IBM Cognos: A Mix of Marketing and Reality

July 15, 2019

Writing an online news story which does the James Bond “shaken, not stirred” approach, is difficult. A good example of partial success in blending marketing with reality is “IBM Battling to Change Perception of Cognos Analytics BI Platform.”

The source of the write up is an outfit called TechTarget, a publicly traded company. According to the firm’s Web site: The information services company:

is the online intersection of serious technology buyers, targeted technical content and technology providers worldwide. Our media, powered by TechTarget’s Activity Intelligence™ platform, redefines how technology buyers are viewed and engaged based on their active projects, specific technical priorities and business needs. With more than 100 technology specific websites, we provide technology marketers innovative media that delivers unmatched reach via custom advertising, branding and lead generation solutions all built on our extensive network of online and social media.

I noted the “custom advertising” phrase.

Now what’s Cognos?

Cognos dates from 1969, which makes the system 50 years old. In that span of time, analytics has emerged as the go-to technology for many firms. A working example is Google. Thus, it begs the question:

With a head start, why hasn’t Cognos become the financial big bang that Google has?

Ah, apples and oranges? Maybe not. But 50 years which represent the rocket ship revenues possible from analytics!

Now the write up:

The article begins with a surprising admission. I expected a rah rah, sis boom bah approach to IBM Cognos. Instead I read:

While some see IBM’s BI suite as being too complicated and expensive for citizen data scientists, the company is adding updates to try and attract the modern user.

From my point of view, IBM’s software too complicated. It is too expensive. IBM’s fixes are cosmetic, not structural. The people who are into Cognos are not modern.

Yep, that will boost sales.

In a half century, Cognos has been version updated 11 times. That one every six months, a bit below the constant stream of updates pumped into my system. In today’s world, I would characterize the approach as glacial.

IBM’s current pitch is that Cognos is just fine for medium sized businesses. That sounds good, particularly IBM’s statement:

“We released 11.0 in 2015 and spent a lot of time on the road at conferences banging the drum that this is not your grandfather’s Cognos, that this is the next iteration,” said Kevin McFaul, senior product manager of business analytics at IBM. “The capabilities are still there, but it was enhanced to target the new line of business users. Our competition went to market on ‘Cognos is too complex’ and we’ve done a lot of work to try and correct that perception.”

Okay, three years put in perspective IBM time versus the time cycle at an outfit like DataWalk. IBM deals in clumps of years; DataWalk operates in “right now” time. (I don’t work for DataWalk, but the company’s fast cycle approach to analytics is more in touch with what DarkCyber thinks believes is the future.)

Even Gartner, according to the write up, has pushed IBM Cognos down its wild and crazy subjective approach to identifying “with it” technology players. The write up quotes a Gartner wizard making a statement which will probably cause IBM to rethink its subscription to Gartner’s outstandingly subjective information services:

“IBM was a leader in traditional BI, but it took them a long time to respond to [changes in the market],” said Rita Sallam, a VP analyst at Gartner. “Cognos lost a lot of traction, but they’ve made promising investments in augmented intelligence, which we see as the next phase of BI.”

Yep, “was” and then “lost a lot of traction.” The the magical “but.” Sure enough, brilliant Gartner wizard, sure enough.

pimped ib cognos

So what’s new in the IBM “Pimp My Ride” approach to modernizing a 50 year old classic former leader?

It is still a truck but a truck with Watson. Watson was supposed to be the billion dollar baby. Watson was supposed to help doctors, not create consternation. Watson was smart, not take person years of smart humans crafting content to make Watson smart.

Watson is now in Cognos.

Complexity definitely is enhanced with more complexity. The idea is very good for consulting revenues IF someone can find a client to buy into the complexity squared approach to analytics and THEN pay money to get the system to perform like a customized mine truck. Slick, huh?

The write up concludes with this bit of sales genius:

“Their challenges don’t stem from the product,” Sallam said. “It’s their go-to-market strategy, how to sell beyond their installed base, how to attract new buyers. They’ve put in place a plan to do that, but we’ll see how well they execute on those plans.”

What? The product is 50 years old and stuck in the mud, despite the giant tires and chrome rims. The marketing strategy is crazy. No kidding. Just read this TechTarget write up. IBM cannot sell.

Pretty amazing.

Net net: How many ads will IBM buy in TechTarget products and services?

One can use IBM Cognos Analytics with Watson to predict the number. But why bother?

Stephen E Arnold, July 15, 2019

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