VAI Unveils New Cognos-Based BI Solution
November 1, 2011 Alex Woodie
VAI last week unveiled a new release of S2K Analytics, a business intelligence solution that’s pre-integrated with its IBM i-based ERP suite. The new version of S2K Analytics is based on IBM‘s Cognos product family, giving customers access to capabilities that weren’t available with the previous release of the product, which was based on QlikTech‘s software, VAI officials say.
VAI launched S2K Analytics over a year ago to satisfy its customers’ demand for a low-cost, easy-to-use business intelligence solution. The original version of S2K Analytics was based on QlikView, the enormously successful Windows-based BI solution sold by QlikTech.
As VAI’s customers starting poking around with the QlikView-based product, they realized they needed something a little bit different, explains Joe Scioscia VAI’s vice president of sales.
“We’re not abandoning QlikTech. QlikView is a very good dashboard tool,” Scioscia tells IT Jungle. “We heard customer say they were looking not only for dashboard capabilities, but more advanced report writing, where they create custom, ad hoc reports. The Cognos tool really allows them to not only write dashboards, but also gives them the capability write custom reports and ad hoc queries over the database.”
The other big differentiator between Cognos and QlikView, Scioscia says, is the capability to work in real time. Cognos supports the capability to access a customer’s DB2/400 database in real time, via the DB2 Connect software. The QlikView product required a separate data warehouse to be created, which would typically be refreshed in batch, he says.
The benefits of Cognos for VAI’s customers overpowered what it was able to provide with Qlikview, Scioscia says. However, the knock on Cognos is that it can be pricey and complicated to install and run. VAI has tried to address these concerns for its target market of small and midsize businesses in the manufacturing, distribution, and retail industries.
“A high-level IT staff would be able to put this all together pretty easily, but in the SMB market, they typically don’t have the financial and technical resources to use this type of BI tool effectively,” he says. “So VAI took the guesswork out of it. We removed for our end users all the technical aspects of modeling the database, and delivered S2K Analytics with the metadata pre-modeled over the S2K ERP database. We also worked closely with IBM to package this so it’s very affordable to the SMB market.”
The new Cognos version of S2K Analytics starts at $12,500, which gets the customer 10 seats for consuming dashboards and reports, and four seats for authoring reports. The software includes only the Cognos version 10 components that VAI figured most customers would use, including BI Professional. BI Web Administrator, BI Analysis for Microsoft Excel, BI Author, BI Consumer, and DB2 Connect. Additional modules, such as the OLAP module, can be purchased separately.
The first release of the Cognos-based S2K Analytics offering features 10 pre-built, Web-based dashboards aimed at illuminating financial aspects of the business, such as balance sheets, P&L statements, profitability, and procurement status. VAI started with financials, but it has plans to offer dashboards and reports for additional industries and business processes, including retail, distribution, manufacturing, warehouse management, and CRM.
One of the really hot features in Cognos is the capability to drag and drop data elements into an Excel spreadsheet, which Scioscia expects to really get the attention of his customers. They also get mobile capabilities with the Cognos toolset.
As SMBs begin to explore business intelligence software, VAI hopes to be there to help their customers find what works for them. “Our whole focus with this product is trying to bring business intelligence to the SMB market,” Scioscia says. “We’re trying to give those companies that don’t have great technical and financial resources the ability to use business intelligence to grow their business.”
With initiatives for supporting things like social networking, the latest mobile devices, and cloud-based computing modules, it’s clear that VAI strives to keep its IBM i ERP customers current as well. For more information, see www.vai.net.