dashboard Accelerator, for quickly constructing dashboards with Cognos 8, according to a statement.

The company also plans to bundle Cognos 8 with its C-Class Balanced Warehouse products, which are aimed at small to medium-sized firms; and has created Compliance Warehouse for Legal Control, which combines a variety of content management and archiving capabilities with IBM storage hardware, as well as compliance monitoring through Cognos' technology, a statement said.

Along with the product offerings, IBM announced a number of offerings tailored for verticals and a set of new services.

The basic contention of IBM's IOD push is that future market opportunities lie less in packaged applications, than in optimizing those applications' performance through data management, delivery and analysis.

"When we ask customers if they have an information agenda, we get inconsistent answers," said Ambuj Goyal, general manager of information management. "That's where the real growth is."

Meanwhile, though, rival vendors like SAP and Oracle can align business intelligence with their widely used ERP (enterprise resource planning) offerings. IBM, which doesn't have an equivalent ERP product, is hardly at a disadvantage, Mills argued. "A typical large company is running 2,000 to 4,000 applications. The brand names are a scatter-gram. Even companies who use a lot of SAP," he said.

Though IBM is building out a sprawling stack of information-related technologies, the company will ensure customers who want even a single tool will be satisfied, Goyal asserted: "We are based on a flexible architecture. You'll see from us that we're trying to meet customers in the way they buy."

Enterprise customers suggested Wednesday that their own plans and needs fit into IBM's strategy.

Paul Valle, senior vice president of information technology and CIO at the Papa Gino's/D'Angelo's restaurant chain, said his firm has been using Cognos to improve its delivery business by identifying "hot spots" where performance is lagging.

But the company now wants to take this a step further, he said: "It's more than the negative areas, it's finding the positive areas and pulling it all together. That can only lead to customer satisfaction."

Carl Try, manager of e-commerce and advanced technologies for Fiskars, which makes a range of consumer products, including tools, said the company has been using Cognos to derive meaning from its ERP application data. "Our ERP strategy was really more North America. Now our C-level people want to pull global information," he said.

Fiskars' ultimate goal is not just to collect information from more sources, but to apply even more advanced analytics, he said: "Just imagine, point-of-sale [data] combined with weather information. That's where we want to go."

IBM's research work in applied mathematics will result in industry-leading analytics down the road, according to Mills. "You now have all the visualization capability from Cognos, and we will now start to link these things up. ...We see this as a really unique differentiation that IBM is going to bring to the marketplace that quite frankly, no one else is going to be able to match."

The executives declined to name specific figures when asked about the growth Cognos could spark. "When you spend $5 billion, you have high expectations," Mills said. "With 60 acquisitions under our belt we understand very clearly how to do this. ... we have every confidence we'll continue that with Cognos."

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