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Cognos welds planning, reporting tools

Integration is at the heart of the BI vendor's latest release, which also forges closer links with Excel.

Tightening the integration between its planning and reporting tools, Cognos Inc. today released the latest version of its Enterprise Planning application.

Version 7.2 includes new real-time reporting functionality, managed reporting to deliver scheduled reports, and financial reporting integrated with Excel.

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With the latest release, Ottawa-based Cognos is expanding on its concept of BI, said Paul Hamerman, a vice president at Giga Information Group, a division of Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research. He said that Enterprise Planning 7.2 combines historical data, real-time reporting and predictive capabilities.

"They removed some of the latency between their planning and reporting tools, so they now can do real-time reporting off data stored in the application," Hamerman said. "There's better visibility into planning and operational performance."

The other significant addition is the integration with Excel, "improving upon what is a ubiquitous user interface for financial managers," Hamerman said.

The release further integrates Cognos' reporting with the planning technology it acquired when it bought Adaytum Inc. in January 2003.

Murray Inc., a Brentwood, Tenn., lawn mower and snowblower manufacturer that beta-tested 7.2, nearly purchased Adaytum software before selecting Cognos' applications. It was pleased when it wound up getting both technologies, said Rose Melillo, Murray's financial systems manager.

The real-time visibility that 7.2 provides has improved Murray's forecasting, Melillo said.

"It allows on-the-fly changes to your plan," she said. "By looking backwards, we can figure out what next month will look like and how our net income will be adjusted."

Murray began implementing 7.2 four months ago, and users have greeted it warmly, Melillo said. That is thanks in part to the Excel integration, which Murray finds beneficial because the company uses another Office product -- PowerPoint -- to deliver financial packages.

Other new features in 7.2 include "business metaphor" tools that allow users to work with data the way they think, and Metrics Manager, which allows users to publish and update a metric, providing a seamless link with data in the reporting environment.

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