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Blog Posts from the team at Budgeting Solutions

Separating out the wheat from the chaff can be challenging and sometimes the right facts are hard to find.  Our blogs contain a wealth of information gathered from many years of experience by our consultants dealing with everyday issues in projects on client sites.

They may provide clear insight on particular problems or act as a launching pad to clarify your thoughts on issues with how to deliver robust performance management solutions.

Main Posts

IBM Cognos Analytics 11.1 Raised the Bar

Posted by James Salmon at 10/23/2018 11:06:30 AM











IBM just released Cognos Analytics 11.1, which in my opinion raises the bar on self-service, discovery and easy to use analytics.  They innovated with the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and deep exploration in an intuitive, guided interface.

As part of the early adopter program, I explored and will share some of these innovative capabilities.

The Best Cognos Analytics 11.1 Capabilities

1. True AI-driven BI

With the constantly increasing adoption of data science and discovery also came the need to integrate the insights it delivers with an intuitive consumption experience.  Many niche vendors provided capability to insert R, Python or other statistical functions into its visualizations but fell short on the interaction with the user.  In contrast, thanks to the integration of the Watson Analytics ‘smarts’ (which should be deprecated in mid-2019), Cognos Analytics 11.1 now orchestrates a set of new features intended to empower users with real data exploration.  They can augment their visualizations with advanced analytics and deep-dive into their data with the guidance of AI.

This innovation is led by a simple optional ‘Explore’ module, accessed from either the welcome portal or a visualization, and launches a ‘card’ interface.  From there, the user is shown a diagram that detects the correlation and strength of each field, as a starting point for the discovery.  It even suggests the best starting visualization for displaying such correlation.

Also, each visualization introduces the user to a few common advanced analytics insights, either via:

  • ‘Details’, suggests patterns and other detected insights that may not be obvious at first look.  Clicking on a suggestion adds a new ‘card’ with a way to look at the data.
  • ‘Insights’, adds contextual statistics to the charts.  Fields such as average and meaningful differences.
  • ‘Badges’, presents contextual target-driver relationships and weight, associated with predictive strength.  Including the best supportive way to visualize it, such as decision tree, heat map, correlation, sunburst, or rules list.
  • ‘Compare’,  bring cards side by side to compare data points, whether they are common or unique.

This concept of cards (also taken from Watson Analytics), is very effective with user engagement in a workflow, or ‘thought process’.  Users can always go back to a previous card and further explore, or modify the content as more insights are discovered.  Cognos Analytics already had storytelling in its previous version, and the explore ‘deck’ can be easily exported as a story starting point.

2. Enhanced data preparation for analytics 

With every ‘data wrangler’ comes the need to prepare the data in order to support a specific use case.  However, most of the enterprise reporting platforms have been cautious with this capability as it may conflict with its governance culture.

In its initial release, Cognos Analytics introduced the data module: a web-based, simple modeling interface intended for power users or casual admins to connect, map, and associate data sources.  However, some necessary key features were missing.  Now they are available in this version and include:

  • Data security: modules can implement data level security (currently available for relational data sources only).
  • Data Wrangling and cleansing features, such as splitting columns
  • Support for uploading multiple excel sheets, split into ‘tables’
  • Support for relative time and comparative date handling using lookup to a calendar table (many calendar formats provided)
  • Append data sets (note: data sets are an efficient way to support dashboards with a flat, columnar file to ensure interactive performance)
  • SQL-based tables and assisted expression editor
  • Multi-grain column dependencies (equivalent to determinants in previous generation)


3. Enhanced Dashboarding

Previous releases of Cognos Analytics delivered dashboards using a self-service interface.  As a result, it was highly interactive, but a little too simple and limited for some use cases which needed more granularity.  Cognos Analytics 11.1 adds many new features to help deliver more flexible and detailed dashboards and effectively leverage real estate.

