IBM and Cognos, one year on

Looking back on one year after being acquired by IBM Corp., a Cognos Inc. executive described a 20 per cent growth in the size of the Cognos team as driven, in part, by the “synergy” with IBM initiatives.

Eric Lau, vice-president of business intelligence for IBM/Cognos, acknowledged there’s been “lots of work” put into the relationship so that both companies could learn about each other, but “last year was, looking back, a really strong year.”

During that time, said Lau, it’s become clear that IBM’s information management strategy “is very much in line with our vision around basically enabling businesses to help improve the performance of their organizations.”

Specifically, Cognos’ focus on business intelligence and performance management, and IBM’s focus on data management, data quality, collaboration, and content management, all geared towards the same goal of enhancing business performance means the companies “didn’t start off the journey aimed at different spots.”

The growth in the Cognos segment is “significant given what we saw in the economy last year,” said Lau.

According to John Hagerty, vice-president with Boston, Mass.-based AMR Research, business intelligence provides a lot more visibility into how a business is operating especially in current economic times, and he’s observed customers investing in business intelligence through the large part of 2008. “There is no question that people view business intelligence as one of the key investment areas in tight times because there are very much trying to wring as much value as they can out of investments they’ve already made.”

There is always the concern in any transaction that what gets acquired could end up diluted in the grander scheme of things, said Lau, but there has been continued investment in Cognos’ core roadmap, plus additional investment in order to enable synergy opportunities with IBM initiatives like its Information On Demand (IOD) strategy.

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Given the minimal overlap in the companies’ portfolios, Lau said the focus was very easily “net new innovation and acceleration” and gaining and extending leadership in the market.

While the Cognos segment, like other segments within IBM, is run heterogeneously by supporting other IBM products, Cognos’ desired status as a platform-agnostic independent business intelligence vendor continues to be realized, said Lau. And, while different segments within IBM may support business intelligence products aside from those of Cognos, the ultimate goal, said Lau, is to offer that added value so that customers will move to adopt IBM offerings.

Cognos certainly must remain platform-agnostic, said Hagerty, as its “whole reason for living is to try to glom on to whatever happens to be there,” otherwise it will cut off a large part of its potential market.

Moreover, as business intelligence suites are being assembled with a greater number of assets sourced from a greater number of places, Hagerty said, “buyers like the idea of a single source, or at least more assets being combined together to create an overall information management story.”

Moving forward, Lau said there will be a number of announcements about Cognos’s role in IBM’s IOD strategy, as “Cognos becomes a tighter fabric of [that initiative]… but without sacrificing that basic heterogeneous strategy.”

Specifically, announcements will include new product capabilities stemming from the synergy between Cognos and other areas of IBM’s information management team, of which Cognos is part. Also, customers can expect more packaged technologies and best practices as they can be “implemented for value faster than ever before.”

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