Cognos vs Business Objects…What’s The Difference?

I have been asked many times “Cognos vs Business Objects…What is the real difference between them?”  First, let me say that this is my opinion and not a recommendation for either product. I know that might sound strange because you are reading a blog written by a Cognos partner. Well I am going to give you my perspective based on my experience as a customer, which I think you would want instead of a sales pitch.

If you are in a position to evaluate both Cognos and Business Objects, you should let your stakeholders guide your focus. I hear the project managers getting all worked up saying that you need a standard process for such evaluations and it shouldn’t be done in a vacuum. I agree, so calm down PM’s and keep your shirts on … there will be work for you I promise! If your main stakeholders are the business user community and the expectation of the project is to get a tool that will facilitate business user report creation, then I am writing for you.

Let me just say that when you start to talk about the difference between Cognos and Business Objects, don’t even think about starting at the architecture.  I am telling you your audience will look at you like you have two heads and neither one of them speak English.  That is not to say that you should not consider and evaluate architecture, but that is another conversation for a difference audience.

Most users’ software skills are about intermediate or basic and I am using Excel as the guidepost. I have rarely come across an expert Excel business user. I mean one that can write a macro, complex calculations, and leverage advance functions such as, but not limited to, V and H lookups. You know the user that can figure anything out on their own, but have limited tools. Oh my bad if such a business user exists they have been recruited to IT or so overburden with helping everyone else in the business they quit for lack of support, money, or recognition. But I digress. So consider that most of your users are intermediate or basic and you ask them to create a report in Cognos and Business Objects.

In Business Objects the user would naturally go to Web Intelligence or Webi for short. If the report is more sophisticated then basic analysis they might be stuck which would require Crystal. Let me tell you that Crystal is a tech tool not for even the smartest or savviest business user. It requires substantial SQL skills to use well.  I see you Business Object loyalist turning red and I just have one question for you….what department do you work in? Yeah I thought so….IT…. go ahead take your seat. I am not saying anything bad about Crystal it is a killer report writer but not for business users.

If a user wanted to write the same report in Cognos, they could start in Query Studio which is drop and drag and then open that Query View in Report Studio for more features and options. I hear you Business Objects loyalist saying you can do the same thing in Webi and that is partly true. Business Objects’ Webi tool is nice and you can drop and drag, but the untruth is that you can’t open that report in Crystal or Desktop Intelligence (Deski). Are you guys yelling again saying that you can make any report in Webi that you can make in Crystal? Alright…make me a bill of lading in Webi. Make me a report that is not analyzing information, but just presenting data in a prescribed way….I’ll wait.  I just have one word for you Business Object loyalist….Crystal. It is still the cornerstone of Business Objects product offering. That is because it is designed to do the more sophisticated report writing. The drawback is that is does not interoperate with the other Business Object tools. Listen B.O. guys (no pun intended) I am just saying that you guys have some work to do around creating a complete solutions instead of several tool boxes with really nice tools that are sold from the same store. If you guys are honest with yourselves you’ll admit that IBM beat you to the punch by offering a complete Corporate Performance Management tool.

Sorry about the side track, but I always have to address the Business Object loyalist readers because they have validate points about their software and I don’t want to seem like I am not giving them their dues.

Ok let’s nutshell this thing. I believe the difference between Cognos and Business Objects is that Cognos is a complete and integrated tool where everything talks to each other, listens, and responds. Don’t just take my word… pull out your evaluation process and really understand your stakeholder’s goals and needs. PM’s in the room, here is where you earn your money….well documented and vetted requirements will ensure that your evaluation process will help you select the tool that best fits your organization.

2 thoughts on “Cognos vs Business Objects…What’s The Difference?”

  1. Great summary and comparison. I’m a BI Project Manager at an organization that has both BI tools. We have our evangelists on both sides. One question that keeps coming up is, comparing Crystal to ReportStudio, is there any functionality that one has that the other can’t match? My Cognos evangelists keep telling me that there are some advanced charting requirements that they can solve in Cognos but not in Crystal. Are there gaps?

    Also, what is your take on the de-support of Crystal by SAP? Does it render the Cognos Analytics vs. Crystal match up as a foregone conclusion on the side of Cognos?

    • Hi,

      Thank you for you comments and questions. In my opinion, yes Cognos Analytics blows away Crystal Reports. I have always felt prior Cognos BI platforms had a ton of functionality, frankly too much at time for a lot of people. Cognos Analytics has solved that issue with a much better UI, while keeping the robust reporting and GREATLY improving the dashboard experience. Also, with intent driven modeling, you can give your end user more power over what they model while still being concerned with data governance.


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