Cognos upgrades Visualizer tool

Cognos announces new version of Visualizer, a business intelligence tool helping companies in analysing data.

Cognos Inc. today announced version 1.5 of its Cognos Visualizer business intelligence tool, promising improved data visualization and "scorecarding" capabilities.

The new version of Visualizer, a tool in the Burlington, Mass., software vendor's portfolio that uses two- and three-dimensional charts and maps to show data interrelationships, features several presentation improvements plus more sophisticated mapping capabilities, a wider range of distribution possi-bilities for reports, and support for Hewlett-Packard Co., Sun Microsystems Inc. and IBM Unix Web server platforms, officials said.

Deltek Systems Inc., a McLean, Va., professional services automation software firm, is using Visualizer 1.5 internally as well as reselling it. Internally, Deltek's project managers and corporate executives use Visualizer to get detailed information on revenues and profits by individual product lines, explained Shimi Minhaf, director of business intelligence at Deltek.

"Giving individual users the ability to drill down into detailed information from summary data rather than having to go through several different pages of data is very powerful," said Minhaf. "It gives us one view of data from multiple data sources."

And that data is multi-dimensional. Deltek can, for instance, use Visualizer 1.5 to view sales and profitability data by individual state, then drill down further to find out which projects are most profitable in which geographic areas, finding hotspots of activity. The company uses Visualizer along with the rest of the Cognos product suite.

"It speeds up the understanding of information," said Minhaf. "Humans naturally understand images more than text. Visualizer gives us an immediate view of information and trends and helps us to understand our business faster and better."

Eager to get going

The Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency has tested a prototype of Cognos Visualizer 1.5, and "we'll be using it as soon as we get our hands on it," said Carl Richardson, project manager at the agency.

Richardson said something as simple as the ability to change fonts in this version is a big deal to his agency because of the improved presentation capabilities it delivers. The mapping and drill-down capabilities are also important to an agency that has to track the disbursement and performance of low-interest housing loans across the state of Massachusetts. Using Visualizer, the agency can spot trouble with a loan before it's too late.

"We can take a more proactive approach, that's more responsive to people's needs," Richardson said.

Such integration between visualization and balanced scorecarding is particularly compelling in this release, said Bob Moran, an analyst at the Boston-based Aberdeen Group.

"Balanced scorecarding allows companies to look at the health of their organizations across multiple dimensions," Moran said. "When you're manipulating the data visually, you can more easily juxtapose the comparative relationships between large volumes of data. There's a growing recognition that the nature of things like balanced scorecarding call for visual representation."

Cognos Visualizer 1.5 will be generally available late next month. The tool is typically used within the rest of the Cognos suite but can be used on its own. Pricing varies by deployment and configuration but starts at $795 for the desktop version.

Cognos is at