  • Font and value format/control (long awaited)
  • Custom palettes to ensure associated categories are displayed in same color
  • Advanced analytics and statistical visualizations
  • Show data for individual widgets
  • The long awaited ‘lasso’ on maps and other correlation charts: allow user to select an area of data points as filter
  • AI assistant: innovative feature using natural language.  Examples: ‘show me the data available’, or ‘show me the revenue for the product line’.  The assistant suggests visualization best suited for the context requested
  • Collaboration: IBM has partnered with Slack, a teamwork collaboration platform, that easily integrates across devices and browsers. Once configured, users can share content and comments in direct messaging


4. What about Report Authoring? 

Report authoring has always been a strength of the Cognos Analytics platform.  In this release, distributing operational reports is enhanced with features to optimize productivity such as: 

  • Addition of smart layout and grid/snap tools
  • Navigation UI for quick access to contractual tools and properties
  • Copy / paste any report part into a dashboard
  • Reusable styles
  • Custom color palettes
  • New visualisations, such as river, waterfall, Marimekko and floating charts 


Conclusion

Cognos Analytics 11.1 May Now Have the Upper Hand

The competitive market of business intelligence and analytics opened opportunities for both ‘niche’ vendors and enterprise platforms.  In addition, the adoption of data science and advanced analytics evolved separately until now.  With this promising new generation of  Cognos Analytics, it confirms that you can have it ‘both ways’.  It innovates by adding guided exploration and suggestive insights to the user experience, all in an integrated and easy to use interface.  Certainly this is an efficient way to introduce advanced analytics to the more casual user, while assisting the business analysts in discovering insights and stories about their data.


Get to the why with the all new IBM Cognos Analytics

Posted by James Salmon at 10/18/2018 12:39:10 PM


IBM Cognos Analytics latest version 11.1 has definitely caused a stir within the Business Intelligence marketplace; take a look at the videos below to learn what all the hype is about. 


We are just creating content for a webinar series that will start just before Christmas, if you would like us to get you registered please email james.salmon@budgetingsolutions.co.uk

Get to the why with the all new Cognos Analytics: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUe14iGCjJU

What's new in IBM Cognos Analytics dashboarding? 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChHxD_GyC40

What's new in IBM Cognos Analytics data exploration? 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yp3aiFa0Nfc

What's new in IBM Cognos Analytics reporting? 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cw2vAtV3x4g


London South Bank University choose Budgeting Solutions

Posted by James Salmon at 5/11/2018 5:27:57 PM









London South Bank University choose Budgeting Solutions and IBM Planning Analytics to drive educational excellence with smart financial planning - Read the case study here: https://goo.gl/b6CRZE

What is Business Intelligence?

Posted by James Salmon at 2/28/2018 11:00:44 AM













I am often asked what is Business Intelligence and what can Business Intelligence do for my organisation? Well I have found a video that explains exactly that and it is only 2 minutes long! 


Take a look and if you are interested to find out what is IBM's solution to Business Intelligence follow this link: http://www.budgetingsolutions.co.uk/products/ibm-cognos-solutions/ibm-cognos-analytics/




Transitioning Cognos BI V10 Skills to Cognos Analytics V11

Posted by James Salmon at 12/18/2017 12:03:10 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clients have been calling in with questions about the exciting next generation of the IBM Cognos Business Intelligence platform – known as IBM Cognos Analytics, v11. Besides wanting to know what is new, one of the common questions we hear is: Will my Cognos 10.x skills translate to the equivalent roles in v11?

The short answer is yes. Even though v11 presents an entirely new user experience (UX), we have found that for existing users the transition from v10 can be a positive experience. We have created a reference chart about our findings on what skills will translate directly and which will not, followed by detailed notes on our findings and a quick preview of what’s brand new. 

BUSINESS AUTHORS

  • Query Studio, Analysis Studio, Event Studio, Metric Studio, and Cognos Workspace are not a part of the v11 UX. However, each of these capabilities and objects created from them will migrate 1-to-1 into v11 and will run in their legacy UI in a separate browser tab or window. Objects created in these tools in v11 will also be saved as legacy objects – currently there is no migration path. IBM has announced end of life for these tools after this release. 

  • If you intend to continue using any of these studios after upgrading to v11, any current v10.2 training will be 100% relevant. Budgeting Solutions recommends devising a strategy for migrating off from these solutions in the long-term. Contact us for more information. 

   

PROFESSIONAL AUTHORS

  • Report Studio and Cognos Workspace Advanced do not exist as-is in v11 UI/UX; however, all of their features and functionality are available in its new authoring piece. Experienced authors will not find migrating from v10.2 to 11 a major challenge. Core techniques learned in a  v10.2 Report Studio or Cognos Workspace Advanced environment will be directly translatable to v11 – the same goes for Dimensional Authoring, OLAP Data Exploration, and Active Report authoring. 
  • Budgeting Solutions will be offering a one-day New Features for Experienced Authors course which will enable a seamless transition for Report Studio and Cognos Workspace Advanced authors. For a limited time we will be offering a complimentary seat in this new course for each student that registers for our existing Report Studio training course. 

