Using the Cognos Analytics Assistant

Using the Cognos Analytics Assistant
Using the Cognos Analytics Assistant
Written by Mike Bernaiche, April 14th 2022

Have you ever wondered, “where do I start in building a dashboard in Cognos Analytics?”  Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed with all of the data?  I have and I bet you have as well.   What if I told you that IBM Cognos Analytics with Watson has a built in feature called the Cognos Analytics Assistant and it can help answer the questions above and so much more. 

What is the Cognos Analytics Assistant?

The Cognos Analytics Assistant is a text-based feature that allows you to gain quick insights into your data, making creating dashboards or explorations simple.  With just a few steps you can access data sources, view suggested visualizations or insights, and bring them over to a dashboard or exploration.  The assistant panel is made up of 3 sections: toolbar, output, and input areas. 

Cognos Analytics Assistant
Cognos Analyitcs Assistant Chat

Capabilities and Commands

There is a lot to unpack in this area about everything you can do with the Cognos Analytics Assistant.

  • Show Overview of Assistant – Type “help” to see a general overview of the assistant.
  • View Data Sources – To see a list of supported data sources type “view data sources.”
  • Suggest Questions – Type “suggest questions” and the assistant will suggest some starting questions for you.
Cognos Analytics Assistant Suggested Questions
  • Show Data Source Details – Type “show source (enter source name” or “load source (enter source name)” to see fields and details of your source.
Show Data Source Details
  • Show Column Details – type “show column (column name)” to see information and related fields.
Show Column Details
  • Show Column Influencers – Enter “What influences (column name)” to see what fields influence your chosen field.
Show Column Influencers
  • Create chart of visualization – The assistant can create a chart of visualization by simply typing “show chart (column1) and (column2)”.  You can further expand by then clicking “show related visualizations”.  You can further the experience by clicking “create dashboard form chart”.
Create chart of visualization
Related Visualizations
Create dashboard from chart
  • Create Dashboard – If you want to select a data source and ask IBM Cognos Analytics with Watson to start with a dashboard you can simply type “create dashboard” and use that as a starting point.
  • Create Simple Dashboard – With larger data sources or just the need for something simple, you can start with “create simple dashboard” to ask the Cognos Analytics Assistant to create a simple dashboard to start with.

Dashboard Example:

Cognos Analytics Assistant Dashboard Example

Filtering with Assistant

You can ask the Cognos Analytics Assistant to apply filters to data by applying words and associated synonyms.  I will go through a few examples below but there are many ways to filter through the assistant and a complete list can be found here. Assistant filtering - IBM Documentation

Filtering through the assistant has been included for many versions, however, time entity filtering is included with Cognos Analytics 11.2.2 which was released in March 2022.  To read about everything new in CA 11.2.2 please see this recent blog.  What’s New in Cognos Analytics 11.2.2 - Lodestar Solutions

General Filters

This filters examples are provided through IBM documentation.

  • show the top 3 products by sales
  • show sales where month is January
  • show products by sales where inventory > 500
  • show products by sales for California
  • show top <num> <column1> by <column2>

The following operators or modifiers can be used to filter.

  • In, for, if
  • Where, with
  • including
  • excluding
  • top percentage
  • bottom percentage
  • greater than
  • less than
  • top (post data aggregation)
  • bottom (post data aggregation)

Time Entity Filtering

The Cognos Analytics Assistant understands references to date, time, month, year, seasons, and holidays.  For the Assistant to apply time entity filters, the data set must have a Timestamp or Date/Time column.  The Assistant can filter based on relative time references (this, that, last, and next).  For example, show sales this Thursday.

The Assistant can use closed time intervals to filter.  A closed time interval has a start and end date. Example, show laptop sales for January 2021 or show sales from January 2021 to March 2021.

Other examples from IBM documentation are:

  • Show sales before last Thursday
  • Show sales in 2021
  • Show profit for December 31, 2021 at 10 pm
  • What is our expected revenue on the day before Labor Day?
  • Show me sales for camping equipment from June 1-5
  • Show me total sales last year
  • Show the average sales for past 3 weeks
  • Show the top 3 products sold on the third Monday after Christmas
  • show sales after next Christmas
  • Show October 2020 sales by product
  • Show sales after October 12, 2020
  • Show me sales up to a week ago
  • Show sales between last Monday and last Wednesday
  • Show sales every January and March
  • Show sales every January and every March
  • Show sales every single August
  • Show revenue in Canada for every Friday
  • Show sales each August and September and each Monday
  • Show sales by product each and every August
  • Show sales where transaction date is not January
  • Show sales where transaction date is not before January
  • Show sales where transaction date is not between January and March.

The following time-based filters are not supported:

  • References to time zones (ex. show sales for October 1 at 2 pm GMT)
  • Fractional periods (ex. half day or quarter month)
  • 2nd Tuesday
  • Weekly or monthly
  • Month over month, YTD, and QTD
  • Time periods such as Q1 and Q2 are not supported.

As you can see there are many ways to filter based on time, and If I were to take a guess the unsupported filters will be supported in due time by IBM.  I want to be clear I do not have any inside knowledge, but IBM has done an excellent job of continuing to update an already great product.

IBM has documentation on tips and best practices for using the Cognos Analytics Assistant that can be found here.  Check it out and take your knowledge to the next level.  Tips and best practices - IBM Documentation

Summary

As you can see the best place to start in Cognos Analytics may very well be the Cognos Analytics Assistant.  You gain great insights, start a dashboard, build a dashboard and so much more.  Simplifying using a few commands and natural language will get you started and wow your business.  If you need help upgrading to the latest version to take advantage of the time filtering or just general knowledge of the assistant please contact us at service@lodestarsolutions.com and we would be happy to talk with you. 

