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.

Steps to Take When Your IBM Cognos or Planning Analytics Power User Leaves

Steps to Take When Your IBM Cognos or Planning Analytics Power User Leaves
Steps to Take When Your IBM Cognos or Planning Analytics Power User Leaves
Written by Heather L. Cole, January 27th 2022

“Heather wanted to let you know Friday is my last day at _____ Company.”  Would you believe I am getting emails like this weekly?  Yes, the Great Resignation is real!  And at Lodestar Solutions, we want you know to know we have your back!  Today I’ll share the Steps to Take When Your IBM Cognos or Planning Analytics Power User Leaves.  Just know you don’t have to go it alone!

1. Call Lodestar Solutions to Create a Plan

When your IBM Cognos or Planning Analytics Power User Leaves it can be scary.  Especially if you have a smaller deployment and the one person that knows everything about your system just resigned.  When this happens Lodestar Solutions is here to help you create a plan, help you find new talent and back you up when you need it, even if this means you need some temporary staff until you hire someone.  As soon as notice is given, call Lodestar at 813-415-2910 or email Services@lodestarsolutions.com to schedule your complimentary “oh sh*t” plan.

2. Create an Emergency SOW with Lodestar Solutions

It’s always best to have a backup plan.  At Lodestar Solutions we recommend all clients have an active statement of work in place to help if you have an emergency, but if your Cognos or TM1 power user leaves, it is even more important.  So, call us at 813-415-2910 or email services@lodestarsolutions.com and we can tell you how many hours you have on your open SOWs or create a new one.  Remember you are not billed unless you use our services.  But you don’t want to have an emergency and must wait for legal to review contracts before we can help.  So, call today to get your emergency SOW in place.

3. Change Your Support Contacts with IBM

Before the person leaves, you want to check if they were designated as the point of contact within the IBM support system.  If so, you want to have them change the primary contact before they leave!  It’s a lot easier to change the name within the IBM system before the person’s email is turned off.  Here’s Lodestars’ blog on how to change the contact’s name.   

You will also want to notify us of who should receive your support renewal quotes in the future.  Reach out to our team at renewals@lodestarsolutions.com for assistance.

4. Switch the Admin within the System

You want to make sure you update security in the system to assign administrative rights to someone else.  This is very important for smaller deployments of IBM Analytics that only have one power user.  You should always remove employees that have left the company from the Cognos or TM1 system, so you don’t risk failing an audit.  Note, when an employee leaves the company you can reassign their license to a new user, just no sharing.  For more information on IBM audits, see our two-part blog series on Things Every Cognos Client Needs to Know about an IBM Audit.

Part 1 - Things Every Cognos Client Needs to Know about an IBM Audit

Part 2 - Things Every Cognos Client Needs to Know about an IBM Audit


5. For Cognos Users Plan for Orphaned Content

If you use IBM Cognos Analytics and a user leaves before you reassigned their reports, you may end up with reports you can’t get to.  We call this Orphaned content.  When a user is deleted in a Cognos namespace all of their content in their My Folder gets orphaned and is difficult to access. The good news is you didn’t lose it.  Here’s our blog on how to retrieve it, and a link to Motio’s YouTube Video as they have a great tool to help recover orphaned objects in Cognos. 

Document Your Models with Video

6. Knowledge Transfer Video

When a Cognos admin quits, often there is not enough time to do proper knowledge transfer and does anyone really have updated documentation?  To save you time and money trying to figure out the basic setups of your IBM Analytics system, we recommend the person leaving record a video of the system.  They should record the video as if they are talking to their replacement and sharing all the details of their system.  You can use Zoom or a video conferencing service to do this, or we use Camtasia, a video editing system. This video can be very valuable to the person you hire.

7. Communicate How to Log a Case

If the person moving on, is the person that has access to log cases with IBM you should have them shoot a video on how to log a case and provide your site details.  This will be very valuable if you have an issue and need IBM support.

8. Create a Job Description

Now that you have your backup plan created you want to create an awesome job description to attract top talent.  Don’t just rely on your HR team to do this.  Lodestar is happy to help.  We will provide you a sample description and review what you have before it’s posted.  A few key points:

  •  If you allow remote or flexible work times, make sure it’s on the post.
  • Don’t just write it for what the company is looking for but include what you are offering the candid like training.
  • Read the job description, would you reply?  If not, rewrite it.

A great book for anyone hiring is Hiring for Attitude by Mark Murphy.  

