Telus picks Cognos for data consolidation effort

Telus sees both advantages and potential challenges with its choice of Cognos to provide business intelligence software for a project to consolidate various sources of corporate data.

Ottawa-based Cognos will officially announce next Monday that Telus, Canada’s second-largest telecommunications firm, has selected version 8 of its flagship business intelligence (BI suite) as its standard for reporting, performance analysis and metrics management. The use of Cognos products is part of what Telus calls Project Imagine, a five-year effort whereby it is trying to take about 600 different sources of information and whittle them down to about a dozen.

According to Simon Gratton, Telus’s director of business intelligence, the project is on a scale unlike anything ever attempted within the telecommunications sector. In Telus’s case the challenge is particularly difficult given the number of firms it has acquired over the last several years, including a number of regional telecommunications providers.

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“The diversity is just astounding, just between Alberta and B.C., let alone what’s going on within Ontario or Quebec,” he said. “Obviously the goal is to drive strategic and analytical value, but also we see this as the glue to keep consistent business viewpoints available in an enormous period of change. As we move millions of customers in a staged approach, it’s almost a bridging mechanism between the old and the new.”

The data sources include instances of IBM’s DB2 database, SAP BW, and other systems with customer information. Cognos Go!, the firm’s mobile edition, Microsoft Office Excel are also part of the equasion. A product from Appfluent’s is being used to monitor usage analytics.

Cognos was acquired late last year by IBM, which recently announced a number of products which have already been integrated with its own lineup. Gratton said Telus already uses a lot of IBM software internally, particularly its Websphere portal and middleware products in addition to DB2. He praised Big Blue’s information federation and provisioning features, but he emphasized that Telus would remain a heterogeneous environment.

“There are some obvious synergies that come, and also some concerns as well,” he said. “We wouldn’t want to see too much optimization to IBM-specific technologies at the expense of generic vendors.” This includes products from Informatica, Oracle and SAP that Telus relies on, Gratton said.

At an IBM event announcing its progress on the Cognos integration last month, the company’s software group president Steve Mills said there would be no attempt to limit Cognos or IBM products to interoperate with any particular application. “There’s so much else out there,” he said, citing Oracle, Sybase and many other vendors which typically have a place in many IBM customer environments. He also said IBM understands it has to do a good job of working with Cognos customers to cement its credibility with them. “Anytime you invest US$5 billion to acquire a business, there have to be some pretty good reasons.”

Gratton said Telus has moved to seven or eight different reporting tools to primarily using Cognos. He said the company is about 60 per cent of the way through Project Imagine, and is hoping to take more of a self-service approach to BI data.

“The idea of people reporting on a daily basis from BI tools is coming to an end,” he said, adding the trend is towards dashboards or appliances to give users more control and access to analytics. “What this brings is, it enables core IT to focus on the real work and providing a clean consistent source of information.”

Telus has previously worked with Cognos to get up a Business Intelligence Competency Center of Excellence focused on BI projects.



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