What’s New in Cognos Analytics 11.2.2

Explorations
Written by Mike Bernaiche, March 31st 2022

The latest update of Cognos Analytics 11.2.2 arrived in March 2022 and it brings several new enhancements.  IBM is on a good release schedule, typically every 3-4 months, which helps brings new features, enhancements to an already good product.  Below you will find a list of changes for Cognos Analytics 11.2.2 with links for more information. 

Assistant

The assistant now allows you to use more specific time entity filtering.  To use this the selected data must have a timestamp or date/time column.  For example, some potential items you can ask the assistant now include:

  • Show sales this Thursday
  • Show sales between last Monday and last Wednesday
  • Show me sales for camping equipment from June 1-5
  • What is the total income between Halloween and Christmas
  • Show sales for 2021
  • Show October 2021 sales by product

Dashboards

Dashboards now include the following enhancements:

  •  Select multiple objects by using mouse drag
  • Vertical and horizontal alignment of objects
  • Change the style on axis and legend text in visualizations
  • Better thumbnails and ability to rename pins
  • Set different colors for tabs in dashboards
  • Additional and enhanced widget properties

Stories

You now have an option to set a different background color for each of your scenes.

Explorations

One area of explorations that has needed some improvement for awhile is the natural language information provided on each data visualization.  As you can see below from the IBM screenshot, they have improved the readability in the details area.

Explorations

Also, you can now use box plot and radar visualizations in explorations.

Reporting

Several enhancements have been added to reporting in Cognos Analytics 11.2.2.

  •  New custom filter option in reports to ignore empty items.
  • Consistent experience with downloadable report formats in both classic and interactive viewer.
  • Consistency with the view of optional prompting in both classic and interactive viewer.

Mobile

Cognos Analytics Mobile now supports all authentication providers that are supported in Cognos Analytics.  View the complete list of providers here. Configuring authentication providers - IBM Documentation

Logs for Cognos Analytics Mobile in Cognos Analytics 11.2.2 are now found here. install_location\logs\cognosserver.log

Modeling

Improvements to modeling include:

  •  Faster metadata updates - To batch-update multiple properties, the option Refresh properties is added to the context menu for data modules, tables, columns, calculations, and folders.
  • Sort the data in data tree
Sort Data in Data Tree
  •  As of date – added to the dynamic date list in creating a relative time period.
As of date

Administration

For you administrators out there, IBM has added a number of new features and connections in the administration area.  For a complete list check out this link from IBM, Administration - IBM Documentation.  Also a few items have changed in the install process.  Here is a link to those changes. Installation and configuration - IBM Documentation

Summary

As you can read there have been a number of changes in Cognos Analytics 11.2.2.  I wouldn’t call this a major update, but I do think there are a number of items in here that make it worth installing.  The changes to the Assistant and Dashboards help you create and format.  The update to explorations makes it easier to understand your data and the ability to add an as of date in data modules is something I’m looking forward to putting into practice.

For a complete list of everything new in Cognos Analytics 11.2.2 check this link out.

Release 11.2.2 - March 2022 - IBM Documentation

If you are still on Cognos Analytics 11.1.7 and are not sure why you should update – check out these recent blogs from Lodestar Solutions. 

Cognos Analytics 11.2.1 – What’s New! - Lodestar Solutions

What’s New in Cognos Analytics 11.2 - Lodestar Solutions

Also, if you are interested in checking out Cognos Analytics Mobile - IBM Cognos Analytics Mobile Walkthrough - Lodestar Solutions.

Last, if you need to discuss or explore upgrading we have a number of great options to get you updated.  Reach out to me at services@lodestarsolutions.com to discuss.

P.S. For our clients who attend our next client only user group, I will have a session on Cognos Analytics 11.2.2 as well as the office connection to utilize Cognos and PowerPoint to make your presentation creation very efficient.  Our next user group will be May 24, 2022.

Cognos Analytics 11.2.1 – What’s New!

3D Hexabin Map and Donut visualization from a pie chart
Written by Mike Bernaiche, November 11th, 2021

In September 2021, IBM released Cognos Analytics 11.2.1.  This blog will highlight the changes and some of the new features included with this new version.

General Changes

Search Enhancements – In version 11.2 IBM moved the search bar to the address bar.  In Cognos Analytics 11.2.1, IBM added a couple of nice items to the search function.  They have now included filters and the ability to save that filter for ease of use.  You can filter on a particular area like data or dashboards and save that filter to use again and again.

Search Enhancements in Cognos 11.2.1

Support for merged cells in Excel uploads – You can now take a file from excel that may look like this

Excel Upload

And Cognos Analytics 11.2.1 will render properly in Cognos when you upload.

Render properly

This enhancement will save you a lot of time “fixing” excel to properly import into Cognos Analytics.

Dashboards

New Visualizations – Included in Cognos Analytics 11.2.1 is a new 3D Hexabin Map and Donut visualization from a pie chart.

