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The right stuff 03032009

The right stuff 03032009

A frustrating experience leads to the development of a strategic analytics tool.

“The data for my reports was on hand, but there was no automated way to generate the output I needed.” David Hurst was in just this situation while working on a complex enterprise architecture project at a large multinational company in the US.

Hurst, founder and chief executive of Cogniscape, was then an IT consultant at accountancy firm Arthur Andersen.

“As part of the project, I found myself constantly having to create reports to communicate to executive management. After many sleepless nights copying and pasting into PowerPoint, it became clear there had to be a better way.”

It was not an isolated incident for Hurst, who says the concept for CogniViz, the flagship product of Cogniscape, “arose out of this frustration”.

“CogniViz fills this need and reduces the time to produce these outputs from hours or days to minutes,” says Hurst. Some of its users are Fortune 500 companies.

In an interview with CIO during a recent visit to New Zealand, Hurst equates the process to having an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan of the business.

He says CogniViz delivers complex information in a customised way that addresses the questions executives want to answer, and presented in a way they want to see it, he states.

The report provides an “ecosystem” of the business for predictive and intuitive analysis. The company claims to provide the only technology system that opens all data sources to flexible, powerful ad-hoc querying. In the past, these queries were done manually or through a combination of manual and technological methods.

CogniViz uses the patent-pending Tree and Tunnel Querying (TTQ) interface to produce reports. A Cogniscape white paper explains that there are information domains underserved by the Structured Query Language (SQL) and Business Intelligence (BI) methods. These include high-value applications such as Enterprise Architecture (EA), Business Process Management (BPM) and Risk and Compliance.

These applications have a "relationship-centric data structure" in common. TTQ, says the white paper, was developed to answer complex relationship-centric questions more efficiently.

“Unlike transactional systems or data warehouses where numeric facts form the core data, the important data in these systems are the chains of relationships between the many objects they contain.”

The paper says TTQ combines the flexibility of SQL with the content awareness and hierarchical structures of BI into an intuitive graphical user interface. TTQ significantly improves the speed and flexibility with which an analyst can trace relationship chains through data. It is a “complementary technology” to these more established approaches.

Local business leaders Hurst met during his trip to Auckland and Wellington told him among their biggest concerns is the need for “improved visibility”.

“Executives are looking for ways to better understand how their organisations operate, to understand where there's room for improved efficiency and reduced cost,” says Hurst.

In an economic slowdown, having this type of information access is useful. “Large organisations are challenged to do more with less. However, it’s not enough to make blind cuts in headcount or infrastructure.

“A solid EA program with the efficient analysis capabilities allows executives to make intelligent cuts, which can eliminate waste and inefficiency without negatively impacting the organisation’s ability to deliver,” he explains.

Lukas Svoboda has trialled CogniViz at Mighty River Power, where he is manager, enterprise architecture, strategy and governance.

“Most organisations are looking to leverage what they have rather than necessarily investing huge amounts of tweaking or changing things that are not working in part, rather than ripping and replacing huge amounts of the IT landscape,” says Svoboda, on what drove him to check out CogniViz.

He says in the past, Mighty River has not had a really consistent enterprise architecture tool to be able to model all of its systems. “Typically with enterprise architecture tools, what they do once you use them effectively, is they give you an inventory of all your IT systems and then allow you to figure out what that looks like later on.”

He says while most of these tools will collect and manage the information really well, “they don’t necessarily give you a really detailed visual representation of that information, which you could do quite a lot of detailed analysis on.”

He says CogniViz can be run over Excel spreadsheets, Access database and other internal sources. “It gives us the ability to look at what we have and all the different little islands of information that we have around our IT systems.”

Prior to this, he says reports were done manually. "We have pockets of all this information, we can bring it together, we can look at it, but it takes a large amount of time."

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