In-Memory Cube Technology = Faster Performance!

Reporting, analysis, budgeting and planning solutions for many years have leveraged multi-dimensional cubes similar to Excel pivot tables but better.   Business users, however, are asking for more and more data points to be included in their queries and analysis.  The results are that we suffer from painfully slow cube performance. If you are suffering from long response times, you need to check out in-memory cube processing for faster queries and results. IBM Cognos BI Dynamic Cubes and IBM Cognos Performance Management, (TM1) are example of in-memory cube technologies. Check out IBM's Cognos Dynamic Cubes Overview

What is In-Memory Cube Technology?

In-memory cube processing enables users to have immediate access to information which results in more informed decisions. Traditional Business Intelligence (BI) technology loads data onto the disk in the form of tables and multi-dimensional cubes against which queries are run. Retrieving from a disk is the slowest part of processing and the more data you want… the slower it will be. To solve this problem, IT often pre-processed the data in cubes or query sets, basically chunking the data into smaller sets.  This was fine if we always knew what we wanted and didn’t change our minds. But, now we are interacting and asking more questions of the data. In-memory cube technology loads the data into memory (Random Access Memory (RAM) or flash memory) instead of going to get the data on the hard disks, saving you time!  An in-memory cube allows you to spend time analyzing the data, not waiting for the queries and cubes to build. It can also reduce the need for data indexing and storing pre-aggregated data.

If it’s so fast, why haven’t we had in-memory cube tech in the past? 

Older 32-bit operating systems limited addressable memory to 4 GB, but the new 64 bit operating system can use a lot more addressable memory, like a terabyte, allowing us to cache large volumes of data.  This advancement in technology has caused a number of major vendors to release new versions that leverage in-memory cube processing.  IBM Performance Management (TM1), formerly Applix, has been in-memory for decades. As in-memory cube technology advances, it’s foreseeable that traditional data warehouses will be used for the data not often used and an in-memory cube will most likely become the norm.

Recommendation from a Business Analytics Coach

As a business analytics Coach at Lodestar Solutions, I recommend anyone looking for faster queries or faster cube processing focus on in-memory cubes solutions.  Since the cost of RAM has declined, it’s more cost effective to use in-memory cube solutions.  

In-Memory Cube Technology

For more information on IBM In-Memory cube technology, click here

If you have questions on the benefits of in-memory cube technology, contact us at

IBM Connections is NOT IBM Cognos Connection


Far too many times IBM uses similar descriptions for different products.  Let us provide you another occasion of which you should take note. This time it's the word “IBM Connections.”

We recently posted a blog that IBM Connections (part #E03VJLL) has been unbundled from existing IBM Cognos BI licenses as part of the simplification of the Business Intelligence licensing structure. This licensing simplification occurred last summer.  During your renewal cycle when this separated part appears, you are able to drop the part without a pricing penalty if you are not needing its functionality.

The other “Connections” reference is IBM Connections which IBM describes as such: “IBM® Connections 5 is a leading social network platform that helps you get work done. Connections 5 allows your organization to engage the right people, accelerate innovation and deliver results. Now you can confidently share knowledge beyond traditional organizational boundaries. Improve decision-making. Increase productivity. Accelerate time to market.  IBM Connections 5 meets your needs with flexible deployment options; on-premises or on the IBM cloud.”  This link will provide you with this description as well as more information about the product so that you can decide whether or not to keep it:

I just wanted to make it clear that it is not to be confused with IBM Cognos Connection that you see in your splash screen when accessing your BI portal.

IBM Connections versus IBM Cognos Connection

IBM Connections part E03VJLL

​IBM Connections part E03VJLL – Why is it on my support renewal bill?

Did your recent IBM Cognos support bill include a line for IBM Connections part E03VJLL which, in turn, got you wondering, “What the heck is an IBM Connections license? I don’t remember buying this.”

IBM Connections part #E03VJLL

In July 2014, IBM made massive changes to IBM Cognos BI licensing. Basically, they supersized many of the IBM Cognos BI licenses by adding functionality. You may have seen Lodestar Solutions Videos on this topic, “Decoding the New IBM BI Licensing Structure”. With the changes in July, IBM unbundled what you may have known previously as Collaboration, and later called IBM Connections, from the IBM Cognos Business Intelligence licenses and gave clients one BI part and one IBM Connections part. IBM separated the IBM Connections from the BI after receiving feedback that, though both businessintelligence and collaboration are important to clients, they are typically managed bydifferent IT resources. The IBM Connections license part E03VJLL extends beyond just IBM Cognos and impacts the enterprise.

