Newly-appointed Cognos COO focusing on growth

At Enterprise 99, Cognos’ recent user conference in Orlando, Fla., the company announced its new integrated end-to-end business intelligence (BI) platform, which includes a new user interface portal. But the platform isn’t the only change at Cognos.

The company recently appointed 16-year-veteran Terry Hall as its chief operating officer. Hall is the first COO that Cognos has ever had.

At Cognos’ Enterprise 99, ComputerWorld Canada staff writer Poonam Khanna had an opportunity to meet with Hall and ask about his future plans for Cognos.

CWC:Your appointment is very recent. What are your plans for the future? Where do you want to take the company?

Hall: We’re very much focused on growth right now. We have leadership in the business intelligence market, and we want to really get dominance – we want to widen the gap in terms of ourselves and the rest of the market. So we’ve been focused in the last six months on expanding our market coverage – both in sales and the technical side of things. (We’re) very much focused and will continue to focus on getting closer to customers. We have a tremendous asset of a terrific number of customers.

You’ve probably heard (about) some of the new products. We’re very strong at integrating the products – the BI platform, and some of the new exciting products. The Visualizer, the portal product, I think is going to add significantly to our growth. So I’m very much focused on growing our market share.

CWC:The position of the COO is a newly-created role. Why did Cognos create the position?

Hall: Well, it’s really to leverage the various disciplines we have – sales, worldwide support, all of marketing, our new business endeavours – in terms of the applications. It’s really to align everything into one cohesive unit.

CWC:Is Ron Zambonini going to take on a new role?

Hall: No, he remains the CEO. He’s obviously delegating the operations, the running of the company to me and obviously we’ll be working as a team — all of us, the entire senior management team.

CWC:The terms e-commerce and e-business are often used interchangeably. What do you see as the difference, and how does Cognos fit into the world of e-business?

Hall: Well, I’d say both are broad categories. Everyone is getting into some form of e-business – that’s the broadest category and we very much fall into that because organizations want very much to buy our products based on Web-based technology.

That’s how we deliver our product, that’s the platform and that’s the one that’s been growing. We were the first to the Web a few years ago and that’s been really the driver because organizations can now deploy and manage their BI deployment effectively. There’s no software on the CD, it’s just under the browser, so you can implement with the Web server and deploy to thousands of users in the enterprise.

CWC:Are business intelligence users changing?

Hall: I think the scope of it is certainly changing. Historically it was quite a small subset of users within the enterprise that deployed the Internet and the Web. When we made a sale four, five years ago in business intelligence we were selling to a large company, maybe 500 copies. Now that’s all changed because of the Internet. The sheer number of users and potential users is extended 10-fold. So it’s not unusual for us to now sell to 8,000, 10,000, 15,000 users. Again, it’s much easier for them to manage and deploy it with the Internet.

There are different types of users. There are users who are more sophisticated with much more analytical-type capabilities. That’s typically still going to be in the client/server mode.

CWC:Is the number of sophisticated users growing as well?

Hall: Yes, but on a matter of degree it’s much more on the general usage side. Whereas before, it was much more difficult to do that because of deployment. Now they can do that (with the Web) and get it out to many users – thousands of users – and get the return on investment very quickly.

CWC:Many companies want end-to-end integration for all their various systems. What kinds of partnerships is Cognos forming to deliver that?

Hall: That’s been one of the key areas that strategically we invested very heavily in – the whole area of partnerships. We started that six and a half years ago and now it represents a third of our business, working with our many partners. We have about 1,800 partners worldwide. We have different types. We have the very large ERP vendors like PeopleSoft, and then we have hundreds of value-added resellers that sell our products in conjunction with an application.

CWC:Earlier you mentioned a new emphasis on applications.

Hall: We’ve been focused up to now on the tools. And there’s two areas in terms of applications that we’re getting into. One is the business intelligent marts. And the first two we’ve already released is sales and distribution, and finance. They’re pre-packaged reports. Typically we’ll pre-package 30, 40, 50 of the most common reports, so users don’t have to do consulting and that sort of thing. They can just buy the pre-packaged reports from us. It’s a natural extension of the business intelligence sale.

The other area is applications themselves. We purchased a company called Lex 2000. We’re changing that to Cognos Finance and it’s a consolidation of budgeting system applications. And we’re very excited about that because we think there’s a tremendous opportunity in this market for these types of applications. We’re focusing on that. And it’s another potential major market that’s directly related to BI. And we think this is a good market to expand in.