New in Cognos Analytics 11.2.3

What's New in Cognos Analytics 11.2.3
Written by Mike Bernaiche, September 8th, 2022

At the end of August 2022, IBM released Cognos Analytics 11.2.3.  There is a lot to unpack in the release as IBM has been hard at work enhancing Cognos Analytics.  Below you will find all the details of what is new, what has changed and what has been removed.  As always, if you have any questions or want to discuss an upgrade please reach out to us at services@lodestarsoltuins.com.

Feature Updates

  • Integrations with Microsoft Teams - Much like Slack integration of past versions, IBM Cognos Analytics 11.2.3 now supports Teams integration.  Share dashboard and report content along with messages in Teams. Please note, your company must be using the Microsoft 365 developer program with an E5 subscription.
  • Use the up down arrows – utilize the up and down arrows to move through certain menus and content areas.  Previous versions only supported the tab button.
  • Full page property view – view properties for an item in full screen view.
  • Context sensitive search – define the context of your search and see only items in that context, also a new tab that shows all search results.

Assistant

  • Enhanced Time Filtering – The Assistant now understands even more time related searches.  Use text like YTD, QTD, MTD and abbreviations like Mon for Monday and Thur for Thursday and Xmas for Christmas to narrow you search in the assistant.

Dashboards

  • Insights and Forecast on New Analytics Panel – Open the Analytics Panel to turn on or off insights and forecast.
  • Create a multivariant Forecast – You can now add in optional data points to take into account in your forecast in Cognos Analytics 11.2.3.  For more information check out this link, Creating a multivariate forecast - IBM Documentation.
Dashboards in Cogons 11.2.3
Dashboards in Cognos 11.2.3 v2
  • Enhanced Forecasting with the Watson Core Time Series Library - Using the Watson Core Time - Series Library increases the prediction accuracy of the forecasts and allows the use of multiple seasons (or nested seasons).  Time series that have regular repeating cycles can be modeled with a seasonal component.
  • Embedded Dashboard in Microsoft Teams - In Microsoft Teams, you can add a tab with an embedded dashboard from an external Cognos Analytics environment.  On any platform, Teams users can then perform interactive analyses of the dashboard without having to log in to Cognos Analytics themselves.
  • Cascading Filters – There is a lot to unpack in Cascading Filters.  Check out this excellent link from IBM.  Cascading filters - IBM Documentation
  • New Bar Visualization –

The bar chart includes the following value label formats:

  •  Value and percentage of category – two values in the value label
  • Value and percentage of color – two values in the value label    
  • Value delta of target
  • Percentage delta of target
New Bar Visualization in Cognos Analytics 11.2.3
  • New Area Visualization – a new gradient option on the area chart.
New Area Visualization in Cognos Analytics 11.2.3
  • Tree map Visualizations Enhancements - Leaf labels in treemap visualizations can now be shown as value, item, or both.
  • Area and Line Visualization Enhancements – A property has been added to handle null values in a better way.
  • Display Multiple Measures on Rows Instead of Columns in a Crosstab.

For all dashboard enhancements check out this link. Dashboards - IBM Documentation

Explorations

Explorations has been enhanced with the following.  For complete details see the dashboard section as these are the same.

  •  Insights and Forecasts in New Analytics Panel
  • Enhanced Time Forecast with Watson Core Time Series Library
  • Multi Variant Forecasting

Reporting

  • Controlling Drill Through Behavior when Context Filters are used - You can change the default package-based drill-through behavior in Cognos® Analytics - Reporting when using context filters.
  • New Treemap Visualization – as discussed above under Dashboards.
  • New Properties for Bubble and Scatter Charts – The new properties allow you to specify the border width color, and size of bubbles, minimum and maximum size of bubbles, and label rotation.

For a complete list of Reporting enhancements check out this link. Reporting - IBM Documentation

Other Enhancements

Depreciated or Removed

In Cognos Analytics 11.2.3 the following is not supported:

  • Windows 8 and 8.1
  • Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS) 7.5
  • IBM InfoSphere Information Server 11.3 and 11.5
  • Microsoft .NET Framework 4.0
  • IBM Connections
  • Mozilla Firefox ESR 68 and ESR 78
  • Adobe Reader XI and DC
  • FileNet Content Manager 5.2

Removed Data Source Connectors

As of release 11.2.3, connectors for several types of data sources are removed from IBM Cognos Analytics with Watson.  If you have existing connections to these data source types, they will no longer work.

Connectors are removed for these data source types:

  • IBM Weather Company
  • TM1
  • IBM Planning Analytics versions prior to 2.0.6
  • Microsoft Analysis Services (OLEDB) versions prior to SQL Server 2016 Service Pack 2

Depreciated Data Source Connections

In a future version of Cognos Analytics, support will be removed for the following data source connections:

  1. Planning Analytics 2.0.6 - 2.0.8
  2. Snowflake prior to 3.10
  3. Oracle Database 11g and 12c
  • Oracle Database 11g Standard Edition Release 2
  • Oracle Database 11g Enterprise Edition Release 2
  • Oracle Database 12c Release 2 (12.2) Standard Edition
  • Oracle Database 12c Release 2 (12.2) Enterprise Edition
  • Oracle Database 12c Release 1 (12.1.0.0.0) Enterprise Edition
  • Oracle Database 12c Release 1 (12.1.0.0.0) Standard Edition
  • Oracle Database 12c Release 1 (12.1.0.1.0) Standard Edition

4. IBM Db2 Server 10.5

  • IBM Db2 Advanced Enterprise Server Edition 10.5
  • Db2 Express Server Edition 10.5
  • DB2 Workgroup Server Edition 10.5
  • DB2 Enterprise Server Edition 10.5
  • DB2 Advanced Workgroup Server Edition 10.5

5. Essbase

Supported Versions of Cognos Analytics from IBM

Reminder that Cognos Analytics version 11.0.x end of support was in September of 2021.  Cognos Analytics 11.1.7 is the long-term support version and we HIGHLY recommend you are on that version or later.  What happens when you are on an older unsupported version?  Well in a few words, you will be asked to upgrade to a latest supported version and will not receive support directly from IBM.

