This Time, It’s Not Just Personal
Down in the land of razzle-dazzle, IBM drew on the spirit of Las Vegas by “unleashing” Cognos 10 onstage on October 25, with fireworks, explosions and a lot of light fantastic. The Cognos 10 release was the headline of IBM’s Information on Demand (IOD) 2010 Global Conference. Rob Ashe, CEO of Cognos before it was acquired by IBM and now general manager of Business Analytics for the IBM Software Group, said the release, six years in the making, was about “eliminating the boundaries that keep you from gaining and sharing insights.”
Cindy Howson of BIScorecard nicely summarizes the high points in her Intelligent Enterprise blog. She writes: “In theory, though, it is the ability for users to collaborate around a task, with supporting BI dashboards, wikis, blogs, instant messages and emails, where I see the biggest potential.” Cindy is not alone; many analysts and writers are excited about the possibilities surrounding the integration of business intelligence tools and collaboration platforms. Cognos 10 is a big step for IBM in this direction; it takes advantage of Cognos’ standard of innovation in performance management and dashboards to push the collaborative user experience beyond basic capabilities.
Collaborative BI has attracted other big BI vendors, and has lit up innovative new players. Lyza, for example, is an impressive product in this vein; it offers a breakthrough that radically changes how people use business intelligence, or looking at it the other way, how they flow through information in the course of collaboration. Cognos 10 may not induce the same intense reaction as Lyza, but it is definitely a meaningful development, both for the market and for IBM internally.
The collaboration thrust joins Cognos with Lotus through the inclusion of a free license of Lotus Connections. IBM bought Lotus in 1995 for about $3.5 billion, which made it at the time the biggest acquisition in the history of the software industry and signified IBM’s strategic move into applications. Twelve years later, IBM picked up Cognos for nearly $5 billion. With Cognos 10, IBM could be on the road to higher return on investment from these enormous acquisitions as organizations try to use collaboration and social networks to improve employee productivity.
Threading collaborative interaction with business intelligence – or “business insight,” the term Cognos seems to prefer – holds tremendous potential for employee productivity. At IOD, I met with Jeff Shick, vice president of Social Software in the IBM Software Group. We discussed many of promising ideas from the realm of knowledge management: capturing tacit knowledge, finding repeatable patterns in how people use and share information artifacts and the potential of recommendation engines for finding the most relevant information and sources, including people. Knowledge management, once a kind of blue sky topic, never seemed so grounded in the fact-based decisions and actions that people must perform.
Organizations will discover more about their knowledge assets by integrating BI and collaborative tools and practices. The combo could free users from their traditional BI silos that serve single users or communities and allow information insights to flow across organizational divisions and out into the external world.
Of course, combining collaboration and BI is not without challenges. For one thing, many organizations are very careful about who gets BI, and how much they get to use it. Thus, the combination will change user demand for BI and challenge organizations to rethink security, user requirements, data availability and more. But, the catalyst for change is good; organizations should never stop innovating with BI.