Given the ubiquitous presence of Microsoft Excel spreadsheets throughout the business enterprise–Microsoft estimates that there are upwards of 400 million Excel users worldwide–spreadsheets are among the most widely used business intelligence (BI) tools. The one problem: They are very prone to error from manual keying. Enter Cognos, a BI and business performance management software provider, with Cognos 8 BI Connector for Excel, a new capability that links the centrally controlled and secure information platform of Cognos 8 BI with the flexible and intuitive spreadsheets that Excel power users are comfortable with. The solution allows users to draw upon a more secure and complete view of enterprise information and enables them to make better decisions. "Within the office of finance, there are people who already consume BI from Cognos, as well as reports and analysis from Cognos 8 BI. But they need additional capabilities in Excel," says Delbert Krause, director of performance management product marketing for Cognos. "Typically, these users leverage Excel in a sophisticated manner."


Before the Connector, these Excel users first had to access BI, then extract the data and perform their custom calculations. The Connector for Excel allows them to link the dashboard and performance management information to spreadsheets when they're creating hypothetical scenarios. The Connector provides self-service drag and drop exploration, where the user chooses his data source, a user interface that is intuitive and integrated, and access to secure BI content that refreshes on demand. As the query grows in footprint, any linked calculation grows with it.


"Spreadsheets are just tools that finance organizations are familiar with," says Rob Karel, principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc. "What it comes down to is extending BI and recognizing that spreadsheets are the front end of a lot of analysis that is being done [by a specialized] group of users. What Cognos is trying to do is create improved integration so that data is improved in a BI environment, which is more trustworthy."

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