Cohen sees rebound for analysis tools

Gerry Cohen, CEO of Information Builders Inc. in New York for the past 27 years, spoke with Computerworld this week about business intelligence software, offshore outsourcing and what’s happening at his company.

Q: Is business intelligence a healthy market?

A: I think it will be a healthy segment for 2004. The big companies are picking an enterprise solution, and midsize and smaller ones are getting into it. The last couple of months, there’s been a little relaxation in budgets.

Q: What’s coming from Information Builders?

A: In a few weeks, visual online analytical processing (OLAP). This will let you look at multiple dimensions at one time vs. what we have today, where you see one dimension and drill down and go across to another dimension. We’ll have it all on one panel in one shot.

For instance, when you look at quality (control), you can see that quality in a California plant is down. That’s an effect. When you have an effect, you have to see what’s the cause. That’s where OLAP comes in – it lets you look at raw material supply. That’s OK. So you look at attendance and look at people as you’re looking for the solution. The entire display changes. You don’t have to drill down to the plant, to people, to raw materials.

Q: How is outsourcing affecting the industry?

A: I’m chairman of the New York Software Industry Association. We’ve taken a look at what outsourcing has done to jobs in New York City. In some sectors, it’s devastating. On the other hand, you have companies saying, “My costs are lower, (and) because of this, I’m more competitive.”

If you think (IT) is a strategic function that companies use to compete against one another, then you can’t move it out of the U.S. You can’t move it too far away. If you believe that it doesn’t matter, then move it where you want. My position is that it does matter.

Q: Will business intelligence go offshore?

A: You can’t do that. BI is what we call “information now.” I want to know something right away. What runs companies are people, process and technology. The technology probably stays here. The people may or may not go offshore.

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