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Launch of Business Analytics Enterprise unifies IBM BI tools

The tech giant joined previously disparate capabilities in a single platform and unveiled a new hub where customers can view models and dashboards from various vendors.

IBM has launched a new suite that unifies business intelligence, planning, budgeting and forecasting capabilities in one location and includes a hub where customers can view analytics assets developed using tools from other vendors.

The tech giant, founded in 1911 and based in Armonk, N.Y., unveiled Business Analytics Enterprise on Nov. 3.

In addition to combining previously disparate tools in one location -- enabling easier navigation aimed at decreasing the time it takes to reach data-driven insights -- the unveiling of Business Analytics Enterprise includes new capabilities for IBM Cognos Analytics with Watson and the availability of IBM Planning Analytics on AWS.

Fostering collaboration

Like IBM, other vendors offer business intelligence, scenario planning, budgeting and forecasting capabilities. But enabling users to view not only analytics assets such as data models and dashboards developed using IBM tools, but also analytics assets built with other vendors' tools is rare, according to David Menninger, analyst at Ventana Research.

In fact, among the 20 BI and analytics vendors Menninger follows closely, Analytics Content Hub could be a first.

"Several vendors are working to expose their data models and metadata to other analytics tools, and several are able to consume other vendors' data models, but IBM's Analytics Content Hub is unique as far as I am aware," he said.

But beyond being perhaps an industry first, the launch of Analytics Content Hub is significant because it acknowledges that most organizations, particularly large enterprises with numerous different departments, don't deploy just one analytics platform.

It would be great if the boundaries between different vendors' analytics tools were erased. Organizations often have many tools, [and] those organizations shouldn't be hampered in sharing that information among the different team members.
David MenningerAnalyst, Ventana Research

Whether the result of mergers and acquisitions, or simply different departments selecting different analytics tools perhaps a decade or more ago when there was less interaction between those departments, large organizations often use tools from a variety of vendors.

They might use tools such as Cognos Analytics from IBM in one department, while deploying tools from rival vendors such as SAS, Tableau, and fellow tech giants Microsoft (Power BI) and Google Cloud (Looker) in others.

The ability to easily share assets in a single location therefore simplifies collaboration and ultimately enables faster data-informed decision-making.

"It would be great if the boundaries between different vendors' analytics tools were erased," Menninger said. "Organizations often have many tools, [and] those organizations shouldn't be hampered in sharing that information among the different team members."

More new capabilities

Beyond the introduction of Analytics Content Hub, IBM's Business Analytics Enterprise includes an updated version of Cognos Analytics with Watson that adds new data integration and enhanced forecasting capabilities.

With organizations collecting an ever-increasing amount of data from a growing number of sources, and the complexity of that data rising as well, data integration is critical. Bringing that data together in a single location to avoid duplication and managing that data with a single set of governance guidelines enables users to locate the data they need to inform decision-making while ensuring the data is kept secure.

Meanwhile, forecasting capabilities are critical as well, enabling organizations to plan and prepare for the future.

Also significant will be the availability of IBM Planning Analytics with Watson as a service on AWS, according to Menninger.

With general availability expected before the end of 2022, a SaaS version of its scenario planning analytics platform on AWS means IBM is opening its use beyond large enterprises to a new audience of small and midsize organizations.

After a free 30-day trial, license options for the enterprise version of Planning Analytics with Watson start at $70 per user, per month for the most basic version, with other options beginning at $150 and $225 per user, per month. Pricing details for the SaaS version are not yet available.

"SaaS offerings make it much easier for organizations to adopt and deploy software products," Menninger said. "Many organizations have chosen AWS as their preferred cloud provider, so they will be pleased to have this option."

Emphasis on simplification

Overall, the launch of Business Analytics Enterprise more closely integrates the tools that make up IBM's analytics suite.

For that reason, its introduction is a positive step for IBM, according to Menninger. He added, however, that given the breadth of IBM's analytics platform, which includes capabilities such as Cognos that came to IBM through acquisitions rather than internal product development, there is room for still more integration between tools.

"As with any company that has a broad portfolio of capabilities, improving the integration between the various products and components will make them easier to use and more valuable," Menninger said.

In particular, the inclusion of scenario planning tools in Business Analytics Enterprise is important for IBM, and something Menninger said he'd like to see from other vendors as well.

Of the 20 BI and analytics vendors he monitors, just five offer scenario planning as part of their portfolio, with most instead leaving the feature to specialists like Anaplan. Meanwhile, though slightly less than half of organizations participating in Ventana's research deploy planning tools, nearly all said they plan to do so eventually.

"[Planning] is undervalued in organizations today, or too often handled in ad hoc spreadsheet analyses," Menninger said. "Bringing [BI and planning] more closely together will make them easier to use and perhaps encourage more structure to the planning process."

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