Going where everyone is going

Dressed in a futuristic, shiny metallic Star Trek-inspired jacket, Cognos Inc. CEO Rob Zambonini talked of the company’s plans to go where everyone is going – into the world of e-business.

Speaking at the recent Enterprise 99 Cognos North American user conference in Orlando, Fla., Zambonini talked about the ways in which business is being transformed by the advent of the Internet.

“There’s a lot of hyperbole over the Web, but I believe it’s going to be the most significant change in the enterprise,” Zambonini said.

The Web is leading to a decentralization of power within businesses, and that means the need for business intelligence tools is growing, Zambonini said.

“What’s happening with the Web is people are being empowered. And there are many more people looking for information and much less sophisticated people looking for information,” he said.

To meet the needs of this new type of business intelligence users, Cognos introduced its end-to-end business intelligence platform at the conference.

“We have to make a single point of entry for all systems intelligence for the entire organization so that it’s there and it’s available for everyone to use it,” Zambonini said.

The platform integrates the existing Cognos products and adds a new user interface portal through which users can access the information they need in whatever format they prefer.

The portal is a single entry point through which users can access information. The only thing needed for the user end to access BI information is a browser. Companies can customize the portals to suit their business.

The portal is a smooth interface and is very user friendly, said Jacqueline Sweeney, a senior analyst at International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass.

“What I liked best about [the idea] is that you maintain context when you switch between business intelligence tools. When you’re looking at a report and suddenly you need OLAP analysis, when you switch over to the OLAP view it maintains the context, it remembers what field you were looking at. I think that will make it a more pleasant experience for end users because they won’t have to take it from the top again when they switch to another tool,” Sweeny said.

Through the portal, users can access reporting, OLAP, ad hoc query and visualizations tools.

“It’s a very solid and very competitive product; they waited until the time was right to launch it,” Sweeny said. She is especially impressed with the Cognos Visualizer, which lets users transform large amounts of data into visual information such as maps or graphs. This is an important tool in a world abounding with information, Sweeny said.

“It’s very important for business intelligence users to have a product like Visualizer that enables them to use visual techniques to understand the data because data is just getting more and more complex. And the more data you keep throwing at them, the more data you make available, the more they need new ways to understand it,” Sweeny said.

For Ernex Marketing Technologies Inc., an electronics marketing company that runs loyalty programs, the user interface is very important because customers use its business intelligence tools to assess their on-going status.

“It is quite easy to use,” said Burnaby, B.C.-based Enrex vice-president Malcolm Fowler. “For most of the users, the first time they sign on, we’ll lead them through it. And it’s quite intuitive. Having talked them through it once, they’ve pretty much got it. We haven’t got a problem with user training at all.”

Enrex beta tested the new platform and Fowler likes the changes. He said his company originally chose Cognos because it “had a better look and feel” than other business intelligence products.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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