For Lodestar Clients Only:

If you are a Lodestar Solutions client, we are willing to help you promote your position.  It’s what family does… Once you have your job description written send it to me at hcole@lodestarsolutions.com and I’ll share it with my network.

9. Review your Licensing and New Functionality

Whenever there is a change in your organization, you should do a State of the Union review.  Lodestar Solution’s recommends reviewing:

  •  Your IBM Analytics Licensing
  • What’s new in the latest IBM release
  • A List of what future enhancements your power users were planning
  • A review or your current environment and models

We find when clients do a review with us, they have comfort in understanding what they own, how they can use it and that their current system is in good shape.  Lodestar is happy to schedule a review with you.  Email us at Services@lodestarsolutions.com.

November Lodestar Virtual Cognos User Group

November Lodestar Virtual Cognos User Group
November Lodestar Virtual Cognos User Group
Written by Mike Bernaiche, October 28th, 2021

It is almost that time again!!  Time for the Virtual Cognos User Group for Lodestar clients only!  Lodestar hosts a Virtual Cognos User Group every quarter, that’s 4 times a year of great information FREE for our clients.  We started these last year as the world was going virtual and they have been a great success.  Below you will find all the information to attend.  We break the Cognos User Group into 2 sessions on different days.  Day 1 is for Cognos Analytics and Day 2 is for Planning Analytics.  Join us for either one or both!  Here is the best part, all sessions are recorded and as a Lodestar customer you have access to our library of videos from all user groups that you can watch anytime. 

Cognos Analytics User Group

When: November 9, 2021, 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Agenda: Virtual Cognos User Group - CA

Containers are Coming – Cognos Analytics and Cloud Pak for Data
Join Heather as she provides a high-level presentation on what Cloud Paks are and if they are right for you.
Cognos Analytics What’s New

Mike will provide an update with demo of new features in Cognos Analytics 11.2 and 11.2.1.

Cognos Analytics Tech Talk

Ted will give an update on all things technical related to Cognos Analytics 11.2.

Networking Break Out

Talk to other clients and build your professional network with more Cognos Analytics knowledge.

Dashboarding Secrets

Join Mike as he demonstrates dashboarding secrets he has learned in Cognos Analytics 11.2 / 11.2.1.

Predictive Analytics with Cognos Analytics

Heather will be joined by a predictive analytics expert to discuss how you can use Predictive with Cognos Analytics.

Planning Analytics User Group

When: November 16, 2021, 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Agenda: Virtual Cognos User Group - PA

Containers are Coming – Planning Analytics and Cloud Pak for Data

Join Heather as she provides a high-level presentation on what Cloud Paks are and if they are right for you.

Workbench and Admin

Mike will demonstrate the new workbench in Planning Analytics Workspace.

AI Forecasting Capabilities in Planning Analytics

Did you know that Planning Analytics Workspace has AI forecasting capability?  See how to use it in this session.

Planning Analytics Tech Talk

Ted will give an update on all things technical related to Planning Analytics.

Networking Break Out

Talk to other clients and build your professional network with more Planning Analytics knowledge.

Predictive Analytics with Planning Analytics

Heather will be joined by a predictive analytics expert to discuss how you can use Predictive with Planning Analytics.

Creative Uses of Planning Analytics

Heather has some great ideas on how you can use Planning Analytics other than the normal budgeting and forecasting options.

How to Join

Be on the lookout for an email from Lodestar with all the details to join each session.  If you have never joined us before and do not have a special log in to our video library, please reach out to Heather Cole at hcole@lodestarsolutions.  She will get you set up in our library to take part in this user group and watch any of our previous videos from other virtual Cognos user groups.

For a list of topics covered in previous user groups check out this extensive blog listing.

IBM Cognos Analytics and Planning Analytics Virtual User Group - Lodestar Solutions

Handy Cognos Analytics and Planning Analytics Links

What’s new in Planning Analytics

What’s new in Cognos Analytics?

How to Create your Analytics Roadmap without Hiring Expensive Consultants

How to Create Your Analytics Roadmap Without Hiring Consultants
How to Create Your Analytics Roadmap Without Hiring Consultants
Written by Heather L. Cole, June 17th 2021

“This is going to be the year!  I swear this is the year we really leverage our Cognos and Planning Analytic investment!”  This is a quote from a mid-market client I have worked with and each year at renewal time, he says this is the year.  While I reflected on his challenge, I realized other clients including Cognos Analytic and Planning Analytic clients may have the same struggle.  So, today we will start our guide on how to create your analytics roadmap without hiring expensive consultants.   This is part one of a two-part blog.

