IBM’s Cognos Express Targets Mid-Sized Firms

There’s a big gulf between what’s often barely better than consumer grade software offered to small businesses and the massive packages, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars or even several million, offered to large enterprises.

Into that gap, IBM (NYSE:IBM) is pitching Cognos Express, a streamlined version of its business analytics software designed to be easier to use, easier to deploy, and the right price for companies with between 100 and 1,000 employees.

“That would not preclude our selling it to larger and smaller companies,”
Ben Plummer, IBM Cognos mid-market business unit general manager, told about today’s release.

The offering targets a segment that IBM sees as big, worth $59 billion in 2008 according to IDC, and growing fast.

Plummer said that he has experienced some of the frustration that a mid-sized company experiences. Although he has worked for Cognos for 15 years, he has also spent some time at startups, one of which, Applix, was acquired by Cognos shortly before Cognos was acquired by IBM.

Plummer said that mid-sized companies want to innovate. “In IBM’s 2009 Global CIO Study, 47 percent of those interviewed were focused on cutting costs and found technologies like analytics valuable for them, and 53 percent said they wanted to innovate … to look beyond what they do today and start planning for the future,” he said.

He added that although companies might want to use enterprise software, its high cost and complex deployment made that impossible.

“When we look at the competitive landscape, we see people focused on a niche, like reporting or planning, but we never see them take the initiative to create the complete business intelligence (BI) connection,” he said.

“The ability to not just look at and analyze data but also take action on it, sets the Cognos line of products apart from the competition,” he added.

Modular software

IBM Cognos Express consists of three products: Express Reporter, Express Advisor, and Express Xcelerator. All rely on a centralized repository for data, comprised of a company’s existing data management investment.

Express Reporter is designed to connect to any type of data from relational databases to desktop-based Excel files. It contains a large number of pre-configured reports and dashboards and also allows users to build their own. It can output reports to the Web, to a portal, to e-mail, or to PDF or Excel files.

Express Advisor is designed to enable anyone to dive into data, change views, and implement scenarios. The results can be embedded into Microsoft Office applications.

Express Xcelerator is all about Microsoft Excel. “Xcelerator transforms Excel with a powerful in-memory analytic server for multi-dimensional analysis and planning,” IBM said.

The product allows users to interact with data through Excel itself or through a Web interface. It tracks usage to enable security and auditing.

Cognos Express is very different from the enterprise Cognos software of ten years ago. “It’s far more guided. It’s simpler to get started. I believe the reporting and analysis paradigm is easier,” said Plummer.

“It doesn’t have 15 types of users. It has one query screen, one visualization screen, and one screen for planning and reporting,” he added.

The product will be sold through IBM’s partners, including over 360 Cognos partners and over 1,000 IBM General Business MidMarket partners.

Pricing starts at $12,000 and financing is available at $25 per user per month through IBM Global Financing (subject to conditions), IBM said.

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