3D Hexabin Map and Donut visualization from a pie chart
New Visualization Properties -

Change colors on the following:

  •  Border color on a per-axis basis
  • Grid line color on a per-axis basis
  • Value label color
  • Repeat label color on a column
  • Repeat label color on a row

Other property changes:

  • Transpose bullet visualizations.  This new property allows you to switch between horizontal or vertical bullet charts.
  • Customizable range of bullets in bullet visualizations.  These new properties allow you to customize the appearance to suit your preference or to align with your corporate branding.
Conditional Formatting Enhancements - 

Easier to use properties for conditional formatting.

conditional formatting in cognos 11.2.1

Reporting

  • Performance improvements for tabbed reports.
  • Active Report Viewer – Active Report Viewer is a Windows application that is used to view and interact with IBM® Cognos® Analytics with Watson active reports that are saved in the .mht file format.  Download from IBM Accelerator Catalog.
  • Select and search prompt now available for data modules.

The following are the same as in Dashboards:

  • 3D Hexabin in maps
  • New visualization properties
  • Donut visualization created from a pie

Mobile

New in Cognos Analytics 11.2.1 - License entitlements of Cognos Analytics for Mobile only users.  Please reach out if this license is something you are interested in.  Contact us at sales@lodestarsolutions.com.

  • Consume shared pin boards.
  • Receive alerts.
  • Use the Assistant in the app, with any available data sources.
  • Create their own pin boards in the app.
  • Browse Team content and open dashboards or explorations in the app.
  • Scan a QR code from the desktop to authenticate into the app.

Administrative and Samples

There are many administrative updates to Cognos Analytics 11.2.1.  You can check out this link for everything new in the administrative side.

Administration - IBM Documentation

There are also new samples with Cognos 11.2 and 11.2.1.  These come with the install and can be added to your environment from the deployment area of the administrative panel.  Your Cognos Administrator can help get these loaded for you.  I highly recommend loading them for ideas and new techniques in version 11.2 and 11.2.1

New Samples with Cognos 11.2.1

Summary

We are here to help and answer your questions about Cognos Analytics 11.2.1.  We can perform your upgrade or work with you on the upgrade.  Please reach out to us at services@lodestarsolutions.com.

For more information on all things Cognos Analytics, you can check out our vast library of blogs anytime here.  If you are interested in mobile there is a great blog recently released.

Cognos BI Blogs written by IBM Cognos Expert Consultants and Coaches (lodestarsolutions.com)

For detailed information on the updates to Cognos Analytics 11.2.1 see link below.

Release 11.2.1 - September 2021 - IBM Documentation

IBM Cognos Analytics Mobile Walkthrough

IBM Cognos Analytics Mobile Boards Area

Written by Mike Bernaiche, August 12th, 2021

Looking for a quick view at important data in Cognos Analytics?  Maybe, your executive team is starting to travel again and needs access to information on the road or want push notifications to alert you to changes in targets?  If you own IBM Cognos Analytics and have upgraded to version 11.1.7 or 11.2 then you already own the solution to these questions.  IBM Cognos Analytics Mobile.

Breakdown of Key Areas in Cognos Analytics Mobile

Supported Devices, Set up and Authentication

Download the Cognos Analytics Mobile App from IOS or Android App store. Utilize the personal QR code from inside Cognos Analytics or enter the server url.

For a list of support devices: Supported devices - IBM Documentation

Authentication: Authentication - IBM Documentation

Link to Cognos Analytics Mobile app on IOS – IBM Cognos Analytics Mobile - Apps on Google Play

Link to Cognos Analytics Mobile app on Google Play Store - IBM Cognos Analytics Mobile - Apps on Google Play

Boards Area

IBM Cognos Analytics Mobile Boards Area

Boards provide convenient places for you to pin your visualizations.  Use boards to organize and manage your visualizations so that you can find and retrieve them at a moment's notice.  You can create, rename, hide, show, or delete boards in the Boards screen.

For more information on boards: The Boards screen - IBM Documentation

Content Area

Content Area

Use the Content screen to quickly find and open content.  The Content screen contains three tabs and a filtering feature to help you find and open content.

  •  Use the Recent tab to access your recently viewed content 
  • My Content tab to access your created content
  • Team Content tab can be used to access team content, which is shared with you from the team content folder.

NOTE - Only visualization widget pins can be displayed in IBM Cognos Analytics Mobile.  All other pins are hidden by default.

For more information on the Content Area: The Content screen - IBM Documentation

Notification Area

Notification Area

Use the Notifications screen to conveniently view your notifications.  You can receive notifications if one of your visualizations or a visualization that you are a viewer for has triggered an alert.

From the Notifications screen, you can access visualizations that have triggered a notification, filter your notifications by read and unread, and see the date and rules, which triggered the notification.

For more information on notifications: Alerts and notification settings - IBM Documentation

Assistant

Assistant

The Assistant is a powerful feature that allows you to use simple questions, in natural language, to search, find, and explore your data.

TIP – typing help into text fields provides examples to get started.

For more information on the Assistant feature: Assistant - IBM Documentation

Management of Cognos Analytics Mobile

As an administrator you have a number of options in the management of Cognos Analytics Mobile.  You can set up the following:

  •  Enable or disable Cognos Analytics Mobile
  • Manage alerts for users
  • Enable or disable scheduling
  • Enable or disable dashboards, explorations, or assistant
  • Configure token login signing secret setting
  • Configure your Cognos Analytics environment with SMTP

For more information on management of Cognos Analytics Mobile: Managing Cognos Analytics for Mobile - IBM Documentation

Troubleshooting

If you are looking for information to troubleshoot your set up please check out the following:

Summary

Cognos Analytics Mobile offers some great features to take your information on the road with you and gain insights without having to get out the computer or take paper with you.  The addition of the new mobile app takes Cognos Analytics to the next level in my opinion.  Adding in Android, along with IOS devices provides access to almost all users.  Reminder, you do need to be on the latest release of Cognos Analytics (11.2) to take advantage of mobile. 