1. Take One Step Toward Creating an Analytics Roadmap

The first step towards accomplishing any goal is to take the first step.  Have you ever had a project or goal that looks so massive that you don’t even know where to start?  Creating an analytics roadmap can feel very overwhelming.  You want to decide what to monitor, determine where the data is, make sure you have the right tools, and deal with all the personalities of the people that need to be involved.  It’s no wonder so many projects fail before they even start.  Then add to the fact you might have multiple tools like Cognos Planning Analytics, Cognos Analytics, Power BI, Excel….

But I’ll let you in a little secret.  It only takes one step to start.

It Only Takes One Step to Start

Yes, that is right!  It is okay for your organization’s analytic journey to start with just you and a simple l idea to provide better insights.

A Single Spark

The First Step

Let’s take the first step together.  Grab a stack of sticky notes.   Set a timer on your cell phone for 10 minutes.  And for 10 minutes I want you to jot down one idea on each sticky note.  Maybe you want an inventory dashboard to track shortages or maybe a headcount dashboard to deal with resource shortages.  What ever pops in your head write it down.  There are no stupid answers.  Just let the ideas flow. 

When you are done raise your right hand in the air.  Reach behind your back and pat yourself on the back!  You have officially taken the first step to creating your analytic roadmap without hiring expensive consultants.

2. Review Your Ideas

In step two we will review your ideas and prioritize them.  The goal is to choose an item that will make the biggest impact to the organization.  You could evaluate your analytic ideas considering several factors, but Lodestar Solutions has been implementing Cognos Analytics and Planning Analytics solutions for decades and we have learned there are three major considerations that help determine which analytic initiative will have the biggest impact.

  • How much money will the organization make or save by having visibility to this data?
  • Does the company currently have the data necessary to monitor this analytic initiative?
  • Will having visibility to this data help the organization accomplish their strategic goals?

When I work with our IBM Cognos clients to create their analytic roadmap, I have them score each idea 0-10 on each of the questions above.  Then we add up the scores and the analytic idea with the highest number is a great place to start.

3. Identify Other Stakeholders

Now that you have narrowed your analytic ideas down, it is time to go find some allies.  Successful analytic journeys almost always include stakeholders that are excited and have the power to make the vision of a dashboard, report, or scorecard a reality. 

Therefore, you will want to grab a piece of paper and write down everyone that would benefit from having greater visibility to the analytics and data you are proposing for your first destination in your analytic roadmap.  Once you have a list of people start reaching out to them and schedule a casual conversation.  You want to listen more than you talk and ask them for their ideas on the analytic idea.

If you are an IBM Cognos or Planning Analytics user, we recommend you include the Cognos or Planning Analytics administrator on your list of people to contact.  They can be a big ally for you if you ask for their ideas. 

Analytic Leaders

We are so proud of you.  The fact you read this far tells us you are destined to become a great Analytic Leader.  Here are a few resources you might want to check out.

Need Help?

If you need assistance or want to have someone help you facilitate discussions around your Analytic Roadmap, reach out to me at hcole@lodestarsolutions.com.

In Conclusion

I am so excited for you to start your adventure.  If you have tried to start and had a misstep, do not worry.  Lodestar Solutions has your back!  We are happy to discuss your specific journey and challenges. 

Be sure to check out part 2 of this blog!

Click here for How to Create Your Analytics Roadmap without Hiring Expensive Consultants Part 2.

Cognos Analytics Data Sets Explained

Cognos Analytics Data Flow
Written December 3rd, 2020 by Mike Bernaiche 
Recently, I was asked several questions about Cognos Analytics Data Sets.  Candidly, I haven’t used them much as I was concentrating more on Data Modules.  I decided to spend some time on Cognos Analytics Data Sets and what I found was eye opening and exciting.  My knowledge gain is now your knowledge gain.  I have put everything I have learned into the summary below.  I have also created a quick flow chart to help explain the flow of data in Cognos Analytics.
Cognos Analytics Data Flow

What are Cognos Analytics Data Sets?

In short, Cognos Analytics Data Sets are a set of data grouped together of items that you use frequently.  If you look at the above chart, think of the biggest group of data being in the data warehouse.  Next you need to chunk that down to tables and fields that mean the most to you.  Maybe you are in sales and you do not have a use for inventory, or bill or material information.  You can either create a Framework Manager package or a Data Module to grab only that info that means the most to you.  Now, think about all the data that still resides in the sales tables that you have created your package or Data Module.  Do you really need everything?  Most likely no.  By creating a data set you can shrink down the still large chunk of data to just the fields that you need for a particular report or dashboard.  What does all this mean?  Speed, efficiency, ease of use, etc.