Summary

As you can see Cognos Analytics 11.2.3 offers a lot of new features and enhancements.  Schedule your upgrade now with us at services@lodestarsolutions.com.  We would also be happy to schedule a demo with you to see if this version is right for you!

Create Support for KPIs Across the Organization

Create Support for KPIs Across the Organization
Create Support for KPIs Across the Organization
Written by Heather L. Cole, June 9th 2022

Are you struggling with standardizing a common view and in some cases defining the KPIs for your organization?  Are you feeling like you are dealing with the “flavor of the day” where only the teams promoting the KPIs use them?  Well, you are not alone!  Today we will share tips on how to create support for KPIs across the organization.  Next week we will share additional tips to develop the KPIs.

Creating Support for KPIs

To gain support for your KPIs you need to first start with the strategic goals of the organization, then ensure that you are engaging the right stakeholders from the very beginning and finally communicate the WHY.

Start with the Strategic Goals

For KPIs to be effective they should reflect the strategic initiatives of the organization.  I am always amazed that when I teach business intelligence and analytic courses, I survey the audience and ask, “How many can clearly articulate the strategic goals of their organization?”  Amazingly less than 4% of the attendees raise their hands.  Think about that.  Assume you were having a soccer tournament that had 8 teams registered.  Each team had 15 players (11 players and 4 substitutes) so there were 120 players registered.  Now assume that of the 120 players only 5 of them knew what goal to shoot on to score.  Is anyone else picturing a tournament of 4-year-olds?  

If you don’t want your business run by 4-year-olds, you MUST first make sure everyone especially the analytic professionals know the strategic goals of the organization. 

Stakeholders

The next step is to ensure you are engaging the right stakeholders.  But how do you know who the key stakeholders should be?

Start by looking at the strategic goals.  Who is your organization serving?  Typically, it’s our customers, employees, suppliers, and shareholders.

According to Graham Kenny in his blog, Create KPIs That Reflect Your Strategic Priorities 
in Harvard Business Review,  “The first step, clearly, is to identify the key stakeholders of your organization or strategic business unit. Understand that your relationship with each is a two-way street, then develop measures on both sides of those relationships.”  For example, a distribution company’s stakeholders may be employees, suppliers, and customers.  The stakeholders are people that the organization needs to have strong relationships within order to succeed.  Mr. Kenny says, “measuring performance is measuring relationships.” 

I absolutely agree with this philosophy, but many organizations make the mistake of assuming they know what their customer, suppliers and employees want out of the relationship.  They never stop to ask the stakeholders what they want.  By connecting with the stakeholders like employees you will be able to better define the KPIs that need to be measured to help retain talent. 

By designing your KPIs to be aligned with the strategic goals and providing visibility on how you are serving your stakeholders from both your perspective and theirs you will naturally be able to get your teams to see the value of the KPIs.  But this may require executives and managers to educate their teams on the WHY!  

As my favorite author Simon Sinek says, “People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.” Simon Sinek, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.

Leverage the Power of Consistency

I would be doing you a disservice if I did not share with you one of the most powerful ways of increasing adoption of your KPIs, and dashboards the Power of Consistency.

The Power of Consistency is one of 7 principles of Influence developed by Dr. Robert Cialdini, the Regents' Professor of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University and Distinguished Professor of Marketing in the W. P. Carey School.  When used correctly consistency can increase adoption and usage of your KPIs and therefore help the organization achieve the strategic goals faster. 

The first step to consistency is to engage people in the development of the KPIs. “Consistency is a principle that asserts that people want to be and to be seen as consistent with their existing commitments," says Cialdini. 

You start with small steps. For example, you could ask people to create a list of items they would like to see measured as a KPI.  By just asking them to create a list they are taking a small action toward your initiative.  Once that have taken a small step, they are more likely to take another step, and another.  They are also more likely to support a project they feel they have participated in creating even if their role is minimal. 

“You don't create a commitment inside people that they don't already have," Cialdini explains. "But you can look for commitments that they've already made, and then you can align your requests with that, so what you're offering them gives them precisely what they're looking for in a business partner.”

Action Steps

Now that you understand how to create support for KPIs across the organization by clarifying the strategic goals, then identifying the stakeholders, communicating the WHY to the teams and finally engaging people in the process, it’s time to act.

  1.  Validate the strategic goals for the organization.
  2. Create a list of stakeholders.
  3. Ask the stakeholders what they want out of the relationship with your organization.
  4. Create a survey of team members asking their opinion on what KPIs are important.

Remember Small Steps are the key to success. 

IBM Planning Analytic and Cognos Clients

Did you know IBM has amazing tools for monitoring your KPIs?  To learn more contact us at Services@lodestaresolutions.com and visit our blogs:

Why You Aren’t Attracting Analytics Talent!

Why You Aren't Attracting Analytics Talent
Why You Aren't Attracting Analytics Talent
Written by Heather L. Cole, May 12th 2022

Are you looking to hire analytics talent but struggling to find people to even apply for your open positions?  Are you blaming the Great Resignation?  STOP!  The people are getting hired by someone… So, today I’ll share what I have been coaching our Lodestar Solutions clients on hiring talent and Why You Aren’t Attracting Analytic Talent.

Your Job Posting Sucks.

The first place to start is sit down and read your job posting!  Most suck.  When you read it, think I was of the experience level I am looking for, would I respond to the post?  Most job posts are written in the old school way when employers have tons of candidates to choose from.  The world has changed and so should how you write your job posts.  It’s not so much what you are looking for but what you offer the candidates with analytics talent!  See our earlier blog, Job Posting Tips to Attract Analytics Talent.

Do You Allow Remote or Hybrid Work?

If the pandemic taught us anything it’s that major corporations can survive and thrive even when employees work from home.  As someone who used to deal with Chicago’s commute, I can tell you when I started working remote over 20 years ago, I vowed I would never work for someone that made me go to an office every day.  Talented people know they can demand a remote or hybrid work environment and if you don’t put it on your post that you offer it, top analytics talent are doing the proverbial swiping left and rejecting you.  