So what is IBM Connections?

“IBM® Connections brings social networking to the enterprise and helps you to communicate, collaborate, and build strong relationships with others. Stay connected from the office or your mobile device. IBM Connections consists of the following applications: Activities, Blogs, Bookmarks, Communities, Files, Forums, Home page, Metrics, Profiles, and Wikis. Whether you want to share information, build a network of useful contacts, or follow people, there is an application for you.”

To view the latest IBM Connections marketing information, check out

Sounds interesting right? Your next question might be, “What system requirement does IBM Connections have; ergo, do I need WebSphere or Lotus?” It’s best to visit the hardware and software requirements page for IBM Connections on the IBM site since this information is constantly changing. As of today (Feb 2015), it does indicate that WebSphere Application Server Network Deployment 8.5.5 is a prerequisite.

You may now be thinking, “Can we drop support on our IBM Cognos Connections license without penalty?” Find more information regarding that question by referring to this Lodestar blog:

If you have additional questions regarding your IBM Cognos licenses, Lodestar Solutions is here to help. Contact us at

Increase Your RIO While Decreasing Training Costs

As I’ve said in my numerous blogs, Lodestar is a big proponent of training. However, all too often, companies see the value in licenses and installation, but cheap out on training. Without proper training, maximum ROI cannot be achieved. An inexpensive and cutting edge way to decrease training costs to team members is to create short instructional videos that can be accessed from a shared drive or company web portal. Not only can videos be made to demonstrate how to use Cognos products, but also on common IT policies and procedures, and common questions. The best part is that they are reusable. This means that as additional employees are added, there is no additional cost to the company, only value.

Making these videos is easier than you think. Lodestar uses Camtasia recording software to create internal videos used for on-boarding policies and training. We also have also created custom Cognos BI tutorials for several of our clients.

Camtasia Studio is the complete recording solution. It provides editing capabilities and the abilities to share high-quality screen video on the Web, YouTube, DVD, CD and portable media players, including iPod.  It easily records your screen, PowerPoint, multiple audio tracks, and webcam video to create compelling training videos, screencasts, and presentations right from your personal PC.

Although the software is easy to install and use, take heed of my mistakes and reduce your learning curve by avoiding these pitfalls and “gotcha” moments.

Write a Script!

Weird things can happen to your mental and physical abilities when you try to record your voice and move the cursor at the same time.  Software you’ve been teaching and demonstrating for a year suddenly becomes foreign. As soon as you click the record button, you are unable to form proper sentences. Your tongue feels swollen and you feel like you have a mouth full of marbles. To overcome this, write a script. Not only will it help your stage fright, but you will increase the professional dialect tenfold. This is especially true when creating a PowerPoint video, but even when trying to describe a feature or property, it helps to write it down as a fully formed and clear thought.

Practice Out Loud

After you have written the script, practice speaking it out loud.  This serves two purposes. First, it will help you rewrite your script to be more natural and in more of a conversational tone. Second, the more comfortable you are with the material, the less takes and editing you will have to do on the back end.  Also, it is a good way to warm up your voice.

Before Recording – Double Check Screen Settings

A gotcha that has bitten me hard several times is not having the recorded image set properly.  Several times I have recorded a masterpiece; my voice was right on, the scripting was read perfectly and I effortlessly moved the mouse from object to object, only to find out during editing that part of the screen was cut off. Trust me when I say this is absolutely devastating and soul crashing. To ensure this doesn’t happen to you, get in the habit every time before you hit the record button to press the full screen button and then adjust as needed.

Record Small Segments

Breaking up your recording into logical segments not only helps you keep the energy up and, if things do get funky in the recording, it’s only a minor setback. Sometimes, for an unexplained reason, the audio and visual don’t match up and since they are recorded on the same track, there isn’t anything you can do but re-record.

Edit as You Go

Editing your takes as you go is a preference, but I find that it is easier to edit a segment while your mistakes are fresh in your mind.  You can then add special effects at the end to add emphasis.

Finally – you’ll get better!

It’s like anything; the more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll get and the more relaxed you’ll be about the whole process.

If you would love to decrease training costs and increase the ROI of your BI/BA investment though building a public video library but don’t have the time or manpower to get it done, contact one of our representatives at Lodestar to get a quote on having training videos made for your organization.

TM1 Excel Input Templates (Non-Interactive)

How can you provide users with a non-interactive TM1 Excel Input Templates to make data loads easier?

Below are steps to walk you through the process.