How Do I Create Cognos Analytics Data Sets?

The process to create Cognos Analytics Data Sets is fairly easy and straight forward.

1. Navigate to a package or Data Module 
2. Click the context menu (the 3 dots when you hover over the package or data module)
3. Select “Create Data Set”

You should see something similar to the below: 

How to Create Cognos Analytics Data Sets

4. NOTE - if using a relational package or Data Module make sure the “Summarize detailed values, suppressing duplicates, for relational data sources" is checked. 
5. Drag to the data pane the items you want in your data set.  My advice – start from the result.  What do you want in your dashboard or report?  Once you know that, you will understand what items you need to bring into the data set.
6. Change view to page preview for results with data.

Page Preview

7. You can add filters or sorting by using the tool bar directly on top of the data.
8. Validate the report by clicking the 3 dots to the upper right of the screen.
9. Save. 

Here is a link to IBM outlining these steps above. 

Important Information about Cognos Analytics Data Sets

  1. When you start to use your data set you may see a message about refreshing the data.  All you need to do is click the reload or refresh button located at the 3 dots in either the dashboard, report or by hovering over the data set wherever it is saved.
  2. Remember data sets is like an extraction from your data source.  You will need to either manual refresh or schedule the refresh, so you have the latest data.
  3. Schedule data sets refresh
  • Click the 3 dots and enter the properties of your data set.
  • Click schedule tab
  • Set your schedule for data refresh.  If your data warehouse rebuilds nightly then scheduling this refresh for 1 time per day (early morning) is sufficient.  If you need more real time data, you can schedule down the minute.  (Note – more refreshes will consume resources on your server.  Make sure you set your schedule accordingly).
  • Make sure your schedule is enabled.  You can disable at any time.
Data Sets Schedule

Summary

Now that you have created a data set you can use it in dashboards or reports like any other source.  See my sample below.

Sample Data Set

Data sets are a great way to shrink the amount of data you need to a specific set and make the entire process very fast and efficient.  Are Cognos Analytics Data Sets for every situation?  No.  But for a lot of items, I would highly suggest creating a data set and watching how fast and efficient everything is.  You can secure data sets like other data, you can create navigation paths to have drill up and down.  There is even the option to turn your data set into a data module and use relative time.  I think the key take away is to model the data that makes the most sense to you.  Gone are the days of overwhelming data tables and fields. 

For more information on all things Cognos Analytics check out our blogs here

To see our YouTube video on Data Sets click here

For any question please reach out to me at service@lodestarsolutions.com

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.

Questions You Should Ask When Planning to Migrate Off Cognos Analytics (BI) – Part 1

Questions You Should Ask When Planning to Migrate off Cognos Analytics (BI) - Part 1
Questions You Should Ask When Planning to Migrate off Cognos Analytics (BI) - Part 1
September 3rd, 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… fewer resources to support the tools.  I completely understand the logic and if I was the CIO, I would have the same line of thinking.  However, most clients do not do their due diligence to determine the true costs of migrating off tools like Cognos nor do they create an ROI evaluation.  So, I thought over the next two weeks I would share the questions you should ask when planning to migrate off Cognos Analytics onto another platform.

1. If we do not renew our IBM Cognos Support can I still use Cognos BI while we migrate?

The first question everyone asks as they consider migrating off Cognos BI is, can I still use Cognos BI if I do not renew the support?  The answer is, it depends. 

Perpetual License: If you have the traditional on-premise licensing for Cognos Analytics (BI) then you have a perpetual right to use Cognos and you can still use it even if you do not renew.  Lodestar Solutions does not recommend discontinuing support until you are fully migrated to the new solutions.  If you have questions on your renewal we are here to help.  Email renewals@lodestarsolutions.com.

Here are some additional resources:

IBM Support and Subscription Site

Lodestar Blog:  Consequences of Not Renewing IBM Cognos Support  

The real question you should be asking is, what are the risk factors of not renewing support as I migrate off Cognos BI?

SAAS or Subscription:  If you have Cognos Analytics on SaaS or a subscription-based model, then when you let your subscription lapse by not renewing you will no longer have access to the software.  So, plan your migration wisely.

