BI crowd extends data reach

Attempting to bolster corporate performance with BI (business intelligence) data, vendors this week will announce upgrades designed to help customers align business operations with strategic goals.

Cognos Inc., SAS Institute Inc., and Comshare Inc. will separately introduce technology enhancements that enable companies to pull BI data from traditional departmental silos to monitor overall business performance across functions in real time.

“There is a movement from people buying a stand-alone budget package to buying budgeting and performance management,” said Henry Morris, an analyst at IDC in Framingham, Mass. “The idea is to look … at metrics in other parts of the business to get an indication of where I’m going financially. If you look at something like customer satisfaction, that is a leading indicator of performance.”

To that end, Cognos will detail Metrics Manager, its next-generation score-carding solution designed to provide access to visualization, reports, and analysis so that users can share and distribute information tied to key performance indicators.

“It’s a clear view of the organization’s performance from both a tactical and strategic perspective,” said Meg Dussault, director of product marketing at Cognos in Ottawa. “We’re going to tie strategy to the execution at the front line. We allow you to view your performance … by putting in the target and prioritizing.”

For its part, Cary, N.C.-based SAS will unveil a new Windows client application with an interface designed to allow companies to rapidly deploy analytics across the enterprise using existing platforms and data sources. Enterprise Guide 2.0 will provide a single point of access to SAS capabilities, thereby omitting the need for programming by business analysts.

“You don’t have to be a statistician to understand some of these results,” said Eleanor Taylor, SAS manager of BI strategy. “In the past [BI] has been based on historical information flowing one way. Some of the analytics … can help empower you to drive forward instead of always looking at historical performance.”

New features in Enterprise Guide include additional guided tasks to lead users quickly and easily through analyses and reporting and role-based task display to decrease the complexity of the user interface. In addition, integrated scheduling is designed to allow users to refresh and disseminate reports automatically at regular intervals to reduce the load on IT departments.

Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Comshare’s new MPC 5.0 will be designed to allow companies to meet new Securities and Exchange Commission requirements such as senior management certification and shorter reporting periods. Added features include enhanced financial consolidation and detailed budgeting capabilities to allow companies to budget for employees down to the individual and by activity, product or project.

In addition the new release will feature additional Microsoft BI platform support such as Microsoft’s SQL Server Analysis Services functionality like currency and forecasting.

“Financial reporting has bubbled back up, and is a real focus point for senior management and boards of directors,” said Rod Radojevic, Comshare senior product marketing manager. “We are seeing the need and want for organizations to analyze some of their costs and cost drivers in more detail.”

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