Executive Team Needs to Face Reality

I appreciate that there are many executive teams that want to require people to come back into the office, but the data is showing us that hybrid work and remote work is here to stay.  Even one of my favorite authors, Bernard Marr discusses this in his book,  Business Trends in Practice: The 25+ Trends That Are Redefining Organizations. A quick way to validate this is to ask your team.  Create an anonymous survey and see what your people are saying.  You do realize that if your people want to keep working at least some days remotely and you want them in the office you risk losing them, right?

Evaluate your Pay!

Inflation is real.  The market is benefiting the job seekers, so they are demanding more pay.  But many companies are failing to look at market conditions and adjusting pay.  I had one client post a job and when a friend saw the posting, he said Heather they are extremely low paying for the title they are posting.  This discussion led them to do their research and sure enough they weren’t even close.  It’s easy today to find market rates.  There are many sites like www.glassdoor.com or www.indeed.com where you can put in search parameters and see what the market is paying. 

Unfortunately, for some of you, your prior behavior has given you a bad reputation.  If your online reviews in the job boards is not so stellar you will need to face it head on!  Would you apply for a job with a company that had a 2.8 rating out of 5?  You might want to consider writing in your job post how the environment is changing if you are in this situation.

Learn How to Manage Hybrid Workers

After you check your job posting to attract talent, and you know you are paying a fair wage, you should start to see applicants apply.  Now the hard work comes!  You must learn not only how to manage hybrid workers and remote teams but also how to hire people that would thrive in the new world. 

Ask the Right Questions –

You will want to review your departmental and corporate core values and ask questions to flesh out if applicants have your core values.  I don’t believe this is something we can teach; I believe core values was something our parents taught us when we were children or it’s part of our DNA.  For example, do you really think integrity is taught later in life?  To get yourself started read the book Hiring for Attitude: A Revolutionary Approach to Recruiting and Selecting People with Both Tremendous Skills and Superb Attitude! by Mark Murphy.

Display How You Manage Your Team Hybrid Workers –

During the interview process you want to share what you do that is unique to help them grow and thrive as a manager.  The younger generation want constant feedback and to be part of something important.  As a manager you want to create ways to help meet their needs so you can inspire them.  More on this in future blogs.

Show them the Path.

Finally, you want to make sure you are mapping out a growth plan for any new hires.  With the speed of technology and the rapid changing world, you MUST hire growth minded people.  But as a manager you also must help them define that path for the future and provide feedback.  If your company is willing to invest in their learning and “upskills” make sure you communicate that.  Soft Skill training programs are always a great growth path for analytic professionals.   Another idea is to offer group coaching to your team members.  If you want to learn more about group coaching and professional development programs, email us at Services@lodestarsolutions.com.

Analytic Talent Resources

Here’s another resource you might want to check out if you are seeking talent.

Gartner’s article on How to Attract and Retain Talent for Your Data And Analytics Team.

Summary of Attracting Talent

Hopefully you had a couple ahh moments while reading our thoughts on why you aren’t attracting Analytic Talent.  Hybrid work and remote teams are here to stay.  We would love to hear about your struggles and creative ideas you have had to address them.  Please email us at Services@lodestarsolutions.com to set up a chat.

What You Need to Know When Moving IBM Cognos and Planning Analytics on the Cloud

What You Need to Know When Moving IBM Cognos and Planning Analytics on Cloud
Written by Heather L. Cole, March 23rd 2022

Are you wondering if you can move your IBM Cognos and Planning Analytics on a cloud?  Maybe your organization has an initiative to move all applications to Azure, AWS or IBM Cloud.  Or maybe you want IBM to do the work and maintain your environment to free up IT resources, so a Software as a Service (SAAS) would be better.  Today we will explain what you need to know when moving IBM Cognos and Planning Analytics on a cloud.

What are my cloud options for Cognos and IBM Planning Analytics TM1?

First you need to know that clouds come in many forms.  There are Software as a Service clouds, where the vendor maintains the environment, handles upgrades, backups…  And there are clouds where you are just outsourcing the hardware to Amazon, Microsoft or IBM and you use your licensing for the software and install the software in their clouds.  Under this cloud model, you will still need to handle upgrades, and patches.

IBM offers Cognos on Cloud as well as IBM Planning Analytics on Cloud which are their Software as a Service models.  They also allow you to put your regular licenses on a cloud that you maintain.

Migration to IBM’s Cognos on Cloud or IBM Planning Analytics on the Cloud

If you are looking to have IBM do most of the technical work to maintain your Planning Analytics or Cognos environment, you will want to explore their Software as a Service (SAAS) option.  IBM likes to change the names of their programs, but what you need to know is that IBM has a program that allows clients to migrate to the SaaS while maintaining their old environment for a period of time.  With the proper paperwork, they will give you dual entitlements for your on-premise and cloud subscription while you test and transition. 

Our older blog will help to provide you an overview, IBM’s Bridge to Cloud.

Timing of Migration to SaaS

Typically, you will want to explore moving to Cognos on Cloud or PA on cloud at least 3 months prior to your software support renewal to make it cost effective.  For details on cost and timing, email us at renewals@lodestarsolutions.com

Functionality Parity

Additionally, you will want to ensure that the IBM Cognos on Cloud or IBM Planning Analytics on Cloud has parity with your current environment and that all the functionality you need is in the SaaS version.  Previous cloud versions were missing some functionality.  For example, earlier versions of Cognos on Cloud only allowed for DQM (Dynamic Query Mode) and CQM was not available.  I will not go into the details on CQM and DQM here, but you should check out these IBM resources:

Can I move my existing IBM Cognos & TM1 Licensing to a 3rd Party Cloud?

Yes, the good news is IBM allows you to move your “perpetual” or on-premise licensing for IBM Cognos and Planning Analytics TM1, anywhere!  A perpetual IBM Planning Analytics or Cognos license is an asset you purchased that you could use indefinitely.  However, to get access to download the latest version to move to your new cloud, you must be current and pay annual IBM support to either IBM or a reseller like Lodestar Solutions.  If you would like a competitive support quote, email renewals@lodestarsolutions.com.

