While there is a need for every organisation to understand and manage enterprise information, deriving value from it for decision-making and performance management (PM) is something many organisations fail to do.
This is either because they do not have the necessary systems in place or find it difficult to deploy and use data warehouses, business intelligence, and PM software. Ease-of-deployment and use have become important selling features and were the highlights of recent separate product releases announced by three different vendors: Cognos, Actuate, and Kalido.
Although the BI, PM, and data warehousing markets are relatively mature, there remains a lack of sophistication in the way that they are deployed and used within organisations. They are often deployed on a case-by-case basis, in order to attempt to plug a particular information gap, but often leaving other information 'black holes'.
Another common problem has been discovered by those businesses that have tied themselves into knots with complicated data warehousing strategies that have not delivered all the required information. It is into this market that three new products were released to overcome the difficulties of deployment and usage of complex software.
First was the announcement from Cognos with a new release of its flagship product Cognos 8 BI v8.3. This release brings all Cognos' PM capabilities onto the one platform with ease-of-use enhancements for the end-user that include capabilities for self-service cube-building for business users, self-service personal alerts, and new portlets for access to scorecards and history charts through Cognos Connection.
There are also improved administration and management capabilities. For example, the Snapshot of System Health provides more detailed metrics and thresholds, and exposes Cognos 8's capabilities, such as event management and reporting to system administrators. Another example is the Upgrade Manager, which helps with the migration of reports from one version of Cognos to another, by allowing reports to be run in both source and target systems and to be viewed side-by-side to show differences, which can then be viewed highlighted in text mode.
The second of the announcements came from Actuate, a PM software vendor that has taken the plunge for on-demand software delivery. The new OnPerformance offering is to provide full PM functionality on a hosted basis. Also known as software-as-a-service (SaaS), the on-demand model has been a minority option so far, but showcased by the success of Salesforce.com, it is becoming a wider and growing trend for software delivery. Actuate's OnPerformance offers turnkey deployment to help organisations get started quickly and to automate new scorecard and metrics-based processes. This can minimise the impact of PM software deployment on IT departments whilst helping to lower costs.
The third announcement was made by data warehousing vendor Kalido. The new release is a suite of products called the Kalido Information Engine that enhances Kalido's business model-driven approach to deployment and operation of data warehouses. The suite offers capabilities for business models to be developed collaboratively with corporate sponsors and IT, and to be shared across the organisation to speed the development and delivery of new reports.
There is also a best-practice workflow capability that can ensure data harmonisation and alignment for deployment to the front-end BI solution.
The suite includes a new product called Kalido Business Information Modeler, a graphical design interface that can be used to develop and refine business requirements for new and existing information. It uses what Kalido refers to as a 'gesture-based' business-modelling interface to allow users to develop business models quickly and collaboratively, using drag-and-drop functionality and automated processes.
The new releases from Cognos, Actuate, and Kalido are positioned to address the areas of ease of deployment and use. The enhancements from Cognos build on its already advanced capabilities. Furthermore, coming after IBM's agreement to acquire Cognos, the release signals that it is business as usual at Cognos.
Actuate's plunge into the on-demand market is a brave one but was encouraged by the company's research that showed a high level of interest in on-demand solutions amongst potential customers. At the moment there is little choice of on-demand products for prospective users when it comes to finding a match to their requirements.
Butler Group therefore welcomes the move and expects to see a trend in that direction.
Kalido's new suite brings innovation in terms of business modelling, automation, and graphical design to an area where it is much needed data warehousing. How truly gesture-based Kalido's Business Information Modeler is (as opposed to visual) remains to be proven. However, a first step in that direction is likely to encourage further innovation in the market.