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Cognos Weighs in with Reporting Software

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Posted September 9, 2003 By Clint Boulton     Feedback

UPDATE: Opting to build instead of buy, Cognos ReportNet emerges after three to four years in development to fill in a gap in the Cognos line of business intelligence software.

NEW YORK -- Cognos took the wraps off of ReportNet, a new business intelligence (BI) software reporting tool geared to launch the Burlington, Mass. vendor into competitive company with several vendors who have recently acquired such capabilities.

Cognos CEO Ron Zambonini introduced the new product at a launch in New York City Tuesday, which was joined by customers from countries all over the world via satellite.

ReportNet, he said, is a Web-based enterprise query and reporting tool that covers a range of requirements, including ad hoc query, managed reports, and business reports, bills, statements, and invoices.

It features more multi-lingual support -- Japanese, English, German, and French user interfaces -- than offered by some rivals, as well as Web Services-based architecture, inclduing XML and SOAP .

The tool also relies on drag and drop reporting, which is convenient for all users. ReportNet also saves businesses money because it eliminates the need for IT to install and manage client desktop software.

The addition of reporting and query functionality to Cognos' already deep set of features from its Cognos BI Series 7.2 suite make the company more attractive to customers seeking complete business intelligence suites to intuit customer behavior. By learning customer behavior patterns, enterprises selling to consumers can better ascertain how to target them.

Several companies moved to acquire whole vendors that offer similar reporting software tools in July. Business Objects purchased Crystal Decisions. Hyperion moved to acquire Brio Software the following week. Actuate completed the domino-effect by bidding for Nimble Technologies a week later.

Asked in an interview with why Cognos chose to build ReportNet rather than buy a company with comparable capabilities, Zambonini said his company knew it would be steering clear from the pain points of integrating disparate software from acquired companies.

That's why, he said, he commissioned a team of 20 developers to tackle the challenge of building such complex software. The number of software engineers responsible for the finished product? Roughly 300, he said.

In fact, Zambonini is so confident in the product that he has pledged to conduct Cognos' next earnings conference call naked if ReportNet doesn't hit its target of $10 million in revenues for the November 2003 quarter.

The acquisitions by the rival companies and the elaborate research and development of ReportNet are indicative of the important consideration enterprise application companies are giving to BI, which IDC said makes up a portion of a nearly $6 billion market for business analytics software by 2007.

During a technical part of the event, Christopher Dziekan, director of business and marketing development at Cognos, showed how ReportNet appeals to a wide range of users, from novices to report experts.

Rather than cater to one type of report creator, Dziekan demonstrated how the application serves business authors, who have a modest knowledge of crafting simple, ad hoc reports, professional authors, who use multiple pages and queries for more complex reports, and consumers who wish to read and interact with them.

Dziekan also showed how XML-based reporting yields customer inventory information at the touch of a button, or a drag and drop of the mouse, which is how ReportNet is operated -- almost entirely point and click.

Geared to scale from hundred to thousands of users, ReportNet is fully integrated within Cognos' enterprise suite, including scorecards, dashboards, OLAP analysis, event detection and alerting and data integration.

IDC analyst Dan Vesset, who told the reporting tools an unsurprising, albeit necessary addition to the Cognos line.

One of the features of ReportNet that customers may find so attractive, according to Vesset, is the fact that the software is relatively easy for even average consumers to use, as opposed to complex software that requires programming knowledge.

Howard Dresner, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, said at the event that the emergence of ReportNet is a sign of how business intelligence software and reporting tools are converging, making platforms more inclusive, effective and efficient for report authors.

Dresner said Cognos is perhaps best positioned in the race for convergent business intelligence platforms over the likes of Business Objects with Crystal Decisions in tow. Microsoft and Oracle are distant challengers, he said.

Support for ReportNet runs deep with IBM housing ReportNet on its DB2 Universal database for customers such as Bear Stearns. Cognos also deepened joint development initiatives with IBM to make sure Cognos business intelligence software works even better on IBM's platform. Cognos plans to offer customers visiting its Ottawa development location access to on-site assistance from IBM, as well as access to IBM hardware.

Additionally, Microsoft, HP, BEA Systems, Manugistics, eBusiness Advantage, Plumtree, Onyx, Sane Solutions and Teradata have all endorsed the new product.

Meanwhile, car manufacturer BMW Group is working to make ReportNet an enterprise reporting standard by using the software to create product quality and human resources performance reports.

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