IBM has recently (late July 2020) released their latest version of Cognos Analytics: version 11.1.7, which contains a bunch of new features and is the final release in the 11.1 stream. This one will thus be the Long Time Support (LTS) release, and the next official release will move into a whole new Innovation Stream, and will be branded as Cognos Analytics 11.2.x.
New Cognos Mobile App
As of 11.1.7, there is the possibility to also view your reports on a brand new mobile app, available shortly from the Apple Store and soon also from the Android Google Play Store. It delivers a smooth experience with pinboards, which is a new mobile-friendly container for visualisations, still leveraging the user security governance from the portal version, but with the ability for users to quickly share content. The ultimate goal is that analysts would quickly design pinboards of useful visualisations, which then are being shared with executives. The app also allows you to build content, and includes the AI assistant. So users can ask questions to the system, in text and voice commands, and the AI will propose a collection of matching dashboards, which then can easily be customised to perfection, to be finally pinned into your pinboard. It also allows you to set Alerts, that can send you mobile notifications you when a certain threshold is passed.
This app definitely has huge potential, and adds to a new, smooth, and AI-infused approach of BI.
The new app will at first only be available for IBM Cloud installations, but will be made available for on-premise customers as soon as possible (no further details available). Also note, that the app can’t be used ‘offline’.
One of the most important updates in this newest release, is the performance improvements made. By streamlining metadata retrieval and query planning, improving data set loading in the Compute service, enabling more broad usage of cached data, optimising queries for sample data, and faster and smoother rendering of animations, the user wait times were significantly reduced.
Hotspot Drop Zones
The biggest chunk of updates are being made (again) in the Dashboard area. We kick off with the new hotspot drop zones. By using these drag ‘n drop fields you can faster design your visualisation and populate your dashboard with content. And, this allows the addition of the brand new templates, you can read about this next.
New Dashboard Templates
You can now generate a template from an existing dashboard. This will save the dashboard layout and visualisation selections and settings, but wipe out all selected data elements. You can then, when you start a new dashboard, select to open a template via a new custom layout, and choose one of these dashboard templates and start off from there. It allows you to quickly generate new dashboards similar to one of your previous dashboards, and thus is a very welcome update to improve productivity
Schematics in Dashboards
The schematics visualisation, previously only available in Reporting module, is now available in dashboarding as well. This means that creating your custom schematics will allow you to really create nice customised visualisations in your dashboards for your business. Think about desk plans, factory layouts for planning & efficiency, vehicle cargo load balancing & optimisations, custom company geographies, detailed area mappings for city planning, etc.
Smart Visualisation Titles
Titles of visualisations in dashboards can be given automatic naming, in which they will adapt by the selected measures and dimensions. Yet another small addition that can improve the productivity for our dashboard authors.
New Conditional Formatting
The conditional formatting when using lists or crosstabs in Dashboards also got revamped. It doesn’t yet allow conditions based on formulas, but you could now create a much more advanced number based condition to colour the results.
Subcategories in Waterfall Visualisations
It now allows support for subcategories besides the regular categories, more axis range control, measure groups, zero origin control, a baseline, and it automatically can calculate changes between categories.
Improved Combination Chart
It now allows multiple series, a separate palette for each chart segment, you can add measure groups, and it enables flexible combinations of line interpolations with clustered or stacked columns or bars.
Labels in Pie Visualisations
You can now show both a label and a value in the annotations in a pie chart. Below visualisation shows the ability to display labels and values, however our advise is not to use pie charts if more than 5 slices.
Colourise Ranges in Bullet Charts
In the Bullet charts, you can now also colour your minimum, mid and maximum ranges to your preferred colour, instead of the previously default grey-scale colours, to really highlight those ranges.
In graphs, you can now set Baselines. These are numeric or percentage “guideline” annotations you can add to your graph, with a custom label. You could for example now, in a profit graph, highlight the moment your company had an important “event”, which had a huge impact on the numbers. Or you could use this to set targets.
You can also predefine filters and reuse them across your dashboard. You can use them either on a specific visualisation, or across your full dashboard. A very useful addition!
Other Chart Improvements
There are some improvements in label orientation, the support for a logarithmic scale, and measure groups are being supported in several visualisation types. It also enables support to display these visualisations into an email body.
Visualisation Export Content Access Control
Now an administrator can control whether a user can or cannot access the export functionality in a dashboard.
Improved Service Ability Panel
In Dashboarding you already had the possibility as an author to review the query performance runtimes by entering “Ctrl” + “.”. Now you can also review the actual SQL generated.
Hiding the On Demand Toolbar
You can now, as an Administrator, hide the On Demand toolbar for certain user groups, or fully for a specific report. You could for example want to avoid certain users to alter certain reports or dashboards dynamically.
