Cognos 10 new features
Every tool, regardless of its uses, can be improved. Usually, it's only a
matter of time for people to upgrade the things, and the question is
whether the improvements truly are needed. Time passes by, business
evolves, and so do IT systems. The same is with Business Intelligence
platforms which Cognos is one of the most common of. Up to now, there
is its tenth version released and available for business users.
Is it better than the previous ones? Surely. Is it good enough to call it perfect? It depends. Please, spend a while on analyzing Cognos 10 new features and make your own opinion.
What has changed?
Analytics and business questions
Today's organizations' lifecycle depends mostly on a few selected factors. According
to the Pareto principle, 20% of factors decide on 80% of company's operating.
That's why it's crucial to analyze the most meaningful aspects. Consistently,
every Business Intelligence platform should enable its users to focus
on what's most important. Cognos 10 introduces numerous innovations,
the capabilities to make people's everyday work even easier and more
efficient. Basically, the features could be boiled down to three aspects.
The first one concerns information aspect, and the matter of easy accessing,
viewing, and personalizing. The second one considers the number of information
file types, and how Cognos 10 platform supports each of them. Finally,
the third aspect is about wider perspectives - tactics and strategies,
and how a BI tool can help managers with them.
Self service interface
Most of business users want only to read ready reports that have been prepared for them by someone other. These are the least demanding receivers who don't even care which BI platform they use. Nevertheless, there also is quite a populous group that consists of users who pay attention to functionalities. Strictly for them the new interface of Cognos have been prepared. What are its best features?
- So called, utilization, what means that once prepared report can be used many times. Its multiple uses come out from flexibility - it's not a big deal to edit existing reports to make them suit new requirements. With Business Insight Advances, users are enabled to edit already existing reports, use their parts and needed fragments, change the dimension and form, and modify data.
- Among all data visualization methods, charts remain the most often chosen one. It's not a matter of accident - charts are the most transparent, and enable readers to focus on the most meaningful values like totals, for instance. Business Insight Advance lets its users operate on charts quickly and dynamically - drag & drop methods and automation are a great facilitation.
- Every report depends on data, and data sources are the most meaningful factor across the organization. That's why tools able to work on data from diverse sources are so wanted. Cognos 10 has no problem with operating on both relational and dimensional data sources at once.
- It's not all about preparing the reports. Data itself also is important, and the methods for achieving it matter. With Business Insight Advanced, users can quickly access the information they need most. Scrolling, drilling, analyzing, sorting, and so on are not a problem.
- Sometimes what's most important and useful isn't stored within organization's system, thereupon the universal Business Intelligence platform should be able to enable wide different data sources using capabilities to its users. So is with Cognos 10 platform. It allows users to use their own data implemented from external sources. Moreover, it's now possible to work only on data from the brought source, and to use both - internal and external - sources at once.
- Single set of data can be presented in multiple ways, each one showing its different aspect. Reports prepared within Business Insight Advanced provide multidimensional views what makes the more transparent and easier to understand than ever before. If user wants, he might slice and dice the report to highlight what's the most meaningful at the moment, and get back to report's prime form once the summarization is needed again.
- The most important aspect of every report is its transparency and the time its reader needs to spend on getting to the point. That's why the designers have paid so much attention to data filtering capabilities of new Cognos 10. With improved options, users can now filter the reports in every way they need. What's more, the aspect of filtering conditions has also got broadened.
- All business users know that the time is crucial. Time is money too, thereupon the thing is to make every task last as short as possible. That's the main reason why the interface have been redesigned. Cognos 10 and Business Insight Advanced provide a new, fully intuitive interface made strictly according to ergonomics rules. What does it mean in practice? For instance, all the sorting options are hidden behind one button what makes them quickly accessible and immediately modifiable. Object properties allow users to describe each object, while the most interesting capability is defining own buttons. Thank to it, users can adjust the tool exactly the way they want it to be.
- Particular data describes the details, nonetheless sometimes the totals are more easily readable. That's why Cognos 10 allows its users to immediately add maximum, minimum, average, count, and total values to data.
Easy to use reports
The lion's share of problems with report consumption is connected with the fact that reports are not being prepared by their addressees. Moreover, the end users know only how to open a report and how to introduce the most minor changes, like data sorting. Unfortunately, in today's business it's not enough. That's why Cognos 10 provides reports' end users with improved capabilities for report editing. They no longer need to ask report designers for the simplest changes. Now they can personally do what they want, change report's dimension, form, and point of view. It saves a lot of time, after all. And the cost also is not meaningless.
