Level Up Dashboards with Cognos Analytics

Dashboards with Cognos Analytics

Cognos 10 Dashboards

For those of you on Cognos 10, building a dashboard is a difficult and time consuming process.  You need to build widgets through Report Studio then place them in Workspace.  You have to worry about updates and filters, ensuring every change you make flows through.  Frankly, not a very user friendly process that has probably led you to ask yourself, how do I level up dashboards with Cognos Analytics?  As you can see by the below image, the Cognos 10 dashboard is clunky, not every nice to look at and just looks old.

Dashboards with Cognos Analytics

Cognos Analytics Dashboards

Enter Cognos Analytics.  Dashboards with Cognos Analytics can take your company analytics to the next level.  It starts with a very easy to understand user interface. It finishes with a polished, clean look, affording your end users the opportunity to make informed decisions.  

You have the ability to create dashboards quickly from many different sources.  These include uploaded files, TM1 / Planning Analytics, Cognos packages, data modules and many others.  The flexibility offered is 2nd to none.  As you can see by the image below, there is a huge difference between Cognos 10 and Cognos Analytics when it comes to dashboards.

Dashboards with Cognos Analytics

Dashboard Training

At Lodestar, we believe there are 2 parts to dashboard training.  1. is the concepts that make a good dashboard  and 2. is the technical to build a dashboard.  Both are very important and we offer fantastic training on each.  We highly suggest taking the concepts training first and then the technical.  

Destination Dashboard Quick Start Course- (Conceptual training) This online training is software agnostic and provides strategies and formats for building dashboards on any platform.  

Cognos Analytics Dashboard Training(Technical training)  This online training is based on Cognos Analytics and provides steps to creating dashboards in Cognos Analytics.  It also takes you through the user interface, data and storytelling modules.

You can purchase either product alone or both with a special add-on deal.  When you click on either of the above links  you will be directed to a purchase page.  Purchased separately each training is $497.  If you want to purchase both you will pay $497 for the first and only $297 for the 2nd.  You will receive over 16 hours of training for only $794!  If you do not receive more value than you paid, please contact us about our money back guarantee.

Upcoming Events

Check out all of Lodestar Solutions' upcoming events, including our live in-person events.  Upcoming events are listed on our webpage at Lodestar Solutions.  If you have any questions on any of our events please contact us at services@lodestarsolutions.com

Should I Use Pie Charts in Dashboards?


Are you an IBM Cognos developer? Are you tasked with rolling out reporting and dashboards to your end users but challenged to get them to use them? As IBM Cognos Business Intelligence experts and Business Analytics Coaches, Lodestar Solutions guides clients on how to gain recognition for building dashboards your users and executives will love. Today we will focus on, “Why you should not use pie charts.”

According to the BusinessInsider.com, “the pie chart is easily the worst way to convey information ever developed in the history of data visualization.” http://www.businessinsider.com/pie-charts-are-the-worst-2013-6

I am not sure I agree that it’s the worst. However, I have seen several charts that look like Rainbow Bright exploded and others that have almost sent me into an epileptic seizure. But Walter Hickey’s point is valid. You should not use pie charts because they are not the best at conveying information. Cognos Analytics, C11 BI, has so many amazing visualizations that will better serve the purpose than pie charts!

Let’s discuss why you should not use pie charts in dashboards.

First, your brain fills in the gaps. Scientific research has proven that in participants who had one eye covered with a patch, the brain fills in where there are blind spots. It acts as if it sees what it can’t see. The phenomenon called "filling in" has been known for some time. It happens when the brain "fills in" missing information in a person's blind spot if the other eye is covered. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/brain-adapts-in-a-blink/ Similarly, when people are uncertain what the data is representing, the brain will fill in what it wants to see or believes to be true.

For example, what does this portfolio have more of: Stocks or 401K?

Pie Charts in Dashboards

It’s hard to tell because we don’t have labels showing the percentages. But if we add the percentages, it can clutter up the graph. We have too many data points to add the percentages.

Let’s view the same information in a bar chart.

Pie Charts in Dashboards

Now, it’s quite easy to identify that the 401K is larger than the stock holdings. Yes, the pie looks prettier, but we are here to provide actionable data and not confuse our users.

The moral of the story, whenever there is similar data, you should not use pie charts. You should not have to label each percentage for the user to use the chart.

Really, I should not use pie charts in dashboards, ever?