But the answer is yes, you may move your perpetual Cognos or Planning Analytics licensing to AWS, Azure, or even the IBM Public Cloud, which has made amazing progress!  (We love it!  More on that in a minute.)  However, when you move your Cognos licensing or TM1 to a new environment whether on cloud or something else you want to be careful. 

Caution on Cloud Migration

If you have licensing that includes Processor Value Units (PVUs), which is very common with Planning Analytics TM1 and often in larger Cognos clients, you must make sure the new environment does not expose you to failing an audit.  You MUST make sure you don’t exceed your PVU licensing when you move to the cloud.  For more information checkout our earlier blog, What the Heck is an IBM Cognos PVU and then email us so we can answer any questions at services@lodestarsolutions.com.

IBM Public Cloud

I mentioned we love the IBM public cloud, so I wanted to take a minute and explain.  A few years ago, IBM had Softlayer as their cloud and well, it was not great.  But IBM spent tons of money and invested in better technology and now their IBM Public Cloud rocks!  At Lodestar Solutions we use it for our demonstration environment and its fabulous.  Here’s IBM’s take on IBM Cloud versus Amazon Web Services (AWS)

FEI Webinar April 13th

Cloud Considerations in an Uncertain World

If you want to learn more and are a member of Financial Executives International (FEI), I will be hosting a webinar to FEI Members discussing IBM Cloud.  Cloud Considerations in an Uncertain World on April 13th 2-3pm Eastern.  In this webinar I will be joined by Hillary Hunter, CTO of IBM Cloud and Chris Doroszczyk, IBM Global Managing Director Financial Services Clients.  Members of FEI can register and get CPE credits for attending.

After the event I will write a blog with the highlights for non-FEI Members.

Summary

In summary you can move IBM Cognos and Planning Analytics on the cloud, but like anything, proper planning in advanced is highly recommended.  But you don’t have to go it alone.  Lodestar Solutions’ team of experts can guide you through what you need to know when moving IBM Cognos & TM1 licensing to a cloud.  Just reach out to us at Services@lodestarsolutions.com.

Benefits of Diversifying Your IBM Planning Analytics and Cognos Consultants

Benefits of Diversifying Your IBM Planning Analytics and Cognos Consultants
Benefits of Diversifying Your IBM Planning Analytics and Cognos Consultants
Written by Heather L. Cole, February 24th 2022

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket!  It’s quote we often hear in reference to investing.  There are horror stories of people who put all their money in the stock of one company like Enron or one investment advisor like Bernie Madoff only to watch their life savings go poof!  But did you know that saying also applies to hiring consultants?  Today we will discuss the Benefits of Diversifying your IBM Planning Analytics and Cognos Consultants. Diversifying your IBM Cognos and IBM Planning Analytics Consultants means you work with more than one consulting firm. 

Having a Second Set of Eyes

Have you ever had a problem you were trying to solve and just wanted to have a second set of eyes?   Or maybe you have a repetitive task, and you think, “there has to be a better way”.   Whenever I have that thought, I reach out to someone I think will know the answers.   It took me years to learn, but I now know that although I probably could figure out the problem myself, time is the most limited resource we have.  And if I just phone another IBM Planning Analytics or Cognos expert in my network, I can solve the problem in a fraction of the time. 

If you diversify and contract with multiple Cognos consulting firms, and you have access to not just the consultants assigned to you, but also their teams.  The bigger your network the faster you will get answers.

But let me share a little secret, if a consultant makes a mistake, many firms will back them and their work.  They don’t want to admit that a mistake was made.  By diversifying and using more than one Cognos or IBM Planning analytics consulting firm you have a built in BS detector.

Diverse Offerings & Experience

The next benefit of diversifying your IBM Cognos and IBM Planning Analytics consultants is that firms often time have different offerings.  One might be really good at Data Warehousing and Planning Analytics, whereas another might offer executive strategy sessions to discover what really needs to be designed.  Additionally, one might have a financial service background while another distribution.  Believe it or not, you can benefit from someone with industry expertise that is different from your own, as they can bring innovative ideas to your project.

Different Cognos and IBM Planning Analytics partners have different offerings and expertise.  You can benefit from their wealth of knowledge.  In the U.S. most of the partners know each other and many partner with each other all the time.

Knowledge of New Releases

Not all Cognos and IBM Planning Analytics consulting firms invest in educating their teams on the latest versions.  Candidly if they are primarily focused on billing and revenue generation, training takes away from billing.  So, there could be functionality that is available in a new release that your consultant doesn’t know about.  By diversifying your Cognos consultants, you increase the likelihood of leveraging the latest functionality.  At Lodestar Solutions, we pride ourselves on educating our clients on what’s new every quarter. 

Knowledge saves time and money copy

Knowledge of IBM Licensing

Did you know there are Cognos and IBM Planning Analytic consulting firms that don’t know IBM licensing?  Yes, there are some amazing consultants that are fabulous on the product but don’t know how to save you money on your IBM licensing and IBM support renewals.  Lodestar Solutions has many clients that came to us after working with another partner and failing an IBM Audit.  It doesn’t have to be that way!  By diversifying and working with a partner that understands licensing you can save money and reduce the risk of failing an audit. Here’s a link to our webinar on, How to Avoid Failing an IBM Analytics Audit.   And our blog, How to Save Money on Support Renewals

 If you have IBM licensing questions or are in the middle of an IBM audit, email us at Services@lodestarsolutions.com.

Additional Client Offerings

Finally, a big benefit of working with multiple Cognos and IBM Planning Analytics consultants is that some offer client only benefits.  For example, at Lodestar Solutions we host a client only virtual user group every quarter where we share the new releases, what works and what doesn’t, and have straight talk.  We share 3rd party tools we think clients will benefit from and we network with our peers.  But that’s not all, we record the sessions, so clients can access our client only portal and watch the sessions at any time.   Our clients love the user groups, but it is a closed group.  

Want to participate, in our next user group?  Have us quote your IBM support renewal.  Email Renewals@lodestarsolutions.com for a license evaluation and renewal quote.

Tips in Working with Multiple IBM Planning Analytics and Cognos Consulting Firms

Now that I have shared some of the benefits of diversifying your IBM Planning Analytics and Cognos Consultants.  I want to share a few more tips. 

