IBM Brings Business Analytics to Apple iPad

Fulfilling its intention to make it easier to access and use analytics and business intelligence, IBM released its Cognos Mobile application natively for the Apple iPad. Of course IBM is not the first to release a native application for the tablet, and many might say that it is late in doing so, but in reality the market for dedicated applications on tablets is just heating up. The adoption rate of the iPad as the tablet of choice for business continues to grow, and while statistics are not yet available our research has found a groundswell of interest this year and last among businesses in mobility for analytics and BI. In this context, the mobile app is significant for IBM Cognos. It has delivered software for mobile technology including smartphones for over a decade, but the new application was carefully designed to establish a foundation for upcoming incremental releases in the tablet format.

After monitoring its progress in development over the last year, I personally downloaded the production release of the application from the Apple AppStore. With a couple of clicks I was up and running on the demonstrations and examples, which is the best way for anyone to get an understanding of what is possible with the application. It provides a folder and library view of analytics that you can select from and open to interact with. Nicely laid out views of analysis can be combined with geographic maps to add context to the information, and you can use charts to update data and charts in the same view. A range of customer, geographic and product analysis is available in the example of a recruitment dashboard for workforce analytics. You can easily connect to your own IBM Cognos server to access content designed in IBM Cognos 10, which my colleague David Menninger assessed.

A somewhat hidden feature of the application I like is the pencil graphic in the upper right;  this “scribble” capability enables you to draw on the screen, highlight any content or write a message that you can email to anyone who should attend to the issues or opportunities you point out. This is one of those simple capabilities that can make an application easy to use; I would have marketed it more strongly to differentiate the application’s approach. In my view, this application is comparable to others in its class that I have assessed, like Roambi, or MicroStrategy, which David recently assessed,although they have been in the market longer and have more interactive and navigation capabilities. The IBM Cognos app is simpler in some ways than those from ActuateQlikView and SAP, but those have more data-driven methods to adjust the analytic views. All of these are better than those like that of Oracle, which does not provide a publicly available demonstration from Apple App Store. Information Builders’ WebFOCUS toGo has some interesting features, but it is a Web application, not a native application, and also is not accessible for general review although I did assess it recently. Microsoft is not competitive in this field, lacking even an application for its own platform and apparently hoping for a miracle to get people to adopt its mobile technologies as I have assessed. For mobile analytics and BI, Microsoft should transition to support the Apple and Android platforms if it hopes to utilize its underlying technology. 

IBM supports other mobile platforms including RIM, which has struggled in recent months with slowing adoption and migration to platforms like Apple, though I have written of its potential. IBM realizes the importance of Android and supports that platform, too and has skipped supporting Microsoft platform.

Overall IBM Cognos has taken a large first step by providing a native application on the iPad, and its cute scribble capabilities complement its overall BI platform and tools. As David Menninger has written, the consumerization of collaborative BI has arrived, and the use of mobility is part of the evolution of business analytics. IBM is smart to support the major Apple, Android and RIM platforms natively. I expect IBM to add more collaborative and interactive capabilities in later releases of the application, which the company has promised to provide more frequently, perhaps even quarterly. If you have not taken a look yet, I think it is worth a couple of clicks from your iPad to see what this major player in business analytics is doing in mobility.


Mark Smith – CEO & Chief Research Officer

SuccessFactors Takes Learning to a New Plateau

Attendees at the SuccessFactors Insights conference and those of us on Twitter socializing with the Insights11 hashtag in San Diego this week was designed for Plateau customers who came to the final conference that was scheduled prior to its acquisition by SuccessFactors. The conference provided educational and customer content in an agenda focused on developments in the previous Plateau learning management system (LMS) and new products that SuccessFactors is integrating with it. SuccessFactors brings significant number of assets that the Plateau technology and people can leverage from its global scale and operations to the product release and customer operations centers for cloud computing delivery of its applications.

SuccessFactors’ acquisition of Plateau is strategic in that it adds an LMS, an essential component of any comprehensive talent management suite. SuccessFactors planned to integrate the LMS in 90 days and achieved that in 84 days, making it part of the BizX Suite just announced. The rapid pace with which the company has accomplished the integration and communicated it to the market is a good indicator of why the company is growing so rapidly. In addition the demonstration of the upcoming release with simpler to access and use catalogues, integration with Jam for social learning, integration of learning data into workforce analytics with a metrics library, compliance dashboard and other advancements are coming out soon.

Other Plateau’s talent management products, including those for analytics, compensation and performance, do not appear to have a future with SuccessFactors but will be supported for a period of time. Customers at the conference got a chance to learn more about the new product portfolio from SuccessFactors including analytics, compensation and performance. The common platform, called Employee Central, in its second release integrates many applications and provides information useful for both workers and managers. SuccessFactors improved the depth of its analytics with itsacquisition of YouCalc and Inform and now offers both stand-alone and embedded workforce analytics.

SuccessFactors also emphasized its newly announced SuccessFactors Jam,its approach to social engagement for workforces. Jam builds on the previous acquisitions of Cubetree and Jambok to provide a social collaboration environment. SuccessFactors also outlined its support for applications across mobile platforms including Android, Apple and BlackBerry. Mobile support is critical for the company to meet the changing needs of workforces. I had previously tested the software on the Apple iPhone, but it wasn’t as easy to do as I hoped; simplifying signup and access to the demonstration environments would go a long way to getting more organizations to see the value of the advances that I do like.

The company’s path to further success depends on putting a broader business focus on its marketing, compared to its current more deliberate focus on HR, although it has been growing nicely there. SuccessFactors delivers significant value for businesses looking to save by creating operational and financial synergies to reduce people-related costs and fully utilize their talent. The more business context it provides to key lines of business such as sales and service, which for many sectors is where the bulk of their people reside, will further demonstrate its ability to complement and integrate with existing business processes. SuccessFactors’ rapid integration of Plateau and its LMS product, and the company’s utilization of the people from Plateau in roles across the company, demonstrate its ability to build a stronger company, which I expect will continue to grow, as its company financials demonstrate. If you have not looked at SuccessFactors’ suite of applications and tools to help businesses retain and utilize talent, I recommend that you do.


Mark Smith – CEO & Chief Research Officer