IBM takes aim at midmarket with new BI tools

Big Blue will exploit its strong channel to gain ground with Cognos Express

IBM on Monday will announce a BI (business intelligence) and planning suite aimed at midsized companies that need more insight into their business than a spreadsheet can provide, but not the complexity of an enterprise-level product.

Dubbed Cognos Express, the applications are meant for businesses with between 100 and 999 workers, said Ben Plummer, general manager of the IBM Cognos midmarket business unit.

The suite consists of three modules that can be bought separately or as a unit. A reporting tool offers drag-and-drop-style report creation and ad hoc querying; an "Advisor" module is used for forecasting and "what-if" scenario analysis; and a product called Xcelerator allows users to crunch and visualize data with an in-memory analytics engine through the Microsoft Excel interface.

IBM claims the package can be deployed in "a matter of hours." It is managed through a Web-based console that reduces dependency on help from IT staffers, according to IBM.

Enterprise-class BI systems are much more complex, given factors such as the need to juggle and integrate various data assets from acquired companies, Plummer said. "It's not that they want it to be complicated, it's complicated by default."

Meanwhile, BI vendors have historically sold medium-size companies repackaged versions of enterprise-grade software, he said.

"They try to cram an enterprise-size package into a midmarket-size box," he said. "It's like a Jack-in -the-box. When [midsize customers] open it up, it pops out and scares them."

Pricing for Cognos Express starts as low as US$12,000 for one module and five users.

IBM is not ruling out delivering Cognos Express as a SaaS (software as a solution) offering in the future, but for now is sticking with on-premises deployments, according to Plummer.

"Companies of this size, they say, 'can you just bring it in and put it on the server I have?'" he said.

An initial Cognos Express customer is Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill, a California restaurant chain with 13 locations.

Wood Ranch is investing in about 25 Cognos Express licenses due to business growth and a desire to gain better insight into its finances amid a bleak economy, according to Mark Quandt, vice president of finance.

Margins in restaurants are thin to begin with, and eating out is a discretionary expense for consumers, he said.

"To the extent you've got more visibility into the business, you're going to come out ahead," Quandt added. "We felt this is the way we needed to go."

Wood Ranch has been working with all three modules for about two weeks, and will use the software to analyze data from its point-of-sale system.

The POS system generates reports that do "a good job of overall sales, and your sales mix, but you're stuck into their templates. If you wanted to work with the data, the only option was to export into Excel," Quandt said.

"Excel is a great personal tool ... [but] with 13 restaurants we got to a point where we wanted to get a little more sophisticated in your analysis."

However, IBM's decision to employ the Excel interface in the Xcelerator module is a plus, given the familiarity Wood Ranch's workers have with it, Quandt said.

Under Wood Ranch's corporate structure, each restaurant is considered an independent company from a legal standpoint, and consequently each has its own database, Quandt said.

The Cognos Express suite will help the chain pull together all the data and conduct modeling and forecasting, he said.

Wood Ranch has only two IT workers, but Quandt does not expect he'll need to bring on additional resources to run Cognos Express.

Along with e-learning and content management software, midmarket companies are expected to invest heavily in BI as the economy improves and IT budgets recover, said Forrester Research analyst Tim Harmon.

He praised Cognos Express on its technical merits, but said competing midmarket offerings from Tibco and Qliktech are of comparable quality.

But IBM may have an edge given its strong channel, according to Harmon. "The additional margins and incentives that are available [to partners] with this product are not insignificant," he said.

Partners will also be able to fine-tune the product for verticals, a job that becomes more granular as companies get smaller, according to Harmon.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags IBMbusiness intelligencemid-marketcognosCognos Express

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Chris Kanaracus

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?