Basically, users can now modify the layout of dashboard elements, influence on data format, activate menus with the mouse, and integrate with Business Insight Advanced.
Operating on particular data not always is suggested. Often, it takes too much time and doesn't lead to proper conclusions - it's difficult to quickly discover company's situation basing only on details of each operation. That's why it's paid so much attention to statistical insight in Cognos 10.
While it's all about the efficiency, IBM Cognos Statistics (based on the SPSS platform) enables its users to control the statistical process. Its efficiency, regularity, and time consumption. Furthermore, the application provides key statistical tests to let decision makers verify their conclusions and assumptions. Finally, Cognos Statistics enables a multidimensional insight into the shape of data.
Report Studio has always been one of the best tools for report authoring, and this opinion isn't going to change after the last version is released. What IBM has focused on with improvements is enriching Studio capabilities and accelerating the whole authoring process what makes report preparing even easier and faster.
It's not possible to overrate the role of charts. They're the best method for presenting information in easily understandable and transparent way, therefore it's not surprising Cognos 10 improvements in case of Report Studio have been focused on the charts.
- Default charts' universality have got broadened. In Cognos 10, default charts provide more properties and customization capabilities what makes them usable for more and more purposes.
- Bullet charts have taken over the role of gauge charts, nonetheless both these methods still can be used at one report.
- If the chart is too complex to be easily understandable, it's not a big deal to convert it into numerous small charts illustrating each aspect from the primary one. While the numeric scale of newly generated charts is the same, comparing them doesn't require any additional calculations.
- Some charts are obvious, and the others require a legend to be understood. Cognos 10 allows its users to fully customize the legend, its position and appearance.
- Pie charts can now be customized due to user's requirements what improves their legibility.
- Increased chart styles modifying capabilities let users influence on chart appearance, its colors, shadows, patterns, fill types, so on and so forth.
- In case of bubble charts, it no longer is a problem to define value colors, and bubble sizes.
- Finally, when it's needed to attach a note to chart, it can now be done everywhere within the chart area.
The easiest tool usually is the best, and that's why weight was attached to Report Studio user interface. With the newest version users can move the Properties and Insertable Objects to the right side of work area what would make it similar to interfaces known from Business Insight and Business Insight Advanced.
Numerous things require clicking on one button to be inserted. So is with diverse charts (chart button), individual members and members with children buttons, and more. It also is a matter of one click to switch the view from full data tree to dimensional data tree and back if the report depends on differentiated sources of data. Finally, if it's needed to get back to primary form of the report, there is a single button to remove all enabled filtering options.
Too much of buttons? It might seem so, and that's why the tooltips have got expanded - learning new interface isn't problematic due to easily accessible explanations of what each button is supposed to do.
Other improvements to Report Studio
The Report Studio is a tool of extremely wide uses, therefore the improvements couldn't have considered only the categories listed above. Other changes facilitating report authoring are as follows:
- Complex, multidimensional queries have never been easy to author, nonetheless new Report Studio allow to do more on sets of members, and all the new capabilities are hidden in a context menu (accessible with a single RMB click). It no longer is a problem to quickly exclude or move the members, filter them, and display only the chosen ones.
- While opening or saving the report, previewing it has got enabled.
- While drilling up or down, it's possible to choose which - member caption or level label - value to display.
- From the newest Report Studio version, prompts no longer need to be standard. It's now possible to define them in a way it's most comfortable for report users.
- Calculating requires nothing more than choosing from Query Calculation and Layout Calculation objects buttons located in the toolbox tab.
- Functions commonly used for creating calculation are clearly described and illustrated with examples what makes them even easier to be used properly.
- The default report style have been refreshed, but it still is possible to prepare reports in traditional style.
- There are also a few enhancements to lists, so that standard operating on them can be provided automatically.
The most significant drawback of numerous reports is the fact they're passive. Modifying them requires usually engaging IT specialists, what's not only inefficient, but also expensive and time consuming. New Cognos Report Studio allows its users to create active reports which are easy to modify and operate on.
The improvements include:
- layout. Whole thing could be boiled down to letting as much users as possible consume the report in a way that is the most transparent for them. Due to that, tab control, decks of cards, and hiding and showing list columns capabilities have got enabled.
- filtering. What's most important to report users is the time needed for each of them to get to the point of the report. That's why innovative filtering and sorting capabilities have got enabled. The most important is the fact report designer can attach numerous buttons to the report what makes its end users able to quickly turn from one view to another to find the point their interested in.
