Darren often suggests that I go "produce some marketing fluff". At this point I feign outrage and usually threaten to write code. A bit of a cold war style standoff!
However we have had some interest in understanding the concept of working on the Cognos Edges. Truth be told, the Cognos extension and integration specialty was an area that SpotOn gravitated to rather than chose. Furthermore, what seems obvious now (with Darren and team's SDK and architectural expertise) was not so clear in the beginning. Of course you focus on the authoring and modeling services because that is that is where the large chunk of work is. There are only a couple of organizations that need the SDK "heavy-lifting"...
Some kind of marketer I turned out to be. What we found ourselves in was a niche, underserved market (shared with our friends down in Dallas) with clearly identifiable customer needs, with extremely high value and business impact to prospective clients.
I've also been accused of "reading books and telling us what to do". If they don't like it, they should read the damn books! It was in reading the Blue Ocean Strategy (http://blueoceanstrategy.com/) that the concept of working on the Cognos Edges emerged. The concept in the book was how companies outpaced competitors by creating solutions in the space "in between": in between markets, applications, existing distribution channels, etc. Trust me, it's a great book.
The concept that struck home was that SpotOn experienced great success once we got outside the Cognos box - on the Edge. In these cases we were creating value in between the Cognos platform and the places organizations want to take their BI. We've identified 4 key edges where SpotOn has consistently created value:
- 1. Look and feel, branding, custom UIs
- 2. Administration, Data & Metadata Automation
- 3. New Functionality & Product Extensions
- 4. Application Integration
It's this last Edge, Application Integration, that has our team really fired up these days. We think we're on to a real 1+1=3 opportunity for our clients - we're going to make the BI sizzle. Maybe make people go crazy like at the GIS Conference
! Who knows!?!
I'm thinking they are. I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days at the 2008 ESRI International User Conference down in San Diego.
Being a veteran BI guy, I'm fairly familiar with the Business Intelligence circuit; TDWI, Gartner, Computer World, and several Cognos Forums (on both sides of the stage). I've found that the attitudes are generally fairly upbeat and positive. Attendees are proponents of BI solutions, the value of these solutions, and the importance of BI in organizations as a foundation for performance management. The BI folks - if you can characterize this broadly, which might be a stretch - are also realists, and will speak of opportunities just out of their solutions reach. I have also seen beaten down individuals who are suffering due to the unfulfilled promise of BI expectations.
Then I went to San Diego...
I was absolutely stunned at the passion attendees displayed for GIS applications; and the eagerness to push the envelope with organizations' GIS deployments. I get that every data point has a location, but holy cow! Truth be told, there was some spectacularly stunning displays of technology.
So is the GIS Analyst some part of a fanatical cult? Let's look for clues... Attendees in San Diego: 14,500. Want to see where they came from? Check the map. Click around a bit if you want. Although ESRI is a private company, my understanding is that it was roughly in the same revenue ballpark as Cognos. ESRI Conference attendees outnumbered this year's Forum attendees by a factor of nearly 4! This blew me away.
One last tidbit; I was sitting in on a demo. The presenter was speaking about a multi-dimentional GIS connector, and proceeded to poll the audience on their familiarity with OLAP. I looked around the room and noticed there was only one hand up - mine... Everybody was looking at me like I was the freak! If they only knew...
Hi, I'm Darren Nelson and welcome to my first blog post - Chris badgered me to do it. I'll start off with a little bit about myself. I was fortunate enough to develop the original ReportNet and Cognos 8 SDK and I continue to work with it on a daily basis. Those early ReportNet days were pretty wild. The BI market was primed and ready for a web-based BI platform, and the ReportNet solution hit the mark - almost too well for its own good. Let me explain.
Reporting is effectively a horizontal solution - everybody needs information. Organizations making significant investments in BI want the solution to meet their key VERTICAL requirements. The ReportNet design team recognized that the solution could not be everything to everyone - thus tasked me to provide the keys to the castle in the form of the Software Development Kit (SDK). This was one of my most memorable projects. When I began, I was perfectly fluent in English and French (written and spoken). By the time ReportNet launched, I was also fluent in SOAP (written and spoken)!
I'm not sure anybody could have guessed the velocity that ReportNet would hit the market with. Astounding for what was a V1 solution! I'm not sure if anybody predicted how much these major early adopters would leverage the SDK to build out custom functionality or tightly integrate the solution into existing environments and applications.
After a few years of "assisting" (read: chief cook and bottle washer) with these SDK initiatives, I moved to the Cognos OEM team; where my daily activities finally fell in line with my actual job description.
Now I've managed to somehow surround myself with brilliant BI developers (and Chris) where they take my ideas (code that is usually held together with Duct tape and bubblegum) and turn it into art. I have the extreme pleasure of being able to work with clients on a daily basis, helping them get the most out of their Cognos BI. Maybe I'm starting to believe this "Edge" stuff!
We're really excited about sharing what we're up to with you. We have some really cool stuff coming out of the labs, and we've decided to quit being our own best kept secret.
"If you're not on the edge - you're taking up too much room!" This was one of the slogans I remember from when the No Fear gear was popular with the "adrenalized crowd" (probably dating myself here). Oddly enough, "the Edge" is the niche where SpotOn seems to have thrived. I'll explain.
But first, let me introduce myself and this blog. I'm Chris Ovens, the General Manager at SpotOn Systems. Formerly with Cognos during the "rock and roll days" of the ReportNet and Cognos 8 launches, I had the pleasure of being a Cognos evangelist - touting the best enterprise BI platform to all comers. I also had the opportunity to hear what field folks, analysts, and (most importantly) customers wanted to accomplish with their Cognos BI deployments. With this blog we (you'll meet them soon) would like to recount some of our adventures in addressing these wish-lists; as well as share some of our thoughts and opinions along the way.
Back to our regularly scheduled programming...
SpotOn is a Cognos Shop. We've done consulting services for Cognos 8 BI clients, and along the way we've developed an array of Cognos add-on products and technologies for those same clients. During SpotOn's 3 years of existence, we've had our share of exceptional projects, as well as those that would be better characterized as "just alright"... Nobody wants to be just alright. With a little reflection, it's easy to understand when and where SpotOn shines: it's out on the edge of Cognos - outside the box, if you will.
Don't get us wrong, we believe the Cognos 8 BI platform to be the best "box" in the business. We are also intimately aware of the things that Cognos customers attempt to accomplish with the platform - definitely coloring outside the lines. And it has turned into a decent business for SpotOn: out on the Edge of Cognos.
What exactly I'm I talking about here? Let me give you a few snippets:
- Cognos customization, look and feel, branding
- Legacy application integration
- Management and performance solutions
- Extensions and add-on functionality
- Advanced visualization integration
Trust me there's more. Sure we do report authoring as well - doesn't everybody...? But life is definitely better than "just alright" out here on the Edge.
Stay tuned for SpotOn tales and adventures. I hope to convince my partner in crime, and SpotOn's secret weapon, to introduce himself here shortly.