Atlanta to roll out Cognos to city’s agency workers

Georgia's capital city is replacing CorVu in search of a more robust tool for complex reporting

The city of Atlanta will begin rolling out new business intelligence software to all city agencies in February in a project aimed at providing — for the first time — visibility into their combined performance.

The city plans to roll out Cognos 8 BI software to about 1,000 users over the next 12 to 18 months, says officials.

Chuck Meadows, Atlanta’s chief of budget and fiscal policy, says the software will be used for tasks ranging from assessing the performance metrics for repairing a pothole to automating the aggregation of revenue from parks and recreation programs.

The city is paying US$2.1 million ($3.2 million) for the Cognos software, plus additional consulting fees, which have yet to be determined, for installation. The BI tools will replace Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and performance management software from CorVu.

The city has used the CorVu software since 2002, and, although it could be used for basic reporting, “as we had it installed ... [it] wasn’t robust enough [for complex reporting tasks]”, Meadows says. As a result, many users reverted to manually loading data into Excel spreadsheets, to create reports on the performance of individual departments.

Also, although some city departments perform similar functions they use different techniques to report on those functions, says Meadows.

“We weren’t able to supply our budget analysts or the chief operating officer with real good data without pulling that information manually through those various reports and presentations.”

Julie Godfrey, global marketing director at CorVu, declined to comment on the city’s decision to replace its software.

The city, whose financial department has used Cognos tools for budgeting since 2005, also evaluated BI options from Oracle, Hyperion Solutions and OutlookSoft for the new project.

Although the city is currently installing Oracle human resources, finance and procurement software, officials determined that Oracle’s BI wouldn’t allow departments to create analysis models that mirror the city’s unique business processes, says Meadows.

The city’s processes vary from monitoring high-end data management procurements to projects such as monitoring the efficiency of garbage collection, he says.

“[With Cognos] we will be able to look at things like the cost-per-acre to maintain a park, the cost per work order for field-level operations and the average manpower and materials costs [needed] to repair a traffic light or resurface a mile of a city street,” says Meadows.

In addition, he says the new BI software promises to allow the city to track criminals from their initial interactions with police through the judicial and correctional systems. “Now, we’re only able to look at those cases on a department-by-department basis, without the ability to track them across multiple departments.”

In addition, he says, Cognos can easily utilise the city’s disparate data sources so that agencies can continue to use existing work-order management, fleet management, time management and human resources systems.

Mike Schiff, president and analyst at MAS Strategies in Virginia, says government agencies increasingly see performance management software as a way to help account for expenditures.

“Voters want to know what is happening to their money. While Sarbanes-Oxley is aiming [for] accountability in the commercial environment, the message certainly isn’t lost on the government. The use of these performance management solutions is accelerating.”