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IBM upgrades its Cognos corporate performance management software

IBM has released enhancements to its Cognos corporate performance management tools, hoping to entice finance workers still dependent on spreadsheets and manual processes.

Continuing its investment in data analytics and business intelligence (BI) software, IBM today released enhancements...

to its Cognos corporate performance management (CPM) software, as well as new prebuilt financial models.

The enhancements include improved financial scenario-testing capabilities in Cognos TM1 and budget consolidation capabilities in Cognos 8 Controller. IBM Cognos Performance Blueprints include product profitability and demand planning models and an underwriting dashboard for insurance executives.

With the enhancements and new financial planning models, IBM is hoping to entice CFOs and other finance workers to ditch spreadsheets and manual budgeting processes for automated software connected to near-real-time financial data.

"These are advances that are really suited for the times," said Doug Barton, vice president for financial performance management at IBM, referring to the recent recession and subsequent slow recovery.

For financial budgeting, most companies still use departmental spreadsheets, which must be manually consolidated by finance workers, according to Robert Kugel, senior vice president and research director for financial performance management at Ventana Research in Pleasanton, California.

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 The result is that finance departments must wait to receive departmental budgets (usually as email attachments), consolidate the data, make any changes, then email back to departments for review. Subsequently, making adjustments to budgets to match quickly changing economic conditions is time consuming and prone to error. And scenario-testing can take weeks.

Quiznos has been beta-testing TM1's improved financial scenario-testing capabilities since September. The company was eager to provide its finance workers access to financial and budgeting data. Until then, members of the company's various departments entered the data themselves, according to Michael McConnaughey, a Cognos applications developer with the Denver-based fast-food sandwich chain.

With the budgeting data at their fingertips, finance workers can quickly test out various budgeting scenarios – the revenue impact of opening 100 new stores versus 400 new stores, for example. Departmental workers can then access the results and perform their own analysis, all from common data sources in near real time.

"For us, it's the idea that everyone can see all of the data at the same time," McConnaughey said. "Our budget process never ends." Making the transition easier is that departmental workers can continue using Excel as their interface of choice in TM1.

IBM is hardly the only software vendor looking to tap the CPM market. Both Oracle and SAP have been in the CPM business for years, as have smaller CPM pure-plays like Clarity Systems, Host Analytics (which delivers its software using the on-demand model), and Bitam.

Still, only around half of large enterprises and a quarter of midsized businesses have adopted CPM software, meaning a sizable potential customer base remains for IBM and others, according to Neil Chandler, an analyst with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner.

Chandler said that the CPM market stands at around $1.9 billion.

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