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IBM is debuting a svelte version of its Cognos business intelligence software tailored with mid-sized businesses in mind. The New Cognos Express lineup is intended to be a lower-cost BI toolkit that's simpler to use than the enterprise-level product, with a more modular approach to including new features.

Cognos Express consists of three modules that can be purchased individually or together. Express Reporter is a reporting tool drag-and-drop report creation for ad hoc querying. Express Advisor provides "what-if" scenario planning and performance forecasting. Express Xcelerator uses an in-memory analytics engine to make analytical visualizations out of Excel spreadsheet data.

Big Blue claims the whole package can be deployed within "just a few hours." Each of the modules are administered through a centralized, web-based console, which the company claims will minimize the need for IT staff assistance.

"Our initiative is focused on the 'less BI mature' customers who primarily use Excel or Crystal reports, don't have a data warehouse, and don't have a company-wide BI strategy," said Caroline Seymour, business unit executive for IBM Cognos midmarket. She notes, however, the Express products may also be appropriate for departments or divisions of larger companies that share those qualities.

Pricing for Cognos Express starts at $12,000 for one module and five users. IBM said the three modules will be available "mid-September" 2009 (although it should be noted the company is hosting a "virtual launch event" on September 29. Let's hedge our bets and say it'll arrive three quarters through September). The software is also available through IBM Global Financing starting at $25/user/month.

IBM claims its Cognos Express products are unique in offering a single, all-in-one reporting, analysis, planning, forecasting and budgeting solution for middle-sized firms.

"No midmarket solution out there today addresses the connection between BI and planning, providing clients with a single integrated, closed loop approach to accessing key information, understanding it, drawing out critical business insights, then using this information to build necessary plans accordingly," said Seymour. "We strongly believe that IBM Cognos Express is the only mid-market focused solution out there that provides all of this packaged in a single offering."

Cognos products have been a revenue magnet for IBM, despite an overall slide in sales for the company's Information Management line. As a whole, the segment's product sales fell by 4 per cent in IBM's most recent quarter, while Cognos sales rose by 20 per cent in that same period. And where else to expand enterprise products if not down to the mid-market – an area IBM also seems to think will the key to rapturing us from economicaddon.

"Midsized organizations are the engines that will lead the global economy back to growth and prosperity. Even in today's unsettled landscape, midsized companies are striving to better harness their information so they can continue to innovate and grow," said Ben Plummer, director of IBM's Cognoss midmarket business unit in a statement.

IBM said Cognos Express is intended for companies with between 100 and 1,000 employees. It will be sold both directly through IBM and its vast network of resellers. ®

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