To upgrade to the latest version or talk about getting mobile set up in your environment reach out to us at services@lodestarsolutions.com.

I will be providing a demo on our client only user group on August 17, 2021.  If you are a client and have not yet signed up to attend, check your inbox for the invite.  If you did not receive an invite, please contact us at services@lodestarsolutions.com.

What’s New in Cognos Analytics 11.2

What's New in Cognos Analytics 11.2
What's New in Cognos Analytics 11.2
Written by Mike Bernaiche on June 10th, 2021

The next major update from IBM on the Cognos Analytics platform was released in late May.  Cognos Analytics 11.2 brings several enhancements improvements and a new user interface.  I will detail a few of the new items below.

User Interface

IBM has moved to Carbon, the IBM open-source design system for digital product and experience.  Personally, I believe it is a beautiful interface, very clean and makes sense as you move throughout the product. 

  •  Welcome Page – A quick launch and samples area has been added to the welcome screen.  This is for ease of use and efficiency.
  • Open Menu – Compact point to enter any area of Cognos Analytics 11.2.
Open Menu
  •  Full page content viewer – Here you will find your content, team content and samples in a full page view.  You can switch between tiles and a list view.
  • Search and Assistant – these items have been moved to the global content bar.
  • Edit Icon – Is now a toggle button at the top of dashboards, reports, etc.

For the complete list of changes to the welcome pane and user experience please check out this link from IBM.  Getting started - IBM Documentation

Dashboards

There are a couple of new changes to dashboards in Cognos Analytics 11.2.  They include:

  •  2 New Visualizations – Boxplot and Radar.  These visualization are also available in Explorations.
Boxplot
Radar
  •  Show labels on maps in local language. 

Notebooks

New in Cognos Analytics 11.2, if you have access to an external Watson environment enabled, you can import notebooks that were authored in IBM Watson Studio and use that data in reports or dashboards.

Reporting

A number of items were added to reporting in Cognos Analytics 11.2.  They include:

  • Add baseline to visualization using layout or query calculation.  Baselines are horizontal or vertical lines that cut through the chart to indicate major divisions in the data.
Reporting
  •  Local language labels in Maps - as in dashboard, you can show the local language in maps in Cognos Analytics 11.2.
  • New Themes – Carbo X Light and Carbon X dark are now available in reporting.
  • Support for PDF drill actions in Chrome and Firefox.

For the complete list of new items in reporting please check out this link from IBM. Reporting - IBM Documentation.

Modeling

  •  Navigation Path Enhancements – Navigation paths are now grouped into a folder named Navigation Paths and allows for a much cleaner and efficient use.
Navigation Enhancements
  •  Java Examples for modeling – using the rest API you can now perform the following:

- Load metadata
- Load metadata with select tables
- Reload metadata
- Upload new files
- Replace uploaded files
- Append to uploaded files

To access the examples and readme.txt, navigate to ../sdk/modeling/java/examples in your local installation.

Administration, Installation and Configuration

For more information on all of the changes in administration and installation of the product, please check out these links.

Administration - IBM Documentation

Installation and configuration - IBM Documentation

Call to Action

As you can read IBM has made a number of enhancements to Cognos Analytics 11.2.  Many of them are based on the user experience and I believe that is setting the stage for some great customizations and enhancements in future releases.  As of now, I believe Cognos Analytics 11.2.1 will be released in early fall and from what I have heard, it could be a very exciting release. 

Recently Lodestar Solutions created an Upgrade Bundle to help our clients with the upgrade process on both Cognos Analytics and Planning Analytics.  The bundle includes technical support hours as well.  Trust me when I tell you this is a great deal!  For more information check out this blog on

Solving the IBM Cognos Upgrade Challenge - Lodestar Solutions.

If you have questions regarding Cognos Analytics 11.2 or the upgrade bundle, please reach out to services@lodestarsolutions.com.

IBM Cognos Analytics Reporting off Snowflake Data

IBM Cognos Analytics Reporting off Snowflake Data
IBM Cognos Analytics Reporting off Snowflake Data
February 18th, 2021

As the world of Big Data continues to evolve, we have noticed many of our IBM Cognos Analytics clients are moving to an innovative new cloud data solution, Snowflake.  Snowflake is a fully managed service that’s simple to use but can power a near-unlimited number of concurrent workloads.  Snowflake is a solution for data warehousing, data lakes, data engineering, data science, data application development, and for securely sharing and consuming shared data.  It’s important to know that IBM Cognos Analytics Reporting off Snowflake Data can be a winning combination.  In this blog, Lodestar Solutions will describe the problem many Cognos Analytics Administrators have faced and how Snowflake and Cognos Analytics can solve the problem.

The Cognos Analytics Administrator’s Historical Struggle

IBM Cognos Analytics BI Administrators have struggled for years to deliver effective reports and dashboards, in organizations that had data integrity issues.  Many battled silos of data marts, data warehouses and multiple data sources.  In many organizations the Cognos Analytics Administrators did not have control or influence over the data warehousing teams or how they received the data, which resulted in many Cognos Analytics Administrators resorting to what I call duct tape and super gluing reports with code that would be unnecessary if the data was in a better format or indexed.

You can have the best business intelligence reporting solutions in the world but if you have bad data you are stuck in a swamp!

It’s not the Data Warehouse Teams Fault!