There are a few rare occasions where a pie chart may serve your purpose. For example, if the data set only contains two data points. A pie chart can be easily interpreted.

Pie Charts in Dashboards

See how easy the above pie chart is to interpret?

The other thing a pie chart does have going for it is that it forces you to share a single measure.

I recently read an article by Stacey Harris VP Research and Analytics Sierra-Cedar, Survey Says: Upgrades and Updates are Still a Major Part of HR Technology Strategy. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/survey-says-upgrades-updates-still-major-part-hr-strategy-harris and it contained insightful information. The article discussed the upgrade time for SaaS verses on premise software. (Yes, believe it or not, even SaaS requires upgrade time because you need to test it!) Stacey did a great job of sharing the information of the study and knows Why you should not use pie charts. My challenge however, was that the graph included in the article confused me at first glance.

Pie Charts in Dashboards

I completely missed the fact that the top chart was in weeks and the bottom one was in months. I thought, “Wow a SaaS upgrade takes longer than on premise by about a 1/3. What?” Upon closer examination, I discovered that the two charts are using different time scales. My brain filled in and assumed the measures were the same. I just looked at the bars not the measures. Maybe I was having a blonde moment, not a senior moment of course, but, your users will have similar experiences. A way around this might have been to use different colors for the two charts or better yet, make the measures the same.

Moral of the story, you should have a standard measure to eliminate confusion. A pie chart forces a standard measure. But yes, you could make that same mistake putting two pie charts together that have different measures. We believe you should not use pie charts unless you only have two data points.

Next Steps

So, if now you are starting to question yourself, awesome! That’s the first step toward improvement! The second step is to learn from other’s mistakes by joining Lodestar Solutions for a real client’s dashboard teardown.

Join our webinar and witness a tear down and build-up of a dashboard. You will also see the new Cognos Analytics C11 BI in action.

It’s not your fault that your dashboards are not being used. You’ve been misguided in the principles of design. It’s time to learn what best practice myths are killing your dashboards end user satisfaction and adoption and  register today for our free webinar

If you need immediate assistance, check out our new a la carte services for small projects.

One of Lodestar Solutions’ Sr. Consultants could analyze your Cognos BI dashboards in a personalized, virtual tear down session. Your dashboard may be a few tweaks away from wowing your audience. For more information email services@lodestarsolutions.com

IBM is Simplifying Cognos BI Licensing Again

Congos BI licensing changes
Spring Break Business Intelligence

Spring Break is right around the corner and IBM is ready to party! For the pre-party, IBM released Cognos Analytics 11, which is great business intelligence and now available for download. The real party begins June 9th, 2016, as IBM will be converting some of its IBM Cognos BI licensing such as it's Business Intelligence Consumer (#E061BLL) license to the IBM Cognos Analytic User (#E0K32LL) license.  Normally, the trade-up cost of for this is $638/license, but now it’s FREE!!! 

So for clients that are current on their Subscription and Support, they will be entitled to all this amazing functionality they never had.  Contact me at Renewals@LodestarSolutions.com for a free, 1-hour review of your licenses and understand what additional functionality you are gaining. Renewing with Lodestar Solutions provides you additional discounts that IBM cannot, even though you still get the same IBM Subscription and Support renewal. 

IBM knows that the job responsibilities of its clients are ever increasing within their respective organizations and with that, IBM is empowering its clients to perform at their best. Those users can now create all kinds of reports and dashboards to provide actionable data to their organization’s decision makers.

Note that granting those Consumers any of the additional functionality is up to you. Also, it would need to be done by the BI Admin.  The BI Admin can create custom roles and set which users get those roles, so you can customize your user’s capabilities as you see fit. With this great opportunity to use these tools, Lodestar Solutions can help you get prepared to use them with our “Destination Dashboard” webinar and workshops.

The response to last week’s presentation was tremendous, so we are having a LIVE encore webinar:

How to Implement IBM Cognos Business

Analytics & Dashboards Faster and Cheaper

Thursday, March 10th at 11am EST.

$25, but free with coupon code RENEW2016

Register at http://analyticleadership.com/ls/


And if you want to truly experience Spring Break, join Lodestar Solutions in Tampa, Florida for our instructor-led, hands-on workshop. We’ll provide the t-shirt…


Register by March 5th for the 2-day Destination Dashboard Workshop in Tampa held March 23-24th and bring a friend for free (BOGO)!  Register at http://analyticleadership.com/


You can’t lose! We are so confident you will get more than you paid for in our programs, if you fully participated in our program but are not satisfied with our services and the results, pay us what you feel it was worth. So with some of the changes to Cognos BI licensing…you can't lose!

