Cognos: Pragmatic Player

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Dossier: Cognos has followed a slow and steady path in growing demand for its business intelligence tools. Will that strategy help it fend off new competition?

Cognos isn't flashy. CEO Ron Zambonini hasn't bought an airline, like SAS Institute's Jim Goodnight. Cognos has steadily grown during its 33 years and top managers are all long-time company veterans. The company laid off 300 people this time last year but has remained profitable.

PDF Download Mortgage lender Conseco Finance uses Impromptu, Cognos' report writer, and Impromptu Web Reports (a utility for delivering Impromptu results) to sort through pending loan applications and take inventory of what it has to do on any given day—process new applications, schedule closings and other tasks.

"It gives the business units the ability to manage their own data," says Sarah Sikora, a technology manager at Conseco in St. Paul, Minn. "It's point, click, query, report. They can't hurt anything."

Cognos' main challenge, from a competitive standpoint, is the encroachment of applications vendors such as PeopleSoft and Siebel, which are starting to bundle analysis tools with their core software. Cognos' response has been to try to sell big suites of analysis tools and reposition itself as an enterprise business intelligence vendor. But Cognos' push in this direction hasn't accomplished much; most customers still buy individual products for specific analysis projects.

If customers have a gripe with Cognos, it is over the company's per-user pricing scheme. Tracking licenses is a hassle and paying for software a few hundred dollars per user, per product can get expensive.

"It's difficult to administer. They know I'm not happy with the pricing," says Frank Russell, director of information systems at video game maker Electronic Arts. Still, Russell plans to buy Impromptu this year, and add to its 150 licenses of PowerPlay because end-users like the products.

A new pressure for Cognos is whether and how to offer pre-built applications for specific analysis jobs. Right now, most business intelligence vendors just sell tools that customers use to analyze data. But the new trend is to sell full-fledged applications that users can install to do analysis.

Demonstrating its pragmatism, Cognos partners with some companies that may eventually be its biggest rivals. Trucking company Trimac discovered Cognos when a limited license for PowerPlay came with Trimac's PeopleSoft applications. "We had one smaller application using Cognos, so we bought some more," says Len Mori, infrastructure project manager. Now 300 users at Trimac use Cognos to do logistics reports on truck routing.

3755 Riverside Drive, Ottawa, ON, Canada K1G 4K9
(613) 738-1440

Ticker: COGN
Exchange: NASDAQ
Employees : 2,400

Ron Zambonini
CEO, President
Joined Cognos 13 years ago, as a VP in R&D. Made CEO in 1995.

Robert Ashe
Chief Corporate Officer
A 17-year Cognos veteran; oversees customer service, finance, logistics and other functions.

Terry Hall
Chief Operating Officer
Responsible for sales, marketing and new business initiatives, among other areas.

Key Products
Seventeen products, including Cognos Series 7 analysis suite, PowerPlay online analytical processing package and Impromptu report writer.

Reference Checks

Conseco Finance
Sarah Sikora
IT Manager
(651) 726-6522
Project: This mortgage-lending arm of insurance company Conseco Inc. uses Cognos' Impromptu report writer and its Web adjunct to analyze loan processes to plan workloads in field offices.

Oshkosh B'gosh
Jon Dell'Antonia
(920) 231-8800
Project: The $33 million clothing maker—famous for overalls—sifts through sales data to identify manufacturing problems, and retail and wholesale trends.

PPG Industries
Ken Antol
Technical Project Manager
Project: Business managers comb and summarize sales data to determine agent commissions. PPG plans to give senior executives a Web
portal using PowerPlay to view and manipulate sales and finance data.

Len Mori
Project Manager, Infrastructure
(403) 298-5100
Project: Analysts at the Canadian hauling company pore through truck routes, trip expenses and other logistics
data to better plan staffing and work loads. An upgrade to Cognos' Series 7 is planned for this year.

Vancouver Coastal Health Authority
Peter Kaloupis
Advisor, Business Intelligence Team
pkaloupi@van hosp.bc.ca
Project: PowerPlay, the analytical processing software, is the core of an extensive health care analysis system developed by this 4,300-bed hospital group during the past four years.

The executives listed here are users of Cognos' business intelligence software. Their willingness to talk has been confirmed by Baseline.

This article was originally published on 2002-04-15
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