Ease of accessibility
Today's systems need to be as user friendly as possible. Would you consider Stephen Hawking worse just because of his disability? Does it influence on his mind? No, it's not. His disability didn't stop him from being one of the most intelligent people of the world. Cognos 10 cares about all users, regardless of their abilities and disabilities. That's why attention have been paid to numerous facilitations. If it's needed to navigate within the report, it' no longer is a must to use a mouse. Equally well, it can be done with keyboard arrows. Significant changes consider the visual aspect of reports, too. Formerly, the thing was to make as much information as possible visible on a screen at once. These days, the font size, contrast, and so on can be quickly increased, so that even people with disabilities have no problem with reading the reports. The facilitations include:
- alternative texts attachable to objects (charts or images)
- text summaries to tables, lists, and crosstabs
- navigating with keys (arrows and function keys)
- modifying contrast and font (color, size)
- enabling JAWS screen reader using
- easy switching from graphs to tables and back.
Workflow and Business Intelligence
If there was more time for every task, the whole business would be meaningfully easier. While there's not, the thing is to make every decision as efficient as possible. Reduce the time needed for each of tasks, and never engage more people than it truly is required. Diverse Business Intelligence solutions have been designed to let business users increase their businesses' efficiency to maximum, and so is in case of IBM Cognos 10.
Information is crucial part in business, what makes it the thing which every BI solution needs to go turn around. Cognos 10 better than ever before facilitates the correlation between people, information, and another people. Such a net allows managers to make responsible decisions as quickly as possible. Nonetheless, the timeliness hardly ever is everything - decision's credibility also is important, and connected strictly with information. Cognos 10 provides all groups of users with the same, transparent and accountable data to understand what's going on across different departments of enterprise. Knowing exactly where data comes from let people save a lot of time, which - otherwise - they would spend on asking additional questions about data itself instead of thinking about how to make profits out of it. Finally, Cognos 10 facilitates the communication among users capabilities - this way, the whole operating gets easier and easier what impinges on management efficiency.
The more people think about decision, the bigger is the chance to make it reasonably. However, sometimes working in teams happens to be problematic - takes a lot of time, and requires doing numerous collateral things which have nothing in common with the project itself. Cognos 10 provides twofold capabilities for facilitating the team work:
- Attaching comments to report elements so that everything could be clearly explained, and - what's also important - without a need for looking for the comments anywhere else. It's a simple solution - where there is an object, there also is its description.
- Using Activities tool enables multidimensional collaboration on the project. With the tool, sharing, collecting, and organizing the what has already been done isn't problematic. Moreover, the results are easily accessible for all the people interested. Shortly, Activities provide a place where all ideas and opinions can be stored, easy connection with Business Insight (what's meaningful if any analysis is needed), change history saving, and the ability of including all parties in the processes.
IBM Lotus Connections
IBM Lotus Connections is a tool more and more often used for team work. By enabling numerous modern capabilities, the tool's efficiency has grown enough to make Connections a strong element in BI. Cognos 10 dashboard allows its users to quickly turn to Lotus Connections, and - further - operate using web based technologies. What's thought to be IBM Lotus Connections best sides are communication capabilities: one can there set up profiles, join each community, prepare blogs, share documents and other files, and - what's quite a useful invention, these days - create wiki pages.
Data lineage support
IBM Cognos Lineage Viewer and IBM InfoSphere Metadata Workbench no longer need to interrupt themselves - Cognos 10 provides its users with efficient capabilities of working with both of them at once. This way, it's possible to use the strongest parts of each tool, and make them agree to gain even better results.
In this way finally the IBM leading business intelligence products, cognos and datastage are integrated.
The role of analytics in today's business is not to be overrated. Cognos 10 follows the newest tendencies and support mobile and real-time analytics. It also supports integration processes and provide inform business processes.
IBM Cognos Mobile
Today's managers more and more often get out of their offices, and that's why the need improved mobile communication capabilities. IBM Cognos Mobile can now support iPhone, iPad and BlackBerry devices.
Furthermore, IBM Cognos Mobile works well with Business Insight, and provide bettered prompting. Finally, drilling up and down also is not a big problem, after all.
In case of event management, a few things have changed. Basically, event authors now have more possibilities than before what allows them to control more aspects of the event, beginning with the easiness of configuring the tasks which even is going to consist of. Additionally, the Human Task Service supports enhanced event management. What else is worth noticing?
- Events can be managed within Event Studio and within My Inbox (IBM Cognos Connection new interface) as well.