  •  Be transparent.  Don’t hide the fact you are working with multiple firms, find firms that can work together.
  • Find a firm like Lodestar that is willing to subcontract other firms, so you have the diversification but one stop shopping.
  • Interview a few firms and ask around about their strengths.  Here’s a link to where you can find IBM Partners. 
  • Check Linkedin and see how well connected their team members are.  A strong network can provide rapid, creative solutions.

Next Step

Let’s talk about your project and challenges.  Lodestar Solutions can help you diversify your consultants, save money on IBM licensing and support, learn the latest version and network with your peers.  We would love the opportunity to be one of your go to partners and show you the benefits of diversifying your IBM Planning Analytics and Cognos Consultants.  Contact us at Services@lodestarsolutions.com for a complimentary review.

Finance’s role in Post Pandemic Planning: Why it is Imperative that You Reset your Strategy, Processes, and People

Finance’s role in Post Pandemic Planning- Why it is Imperative that You Reset your Strategy, Processes, and People
Written by Heather L. Cole, October 7th 2021

The world has changed.  If we learned anything from the Pandemic, it is that our organizations must be able to respond quickly.  For many the old methods of strategic planning, financial planning and operational planning are not flexible enough.  Finance teams were sent scrambling to run scenarios in Excel.  What we discovered is that organizations must become more agile.  It’s imperative that organizations reset their strategy, processes and train their people in new methods and approaches that will enable rapid responses to market and world changes.  Today I’ll introduce Finance’s role in Post Pandemic Planning:  Why it is Imperative that You Reset your Strategy, Processes, and People.

WEBINAR:

A more detailed discussion will take place on Wednesday Oct 27, 2021 at noon eastern where Heather Cole, President of Lodestar Solutions is teaming up with Financial Executives International for a webinar.  Registration required and CPE credit available.

Click Here To Register 

The Planning Process is Broken

Strategic Plans are Not Communicated

For the last 10 years while I have been running seminars, and training classes I always ask the question, “How many of you can clearly articulate the strategic goals of your organization?”  And I pause and look for a show of hands.  Guess how many hands go up?  On average it’s less than 4% of my session attendees.  But the scary part is these are people whose job it is to deliver data, analytic and planning solutions to their organizations.   So, if the people creating and administering the business intelligence solutions and planning template don’t know the strategic goals, how are they expected to give the executives what they need? 

Try this test.  Contact a few co-workers and ask them to articulate the strategic goals of the company.

For some organizations the executives struggle to find time to even create the strategic goals and plans.  This will be a topic of another blog.  But for now, we have established there’s a communication problem. 

Reference Point:  Here’s an interesting blog by Gartner,  Reset your Business Strategy in Co-Vid 19 Recovery. 

Operational Plan Not Measuring What Matters

The operational plan, the process of planning strategic goals and objectives to technical goals and objectives.  The goal of the operational plan is to improve the day-to-day actions and processes of your business.   For many organizations what they need to focus on daily is very different than it was two years ago.  However, many are still using the same templates.  If you have not paused and examined what is important to daily success in the Post Pandemic world and determined how the measure what matters, you may find that your teams are not doing what you need them to do. 

Reference Point:  A great must read book is, Measure What Matters: OKRs: The Simple Idea that Drives 10x Growth By John Doerr. 

Finance teams are in a unique situation to add more value in the transformation to Post Pandemic Planning.  They understand the value of the strategic plan, financial plan, and operational plan.  They often work with every department on the budget process, and they understand what makes money for the organization.  I believe that Finance must play a big role in becoming agile. 

For more information on why Finance needs to step up, see our blog, Finance Must Lead Transformation Before Someone Else Does.

Agile Planning Processes

Post Pandemic Planning must include an agile planning process that can respond rapidly to market and world changes.  But what exactly does that mean? 

Post Pandemic Planning must include a connect between the strategic plan, the financial plan, and the operating plan.  The process must be flexible enough to allow team members to do “what if” or scenario modeling.  For years thought leaders like me have been emphasizing the need to have all the moving parts of planning connected.  Marketing plans should lead to Sales plans, which connect with the production schedules and inventory.  The sad reality is most companies don’t have connected plans.  But the Pandemic has created shortages in staff and supplies we never anticipated.  So, in Post Pandemic Planning we must connect all our plans. 

How to Create a Connected Post Pandemic Planning Process

After over 25 years in the Performance Management and Planning industry, I have learned there are three areas that organizations faulter on that impede their success in creating a truly connected planning process. 

People in Planning

They call this time the Great Resignation.  Attracting and retaining talent is harder than ever.  However, many organizations are just missing the clues when it comes to talent.  In this Post Pandemic world people are reassessing what matters most, and they are finding it’s not money.  Talented people are valuing family time, work flexibility, and thought-provoking work of MEANING!  That’s correct they want to know their hard work is valuable. 

I believe that finance team members that are part of the planning process need to be heard.  Stop doing things the way you have always done them and think differently.  Let the planning team members voice their ideas and implement change.   The fastest way to start this is to host planning meetings that are facilitated by a skilled facilitator and update your processes.

Reference Point:  Here’s an interesting article in Forbes, Facilitation Skills Might Just be The Best Kept Leadership Secret. 

Train Your People

The second issue I see is that too many organizations fail to give their teams the proper training.  They just think finance professionals should know everything about leveraging data and finding insights.  Guess what?  WE DON’T KNOW IT ALL!  Investing in your finance teams, by teaching them advance analytics skills, agile methodologies and how to facilitate meetings is a huge step not just to have a more skilled team, but it will help you retain your people too.

Reference Point:  Here’s an interesting blog by Indeed, The Importance of Training Employees: 11 Benefits.

Find the Right Tools

The third area that many organizations can improve on to see better results in their Post Pandemic Planning processes is to have the right tools.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Excel.  But organizations that are considered mid-market or larger should not be doing their planning processes in Excel.  Excel is not scalable.  Excel is extremely flexible but to do proper scenario modeling in Excel in a connected planning process, is very time consuming and difficult. 