      

SYSTEM ADMINSTRATORS

The main administration user interface has NOT changed from v10 to v11, nor have the core configuration components. Architecturally this new version is basically the same as v10; however, there are some new installation and configuration options.

CONSUMERS

  •  The most obvious change is to the user experience. However, consuming static reports does not change. Consuming interactive reports has become much more seamless in the new UX, basically making every report available to be enhanced by users similar to Cognos Workspace.       
  • Graduated capabilities means that users have a singular UI for consumption, enhancement, customisation, self-service authoring, and data discovery. No more hopping from studio to studio. 

      

So, what about all the NEW stuff?
There are a lot of brand new, never before imagined, features in v11 such as data modules for self-service modeling and a new dashboarding capability. We are in the process of developing training materials to describe these new features. We will be holding a series of free webinars covering many of these new features. 

BOTTOM LINE:  With v11, users will be getting a two-fer: powerful new features along with a thoughtful transition between the legacy and new versions. Core skills developed in v10 will be either directly or easily applicable in v11. Users should continue to upgrade their skills to get the full value of their existing investment and can be confident that their skills will still be valid after upgrade.

 

 


Top 8 reasons to move to IBM Cognos Analytics

Posted by James Salmon at 8/23/2017 10:45:12 AM

With a much needed overhaul of the user interface and a complete re-focus on usability, this release has everyone in the business of analytics talking about it, even customers who once told me they would never consider it as an option. Here's why:

1. Self Service Analytics

Every BI vendor big and small claim to be able to provide self-service analytics. So how does this differ from any other offering? Enterprise BI solutions which are maintained mostly within IT or if you are ahead of the game - a BICC (BI Competency Center) - are often viewed by business users as being bottlenecks to analysis. That is, users can't get the information quick enough to make the decisions they need at the right time. This has led to a flood of start-up companies and niche vendors like Tableau who offer their business customers the ability to go rogue and purchase a tool (on the web using their credit card) which allows them to be fully autonomous with their analysis. Bringing back the age old problem that BI vendors and IT teams were trying to solve in the 90's and 00's of multiple versions of the truth.

Cognos Analytics aims to address the need for autonomous analytics for business users but still within an enterprise environment by allowing business users the ability to upload and analyse data, even join it to corporate data maintained by IT. Analysis is easily moved from ad-hoc to enterprise-wide reporting without the need to rebuild it in another "enterprise BI" solution to be distributed throughout the organisation.

2. Intuitive Web-Based Interface

 A complete overhaul of the user interface offers an easy-to-use analytics environment allowing you to do "data discovery" and "traditional BI" in the one place. Many of my customers have implemented both these types of solutions and many are looking to replace one or both with a single solution that can do it all. The best news for IT - everything is done over the web! No desktop applications to maintain, no report reader applications to maintain, no additional browser plugins to maintain (not that Cognos ever had any anyway).

3. Dashboarding

The dashboarding capability of the Cognos solution has also had a complete overhaul and for the better.   The ability to drag and drop data onto the screen and see the visualisation change to suit the analysis, and simply creating your own dashboard on the fly gives you faster access to information and thereby quicker time to value. Not only is it easy to use, it is also very good-looking, pleasing the VP's of the world who want a pretty dashboard (oh yes, I have seen it time and time again where an organisation introduces a new BI tool because a VP saw a sexy dashboard at a conference and was sold on it immediately).

4. Mobile

The mobile app for Cognos BI has always been a winner with its high level of security, sexy dashboards and the ability to have the same reports on the desktop and mobile device without having to rewrite them (in some other vendors solution the reports have to be re-authored to be consumed over a mobile device). The biggest change here is now you can now author your reports on a mobile device. For anyone who is constantly on the road like me, this is a great thing.

5. Easy to Implement

Nothing new to existing customers, but for those who aren't as familiar with the Cognos solution, this tool is the fastest tool to implement at an enterprise level on the BI market today. The solution can be deployed over the cloud (described below) or on-premises. The solution is a multi-tiered architecture, highly scalable and highly configurable. This has been the case with the product since day one. A colleague and I implemented the solution many years ago in its first release to thousands of users at a large UK organisation within 2 weeks - a tight timeline with massive success. The solution only grew from there as demand for information escalated within the organisation and we quickly moved the environment over to a multi-server load-balanced environment - about 10-12 servers, all set up within a couple of days.