  1. Create View (Perspectives Server Explorer) –
    a. Use subsets to select only detail/input items
    b. Ensure the Hierarchy/Node dimension(s) is a title dimension
  2. Slice View to Excel
  3. Select the Print Report Wizard

On the following Screen:

TM1 Excel Input Templates

a. Select Dimension(s) to be used to create sheets
b. Select Single Workbook

Note: Print Multiple Workbooks works well as a method to create individual reports

On the following Screen:

TM1 Excel Input Templates

c. Save as Excel File
d. Create a Snapshot

4. Use Excel Functionality to Group Sheets
5. Create DBSW formulas

TM1 Excel Input Templates

6. Hide DBSW Formulas
7. Save each Excel Sheet as its own File
8. Send to Users
9. [Upon Receipt of User Template] Open Template in Perspectives – F9

Contact us at for more information.

Departmental Data Warehouse Options

Are you a data chaser?  Are you spending hours of your time grabbing data from various data sources, throwing the data in Excel, massaging the data to clean it up and correlate location or client numbers so you can see the total picture and finally analyze the data?  Do you love data chasing?  I didn’t think so.

There are solutions you can implement that will allow you to focus on analyzing your information for better decision making instead of data chasing.  Your options include:

  • Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW)
  • Data Mart
  • Data Aggregation Cube
  • Continue Data Chasing and working harder not smarter

Let’s take a moment to explore your options:

Enterprise Data Warehouse

An EDW is typically owned and managed by IT.  The EDW is a staging area where data from multiple sources has been brought together and cleansed to make sure all data has integrity.  A properly built EDW will be a collection of Data Marts that have been well planned to work together to seamlessly tie the information from multiple sources together for the benefit of the business.

Data Mart

A Data Mart is a purposely built repository that typically serves a specific business area.  Often, clients will have a number of separate data marts that were built in silos, but it serves the particular business unit (like a financial data mart).

Data Aggregation Cube

For clients that do not have IT resources and their Finance departments aren’t knowledgeable in building Data Marts, they may decide to leverage tools to build a Data Aggregation Cube in a solution that uses cube technology like IBM Cognos TM1.  A TM1 cube is like an excel pivot table on steroids.   A TM1 cube can have up to 256 dimensions and handle large amounts of data.  A TM1 cube leverages the Turbo Integrator to pull both structure (like the Chart of Accounts) and data from source systems.  This allows Finance to build a staging cube that can aggregate data from multiple sources so the data can be leveraged for reporting, budgeting, forecasting and what if scenarios.

Advantages of an EDW

A properly built EDW will provide rapid access to data, providing one version of the truth, and can adjust to meet the changing business needs.

Disadvantages of an EDW

Building an EDW can be costly and time consuming.  If IT is responsible for the EDW, they must work closely with the business to understand the requirements or the result will not be successful.  To get funding for an EDW, you must be able to clearly articulate the business use and ROI.  To be successful, the business must communicate their requirements and uses and partner with IT.  The EDW must be designed and built to maximize performance and be flexible enough to meet the changing needs of the business.

Advantages of a Data Mart

A data mart can be a stepping-stone to realizing the benefits of an EDW; however, the various marts must be built considering the needs and the data of other data marts.  A proper plan for integrating multiple marts together must be established early on in the development phase, with constant communications between the builders of the various marts.  Data Marts can be built fairly rapidly, allowing the business to achieve quick results.

Disadvantages of a Data Mart

A data mart will typically still require IT resources to build the mart.  If not designed considering additional marts, an organization can end up with too many copies of the data, as multiple marts could contain the same data.  There is a risk of multiple data marts displaying different results for the same data if updated at different times.

Advantages of a Data Aggregation Cube

A data aggregation cube built in a cube-based technology like IBM Cognos can empower Finance to maintain their own cleansed copy of the data and leverage it within Finance.  They can update the data with ODBC connections to the data sources and have the flexibility to work with the data in a multi-dimensional structure for better analysis and what if modeling.  Data aggregation cubes can be built rapidly to meet the immediate needs of Finance.  Typically, data aggregation cubes are significantly less expensive to build than a Data Mart or EDW.

Disadvantages of a Data Aggregation Cube

Data aggregation cubes are not as scalable as a data mart or data warehouse to meet the needs of the business beyond the Finance organization.   The cubes will need to be maintained by Finance and typically do not contain as much drillable information as a mart or EDW.

So depending on your resources’ haves, needs and pains, you have a number of options that can help you escape the data chasing world often seen in Finance departments.  So, isn’t it time to get your life back and enjoy analyzing data instead of chasing it?  If so, Lodestar Solutions would be happy to discuss your goals and options to help create a plan to realize the benefits of better data, leading to better decision making.