Your teams need the right tools.  Not securing robust planning tools is like asking your lawn service to mow your acre lot with a weed whacker. You can do it, but you shouldn’t.  You need the right tool for the job. 

At Lodestar Solutions we believe IBM Planning Analytics (TM1) is a fabulously flexible, scalable tool for mid-market and larger organizations.  For more information on Planning Analytics contact us at Sales@lodestarsolutions.com.  And watch our video on Planning Analytics on YouTube.

Today I just shared a few ideas on Finance’s role in Post Pandemic Planning:  Why it is Imperative that You Reset your Strategy, Processes, and People.  But this is just an introduction.   On October 27th, 2021 at noon eastern I will be hosting a webinar with Financial Executives International were we dive deeper into this topic and provide proven methods for you so you can transform your Post Pandemic Planning processes to become agile, and responsive to change.  You will discover the benefit of a connected planning process where Strategic plans are connected to Financial and Operating plans.  Where various business units share information and create a collaborative planning process.

What you will learn in the webinar:

  •  What’s broken in the planning processes and how to fix them.
  • How to empower your team in a way that not only retains talent but attracts it.
  • Why the ability to rapidly model various scenarios is essential to resiliency.

About the author, Heather Cole is an Executive High-Performance Coach and Analytic Advisor who coaches US organizations how to leverage data and analytics, empower teams and experience substantial growth.  Heather is a two-time bestselling author.  Additionally, she is a founder of the global Artificial Intelligence Data and Analytics User Group (AIDAUG) and a board member of Financial Executives International.

Solving the IBM Cognos Upgrade Challenge

June 2, 2021

Solving Upgrade

Cognos and Planning Analytics Upgrades

IBM has done a great job pushing out updates to both Cognos Analytics and Planning Analytics.  IBM Cognos updates are important providing new features, security, and bug fixes as well as other enhancements.  But, IBM Cognos upgrades do come with a potential challenge.  To keep up, customers should perform an IBM Cognos and/or Planning Analytics upgrade a few times throughout the year.  Below I will discuss some of the challenges to upgrading frequently and how Lodestar Solutions is solving the IBM Cognos and Planning Analytics upgrade challenge.

IBM Cognos and Planning Analytics Upgrade Pain Points

We love that IBM is bringing out great new functionality regularly, however it also creates some challenges...

  1. Frequency of IBM Cognos upgrade releases –  Frequent IBM Cognos releases are a awesome.  IBM has done a great job of enhancing Cognos Analytics and Planning Analytics.  However, with such frequency comes costs. Whether you are using internal resources or Lodestar consultants to help you with the upgrades, resources cost money. 
  2. Internal IBM Cognos upgrades are not IT’s top priority – Often the business is on board with upgrades but they do not have the internal bandwidth to upgrade on a timely basis. And upgrading a couple times a year may not be a priority for your IT team. 
  3. Need additional technical support – Upgrades often come with the need for additional technical consulting assistance.  For some clients, getting a statement of work signed can be a long or frustrating process.
  4. New feature knowledge – When you perform an IBM Cognos upgrade, you typically get lots of new features and enhancements.  The new functionality can be overwhelming to the point of being scary. End users can be resistant to change.  This fear can delay upgrades and even cause Cognos upgrades to be abandoned.
  5. IT knowledge for upgrades is lacking – IBM Cognos upgrades can be tricky for some clients who do not have internal technical Cognos experts to complete the upgrade. Technology changes so rapidly it's hard to keep up. 

IBM Cognos Upgrade – Problem Solved, Upgrade Bundles

To solve the upgrade challenged, Lodestar Solutions created IBM Cognos Analytics and Planning Analytics Upgrade Bundles.   Many clients were challenged with a lack of IT resources to support the upgrade process. They shared that they want to upgrade but IT was too busy with other initiatives.  Lodestar Solutions hears your pain, so we put our heads together to create bundles to solve the IBM Cognos and Planning Analytics Upgrade resource issue.  We wanted to make it easier for clients to budget for their IBM Cognos upgrades, implement their IBM Cognos upgrades and stay current on the latest and greatest Cognos Analytics and Planning Analytics features!  

Keep reading for the exciting details and then reach out to us at services@lodestarsolutions.com for the incredible deal on this bundle.  Just a hint, you save upwards of 30% on the total value of the package!

What does the Cognos Analytic and Planning Analytics Upgrade Bundle Include? 

The IBM Cognos Upgrade Bundle is a Lodestar Solutions offering where we act as your IT department regarding your IBM Cognos Upgrade or Planning Analytics Upgrade.  The Cognos Upgrade Bundle includes:

Up to 4 upgrades in a continuous 12-month period

  • Includes installation, configuration, migration, high level testing, ILMT connection1 (if necessary) and documentation.
  • If you have PVU licensing and do not know what the ILMT is check out this blog ILMT Tool Questions and Answers https://lodestarsolutions.com/ilmt-tool-questions-and-answers/
  • Four single environment upgrades within 12 months. The Cognos Upgrade bundle can be used for Planning Analytics and/or Cognos Analytics and can be a mix of production, test, development, etc.

Product Walk Through 

Lodestar will give you a live, new feature walkthrough of your specific environment for each version you upgrade to.  This new IBM Cognos functionality session will be recorded to share with all your team members.

20 hours of Technical Support

  • Cognos Analytics Upgrade Bundle includes additional support that can be used as you need it.
  • All requests will be responded to in 48 hours and work will be subject to availability.
  • Technical support hours included in the Cognos Upgrade Bundle must be used within the 12-month period.

Every Upgrade Pack includes an IBM License Review

This ensures you have the optimal mix of licenses and you know what functionality you own.

Additional Requirements for Lodestar’s IBM Cognos Upgrade Bundle

  • Client must have a current subscription support contract with IBM support. If you are not current email Renewals@lodestarsolutions.com and we can help.  You also should read our earlier blog  Consequences of Not Renewing IBM Cognos Support. 
  • All Cognos Analytics upgrades will be completed virtually. 
  • Client is responsible for providing access to the servers.
  • IBM Cognos Upgrade Bundle will require a valid Master Service agreement with Lodestar Solutions. If you are not currently a Lodestar client, email us at Services@lodestarsolutions.com.