- Task types that can be included are as follows: notification requests, ad-hoc tasks, and approval requests.
- Users can be notified via email once the tasks are created or worked upon.
- Task users are divided into three groups: owners, potential owners, and stakeholders.
Every enterprise benefits from sudden opportunities, and that's why decision making process needs to be as efficient as possible. It's a must to prepare immediate reports to discover whether the opportunity truly is worth interesting. And this is what IBM Cognos Business Intelligence facilitates in case of analytics.
The improvements consider three aspects of analytics. The first one is model designing which is now significantly accelerated, and followed with workflow driven modeling. The second aspect is performance which has been optimized thank to facilitated in-memory processing. Finally, the upgrade options have been widened what influenced on better life cycle management.
IBM Cognos Framework Manager has been supplied with Model Design Accelerator - a new tool that supports assisted modeling in case of preparing star schema models. Thank to the innovation, even novice users would have no problems with preparing the models.
In memory analytics
In today's business, time is the most important factor, therefore a lot of Cognos 10 enhancements consider the time needed for gaining the results. As a consequence, decision making can be faster and - thereupon - much more efficient, and that's what all BI solutions are being used for, after all. The improvements consider one meaningful aspect. Performance has been optimized due to a few things:
- Optimized query generation and a lot of operations are operated in memory.
- Used cache is now 64 bit what accelerates the dynamic query mode.
- Cache can be now automatically scheduled and managed
- Smart load controls are responsible for memory assignment.
Business Intelligence software is being provided to help business users with routine activities that generate a lion's share of time consumption. System management of Cognos 10 accelerates the work due to a few facilitations:
- In case of scheduling, changes consider the frequency. Intra-day scheduling is now possible, and the controllable capabilities support managing IBM Cognos applications.
- IBM Cognos Administration tools increase the number of details distinguished within the console. Moreover, users are provided with improved insight into activities to come, suspend them, or check additional details which haven't been available so far. Finally, the dependencies between package data sources can be highlighted.
- Credential management is now simpler than ever before. Automatic updates of credentials are now enabled, and the management provides users with numerous capabilities. Even though the number of available options has grown, using the system remains easy. The last change considers auditing - IP addresses of analysts are now stored and can be quickly viewed what supports the communication.
Upgrading from Cognos 8 BI to Cognos 10
Upgrade Manager, known from former versions of Cognos, has now turned into IBM Cognos Lifecycle Manager, and the changes consider not only the name. What's most important, the process of comparing two versions of the same report has got accelerated and simplified. Formerly complicated and time consuming, now it's easy and trouble free. What else has changed?
- Benchmark projects facilitate comparing single environment reports.
- Reports comparing can be provided not only in PDF format, but also HTML, XML, CSV, XLS, and XLSX.
- Comparing can be done in any language supported.
- Quick dynamic query mode testing is now possible without interrupting in users work within the environment.
- Setting date-time is now one of project configuring options.
- Report execution times are now visible.
- Archived projects can now be imported into new projects without losing previous content.
Support for different versions
Upgrading all the software at the same time might be problematic - it would require break in all system's work, what's not acceptable for all the companies. Due to that, the newest version of Cognos solution allows users to upgrade software stage by stage - it is possible to work with applications of different versions, thereupon the upgrade process can be done exactly when it's comfortable and acceptable for users. Moreover, stage upgrade sometimes is suggested to let employees use to the new software before they're finally left with it.
Data sources are more and more complex, and data volumes bigger and bigger. Thereupon, no one disregards the role of searching capabilities. What's now enabled are search assisted report authoring, searching based on the full data, and search assisted exploration. All these options facilitate searching and make it easy even for the beginners. As a consequence, no special knowledge is needed to turn data into BI information.
Cognos 10 and SAP BW data sources
Cognos 10 and SAP BW cooperation gets better and better as the designers understand how important it is to have both these tools work well together. That's why creating personal packages for SAP data sources is now possible. Also, prompting for SAP Business Warehouse has improved, while the time-dependent hierarchies allow to reflect the structure of introduced changes.
Report naming isn't the crucial aspect of report authoring, nonetheless the
improvements consider even such illusorily collateral aspects. While
saving report in any of export formats, Cognos 10 automatically uses
its original name as new file's name. It's a detail that could save
a lot of time, though.
As it's clearly visible, the modifications are significant, and the new features
- meaningful. Are they enough? Many consultants expected that Cognos
10 will be fully based on the TM1 in-memory solution. TM1 integration
is still an option, not the standard. Will it happen with the next version