If you would like to learn more, contact Lodestar Solutions 813-254-2040.

Fear Public Speaking More Than Spiders?

Fear Public Speaking More Than Spiders?

Do you have a fear of public speaking that is more intense than your fear of spiders?  Well then, you are like most of us.  Years ago (like a decade), a co-worker of mine saidthat he had gotten over his fear of public speaking by joining Toastmasters International.  Over the years, I have had joining Toastmasters on my “to-do” list and even had it formally put in my employee review as a goal to accomplish, yet I kept putting it on the back burner.

This year, I finally joined and I thoroughly enjoy it.  Not only do you learn the techniques for effective public speaking, but you also get to meet some great people, learn interesting facts, and listen to some fascinating personal experiences.  Toastmasters creates a comfortable environment filled with a positive attitude to encourage you to continue, while you also get the constructive critiquing to improve your speaking skills.  The way they accomplish this is the use of the “Sandwich Method” when an evaluator critiques your speech.  The “Sandwich Method” is simply beginning the critique with a sincere compliment, and then an evaluation delivered kindly and stating useful tips for improvement and followed by accolades that inspire you for your next speech.

If you think a group like this would help you, you don’t have to commit right away.  Go to and find the clubs that are in your area.  Guests are always welcome and if you live in an area that has several clubs, I suggest you check out more than one before deciding which one to join.  Each club has its own dynamic personality and one may fit you better than another.  I was a guest at two local clubs before deciding which to join.

Finally, for those of you for whom English is not your native language, we welcome you to join as well to improve your English skills.  Recently, some new members that have joined my club are from Latin America.  Watching their improvement and increased confidence level with each of their speeches only motivates you to improve more too.  Actually, on the day one woman became a US Citizen, that night she came to her first Toastmasters meeting and joined on the spot!

Leveraging LinkedIn

Have you created a LinkedIn profile but haven’t figured out to leverage it to help you in your business?  Here are a few pointers to get you going:

Picture Success – No one wants to do business with a faceless mystery person.  Include a picture in which you look professional (no party pictures) and make it publicly visible.  This will also make it easier for new people you meet while networking to find your profile.

Make it Public – Adjust your profile settings so that everything is publicly visible.  Your contact information will only be available to your connections anyway.  Some people are uncomfortable with others having access to their professional history.  If this is you, then remember that you can treat LinkedIn like a resume and include only the positions that are relevant to your current career.

Complete Your Profile – This seems like a no-brainer, but a lot of people never fully complete their LinkedIn profile.  This is a shame, because a complete profile sends the message that you have your act together.  An incomplete profile, on the other hand, sends the clear message that you don’t finish what you start.  Talk about bad advertising!  Plus, how are you going to tell people what they need to know about you if you never actually fill in all the blanks?

Work Those Connections – This is the most important aspect of LinkedIn success.  It is a social network, after all.  Start by connecting all of the active email addresses you use to your profile so anyone you’ve ever had contact with will be able to find your profile by email.  Also, make sure you go through the process of sending invitations to all of the people in your various contact lists that already have LinkedIn profiles.

As you network and do business on a day to day basis, add all of the people you interact with at least weekly.  This is the part a lot of people miss.  By sending invitations to connect to new people you interact with on a daily basis, you are creating another line of connection to them and reinforcing that business relationship.  Plus, you can watch your network grow like crazy.

Update Regularly (at least weekly) – On your LinkedIn home page, there is a box at the top of the page where you can post an update.  Do it at least once a week.  Whatever you post here will show up in the news feed of your connections.  Don’t know what to post?  Try to add value to others.  Share articles that your network may be interested in with a note on your thoughts.  Harvard Business Review, as an example, has great informative articles you can share.

Add Value – I can’t emphasize this enough!  When you post something, you want to convey your insight on the topic.  Even if you are not in sales, establishing a reputation for adding value and knowledge will provide a great opportunity for advancement down the road.  If you are in sales, this is a requirement!

Groups – Join groups that consist of peers or target customers.  The more groups you are in, the better, because the more groups you are in, the more people you have access to.  Plus, LinkedIn’s search function will rank you higher in the search results displayed to those you are in groups with, meaning when someone is searching for your skills, your profile is more likely to be found.  Do yourself a favor and join 50 groups, the limit that LinkedIn allows.

