One of business intelligence software's biggest challenges is getting folks to drop an Excel-based culture where spreadsheets are swapped via email. Cognos' solution: Bring business intelligence software to the Excel jockeys.
Cognos said Tuesday that its Cognos 8 BI Analysis for Microsoft Excel is generally available. The idea is to allow Excel users to easily tap information in Cognos business intelligence (BI) applications. The move is part of an overall push to bring BI to users no matter where they are or what applications they are using.
The Excel compatibility is a new addition to the Cognos 8 BI suite. Here's what Cognos outlined:
It is designed for the business or financial analyst who works regularly in Excel under tight time pressures to create ad-hoc analysis and reports that access multiple data sources. These workers want to leverage their existing Excel skills to create new secure and refreshable performance information inside their spreadsheets. Through the interactive exploration and formulae based capabilities of Cognos 8 BI Analysis for Microsoft Excel, they benefit from a live data connection that allows them to independently solve business problems using trusted Cognos 8 BI, and other data sources, in Excel.
Cognos' latest effort could strike a chord with IT managers and the financial types they have to deal with. Excel spreadsheets that can't be securely traced can lead to data errors. In a nutshell, Cognos operates in the background collecting data sources, but Excel remains the user interface. Circuit City, Manpower and Bloorview Kids Rehab are three customers that have been testing the software.
Paul Hulford, senior manager of product marketing enterprise business intelligence at Cognos, said the move to use Excel as an interface is possible due to services oriented architecture and Microsoft allowing third parties to tap information. The result means business and financial analysts can use the application they are most familiar with. These analysts also happen to be a small but influential audience in corporations. "Most users don't want BI in spreadsheet, but there is an audience of leaders in their organization who want this functionality. It's a small but very important audience of people," said Hulford.
Here's what the Excel and Cognos mashup looks like: