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On Monday IBM will announce its latest set of Express Advantage offerings for the midmarket, via the channel, with the biggest focus on business intelligence. According to the research data, including the mammoth CIO study results Big Blue released last week, BI is hot.

"CIOs are investing in business analytics capabilities to help them improve decision-making at all levels," said Pat Toole, CIO of IBM. "In addition, in this challenging economy, CIOs understand that analytics can be key to new growth markets, whether it’s new ways to manage a utility grid or smarter healthcare systems. Managing and leveraging new intelligence through analytics is something that today’s CIO is pursuing to gain competitive advantage in these new markets."

According to IBM, the overall business analytics market was worth $59 billion in 2008. IDC puts the BI tools market at $7.8 billion in 2008, growing 10.6 percent, with SAP (20.4%), SAS (11.3%) and IBM (10.3%) holding the top three positions. Combining analytic applications and performance management software together with BI platform revenue, Gartner put last year’s market at $8.8 billion, up 21.7 percent from 2007. According to its rankings, IBM and Oracle swapped positions, with Oracle moving up to third position.

IBM Cognos Express is an all-in-one business intelligence and planning solution built and priced for midsized clients that consists of three products — IBM Cognos Express Reporter, Xcelerator and Advisor — that can be purchased together or individually. Reporter lets users securely access any type of data to create detailed financial, operational, transactional production reports and ad hoc queries using simple drag and drop authoring capabilities Xcelerator helps transform spreadsheets with an underlying in-memory analytics engine for real-time multidimensional analysis, planning, budgeting and forecasting. Advisor offers sophisticated analysis and ‘what if’ scenario planning for long and short-term performance forecasting; key metrics can then be shared using live dashboards

Designed to be deployed in just hours, the solution provides pre-configured BI and planning capabilities in a single offering that easily plugs into an organization’s existing infrastructure. It also offers a centralized, Web-based console that manages all administrative aspects of installation, deployment and ongoing management, minimizing the need for any IT staff assistance.

The midsize business (100-999 employees) BI opportunity is huge, said Caroline Seymour, business unit executive, IBM Cognos midmarket strategy. It accounts for 65 percent of global GDP, but of the 630,000-plus companies that make up this segment, only a third have deployed BI. It is this contradiction — most see BI as critical but have done nothing about it — that IBM hopes to exploit with the Cognos Express offering.

Seymour said the main inhibitors have been costs and budgets, resource constraints, including skills and experience, the existing infrastructure, and issues around minimizing the disruption to the business.

"A lot of vendors have pieces of the solutions but what has not been available to midsize companies is the interconnection of capabilities that are needed." So IBM designed its solution around three criteria: east to install, easy to use and easy to buy. "And it’s the combination of the three that makes it really unique. It comes preconfigured, so it requires no assembly and has everything you need."

In addition to the three design criteria, there’s another vital element, she said. "It’s important to midsize companies that they get that quick win. BI still an unknown quantity."

That’s why IBM took a modular approach to midmarket BI. "You don’t have to buy everything at once, so you have a low entry point. So it’s a low-risk option that allows companies to start small, start anywhere but allows them to expand."

The Cognos partner community, just under 400 companies, will be the initial channel flag bearers for the offering, said Seymour, but the rest of IBM’s channel will be brought up to speed as quickly as possible. IBM’s 1,000-plus telemarketing group will be generating leads for the channel. Partners can qualify to sell the solution by taking a five-day course, she said.

Big Blue will be hosting an IBM Cognos Express Virtual Launch event on Tuesday September 29, from 9:45 am 4 pm Eastern, featuring demonstrations and technical overviews on BI and analytics, as well as an Expo Area and Communications Lounge where participants can chat live with IBM representatives and business partners. To register, go to

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