The soft underbelly of the business intelligence (BI) software market has traditionally been the midmarket, which Ventana Research defines as organizations with between 100 and 999 employees. These medium sized businesses have been reluctant to devote budget to BI primarily because they typically lack the IT resources and budget along with the patience to develop and configure the moving parts required to deploy BI and its supporting data infrastructure. I have seen how many of these organizations do their planning, forecasting, reporting and data analysis with large and often unwieldy spreadsheets as my colleague calls “Taming the Spreadsheet Chaos” and primitive tools that come bundled with applications.
Midmarket organizations seeking to improve consistency of information and metrics and use it more effectively for finance, strategy and operations should evaluate whether changes in the marketplace could be making BI a more realistic and less disruptive option. The latest development is the release of IBM Cognos Express, which offers a pre-configured BI, planning, forecasting and analysis system designed for easy deployment and management. IBM Cognos created the offering by surrounding its TM1 in-memory multi-dimensional data store with tools from Cognos 8 BI and other parts of its portfolio for reporting, visualization and analysis. IBM Cognos Express will compete with midmarket offerings from SAP Business Objects as well as others who have been successful selling to business like QlikTech.
The fact that this is IBM Cognos, not just the pre-acquisition Cognos alone offering the system, could make a difference. IBM is dedicating a new business unit and applying its ample resources for financing, advertising, marketing and partner channel activities. However, midmarket organizations will only bite if they find credible the “no assembly required” claims promised by the pre-configured system and can clearly see why purchasing it will lead to better business results. All of this is a good step forward as I see that BI should be for any sized business where the complexity and cost is reduced to make it easier for using it more strategically.
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David Stodder - Research Director