Monday, June 15, 2009

Cognos and the midmarket

At the IBM event in Berlin last week (the "IOD") Cognos spent a good deal of time and energy briefing analysts on its midmarket strategy. To make a long story short, Cognos is planning to bring out a new product to address the midmarket.

One take is that it is at least partly a step towards alignment with the policies of IBM's service organization. IBM Services has had a mid-market offering for years now. And my impression is that Cognos is focusing a lot of energy on aligning itself to towards IBM Services as a sales channel. The alignment towards IBM Services also shows in Cognos's increased focus on prepackaged business content.

However the midmarket idea is in line with what appears to be an internal shift at Cognos back towards the end user. Cognos 8 shifted the product line towards the needs of the enterprise. The shift has been going on for some time, probably as a reaction to customers who prefer to stick with Cognos 7. "The pendulum is swinging back" was the message in Berlin, and recent versions of Cognos 8 Bi have revived the PowerPlay product family.

Targeting the midmarket is not exactly the same thing as targeting the business user. Targeting business users can also mean creating departmental solutions in large companies. However there certainly is an overlap. The new product is intended to be easy to install and administer and to cover planning reporting and analysis in one package. It will have Web access and an Excel front-end. I'm guessing its also going to be relatively cheap.

Cognos is adamant that it is building a new purpose built solution, not simply bundling existing tools. But it also says the new product is "based on existing proven technology like IBM Cognos TM1 and IBM Cognos 8". It will be interesting to find out exactly what that means.

Issue they should be looking at is
  • Compatibility with existing products. Customers using TM1 might want to upgrade to this product. If they can't they might start worrying about the future of the existing product.
  • Organizational isues. Will IBM Cognos have a sales team willing to make the effort to sell this product?
  • Easy installation. Self service is a key goal in the project, and installation needs to be automatic.
  • Automatic metadata exchange. TM1 models need to be automatically visible in the Cognos 8 bits of the offereing, even at the cost of flexibility.