ACT NOW! 

Do not wait, reach out to us now at services@lodestarsolutions.com to take advantage of this amazing offer! IBM just release Cognos Analytics 11.2 and you don’t want to miss the excitement with this awesome release.  Stay tuned for a blog covering everything new in 11.2.

Next Steps

Reach out to us at services@lodestarsolutions.com and we will set up a short call to walk through this program, demo the new releases from IBM Cognos and help you roadmap your upgrade.  Our goal is simple, make this process easy, affordable, and successful.

How do I find our IBM Cognos Sales Representative?

Find our IBM Cognos Sales Representative
Find our IBM Cognos Sales Representative
July 9th, 2020

Are you a Cognos Analytics or Cognos Planning Analytics (TM1) customer and wanting to talk to your IBM Cognos sales representative? You have a question on licensing or upgrades. Or, maybe you inherited Cognos and do not even know where to start?  You are not alone. IBM is a huge company and their people move around a lot.  Today I will share insights on, “How do I find our IBM Cognos Sales Representative?”

You Have Multiple IBM Cognos Sales Representatives

The first step is to identify why you need to talk to your IBM Cognos sales representative?  You must answer this question first because in IBM there are many representatives assigned to your account. There are many pillars in the IBM system. You have a Cognos Renewal Specialist. Their job is to get you to maintain support on your IBM Cognos software.  Then you have an IBM Cognos Sales Representative that focuses on selling products like Cognos Planning Analytics (TM1) and Cognos Analytics (BI).  If you have SPSS then you have another IBM Sales Representative for that too. For those of you that want to preserve cash you have an IBM Global Financing Representative.  If you need to contact support, there is another pillar for that. Oh, and then there is a Client Executive that over sees your account in general.  And the list goes on.

IBM Pillars

How to Navigate IBM Red Tape

So, I am going to let you into a little secret.  You do not have to get frustrated and spin around in the blue sea of IBM.  IBM has an entire ecosystem that is designed to help you.  The IBM Partner Channel is a robust network of people that have been working with IBM and understand the IBM ways.  Lodestar Solutiosn prides itself in helping clients cut through the red tape to get clients rapid results.  Because we regularly work with all the areas within IBM, we have connections, friends and know who you need to talk to, and if we don’t, we will make a few calls and figure it out. All you have to do is reach out to Lodestar at Services@lodestarsolutions.com or call 813-415-2910 and we will point you in the right direction.

Midmaket Clients and IBM Partners

If you are a smaller client in IBM’s eyes, then let’s admit it you are a small fish in a very big IBM pond.  But IBM still loves you, however they know that they cannot give everyone the attention they deserve.  So, IBM has created a system where partners are assigned to serve you.  See CIO article, “How IBM Sold Business Analytics by Relying Solely on Partners” to learn more about IBM’s strategy. So, if you find your IBM Cognos rep and they recommend you talk to your partner you know why. They have identified that you are probably better served by a partner that will give you the attention you need.

Why Working with Lodestar is Better Than IBM

Did you know if you find the right partner it can be better than working with your IBM Cognos Sales Representative alone?  IBM partners like Lodestar Solutions are better equipped to serve you!  Yes, I may be a little bias here but let me explain. Lodestar Solutions has been a partner working with the IBM Analytic solutions for over 16 years.  Our team consists of team members that were clients and consultants in the trenches battling shrinking budgets, internal politics, and system issues just like you.  So, we understand your struggles, but we also have been swimming in the IBM sea for decades and understand how to cut the red tape and help you resolve your issue and get the best deal on IBM Cognos support and licensing. 

How to Get the Best Deal on Cognos Software & Support

Want to get the best deal on Cognos software and Cognos support? Contact an IBM certified business partner like Lodestar Solutions because we understand IBM licensing.  Many of you may be on the wrong licensing model and paying more than you should.  See our blog, How to Save Money on Cognos Analytics and Planning AnalyticsOthers may want to buy new licensing but want to minimize the support costs too.  Well a partner is perfect to help because in IBM the Cognos sales team and the Cognos support team are different and they have different personal incentives.  To get the best deal for you, you need to navigate both teams at the same time.  Lodestar does that every day while working with your IBM Cognos sales representative.  But, we take it a step further.  This last quarter we helped many clients secure 0% financing over 36 months, for their new Cognos purchase and Cognos renewal.  IBM Global Financing helped them preserve cash and get their project approved.  See our blog on IBM Global Financing.

Still Doubting the Value of an IBM Cognos Business Partner?

Just call us to chat about your Cognos challenges.  We will share our ideas, connect you with the right people and even help you answer, “How do I find our IBM Cognos Sales Representative?”  So, you have nothing to lose.  Call us at 813-415-2910 or email services@lodestarsolutions.com.

Simplify Upgrades and Maintenance of Cognos Analytics BI – Motio Event

Simplify Upgrade
Simplify Upgrade
June 11th, 2020 ​

Are you ready to simplify the maintenance of your Cognos BI environment?

Regardless of whether you have upgraded to the latest version of Cognos Analytics, or are just thinking about it, you probably have a lot of untidy areas in Cognos.  Maybe you have reports without an owner because someone left.  Perhaps you have half built reports that have been abandoned. Have you had reports that steal all the resources and run for a long time?  As a busy BI professional, you know that maintaining all this is can be daunting!  So many reports and so little time.

The fact is Cognos Analytics is a lot like your garage. You keep thinking about organizing it but never quite find the time.  And, if you decided to move… Ugh.  Well, upgrading your Cognos Analytics is a little like moving because you want your new environment to be uncluttered and efficient as fast as possible.

Better Visibility to Cognos

Imagine if you had the capability to better understand what is really in your content store and when you upgrade, you moved only the good stuff.   What if when you upgrade your reports you could easily migrate important reports that you accidentally left behind?  What would your life be like if updating your Cognos Analytics environment with the new functionality was an opportunity for you to further advance analytics in your organization and end users respected you for empowering them with analytics?

