Cognos drills down deeper into Excel with TM1 9.4

IBM’s Cognos on Wednesday released an update to TM1, its budgeting, forecasting and reporting software for finance departments and business users.

TM1 is a 64-bit in-memory online analytical processing (OLAP) server which Cognos gained through Applix, a company it acquired not long before IBM bought Cognos late last year. While Cognos is best known for the high-end business intelligence (BI) software it offers large enterprises, the TM1 product is part of a business unit called financial performance management that sits somewhat apart from the rest of the operation, according to Joe Pusztai, one of the company’s marketing directors.

New to TM1 9.4 are what Cognos is calling “Active Forms,” which allow both power users in IT and business users to get more information out of the row of a report.

“The existing Excel interface was static,” Pusztai said, “but in a budgeting cycle, depending on what products you need to manage, you may need to drill into an extensive level of detail.”

The results will be available both for traditional PC users as well as those operating in a thin-client environment, which is an important way for Cognos to respond to its customer needs, Pusztai said.

“There was a bit of feature drift happening,” he said. “You’d have some features thin-client-only, some for thick clients. We’ve now achieved feature parity.”

TM1 has also been retooled to assist users with Sarbanes-Oxley compliance. This includes a logging facility that captures all non-data maintenance activity for the purposes of auditing. In other words, it does a better job of tracking who has done what to information, such as changing dimension elements or adding or deleting subsets.

“This can change the outcome of your reports completely, but we had no mechanisms to track that,” he said.

Cognos faces a number of competitors in the finance performance management space. This includes Mountain View, Calif.-based Adaptive Planning, which offers its own suite which is made available in an on-demand as well as an on-premise model. Bill Soward, Adaptive Planning’s CEO, said the company often builds upon its software-as-a-service proposition with competitive pricing.

“Often the only companies they’re aware of are Cognos or Hyperion, but they’re not affordable,” he said. “If the customer wants one stop shopping . . . Cognos might have an incumbent advantage. They’re mostly geared to larger customers and are upmarket.”

Not for long, however. With TM1 9.4, Cognos is also offering a version specifically aimed at mid-market firms. Pusztai said Cognos is still in discussions with IBM about the extent to which TM1 will be folded into its flagship BI product.

”We have not taken the step of calling it Cognos 8 TM1. That would be a fairly high bar in terms of integration,” he said.

TM1 is also being geared towards Web-based office environments with a tool for creating templates that work both in Excel and online. The product’s Exeuctive Viewer has also moved to an XML format for making deployment routines and programming maintenance easier, the company said.

Pricing for a basic configuration of TM1’s mid-market edition starts at $25,000.

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