I don’t know when, but at some point in the not too distant future, the world of enterprise software and applications will become simpler. We will only have four to six vendors and platforms to choose from, as compared to the hundreds of options we have today. I know many of you will argue with me on this point, but if you consider the speed at which IBM, SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft are acquiring software companies, that’s just inevitable. While this future state may not happen for another 10 years, when it does, IBM will most likely be best positioned (with Oracle a close runner-up) to provide that one-stop shopping for everything from hardware to desktop applications to consulting services (the only big missing piece is ERP, and therefore I am convinced IBM will sooner or later acquire an ERP vendor).

This is precisely my key takeaway from IBM's IOD event in Vegas (#iodgc) — a sheer breadth of IBM software and services offering. Front and center of the announcements made at the IOD was the launch of Cognos 10. Here are my key takeaways from this new major release. As always, there's some good news and some not-so-good news (but then our lives and BI jobs will become too boring, right?)

I like:

  • The breadth of the offering. As I mentioned earlier in this blog, there are fewer and fewer reasons for enterprise BI buyers and architects to look elsewhere beyond their one standard BI platform. Cognos 10 supports that trend with a very broad offering that includes Business Insight (individual, self service BI workspaces), Cognos Statistics (tight integration with advanced analytics based on SPSS), Cognos Collaboration (based on Lotus Connections), Active Reports (for offline/disconnected usage), Cognos Real-Time Monitoring (based on the BAM appliance), and Cognos Mobile with broad support for multiple handheld devices.
  • Integrated GUI for a unified user experience. Gone are the days of separate UI for TM1 or CognosNow! BAM or Cognos Reports. It’s all one GUI now.
  • Individual user workspaces based on the Business Insight product. This is essentially a mashup tool where one can bring together multiple integrated views and panels from different sources, based on different latency (batch and real-time data), and based on historical, operational, and predictive analytics.
  • Active reports. This one is my favorite. There’s too much hoopla out there about BI on mobile phones, but I still see that as an executive or a sales person gizmo used to impress clients. Now, if I can work on my laptop in the office, pull the plug, get on an airplane and continue to perform my analysis and exploration as if I were still online with a very seamless experience — that’s a very useful functionality, especially for all the road warriors (including yours truly) out there. Cognos was not the first one to bring such technology to the market — Information Builders and Oracle were there first — but it’s good that Cognos offers it now.
  • Collaboration via Lotus Connections. This functionality not only addresses collaboration; it also makes BI more actionable. One can now create and assign tasks based on insight gleaned from BI results and based on automatic alerts and triggers. I am sure IBM has an ulterior motive here and will use this opportunity to introduce the Lotus platform into enterprises dominated by Microsoft Office applications. I question whether this tactic will work (since I do not believe that a BI platform can drive desktop, collaboration, and portal architecture; it’s the other way around), but it’s a low-hanging fruit opportunity for IBM and can’t hurt.
  • Last but not least, I give the Cognos team huge credit for emphasizing and ensuring that migration to Cognos 10 is a seamless “push-button” experience, unlike challenging migrations from earlier versions to version 8.

I am concerned:

  • That this breadth cannot come without a cost. Gone are the days when we used to give Cognos with its single platform an edge over Oracle or SAP, which had to concentrate on integrating multiple acquired products. Integrating BI components from SPSS, TM1, Unica, and Clarity has to take its toll, and  the Cognos team will have to juggle resources and prioritize integration versus innovation.
  • That even though Cognos 10 workspaces and TM1 in-memory OLAP are all steps in the right direction, IBM still does not have a product comparable to Microsoft PowerPivot, QlikTech, or TIBCO Spotfire for model-less in-memory exploration and analysis. I am sure the Cognos team realizes this and they are probably working on such a product, but it’s still not part of Cognos 10. Therefore, Microsoft, QlikTech, and TIBCO Spotfire, at least in the near future, will continue to nibble at Cognos’ opportunities.
  • About moving tech support to the IBM model. IBM is a huge, complex machine and getting lost in the shuffle is a reality that some of the clients I talk to definitely face.

But all in all, IBM team, a great conference and a great new Cognos 10 product! Congrats!