To successfully implement a Performance Management (PM) strategy, businesses need to look towards creating an ecosystem that supports PM from a technology, people and process perspective. While South African businesses have come to realise the importance of the link between technology, people and processes, few have put in place a platform to support the relationship.

This is the word from David McWilliam, MD of Cognos South Africa, speaking at the Cognos Performance Management 2007 User Conference held recently. He highlighted the importance of developing an ecosystem that supports PM, identified the infrastructure requirements and detailed the benefits of this approach for PM deployments and ongoing initiatives.
He says: "The Cognos ecosystem comprises various areas that fall within the domain of technology, people and processes. Various elements play a significant role in creating this ecosystem. They include the PM software, best practices, the partner ecosystem, support, training, consulting and customer collaboration. This approach is what Gartner and Ovum have been heralding and our partners have been asking for, assisting them to set plans, measure the organisation's performance and steer it onto the correct course, executing the plan correctly and effectively."
From a technology perspective, the Cognos PM 8 solution is based on best practices, an enterprise-class platform (a modern Web Services based SOA architecture that supports all types of data sources) and delivers a complete, consistent view of the business, anytime, anywhere. The universal capabilities – measure and monitor; reporting and analysis; and planning, budgeting and forecasting – provide the technology platform for PM. In addition, these capabilities are available with a variety of user interfaces and include Web, mobile, office and search functionality.
McWilliam adds: "It is Cognos' experience that has enabled the development of one of the most important cogs within the success PM platform – best practices. Cognos' best practices have resulted in 'blueprints' that are specific to vertical industries or areas within a business. These greatly minimise implementation time, significantly reducing project costs.
"In addition, Cognos experts have written books, such as The PM Manager and The Performance Manager for Banking, sharing their expertise and best practice gained over 17 years. These 'gold nuggets' are also shared through forums and communities and the development of BI Competency Centres (BICC)."
The Cognos Partner ecosystem is built on partnerships developed over the years, and has resulted in collaboration with a variety of vendors, including SAP, Terradata, IBM, Informatica, Accenture and Deloitte, delivering ease of integration and leveraging the synergies between the technologies.
Support is another crucial component within the ecosystem as it provides comprehensive issue resolution, improved performance and increased self-sufficiency and productivity. Cognos features over 300 worldwide support employees with varying skill levels that assist with complex environments and requests. Service industry associations further bolster support. Product releases and updates, online and telephonic support all provide assistance, delivering a comprehensive selection of support options to customers.
"South Africa is pressured by skills shortages," adds McWilliam. "This has made training a key area within the Cognos ecosystem. Cognos launched its training centre this year, providing a facility for customers and partners to equip themselves with the skills, methods and best practices to better leverage their BI and PM solutions."
Cognos offers three formats for training: a public classroom, on site training and e-learning, an area where the greatest interest and growth is being seen.
McWilliam notes: "Consulting expertise is lacking in the local market and Cognos is addressing this need. While we do offer consulting services at present, we will be expanding our capabilities in this regard in the near future.
"Once all these key areas are addressed and are functional, the PM platform within an organisation is guaranteed to be successful. Taking a holistic approach to the underlying supporting factors as we have outlined will greatly assist with PM implementations and ongoing initiatives, putting the performance back into your organisation."