Over the years Big Data made big promises but often failed to deliver the results executives were looking for.  Initially, organizations leveraged Data Warehouses to store big data.  A data warehouse is a repository for structured, filtered data that has already been processed for a specific purpose.  The challenge was the amount of unstructured data from different sources like web apps, and social media was growing exponentially.  Business Users were demanding more, and data warehousing just didn’t meet the needs.  So, data lakes were created. A data lake is a vast pool of raw data, the purpose for which is not yet defined, but the data lakes required much larger storage.  Without a lot of baby sitting and governance the lakes became data swamps.  This was especially true of on-premise data lakes.  To solve this problem companies like Snowflake have delivered a modern version of data lakes that leverage cloud technology to handle scaling.  If you want to learn more about modern data lakes check out the complimentary book by Snowflake called Cloud Data Lakes for Dummies by David Baum.  It’s a great short read and you might want to share this with your executives to help them better understand data lakes.   Here's a link to my book review on Cloud Data Lakes for Dummies

Snowflake and Cognos Analytics

A number of IBM Cognos Analytics clients are solving this problem by deploying Snowflake. IBM Cognos Analytics has native connectivity to Snowflake with Cognos Versions 11.0.5 or higher.  Click here to see a list of Business Intelligence solutions that have native connectivity with Snowflake.

How to set up Snowflake Data Source Connection in Cognos Analytics

IBM Cognos Analytics connects to Snowflake with a Java Database Connectivity (JDBC).

To set up the data source connection between IBM Cognos Analytics BI and Snowflake, you will need to:

  1. Download JDBC Driver
  2. Place snowflake jdbc (snowflake-jdbc-3.9.2.jar) file into CA_installation/drivers folder.
  3. Restart IBM Cognos Analytics
  4. Edit Snowflake connection
Connecting Snowflake to Cognos Analytics

JDBC URL:

"jdbc:snowflake://<your_account_name>.snowflakecomputing.com/?warehouse=<your_warehouse>"

Select Use the following signon:

ID and Password from snowflake User Name and Password

5. Test the connection

Connecting Snowflake to Cognos Analytics2

If you want additional details, check out this IBM Blog.

IBM Cognos Analytics Connection to Snowflake with an ODBC Connection.

For IBM Cognos Analytic Administrators that want to use an ODBC connection to Snowflake there are 3rd party drivers that you can purchase and use.  One such driver is the CData ODBC driver for Snowflake which can integrate Snowflake data with the drag-and-drop style of Cognos Report Studio.  They provide a graphical approach to create data visualizations with no SQL required.  This blog by CData, Create Data Visualizations in Cognos BI with Snowflake shows their approach on how to execute any SQL query supported by Snowflake. 

Conclusion

IBM Cognos Analytics Reporting off Snowflake data can be a winning combination.  If you are a Cognos Analytics Administrator and want to discuss how IBM Cognos Analytics can be taken to the next level with better data sources like Snowflake, contact services@lodestarsolutions.com.

Five Tips to Hosting a Virtual IBM Cognos & TM1 User Group

5 Tips to Host a Virtual User Group
5 Tips to Host a Virtual User Group
November 12th, 2020

The world has changed, and it is never going back!  A year ago we were able to attend the IBM Analytics event in Miami, listen to live Cognos Analytics and Cognos Planning Analytics/TM1 user success stories and network with other IBM Cognos users over a beer.  Not anymore, at least not for a while.  But Lodestar Solutions has decided to pivot.  We learned five tips to hosting a virtual IBM Cognos and TM1 User Group, and we have no intention to return to in person user groups!

Why Virtual Cognos User Groups are Better Than in Person

On November 11, 2020 we hosted a new format for our Lodestar Solutions, Virtual IBM Cognos and TM1 User Group and it was fabulous!  Our clients and team members loved it so much, we are not going back to in person group for three reasons: time, geography and flexibility.

Saving Time with a Cognos User Group

We value our Cognos Analytics and Planning Analytics TM1 Administrators’ time.  In the past we would host events in a main city like Chicago and attendees would have to travel an hour to get to the site and an hour home.  We would do our best to make the session of interest but sometimes, there were sessions that only applied to a subset of the population. 

With the virtual event we were able to tell the attendees the topics, why they should care or how it impacts them.  If the topic did not apply to them, they were able to do other things and return for the next session. 

Cognos User Group Geography

Our clients are all over the US and some internationally.  In the past we could not serve all our clients, so we focused our user groups on locations with a large cluster of clients.  We can now serve our IBM Cognos users even in the most geographically remote locations.

Cognos User Group Flexibility 

Most IBM Cognos BI or TM1 Administrators are very busy and often manage multiple systems, not just IBM.  It is not uncommon for them to get the emergency email or text and they must drop everything.  Lodestar Solutions understands our client’s needs, and so we prerecorded our session and let everyone know if they had to drop off, they could come back and watch the part they missed.  Cognos Administrators loved this feature and we discovered that they would leave, address the issue and return.  I believe that if we had not let them know they could watch what they missed; they probably would not have returned for the Q&A sessions.  

Virtual User Group

Five Tips to Hosting a Successful Virtual IBM Cognos & TM1 User Group

We appreciate that there have been local Cognos BI and TM1 user groups all over the world.  Lodestar Solutions also understands that many IBM Analytics User Groups have been forced to suspend their meetings and look for another way.  So, we thought we would share what we did and how to host a successful Virtual IBM Cognos and TM1 User group.

1. Cognos Content in Small Bites

The first thing is to plan your content in small bite size chunks, no more than 30-45 minutes per session. Once you have a list of your topics and speakers you will want to organize your agenda in a logical order.  For our Lodestar User Group, we hosted all the Planning Analytics/ TM1 sessions first, followed by TM1 Technical.  Then we moved into BI Technical, followed by other Cognos Analytics sessions.  This allowed people to join when the content applied to them.