Run a single report Page in Authoring Mode
Besides some visualisation changes like baselines and waterfalls already discussed before, we’ve got only one real noticeable update on report authoring, but a rather nice one. You can now (again) run single pages when you are authoring reports. This is a huge boost for authors to quickly test changes to multi-page reports.
Deselect all in Data Tables
One of the biggest annoyances so far with data tables, was that you could not deselect all elements in a filter box on the data table. This was finally added, allowing you to much more quickly select your specific data.
Relative Dates in Data Modules
In Data Modules, you can now import a calendar, and use it to link certain predefined relative date filters, like Current Week, or Previous YTD, just like you could do with a Powerplay model in the past. It really enhances working with dates in data modules.
Improved Data Sets
There were some huge new changes to the Data Sets section. You can now see the queries in a dataset and perform query operations with specific properties. It is also possible now to join and edit queries, add filters, and even use parameters. Further on, it is possible to review the generated XML of a data set, and copy it from/to your clipboard. There is also the ability to reuse the output from a report and its queries into a data set.
In terms of performance, there were important changes made : the elapsed time to create data sets is considerably faster than in the previous releases, and fewer CPU and memory is used to generate them. Especially on larger datasets this is noticeable. A 30Mb dataset that took about 15 minutes to load in 11.1.6, now took under 3 minutes in 11.1.7.
Direct Python/R scripting
Without going into details, there were some enhancements in Infuse in the cloud. It is now possible to script in Python/R against governed Cognos data directly from Watson Studio Notebooks. This means you can now have data analysts load data from Cognos Analytics, execute machine learning algorithms in Watson Studio to shape new data assets and push them back into your Cognos Analytics environment.
JSON REST API Connectivity
You can now create data server connections to JSON web service end points. A tabular schema is automatically generated from the data pulled back from the API request. So now you can very easily join REST API data to other data in your environment. There are also many configuration options available to accommodate various API responses and authentication. Using such a configuration file, you can now combine multiple sources, and predefine the metadata format if you don’t want it to be automatically defined. You can even define filters to improve performance.
It is all powered by Progress DataDirect Autonomous REST technology embedded within Cognos Analytics, and is available for all on premises and in the cloud installations.
New Cognos REST API
Before, you could already use SOAP based SDK functionality to automatically read Cognos Analytics data and execute actions. Now this type of functionality can also be obtained by using a new Cognos REST API. It enabled improved integration with other applications in your environment. You could utilise this to automatically modify capabilities, content, customisation, data server connections etc. for a specific group, role or tenant, upload, download and create datasets automatically, and much more.
Improved Scheduling Interface
The scheduling interface was completely redesigned in version 11.1.7.
Some scheduling functionality that never made it from Cognos10 into Cognos Analytics, has finally made its way back into the product. For example, the scheduling option to save the report output as a report view. Or setting the prompt parameters directly from the scheduling screen. Also, updating a schedule does no longer automatically override the schedule credentials. The user will need to effectively take ownership first via clicking on a button. Which resolves a lot of hassle in certain environments with specific scheduling accounts.
New Capabilities / WCAG2.1 Compliance
Six new capabilities were defined for users, groups and roles to control how and if they can share content via email, report attachments, report links, sending content to external email addresses etc. This makes Cognos Analytics now fully compliant with the WCAG2.1 standards for both levels A and AA.
New Keyboard Shortcuts
It is now possible to bypass blocks to make keyboard navigation much easier. The following two shortcuts were added:
CTRL+SHIFT+1 : Skip directly to the navigation bar.
CTRL+SHIFT+2 : Skip directly to the main content.
Carbon Design System in Cognos
IBM has announced a new “Design System”, that promises to improve the user interface experience dramatically across the platform. The most part of these updates will kick in as of 11.2, but to kickstart this, it has released a new theme, which will be the default installation theme for new installations as of 11.1.7. It has a more modern colour pattern, with a dark app bar and a white navigation bar.
This theme of course won’t replace the complimentary theme we specifically design for our clients during our upgrades and installations, using their own logos and branding colours.
This concludes our latest update of Cognos Analytics 11.1.7. We must admit, this latest update is huge and contains a lot of really nice enhancements and new features. As it is also now the 11.1 Long Time Support (LTS) release, we strongly encourage our clients to start planning an upgrade to this latest release to stay ahead of End-of-Support (EOS) and to introduce these new features.
We do understand with all the new functionality that have been added into the product in the latest year, it might be a bit difficult to keep track of what this can mean to your own environment. We are there to support you with your upgrades or keep you and your user community trained and skilled in these new release and features.