It was one year ago that IBM completed its acquisition of Cognos, and Big Blue is making it known that it's happy with the results. Cognos is now one of four parts of its "Information On Demand" strategy, and IBM says revenue growth for the business in 2008 was a healthy 18%. I wanted to know how much of that growth was organic, versus fueled by IBM's acquisitions, so I interviewed two top executives. I didn't get any facts breaking out those numbers, but I did hear a few interesting tidbits.
The four segments of the Information Management business are Data Management (databases), Enterprise Content Management, InfoSphere (information integration), and Business Intelligence and Performance Management. This vast portfolio is chocked full of bits, pieces and huge chunks acquired from independents including Informix, FileNet, Ascential, DWL, Trigo and, of course, Cognos. Dissecting the performance must be hard even for IBM's bean counters, but I thought it might be easier to looking at a discreet, recently added chunk like Cognos. Unfortuntely, Tom Inman, Vice President of IOD Acceleration (how's that for a title?), just wouldn't go there."We're not going to break that out explicitly," Inman said, adding the gauzy assurance that "organic growth [for the Information Management division] was very solid and Cognos had a great last quarter."
Asked about Cognos' performance relative to the competition, Inman pointed to Gartner's recently issued 2009 BI Platforms Magic Quadrant. "Comparing this year's Quadrant to last year's, SAP Business Objects has seen negative movement on both 'ability to execute' and 'completeness of vision,' Microsoft has seen negative movement on 'ability to execute,' and Oracle has seen negative movement on 'completeness of vision,'" Inman said. "IBM Cognos is the only major vendor that has seen positive movement on both of those dimensions."
Rob Ashe, formerly CEO of Cognos and now IBM's General Manager of Business Intelligence and Performance Management, credited last year's growth to an on-time delivery of Cognos 8.4 and, particularly, synergies and integrations with the IBM stack.
"Cognos now ships with DB2 and the Balanced Warehouse, we released our products on the [IBM] Z Linux platform and we have full integration with the InfoSphere product line including the Business Glossary and Metadata Management capabilities," he said. "That means users can reach from a BI report back into the definitions, history and lineage of the data… And from the InfoSphere side, you can model your traditional ETL program to be ready to be pumped directly into a Cognos environment."
With the first anniversary SAP's Business Objects acquisition also passing recently, it was interesting to see the applications vendor claiming significant integrations of Business Objects BI capabilities into the Business Suite 7 release announced this week. While SAP is championing an embedded approach to BI, Ashe says Cognos and IBM executives have always shared the view that information management comes first.
"We do not view BI and performance management as an extension of a transaction system," Ashe said. "The vast majority of enterprises have a variety of data sources ranging from ERP to HR to data warehouses to marts and departmental databases... You have to look at your information architecture as the foundation so you can deliver information as a strategic asset. That means you can reuse information over and over again when you're, say, looking at a customer. You're not locked to a particular transaction system and its limited definition of a customer."
Despite its chest thumping about growth, IBM, like SAP, has had layoffs in recent weeks, with more than 1,400 employees trimmed from the Information Management business. But having covered this unit for more than ten years -- including the turbulent dot-com-crash years of 2001-2003 -- I have no doubt that the growth will continue, even if it's entirely driven by IBM's deep pockets and ability to acquire its way into any market segment deemed important to information management.It was one year ago that IBM completed its acquisition of Cognos, and Big Blue is making it known that it's happy with the results. Cognos is now one of four parts of its "Information On Demand" strategy, and IBM says revenue growth in 2008 was a healthy 18%. I asked two executives how much of that growth was organic, versus fueled by acquisitions. I didn't get any hard facts... but I did hear a few interesting tidbits.