Note: It is important to note in 15 years of working with Cognos products, I have yet to hear of a client who decided to migrate off Cognos BI that has completed the migration within their original planned timeline.  In fact, many clients plan to migrate and years later they are still working on it.

2. What reports must be migrated to the new tool and will the new tool deliver comparable results?

Planning a migration of Cognos to a new business intelligence platform is like planning a major upgrade to the latest version of Cognos Analytics.  You must do an inventory of what is in your content store and determine how many reports need to be migrated, how complex the reports are, how often they are utilized, etc… If you have been using Cognos for a long time your content store may be suffering from bloat. 

Lodestar Solutions’ recommends that you evaluate the size or your content store.  

Try this, in your Cognos Product Environment run a query to find the number per object type. The objects can be found here:

<cognos_dir>\configuration\schemas\content\<database_type>\CSsize_profiling_<database_type>.sql

Here’s the query:

select c.NAME as "class name", count(*) as "number of objects"
from CMOBJECTS o, CMCLASSES c
group by o.CLASSID, c.CLASSID, C.NAME
having c.CLASSID=o.CLASSID
order by c.NAME;

Lodestar also recommends investing in Motio Inventory Software.  Motio is a 3rd party software company that has some of the best tools for administration of Cognos BI.  Motio’s new inventory component is perfect for determining how many Cognos reports you have and their complexity.

You would not move your family without taking an inventory of your household belongings and determining what to leave behind.   So, do not forget to take a detailed inventory of Cognos reports.   For more information check out Motio
and make sure you tell them you work with Lodestar Solutions.  You can find additional information in our blog Don’t Upgrade to Cognos Analytics without Motio! 

3. Are we comparing the latest version of Cognos Analytics to the new solutions as we do our evaluation?

I am always amazed when I hear clients tell me they might be migrating off Cognos to Power BI, Tableau, or Qlik because it has better visualization or it’s easier to use.  I ask them what version of Cognos they are using, and they say 10.2.  Then I ask if they have seen all the amazing functionality in Cognos Analytics’ latest version?  And they say,  “I saw a demo a few years ago.”

People do not tell me you are migrating off Cognos for better functionality if you haven’t even seen the latest functionality of what you already own! You need to take the new Cognos Analytics for a test drive.  Lodestar Solutions can help you.  Just email us at services@lodestarsolutions.com.

You owe it to your company to complete your due diligence and compare the latest functionality of Cognos to the solution you are evaluating.  IBM has added amazing new functionality to Cognos Analytics and cool stuff just keeps coming.  I challenge you to find a solution that can better meet your enterprise needs. Now that you know you need to do a detailed comparison,  I decided to help you out a little and provide our evaluation.

Cognos Comparison

If you or your company are struggling with Cognos today, I would bet you either have not been properly trained on the functionality or you have a data problem. By the way, migrating off Cognos will not solve your data issues.

Lodestar Solutions can help you get the training you need or just discover all the fabulous features included in the latest version of Cognos Analytics. Let’s plan a chat, email us at services@lodestarsolutions.com.

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.   Stay tuned for the second part of this blog,  Questions You Should Ask When Planning to Migrate Off Cognos Analytics (BI) - Part 2 coming on Thursday, September 10th! Contact us today and schedule a chat. Email services@lodestarsolutions.com.

How to Get the Best Value on Your Cognos, TM1 and SPSS Support Renewals

Support Value
Support Value
August 27th, 2020

We all know the best price is not always the best value when shopping and it is true of IBM Support Renewals as well.   If you are looking to renew your IBM Cognos, Planning Analytics (TM1) or SPSS support you want to make sure you get the best value.  You might be thinking, my support is the same if I buy it from IBM or a partner.  But that is not always true! Today we will share secrets on, “How to get the Best Value on your Cognos, TM1 and SPSS Support Renewals.”

IBM Support Renewals Process

Let’s start by reviewing the IBM support renewals process.  When you purchased your initial licensing for Cognos, Tm1 or SPSS you received one year of support with the purchase.  After that you are provided a quote for support from IBM annually. This support allows you access to patches, upgrades and the ability to contact IBM directly for support.  Here’s a link to IBM information about renewing support.

Keep Current on IBM Support

Lodestar Solutions recommends all clients keep current on their support.  It’s not worth the risk of being unsupported.  (See our blog, Consequences of Not Renewing IBM Cognos Support)  And of course we resell IBM support as do many partners.

