Cognos ReportNet eyes market leader slot

Cognos received favourable reviews from customers and analysts as it launched its ReportNet system yesterday. The analytics and...

Cognos received favourable reviews from customers and analysts as it launched its ReportNet system yesterday. The analytics and software company hopes to position the system as a flagship product.

"Three and a half years ago, Cognos had the vision for this product. We handed 30 of our programmers a clean sheet of paper and asked them to build it," said Cognos chief executive officer Ron Zambonini.

ReportNet is a web-based query and reporting system intended to offer advanced customisation options while reducing the burden and costs for administrators, by taking advantage of the features enabled by web services standards such as XML (Extensible Markup Language) and Soap (Simple Object Access Protocol).

The software includes multilingual support for languages, including French, German and Japanese, and can import data from other applications and business intelligence systems.

That data exchange flows both ways: Cognos' API (application program interface) is open and extensively documented, and Cognos is encouraging partners and customers to tweak and extend the software.

One customer said ReportNet's openness was a point in its favour during his company's software selection process.

When securities firm Bear Stearns decided to standardise its patchwork of reporting systems, the company drew up a list of must-have features, including a flexible and easily learned user interface, some OLAP (online analytical processing) capabilities, and a client-free "zero footprint" installation.

ReportNet met those needs, and is helping Bear Stearns reduce its reporting system costs and improve user satisfaction, said Ashe Vasthare, managing director of the firm's fixed income business unit.

Other early-adopter customers include car manufacturer BMW and pharmaceuticals company Pfizer.

Analysts say ReportNet is a noteworthy move towards an all-in-one approach to BI.

"ReportNet blurs the traditional boundaries between end-user query, reporting, and production reporting, establishes Cognos' foundation architecture for its next generation of BI, and allows the company to position itself as a single source for all reporting needs," said AMR Research analyst John Hagerty.

In the turbulent and rapidly consolidating BI sector, ReportNet's differentiation from other available BI products gives Cognos an advantage as the market faces a shakeout, Hagerty said.

Cognos benefits from ReportNet at a time when some of its key rivals, notably Business Objects and Hyperion Solutions, are distracted with completing acquisitions and drafting integrated product roadmaps, said Ventana Research analyst Eric Rogge.

"ReportNet is new to the game and these other competitors have large installed bases and demonstrated successes," he added. "Expect opportunities for Cognos to open with ReportNet, but don't expect the entire market to go to Cognos in one fell swoop. Cognos and its competitors are both disclosing competitive wins for and against ReportNet respectively."

Stacy Cowley writes for IDG News Service

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