Legal tussle looms after Brierley’s shock switch

Business intelligence vendor Cognos is declining to comment further on the defection of regional manager David Brierley to close rival Business Objects. In a prepared written statement, Ged Simmons, sales director UK and Middle East at Cognos, commented: “Due to the nature of David Brierley’s departure, Cognos is unable to comment further on this matter for legal reasons.”

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By  Stuart Wilson Published  September 10, 2006

Business intelligence vendor Cognos is declining to comment further on the defection of regional manager David Brierley to close rival Business Objects. In a prepared written statement, Ged Simmons, sales director UK and Middle East at Cognos, commented: “Due to the nature of David Brierley’s departure, Cognos is unable to comment further on this matter for legal reasons.” Cognos’ reference to ‘legal reasons’ for its inability to comment any further is partially linked to the non-compete clause that existed within Brierley’s contract, which is supposed to prevent an employee from moving to a rival vendor. There remains some dispute regarding the validity of the non-compete clause for a Cognos employee working in the UAE — despite the fact that the Middle East operation is technically an extension of the UK operation. Brierley commented: “The non-compete clause is difficult to enforce under UAE law because it is under UK law. There was a communication breakdown between myself and certain members of the senior management team at Cognos. I wanted more headcount in the region but the authorisation just wasn’t there.” “Cognos was not investing enough in the region and customers were missing implementation deadlines because of the skills and qualities of some of the partners. There was a lack of skills bandwidth and this was impacting customer relationships,” he continued. In the wake of Brierley’s shock departure to Business Objects, Cognos has appointed Peter Ball as interim regional manager for the Middle East and reaffirmed its commitment to its 300-plus customers and network of regional partners. Cognos has already been in touch with key channel partners such as BSG to keep them up to speed on the situation. Simmons, speaking prior to confirmation that Brierley had joined Business Objects, commented: “I put together the business case to launch the office in Dubai. David was in a sales role before and this was his first senior position. The ability to sell is important but customer care is even more important.” “Why did David leave? Possibly because of the pressure. Selling is important but it is not the only thing. You need to be constant and consistent in the way that you deal with people. David is ambitious and has some good skills,” Simmons continued. “We have three people based in Dubai and overall have some 15 people assigned to the region. Most of our business is indirect. Peter Ball is picking up the position on an interim basis and he knows the region very well and is a highly experienced Cognos employee. Our commitment to the region is absolute and we have been growing our business at 50% year-on-year,” he concluded. One partner well placed to comment on Brierley’s move from Cognos to Business Objects is UAE-based business intelligence solutions integration specialist BSG. Having switched its allegiance from Business Objects to Cognos late last year, managing director Nasser Tufail has experienced life on both sides of the business intelligence fence. “As far as BSG is concerned, David [Brierley] was just one of the people that we were dealing with at Cognos,” said Tufail. “There were compelling reasons for us to switch to Cognos from Business Objects and David’s departure does not change this. Our relationship with David was very cordial and I have spoken to him since he accepted the role at Business Objects.” “From a business standpoint I do not see it impacting us in any way. Someone else will come on board. My understanding was that David was in a position where he may not have been carrying on as regional manager,” he added. “Our experience with Cognos has been much more positive in terms of local support than it was with Business Objects. We now have direct access to the support team and they are very responsive.” “I am still a firm believer that Cognos has a superior architecture to Business Objects. Given BSG’s history, we know what the weaknesses are with Business Objects’ solutions. I wish David good luck. He decided to go even though he had the option to stay on with Cognos in a different role,” continued Tufail. “For us the pipeline is very strong. My only concern is that David had access to that pipeline as well and we don’t know what he will do with it.” The business intelligence market is a close-knit community in the Middle East with major vendors pitching for the same customers and responding to the same requests for proposals (RFPs). Expect the timing of Brierley’s departure and the orders won by both Cognos and Business Objects in the months ahead to come under close scrutiny.

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