Cognos Administrator Tools Not Enough

The good news is this can be your reality! For many of you, you have experienced that the tools included in IBM Cognos Analytics do not help you as much as you need.  The Lifecycle manager and other components in IBM Cognos Analytics are like using a weed whacker to mow your lawn.  You could do it, but it sucks up your time and could take your forever. 

Thrive with Cognos Analytics

But not to worry, there is a better way!  It is time to get the right tools in place to help you not just survive all the changes and upgrades but THRIVE and become known as the BI Rockstar that you know you are! 

On June 23rd, Lodestar is excited to be presenting a complimentary one- day hands on virtual workshop with Motio for all Cognos BI power users.

IBM Cognos Analytics Migration Virtual Classroom
Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020

VIRTUAL
9:30-4:30 Eastern
Registration Required – Seating Limited.

Register HERE!

In this amazing event you will learn:
  • Newest features in Cognos Analytics in action - understand how to leverage the new features to achieve your business goals. (For information check out our blog What’s New in Cognos Analytics 11.1.6) 

  • Inventory your Cognos implementation- grasp the scope of what you have in Cognos...learn how easy it is to identify the analytic gems from the junk (report complexity, duplicate reports, reports not being used, poorly designed content, etc.). Prioritize what to modernize after your upgrade.

  • Reducing the size of your Cognos migration (upgrades, CQM to DQM or Cloud)- a straightforward approach that speeds up your migration by simply removing the junk your organization does not use/need.

  • Repeatable testing reduces upgrade costs - experience the methodology and automated testing techniques that reduce the time/effort of your upgrades and ensure data accuracy/reliability in your upgraded environment.

This is an event you do not want to miss!  The last event filled up quickly so register to reserve your seat today.

Register HERE!

To learn more about upgrading Cognos Analytics with Motio check out our blog, Don’t Upgrade to Cognos Analytics without Motio!

If you have questions about Cognos Analytics, licensing or even your renewal, contact us at Services@lodestarsolutions.com.

Lodestar Solutions Team Shows Up During COVID-19

May 21st, 2020 ​

Our world will never be the same.  During crisis and times of uncertainty, we all have a choice!  The choice is how we each show up in the world!  As the CEO, I am proud that Lodestar Solutions’ team shows up during COVID-19. 

Showing up and giving back does not require a huge effort or a lot of money.  It just means you choose to help uplift people.  You choose to think of others and ask yourself, how can I help?  I have learned that giving and helping is one of the most rewarding feelings.  The trick is to expect absolutely nothing in return.  Do not look for recognition. Do not get upset if the people you help don’t even say thank you, because they could be in such a bad place, they are just in survival mode.

Here is how the Lodestar Solutions team has showed up.  I am sharing this because I believe they deserve recognition and I hope that this will inspire you to examine how you show up today!  Every day is a choice! 

Cheering on the UPS Drivers - 

UPS

If you are a Lodestar client you have probably worked with Christina, our support renewal specialist.  What you might not know is that her husband is one of thousands of dedicated delivery personnel risking their health and the safety of their families to deliver your online orders. Her husband works at a UPS facility in Michigan where they lost a team member due to complications with COVID-19.  Imagine the fear and grief they must feel every morning knowing they lost a co-worker.  Well, Christina has one of the biggest hearts I know, and she helped organize an event to honor the UPS drivers and raise their spirits.  She arranged for lunch to be delivered but did not stop there.  Christina, Mike Bernaiche, another Lodestar team member, and several of their friends and family lined up in cars, social distancing of course, just outside of the UPS facility with signs cheering on the drivers as they started their routes.  I am sure the drivers and UPS team was uplifted by this experience, but what I loved to see, is how their generosity uplifted Christina and Mike.  Christina was almost giddy with excitement.  Which during these trying times, is fabulous to witness. 

Ready for Life Food Drive

If you have been following Lodestar for a while you also know that I am involved with a charity called Ready for Life in Pinellas County Florida that helps youth that age out of foster care.  The youth in this demographic have a tough time normally but with the pandemic they are especially at risk and many have lost their jobs.  After receiving a text asking for help, we immediately sent funds to cover a week of groceries for the youth and their families.  If you would like to contribute to this amazing organization, please check out their website, Ready for Life Pinellas.

Extra Mile at Work

Giving and showing up can also be done at work. Lodestar Solutions realized that this crisis was going to hit industries like hospitality and travel much greater than other industries.  For clients that had upcoming IBM Cognos renewals in high risk industries, we jumped into action. Lodestar recognized the fact that cash preservation was going to be a top priority, so we worked with IBM Global Financing to get financing for client’s renewals.  Many clients do not realize that IBM Global financing is available for renewals and can often save clients money. See our previous blog on this topic.  

If you have a renewal and would like Lodestar to provide a competitive quote, please email Renewals@lodetsarsolutions.com.

The Wedding

The Wedding

I would be remised if I did not take this opportunity to thank Mike Bernaiche, whom many of you have worked with at Lodestar for stepping up in a way that I will never forget! On May 8, 2020 my boyfriend and I got married in a virtual zoom wedding.  With the help of Mike and our close friends Chris Orlando, our virtual MC and Connie Klingler, who married us, we broadcasted our wedding all over the world to friends and family.  We had over 100 people join our amazing day from 4 continents and 10 time zones.  Mike was our zoom master!  He ensured people were muted during the ceremony and unmuted for the world-wide toast.  But most of all, their efforts gave our moms who were in London and Chicago a front row seat. What I did not realize when we planned the wedding just weeks before, was what a positive uplifting impact it would have on everyone.  People dressed up in silly hats, they gathered their families and had zoom pre parties.  Without even asking, our neighbors all contributed to make the day amazing!   I think during this time we all just need a little joy. Or maybe it’s hope.

Showing Up for Others!

I am so proud of how the Lodestar Solutions’ Team shows up during COVID-19. But it does not surprise me. But I must ask you, is there something you could do to bring a little more joy to someone else’s life?  Maybe sending a card, calling someone you lost touch with, or maybe your company could extend terms to a client in need. It does not take much. Today, do one thing to bring a smile to someone else. Seek nothing in return and watch the magic happen.  Good deeds are contagious!  Let’s infect the world!

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