2. Prerecord the Sessions

We prerecorded the sessions and hosted them on our training site, which is Kajabi.  You could put them on YouTube as well.  The reason we prerecorded is we wanted to ensure there were no technical issues with a presenter’s internet.  We were also able to edit the videos before posting.  We use Camtasia for editing.  You can get a free trial at here.

3. Zoom for Introductions and Q&A

We used Zoom for our user group.  All attendees joined by Zoom, then we guided them to our training portal where our sessions where prerecorded.  By zooming we were able to go on camera to create connections during our introductions and were able to answer questions as they came up about connecting to the sessions.  After each session they returned to Zoom for a live question and answer session with the presenter. 

4. Networking Session with Breakout Rooms

To further connections with our community we scheduled networking sessions after each topic area like Planning Analytics.  Through Zoom we divided all the attendees into breakout rooms and gave them a series of short questions to discuss with the group.  This allowed Cognos power users to connect with other power users they may never have met.  We also assigned a moderator to each room to ensure everyone had a chance to speak.  Our Cognos clients loved the breakout rooms and said they wish they had more of them.  Not sure how to use breakout rooms? Check out this blog

5. User Success Story Sessions

To add more value, we wanted to have a couple clients share their success stories.  But we know our clients do not have a lot of time to prepare a slide deck and presentation, so we made it easy.  We sent our Client Presenters a list of interview questions.  We then scheduled a time to record a zoom session where we asked the questions.  It was in an interview format.  The attendees loved hearing the stories and seeing the interaction.  The feedback was it was a lot better than a boring power point.  We were able to edit the interviews to get them down to the time allotted and upload them as a session on our portal. 

For More Information

So, are you looking to join a Cognos Analytics BI or Cognos Planning Analytics User Group?

For more information on the Lodestar Solutions Client User group, email us at services@lodestarsolutions.com.  Another good resource for finding user groups is on the IBM Community site.  Another option to check out for Cognos groups is meetup.com.

If you are looking to organize an IBM User Group, we recommend you follow our Five Tips to Hosting a Virtual IBM Cognos and TM1 User Group so you can ensure success for your event. 

To learn more of our tips and tricks be sure to check out all our blogs on our website, or sign up for our Lodestar Solutions Knowledge Center

How to Customize Your Cognos Analytics

Customize Your Cognos Analytics
Customize Your Cognos Analytics
October 22nd, 2020

Have you been using IBM Cognos Analytics for years?  You are a master of Framework Manager and building reports, but have you branded your Cognos Analytics to reflect your companies, colors and logos?  Today we will discuss how to customize your Cognos Analytics for your company, so you look like a Rockstar.  Don’t worry, if you tried this in an earlier version like Cognos BI and struggled, you will be surprised at the improvements.

Why Customize Your Cognos Analytics?

End users and executives like to see consistency across their reporting and analytic solutions.  They like to see the company logo and company colors to create a consistent look and feel.  Creating a unique standard for your company is called creating a Cognos skin.  Creating a customized skin is like wrapping a gift.  When you give a holiday gift, do you wrap it in pretty paper with a bow, or do you deliver it in the bag from the store where you purchased it?  Well Cognos Analytics Customizations is like putting the perfect wrapping paper on your gift. 

As a developer, setting up your own templates and theme will take some time, but it will save you development time in the future.  Developers will have a framework to start with and not have to add the same objects and formatting to each new report.  Additionally, if your company decides to change their corporate colors or logo, you won’t have to update every report. 

Cognos Analytics Customizations

Cognos Analytics allows you to customize your Cognos Analytics system by using themes to change the Cognos Analytics interface to display your organizations branding.  Themes allow you to change the color schemes, logos and portal verbiage.   Additionally, you can leverage the global color palette functionality to create standardized colors for your end users.   A global palette is defined by the administrator but can be available to all users.  Users can duplicate it and then modify their version of it.

Click here or more information on Cognos Analytics Global Color Palettes.

Cognos Analytics Themes

To get you started IBM offers sample themes you can modify.  The samples are typically part of the product installation and are located at, <installation location>\samples\.  In Cognos Analytics, you can upload customizations directly through the Cognos Analytics user interface.  The core of each theme is a spec.json file that defines it and the files (images) that the .json references.  The theme allows for modification of the brandiconsmall, appbar, brandicon, brandText and navbar.

Cognos Analytics Themes

Cognos Analytics Extensions

In addition to themes, IBM Cognos Analytics extensions are used to add or remove buttons, shapes, menus, etc… in order to extend the standard user interface.

Cognos Analytics Extensions

How to Get Started on Branding Cognos Analytics for your Company

Now you know that you can customize your Cognos Analytics to reflect the colors and logos for your company, are you wondering, where do I start?  Start by watching the informative IBM produced youtube video How to Create Themes in 11.4

In the video IBM will guide you on how to install the samples and provide a lot of the details. 

How to Install Samples

You also might want to check out the Creating Themes  section of the IBM knowledge base.

Time to Skin Cognos Analytics

Are you read to wow your executives?  It’s time to customize your Cognos Analytics for your company. You already have a lot of skin in the game, isn’t it time to create a customized skin for your Cognos?    The good news is that IBM has made it a lot easier to create your company branding.  For more information on what Cognos Analytics can provide your organization see our blog, What’s New in Cognos Analytics.