Partners Sell Support Cheaper Then IBM

In the past, IBM partners like Lodestar Solutions were often able to sell support renewals to clients cheaper then IBM could sell it.  The way we provided aggressive quotes to clients was by giving up some of our margin, which we called the Lodestar client discount.  But what makes Lodestar unique is that in addition to very competitive quotes, Lodestar provides clients with an annual license check-up where we discuss what you own, what changes IBM has made in the licensing and the software and offer recommendations based on your unique situation.

What the Heck Do I Own - Cognos, TMI, SPSS

Our clients have found Lodestar’s IBM Support Renewal checkups and “What the Heck Do I Own” sessions for Cognos BI, Cognos Planning Analytics (TM1), and SPSS very beneficial.  Every client that renews with Lodestar receives a free customized, “What the Heck do I Own” session where we review your licenses and educate you on functionality you did not even know you had.  We talk about your challenges and how other clients have overcome similar challenges.  This is a very beneficial session. It’s not uncommon for clients to tell us the one-hour session taught them more than a week at an IBM event.   Our reviews have saved our clients huge amounts of money.  (Check out our blog: How an IBM Cognos User Reduced Support Costs by $30,000!)

IBM Changes to Renewals August 2020

Well, in August 2020 IBM changed the partner renewal program and significantly reduced the margins that partners could make. As part of the changes IBM decided they wanted to protect partners that sold the renewal last year, by giving what they call the incumbent partner more margin than other partners.  

Personally, I disagree with IBM’s changes because I believe in competition.  Not all partners offer the same value for the renewal.  I believe the recent move may hurt clients as it does not create an incentive for true value adding partners to reach out to help clients that may be confused with their licensing.  If you renewed with a partner last year that just gave a fabulous quote and did not add value, and this year you want help with licensing and clarification as to what you own, you may find that as you reach out to other IBM partners, they may not want to even provide a quote because they can’t make enough money to justify the work.

Case Study for Value Added Renewals

For a long time, Lodestar Solutions had a client that regularly reviewed their licenses with Lodestar.  Then 5 years ago the executives at the client decided to move all their support renewals to what we refer to as a license consolidator.  Consolidators are large companies that can renew almost every software brand and give discounts due to volume.  The client’s goal was to save money. 

The Cognos BI and TM1 power users were very upset as they loved all the value added services they received throughout the year from Lodestar Solutions.  But the decision came from the top.  Lodestar still worked with the client for services but did not provide licensing recommendations or the annual renewal review. 

Then late in 2018 IBM made changes to the licensing of Enterprise Planning Users and the changes put some clients that move to TM1 at risk of failing an audit.  (See Video for details)  So, Lodestar Solutions reached out to all clients we thought were at risk due to the changes, even those that moved to consolidators.  Well, it turns out, the consolidator did not educate the client on IBM license changes or do annual reviews and the client failed an audit a year earlier costing them almost $1 Million.  When we reached out educating them, they may again fail an audit they realized that the consolidator wasn’t saving them money it actually cost them a bundle!  Yes, the client returned to work with Lodestar for their renewals.  But the moral of the story is, the best price is not the best value.

IBM Changes Not in Clients Best Interest

As I stated earlier, I do not believe IBM’s recent changes to their partner renewals program benefits the clients, but it did cause me to look in the mirror and ask myself how Lodestar can add even more value!  You see, I hate telling the clients their “Lodestar client discount” is being significantly reduced.  But, due to IBM changes we cannot offer the same level of discounts, so instead we are upping our value.  Effective September 2020 all clients that renew their support with Lodestar Solutions will receive the following:

Lodestar Support Client Bonuses

  • Annual licensing review to ensure you are in the optimal licensing mix
  • A “What the Heck do I Own” session where we discuss the new functionality of your unique licensing mix
  • A forward-looking discussion to create a roadmap and recommendation of 3rd party tools that might help you realize your vision faster
  • Access to Lodestar’s private client only collection of videos to educate you on new functionality
  • Periodic no charge check-ins to address your challenges
  • Presentation coaching to help you gain the support and resources you need to success
  • Lodestar Virtual Semi-Annual User Group Meetings
  • Invites to Lodestar exclusive events and offers

NEXT STEP TO GET MORE VALUE FOR YOUR IBM SUPPORT RENEWAL

Lodestar Solutions is here to help you get the best value on your Cognos, TM1 and SPSS Support Renewals.  Value is not just price.  When you evaluate who you work with, don’t you want someone that understands licensing, can navigate the IBM red tape and helps you succeed?

If you want to get the most value from your IBM Support renewal, contact us today at renewals@lodestarsolutions.com and set up a time to chat.

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