 6. Cloud

While we are on the subject, Cognos Analytics is now available as a service on the cloud so it is even easier to get up and running. IBM has data centers all around the world. We all know the benefits of moving to the cloud - the biggest being lower IT and infrastructure costs - but also performance and scalability plays a big factor here too. You can connect to on-premises data sources, however if you are willing to move your data into the cloud (IBM offers dashDB in the cloud) then you will get optimal performance (your business users will love you).

7. Intent-Based Modeling and Search Capabilities

There is a lot of smart technology built into Cognos Analytics and it is all based on IBM Watson under the covers. Need to build a report on sales and product but not sure which tables to pull data from within the database? No problem, just create a new data model, type "product sales" and Watson will use the metadata from the table and column names to figure out what you might need to use. Think it looks right? Then it will go ahead and create the table joins for you (which you can modify if you need to) and create a model for you to start building dashboards and reports from. The search works much the same way… it searches the meta data within reports, including comment and headings etc to return to you as search results so you no longer need to navigate through thousands of reports looking for the right report.

8. You can try it for FREE!

http://www.budgetingsolutions.co.uk/about-us/contact-us/request-demo/ 


Cognos Analytics Release 4 Notes

Posted by James Salmon at 9/28/2016 11:17:53 AM


With the three previous releases of Cognos Analytics containing mainly bug fixes and small enhancements, release 4 made some big changes that should prove to be universally popular. 


Please download the release notes here


IBM Cognos BI 10.2.2

Posted by James Salmon at 12/29/2014 2:58:31 PM


IBM Cognos 10.2.2 - What’s New

IBM’s latest release of the Cognos Business Intelligence product has just taken place and was made available to download on 21 November , this release being 10.2.2 and comes with the branding of ‘Enabling IT Driven Self Service Reporting’.

 Here we will explore and explain some of new features of the product release and together with Watson Analytics (which is also due for release before the end of 2014) will keep Cognos as the leading Business Intelligence software solution. 

My Data Sets

This allows data (Excel or text files) that live outside of Cognos to be analysed with the full reporting suite. The size limitation placed on the External Data option does not apply and it will create a standalone package for reporting and analysis.

Visualisations

Enhancements in this area include:-

  • Most categories and drop zones on the charts are now made optional.
  • Conversion between visualisation types without having to redefine the data points.
  • Three new visualisations have been created - a Chord, Combination and Tornado Chart.


Active Reports

We can now produce an Active Report in HTML format now which means we can now view those reports in browsers that do not have MIME HTML (MHT) capability.

You can now preview your report directly from Report Studio with the click of a button. You can even make changes directly to the report output, seeing results immediately, and those changes will be written back to the report itself.

 Dynamic Cubes

There has been a lot of effort put into the Dynamic Cube product and the new changes in this release further enhance this capability.

  • The Custom Relative Time ability allows the modeler to establish custom relative time members using the same properties available in Transformer.
  • The ability to import Framework Manager Metadata directly and use it as the basis for a Dynamic Cube.

 

Report Authors/Administrators

  • Tabbed Report Output option specifies whether report pages should function as pages or as tabs.
  • Framework Manager has introduced Summary Query Subjects that allow you to specify grouping and aggregation in the model query subject in ways that could previously only be accomplished in the query design itself.
  • The User Interface Profiles tool allows administrators to customize the UI elements and default behaviours for each studio in Cognos for an individual or group of users to create an environment to suit different users’ needs, skills, and comfort level with the technology. In the Profile Editor, you can customize almost any element of the studio, including toolbars, explorers, toolbox objects, and many more.


 Query and Analysis Studio

Although all studios are available from the Welcome page, the number of options on the Launch dropdown menu is reduced. Query and Analysis Studio have always had a short shelf life ever since the introduction of Cognos Workspace Advanced, and the ability to purchase licences was withdrawn , and this release will be last one where these products exist and all 32-bit versions of the product  (as well as Microsoft SQL Server 2005 , IE 8 and IE9) will be removed from the next release.

 

To find out more visit http://www.budgetingsolutions.co.uk/products/ibm-cognos-solutions/ibm-cognos-bi/ibm-cognos-bi-10-2-2/

To see the new release in action you can visit the specific YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLBR9T_Kk_isnm3q7RaSRVP-oyAhO035NV that has videos demonstrating the 25 top new features and can try these functions for yourself with a valid IBM user profile at http://cognos10.analyticszone.com/ibmcognos.

For those customers with valid product maintenance , this upgrade is free and further details of the upgrade process and to book your upgrade are available directly from Budgeting Solutions on 0115 853 2863

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