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Cognos: Step Away From That Spreadsheet

Officials at business intelligence (BI) software outfit Cognos released an upgrade to its Enterprise Planning Series (EPS) software Tuesday aimed at offering companies a more sophisticated alternative to spreadsheets.

EPS 7.2 ties into metrics and monitoring functions in the company's corporate performance management suite (CPM). It delivers real-time reporting, forecasts and plans, something officials said many companies are unable to accomplish.

Despite investing time and money on BI dashboards, 55 percent of enterprises use Microsoft Excel spreadsheets for budgeting, said Doug Barton, Cognos vice president of enterprise planning marketing. When it comes to small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), that figures climbs up to roughly 75 percent.

Barton said spreadsheets worked fine in the past, but as companies look for ways to use finances to find new market opportunities, they must automate.

"Spreadsheets have been a status quo because there hasn't been a really good, viable alternative to them," he told internetnews.com. "It's really important as companies seek to automate a repetitive process around rapid, high-participation planning, that they look for enterprise-class software to do this."

It all ties into the Burlington, Mass., company's CPM suite: metrics and monitoring can help executives find essential information about a new job market or change in the existing one.

To improve its EPS software package, developers built extra functionality to interact with metrics and monitoring. Instead of periodic reports on enterprise planning through BI using ReportNet, an in-house software reporting tool, executives see real-time reports of financial processes in the enterprise.

Other improvements include quick commands to modify target data (which are auditable) and a single sign-in security to control who gets into the system.

While many parts of the tech sector are seeing sluggish sales, BI software is a strong seller, according to a financial report of fourth quarter 2003 by Merrill Lynch.

The report states that while license growth is a concern, the software's performance through the economic downturn is a good sign. Cognos is the research firm's top pick for the BI sector; while the company's ReportNet software has been a steady revenue generator, Merrill Lynch analysts expect EPS software "should rebound from last quarter's softness."

Officials said an EPS 7.2 license price depends on the number of people using the system and the roles they play. A license runs $75,000 for 75 users, a Cognos official said.