Client Presentation on How They Customized Cognos Analytics

If you are a Lodestar Solutions’ client you should have recently received an invite to our private, client only, Cognos Analytics & Planning Analytics User Group being held virtually November 10, 2020.  US Lumber, a long-time Lodestar client will be sharing how they customized Cognos Analytics for their company.  To register for the event or get access to the replay email, services@lodestarsolutions.com.  

Please note, the Lodestar Solutions User Group is for current Lodestar clients that have purchased their renewal, services, software and/or training from us within the last 12 months.  This is a private group, as we share consultant secrets and are providing virtual peer networking sessions.  To learn more about how to become a Lodestar client and get invited to our exclusive events email us at Sales@lodestarsolutions.com.  Check out our website to see how we help our clients succeed in Cognos Analytics.

If you need help to customize your Cognos Analytics, reach out to us at Services@lodestarsolutions.com.  

Questions You Should Ask When Planning to Migrate Off Cognos Analytics (BI) – Part 2

8 Questions You Should Ask When Planning to Migrate Off of IBM Cognos Analytics - Part 2
8 Questions You Should Ask When Planning to Migrate Off of IBM Cognos Analytics - Part 2
September 10th, 2020

As clients look to drastically cut cost, it’s natural for IT departments to look at all their business intelligence solutions to evaluate if they have redundancy.  The initial thought is to reduce costs by standardizing on one business intelligence solution.  One solution could mean lower support costs and fewer resources to support the tools. As I discussed in the first part of our “Questions You Should Ask When Planning to Migrate Off Cognos Analytics” blog,  I completely understand the logic and if I was the CIO, I would have the same line of thinking. 

But let’s face it, in many organizations someone high up made the decision to streamline business intelligence tools and they did not task a team to do the due diligence to determine the true costs of migrating off Cognos nor did they create an ROI evaluation.  This is part two of our blog series on this topic where I share the questions you should ask when planning to migrate off Cognos Analytics onto another platform.

4. What resources do we need to migrate our reports to the new platform and what is their availability?

Whether you are migrating from Cognos or upgrading to Cognos Analytics you must be realistic about the resources assigned to the migration and their real availability.  If you think you can dedicate 50% of a FTE’s time to the business intelligence migration, create your plan as if you only had 25% of your time.  This allows for life to get in the way without disrupting the timeline.  You also want to account for vacation and holidays, as they can throw a curve ball to the project plan.

5. What data sources are currently feeding Cognos BI that we must account for in our new system?

Another mistake people make in evaluating the migration of their business intelligence tools is that they fail to take an inventory of all the data sources feeding their Cognos reports. 

An example I see often is clients moving to a new ERP solution.  They believe they can get rid of their Cognos BI because their new ERP solution includes reporting.  I warn them that ERP’s provide solutions like General Ledger (GL), Accounts Payable processing, or Inventory solutions, but almost always there are additional data sources you want to include in your reports that are outside of the ERP.   How are you going to handle the additional data sources?  Do you even know what data sources are being used?  Create a list of all the data sources and confirm you have a plan to address them in your migration.

Data Modules:  If you are on Cognos Analytics your end users may be using Data Modules which is a very powerful component to allow analysis of outside data sources.  If you plan to migrate off Cognos you must determine what sources they are using with data modules.

Want to know more about Cognos Analytics data modules, here are our blogs:

Still Using Transformer Power Cubes? Try Data Modules. 

What’s New in Cognos Analytics 11.1.6

6. Why are we considering to migrate off Cognos to the new business intelligence platform?

Sometimes a decision has been made but after the cursory evaluation of the situation we lose sight of why we make that decision.  Lodestar Solutions recommends creating a list of why you are considering migrating from Cognos to a new solution.  This list will help you define the benefits which will be needed to estimate the ROI in the next step.

7. What will it really cost to migrate off Cognos Analytics to the new Business Intelligence solution and what is the expected return on investment?

Now that you have an inventory of the reports that need to be migrated, you understand their complexity and you identified the data sources,  you want to estimate the time it will take to migrate them.  Be realistic about the amount of time it will take.  Next calculate the estimated migration costs.  The costs to migrate should include:

  • Cost of new software and support
  • Cost of training internal power users
  • Cost of technical installation
  • Cost of internal resources (estimated hours * avg salary and benefit cost for resources/hour)
  • Cost of consultants
  • Cost of internal end user training

Next, estimate the anticipated return on the investment. To do this you want to put a financial value to the benefits the organization anticipates from the new solution over your existing solutions.

ROI = [(Financial Value - Project Cost) / Project Cost] x 100

If you are not familiar with ROI Calculations check out this article from Harvard Business School Online.

8. Should we migrate off Cognos?

The final question you must ask is, “Should we migrate off Cognos?”  Does the ROI of the migration really justify the work and cost involved?  Does the new solution provide all the extra functionality and meet all the users’ needs?  One mistake organizations make is deploying a new solution that has less features than what your users had previously.  Do not do it!  You must ensure that the new solution at least has parity with Cognos Analytics.  My recommendation is to write proper testing scripts and have the end users complete them to ensure success.

U-TURNS Permitted

I can’t tell you how many times in my life I have made a plan and then when I completed my due diligence and analyzed the work and cost involved I realized my plan was a bad plan.  Unfortunately, many companies have a culture that when a decision is made, they can’t U-Turn.  If you think your organization might have a no U-turn policy, I recommend suggesting a detailed analysis of the alternatives as early as possible.  I believe U- Turns should always be permitted.

U-Turn Permitted

You Are Almost Done!

Congratulations!  If you completed the steps from part one of this blog and the steps above,  you have now completed your due diligence.  Your hard work should give you the confidence to lead your organization to become an analytics leader in your industry and ensure the right decision is made.

