Your IBM Cognos Expertise Could Be Holding You Back!


I have noticed a trend at a number of my long-time IBM Cognos clients. They come to me and say, “Heather, I applied for a promotion and they didn’t give it to me!” My response, “Your IBM Cognos expertise could be holding you back!”

Ok, maybe it’s not just your expertise, but what you are doing with it!

The first time a client expressed their frustration that they did not get the promotion they wanted, and that their company does not believe in data and analytics, I thought, “That sucks.” But after three people in a month complained about a lack of promotional opportunities in their company as the IBM Cognos administrator, I decided it was time to look at what was going on. Are companies not giving promotions to IBM Cognos professionals? Could expertise in IBM Cognos hold administrators back? What’s happening?

As a business analytics professional, I decided to look at the data. I first wrote down the names of the individuals, their titles, years of service at their companies, years of using Cognos, level of IBM Cognos expertise, what areas of IBM Analytics like BI or TM1 they were experts in, the versions they used, if they were the only power user in their company, their implementation methodologies and other attributes. I realized my sample size was significantly deficient, so I added other clients and gave them a rating on if I thought they were “on the move up” in their organization. Then I began evaluating the data and it felt like a story was jumping out at me. There appeared to be a division in the sample group.

Data Doesn’t Lie!

Growth Mindset

The first group consisted of people that were very influential in their organization. Team members and consultants respected them and listened to them. They were successfully rolling out IBM Cognos Analytics to their organizations and people were embracing the tools. Some where the primary or sole IBM Cognos administrator but not all. These people loved to learn, were creative in solving problems and asked for advice regularly. They were highly accountable when something went wrong and viewed it as a “learning” experience. They actively listened to their users. These folks loved sharing what they were learning and engaged the business in defining their dashboards and models. Many leveraged the Destination Dashboard methodology to engage the end users.  I would classify them as having a growth mindset.


The second group consisted of people that were knowledgeable on the software. But they lacked influence and respect in the organization. They felt users were not smart enough to get it. They were frustrated that they did not get the recognition or pay they felt they were worth. Their roll out of IBM Cognos Analytics (BI/TM1) was typically very slow and costly. They often blamed the users, the data, the consultants and anything but themselves for the lack of end user adoption. Many liked to learn but focused only on the new versions of the software. They did not spend much time learning about the areas of the business they served or soft skills. They stated they just weren’t good at that. These folks liked being the “only one” that understood Cognos. It’s as if they felt being the only one created job security for them. Consultants were often challenged to work with them because they stated, “they tend to hoard information as if they are testing me to see if I am smart enough to figure something out instead of just disclosing where they know the probable issues are lurking.” Hoarders rarely ask for the opinions of others and prided themselves on being the smartest person in the room, but not everyone viewed them that way. They viewed themselves as good communicators and that it was everyone else that had an issue. They rarely share how to do something that would empower their end users and would like for everyone to come to them for answers. Ironically, they often complained they are overworked and underpaid. When I talked to their end users, they often stated that the dashboards delivered didn’t meet their needs and they would rather dump the data and create their own reports instead of using IBM Cognos. I call this group the hoarders because they stockpile knowledge and don’t share.


Which group do you think is more likely to get a promotion and or pay raise? Yes, the growth mindset people tended to be on the “fast track.”

What makes an IBM Cognos Administrator have a growth mindset verses being a hoarder?

I believe there are two factors at play. The culture of the organization and the outlook of the person him or herself.

The Culture

 Some organizations just have a “cover your butt” mentality. Their people tend to not get involved unless required. They lack accountability because people get reprimanded for being “wrong”. Sometimes, you can even feel the heaviness of the atmosphere when you walk in.
Personal Outlook 

Some individuals believe that not sharing or being the only one knowledgeable on a process gives them job security. They don’t think it’s in their job description to learn the other areas of the business. They don’t believe users will understand how to leverage self-service data and analytics so they don’t bother teaching them.

Regardless of the factor that has created the Hoarder mindset, I believe every individual has the power within themselves to change the situation immediately.

IBM Cognos Expertise
The Secret

The dirty little secret is that the hoarders don’t realize they are not creating job security, but rather they are restricting themselves from getting a promotion. Let’s look at a few key reasons that if you are a Hoarder, your expertise in IBM Cognos is holding you back.

1. Bosses are reluctant to promote someone that who is the only person that knows how to do certain tasks. Who will do the work?

2. By not sharing, you are not acting as a capable leader.

3. By not learning the other areas of the business, you will not add significant more value.

4. Technology experts can be hired on an as needed basis, but people that really understand the business add more value. How to Hire a Consulting Firm

5. If the co-workers and business users don’t respect you, you decrease your chance of promotion.

6. Top consultants will avoid working with your firm. The best consultants are in demand and can say no.

Make the Change

I challenge you to really look in the mirror. Are there areas that you are reluctant to show or train others how to do it? Are you learning everything you can about the business areas and not just the technology? Do you share with the team where you think land mines are lurking, even if it has nothing to do with your projects?

The first step to solving a problem is to identify that you might have a problem. But have no fear! You control your destiny

Step 1. Write down 5 areas you can work on to change your mindset. At first, it will be awkward. Change always feels uncomfortable.

Step 2. Tell the people around you that you are makings some changes, would like their advice, and for them to help inform you when you veer off course.

Step 3. Contact Lodestars Solutions at for more information on our IBM Cognos Consulting and Training services that can help you connect with your end users.

Step 4. Read the book the Go Giver. Overview of Go Giver Book

Changing your mindset is like building a muscle, it takes time and repetitions. With practice, you will become an effective leader, add significant value to your organization, and can command top dollar as an IBM Cognos administrator and business analytics ambassador in your organization.

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