Post to Groups – Regularly post value-added information in your groups.  This will give you great exposure.  You can also use groups to post questions to leverage your network to provide creative solutions to your problems.  If you are an IBM Cognos user, you must join a few of the IBM Cognos groups.  They provide a wealth of knowledge from users all around the world!  If you are hosting an upcoming event, you can post information on the event in groups that might like to attend your webinar or seminar.  You will start to notice people reaching out to include you in their network because they like your posts.

Endorsements – Get colleagues and clients to endorse your skills by clicking “endorse” on your profile page.  This will increase your exposure.

Include a Video – Edit your profile to include a short video or slide share about your company or your expertise.  You can host the video on YouTube and you can use your iPhone to record a quick video if you don’t have a camera.  The videos should help show your personality and knowledge.

What’s new in IBM Cognos BI 10.2.1?

IBM Cognos BI 10.2.1 was released on June 11, 2013.  In this release, IBM developers focused on three areas:  visualization, performance and big data.


“A picture paints a thousand insights.”  Well-developed charts and visuals allow end users to quickly spot trends and/or issues.  IBM’s RAVE (Rapidly Adaptive Visualization Engine) significantly improves the consumer’s mobile and dashboard experiences with more flexible, adaptive and interactive visuals. Cognos 10.2.1 RAVE technology also enhances existing charting options and includes new and innovated charts.  Additionally, new charts are continuously being added and are available for download from


Larger data sets that empower end users to query at will have their advantages, but can be a performance killer.  IBM developers recognized that performance is an important factor in end user adoption and a BI initiative’s success.  By tackling bottleneck issues in Active Reports, Bursting, and Dynamic Cubes they were able to improve performance on average by 40% over version 10.2.

  • Dynamic cube, the OLAP solution released in 10.2, is now 2 times faster.  10.2.1 brings reductions in required memory for aggregate caches and improved aggregate selection logic that chooses the aggregate with the lowest query cost.
  • Active Reports in 10.2.1 execute 5 times faster than 10.2.  This includes faster loading in browsers, mobile devices, and Cognos Connection.  Active Reports now have a smaller footprint due to better use of compression and engine optimization.  Additional authors can now have 10 times more data in Active Reports.
  • Bursted reports created in Report Studio 10.2.1 use hardware resources more efficiently by allowing distribution across all report servers and by optimizing the execution of batch reports.

Big Data

Buzz phrase of the year: “BIG DATA.”  Big data is inherently problematic from how to properly capture, organize, maintain, store, and analyze it.  Companies want the ability to look at the most complete data set possible to find correlations, spot trends, and make real time decisions.

Cognos BI 10.2.1 now has Big SQL support extended to:

  • IBM InfoSphere® BigInsights™ V2.1
  • Hive support for Apache Hive version 0.8 or version 0.9
  • Cloudera
  • Hortonworks
  • Amazon Elastic MapReduce

In addition to visualization, performance and big data enhancements, IBM Cognos Mobile has some cool and important new features, including the ability to connect to multiple servers and use auto server configuration, the ability to zoom in on Active reports and use touch-friendly HTML5 prompts, and report fidelity for consistent viewing.

Other Cognos BI applications and administrative functions were also enhanced and, as we learn more about Cognos 10.2.1, we will surely bring them to your attention.

Upgrade from Clarity to Cognos Disclosure Management

When it comes to financial reporting and compliance, the upgrade from IBM Financial Statement Reporting (FSR) to IBM Cognos Disclosure Management (CDM), was one of the main topics of discussion at IBM’s Vision 2013 conference last month in Orlando.  By reducing operational risk through the automation of controls within management’s reporting process, these software suites enable a company to efficiently handle their quarterly (10-Q) and annual (10-K) reporting to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission.  Learn about Clarity to cognos disclosure management below.

Details on the Cognos Disclosure Management Upgrade

The upgrade to IBM Cognos Disclosure Management combines the best of both the automation of IBM FSR and reporting of business intelligence (BI).  CDM merges both into a scalable, enterprise wide solution that enables users to create qualitative analysis from their data sources (which can be relational, OLAP, Microsoft Excel, or Hyperion Financial Management), along with integrated external XBRL tagging, with more users than IBM FSR, and an audit trail.  In doing so, CDM reduces operational risk across the board, creating an accurate real-time data source and enabling the Department of Finance to consistently produce a “single version of the truth”.

Clarity to cognos disclosure management

As an added bonus, existing licensed IBM FSR users are able to trade up to IBM Cognos Disclosure Management, forgoing the purchase of a whole new license.  Lodestar Solutions would be more than happy to provide you more information on trading up so feel free to contact us at