Not Sure How to Get Started?

You don’t have to go this alone!  Lodestar Solutions can help you answer the questions you should ask when planning to migrate off Cognos Analytics and complete the steps above to ensure you are making the right decision for your organization.  So, contact us today and schedule a chat. Email services@lodestarsolutions.com.

What’s New in Cognos Analytics 11.1.7?

August 13th, 2020

The latest release of Cognos Analytics is here!  Cognos Analytics 11.1.7 is now available for download via your IBM Passport Advantage site.  I have spent a little time on my demo machine playing with 11.1.7 and I must say there are some great additions and a ton of fixes.  A big item of note is that Cognos Analytics 11.1.7 is a long-term release, meaning it is the final release of the 11.1.x version.  It also means that this version will be supported for years to come.  I bet a lot of you are now thinking, “Is 11.2.x or is Cognos Analytics 12 next”?   Guess we will find out soon!  But, enough speculation let’s get to the good stuff!

Dashboards

Besides the new mobile app (which we will get to later), dashboards received a bunch of new and exciting enhancements and additions. 

  • Crosstab Visualization – major improvements to the conditional formatting option with the ability for dashboard authors to define rules or thresholds to color cells based on key business metrics. These rules can be created using static numeric values or based on a percentage against an existing field, be it a calculation or coming directly from a source.
Crosstab Visualization
  • Dashboard Authoring Experience - adding drop zones to visualizations themselves, which should help authors understand the types of visualizations they’d like to build, all using drag and drop gestures.  You can also start to type in the field name you like in the drop zone and Cognos Analytics 11.1.7 will provide selections to choose from.
  • Combination Chart (Line and Bar) - add series to both lines and columns with separate palette choices for each, also support for measure groups so that authors could compare actuals to target measures on separate lines for example. It also adds a property to stack the column series.
Combination Chart
  • Export Visualization Data to CSV - From the data tray, authors can choose to export either summary or detail data.
  • Schematics as Custom Visualizations -Dashboard authors can also now leverage schematics as custom visualizations. Schematics are tagged shapes/polygons in an SVG file, which can be a diagram representing a spatial relationship.
  • Enhanced Filters - Authors can also create model filters as they would calculations, which can be applied to individual visualizations or the full dashboard if inserted into the filter shelf and resides in the metadata tree so that it can be reused wherever needed.
  • Save as Template - Dashboard authors can now save their dashboard layout, visualizations, colors, logos, etc as a template. This means that when authoring new content, authors have a starting point to begin their experience which saves a lot of time.
  • Other new properties –
  • Smart visualization titles are on by default
  • Logarithmic axis scaling
  • Custom axis ranges
  • Pie chart labels with values
  • Bullet chart range coloring
  • Show generated SQL/MDX per visualization

Reporting

Reporting also received several enhancements as noted below.

  • Baselines in Visualizations - Area (river/smooth/step), Boxplot, Bubble, Scatter, Bullet, Column (stacked/clustered/floating/target), Bar (stacked/clustered/floating/target), Combination chart (stacked/clustered), Line (step/smooth), Point, Marimekko, Radar and Waterfall.
Baselines in Visualizations
  • Combination Chart – Same as above in dashboards
  • Waterfall Chart with Subcategories - Waterfall can be used to display cumulative effect of a series of positive or negative values. Report authors can now use sub-categories in addition to display how values are aggregated at different levels.
  • Multiple Measures in More Visualizations - Area, Boxplot, Hierarchical packed bubble, Packed bubble, Point, Scatter, Combination chart, Line, Pie, Radar, Tree map, Waterfall, Word Cloud.
  • Run Single Page Report - ability to run a single report page in different formats.

Data Modules

Over the course of time, Cognos Analytics has updated Data Modules to be more and more in line with Framework Manager.  Below is a list of additions in Cognos Analytics 11.1.7 for Data Modules.   Finally, IBM has published a document to show the difference in the two products.  You can check it out here

  • 4-5-4 Retail Calendar – Retail customers have been asking for this calendar for sometime.  Now available for 2020-2022.
  • Additional Relative Time Filters
  • Current Week
  • Prior Week
  • Week to Date
  • Prior Week to Date
  • Same Week Last Year

User Experience

Starting with Cognos Analytics 11.1.7, the official design system is new and it is called Carbon.  Carbon is IBM’s open source design system which enables us to not only build consistent experiences across our product portfolio, make things easier and simpler to use, but also accelerate our time to market. To learn more about Carbon check this IBM blog out. 

Carbon

Mobile

New in release 11.1.7, you can use Cognos Analytics for Mobile. Cognos Analytics for Mobile allows you to view dashboards, stories, and explorations on your iOS device. You can quickly see how your business or organization is performing at a bird's eye view, or dive into the details. Monitor important KPIs across the enterprise, share your findings with your colleagues and set alerts to stay on top of changes.

NOTE - Cognos Analytics for Mobile is only available for Cognos Analytics on Cloud On-Demand and Cognos Analytics on Cloud Hosted in release version 11.1.7.

Summary

With the latest release of Cognos Analytics 11.1.7, IBM has added tons of new capabilities, cleaned up the user experience and continues to make an already great product even better.  Again, since this is a long-term release, I highly recommend upgrading as soon as possible.  Please contact us at services@lodestarsolutions.com to schedule your demo or upgrade today!

To find a list of updates in previous versions:

Cognos Analytics 11.1.6

Cognos Analytics 11.1.5

Cognos Analytics 11.1.4

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