RealTime IT News

To Build or Buy? Cognos Chooses the Former

The business analytics software space has seen its share of action of late, with Business Objects buying Crystal Decisions, Hyperion purchasing Brio and Actuate snapping up Nimble Technologies in domino-like fashion over a three-week period.

Business Objects, Hyperion and Actuate were all gunning for reporting technology to round out their analytics software portfolios. Mission accomplished. But when fierce competitors like these duke it out, it tends to make industry watchers notice who isn't making such an acquisitive splash.

One of these would be Cognos , which chose to build its own reporting software suite rather than buy it like the others. Building such a product, while time-consuming over the last 3 to 4 years, is still perhaps easier to do than to buy and integrate alien software code and technologies into existing product suites, sometimes the equivalent of fitting round pegs into square holes.

The Burlington, Mass.-based company will formally unveil the completed software next Tuesday in New York City. Dan Vesset, research manager of the Analytics and Data Warehousing practice at IDC, studied the software and said it appears sound.

ReportNet, Vesset said, is a report creation tool used for creating reports for a large community of users as opposed to just more technically complex ad hoc reporting for business analysts.

It allows for more sophisticated manipulation of data and parameters to provide information for consumers who don't need to know how to code or program in order to use it -- unlike most ad-hoc reporting tools. "It's just a matter of dragging and dropping info onto templates," Vesset told internetnews.com. These can then be embedded into a portal.

The news is significant, Vesset said, but it is not a bet-the-company play. In fact, reporting tools will become commodities soon, with many software vendors who want a piece of a large business analytics software pie rolling out reporting tools. Microsoft is expected to roll out a competitive suite, called Microsoft Reporting Services, in the fourth quarter.

[ReportNet is another addition to Cognos' portfolio," Vesset said. "This is not a differentiating factor from competitors, but certain features like the multilingual support and user interface are unique. It's sort of a must-have. They don't want to eliminate themselves from securing other projects."

Another analyst concurred and speculated that Cognos could gain serious traction versus its competitors.

"It's not a desperation move, as this product has been in development for 3-4 years now," said Eric Rogge, vice president and research director at Ventana Research. "However much of the underpinning infrastructure will be the basis for [upcoming Cognos platform] Series 8, including their metadata management layer (via Framework Manager), their new Portal interface, and a number of other services that will eventually support Metrics Manager, PowerPlay, Visualizer, etc. I would say that this is their opportunity to really move ahead of BO, Hyperion, etc. And of course, with Microsoft Reporting Services coming up soon, they need to build a defendable position as much as possible."

The market for business analytics software is expanding at a dizzying pace. IDC estimates the niche will top $4.8 billion by 2007.

"Analytic applications are the best means of navigating from data to decision-making and action," said Vesset's colleague, Bob Blumstein, research director for IDC's CRM analytics and marketing applications research. "As companies adopt these applications to enhance the effectiveness of finance, customer relationship management (CRM), and operations, they will gain a distinct competitive advantage over those companies that tolerate traditional inefficiencies."

IDC believes CRM analytics will grow the fastest with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.9 percent, followed by financial analytics/business performance management at 10.3 percent, and operations analytics at a 7.4 percent growth rate.