Cognos Analytics 11 New Features


Released on December 22, 2015, Cognos Analytics 11 brings a more user friendly unified interface, improved efficiency in all business intelligence needs, and a consistent user experience across mobile and web applications.

Cognos Analytics 11

Cognos Analytics 11 new highlights include

Cognos Analytics 11

~ Simplified user experience

~ More capabilities to limit or remove IT from the process.

~ More self-service options

~ Customizable user interfaces

~ Comprehensive search feature

~ Automatic selection of the best visualization

~ Reference templates to create standard reports

~ Test and validate models in same environment

~ Quickly format and style your reports

~ Easier drag and drop functionality

~ Enable web based modeling

~ Quickly build interactive reports (drill, sort, filter) and the ability to start web or mobile

~ Personalize your analytics environment w/ favorites, notifications and your content

There is also some important information to consider with Cognos Analytics 11. Query Studio, Analysis Studio and Cognos Workspace will no longer be supported after this current release. Cognos Workspace Advanced is the new report authoring and dashboard functionality.

Also, the gateway component has been replaced with WebSphere Liberty in addition to the following content stores which will no longer be supported after the current release:

  • IBM DB2 10.1
  • IBM DB2 for z/OS®, 10.1
  • Microsoft™ SQL Server 2008
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2

The following content viewer will not be supported after the current release:

~ Microsoft Office 2010

Many data sources will not be supported after this current release. You can find a listing of these data sources HERE.

If you are current on support, you can access the Cognos Analytics 11 download through the IBM software link. You will access to the following eAssembly.


After spending just a little time with this product, I think you will find the simplified environment, self-service reporting and the user customization as great changes aimed toward competing products. Framework manager, DQM, Dynamic Cubes and the high technical features from report studio remain intact making this newest release of Cognos BI better than ever!

We hope you liked this blog on Cognos Analytics 11.  You can find more info on Cognos 11 here.

Dashboards & Data Visualization With Color


Are you a numbers person like me?  Do you struggle with what color to put on your dashboards and data visualizations?   If you are like me, you hate decorating your house because color overwhelms you.  Unlike colors, numbers don’t have 500 shades and I like that.  So how do those of us who seem to lack a right brain create good looking effective data visualizations & dashboards with color?TM1 licenses & Workspace Dashboards

Let me introduce you to a new book “Storytelling with Data: A Data Visualization Guide for Business Professionals” by Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic.

As Business Analytics Coach at Lodestar Solutions, our Destination Dashboard workshop is designed to help clients define and get buy-in as to what goes on a dashboard.  This has been a workshop clients have loved but Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic’s new book & workshops take data visualization coaching to a new level as she teaches you color and style.   She starts with understanding the situational context including your audience, tone, and communication mechanism then leads you through effective visuals. In chapter four, she coaches the reader on how to strategically use color in your data visualization and dashboards.   She presents 7 lessons in using color to communicate with data.

  1. Color grabs attention
  2. Color can signal where to look
  3. Color should be used sparingly
  4. Color can carry quantitative value
  5. Color carries tone and meaning
  6. Not everyone sees color
  7. Color should be used consistently

For more information on this, checkout her video “Being Clever With Color” and feel free to check out her website: www.storytellingwithdata.com.

I love that fact she highlights that some people don’t see color. Have you been considering that in your visualization designs? For many of us highly analytic people that would prefer to communicate in binary or hexadecimal, she provides a great guide for us to think like a true dashboard and data visualization designer.

Nussbaumer Knaflic’s book does not dive deep into what makes a memorable visualization.  According to Hanspeter Pfister, a Wang Professor of Computer Science at Harvard SEAS, “A visualization will be instantly and overwhelmingly more memorable if it incorporates an image of a human-recognizable object—if it includes a photograph, people, cartoons, logos—any component that is not just an abstract data visualization,” “What makes a data visualization memorable?”.   Her teachings are very effective.  How to create memorable visualization would be a great topic for Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic’s next book.

My recommendation is that you go order “Storytelling with Data: A Data Visualization Guide for Business Professionals” by Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic to learn how to create quality data visualization & dashboards with color .  To receive more information on dashboards or how to make yourself a more effective Business Analytics leader in your organization, we urge you to join the Lodestar community at www.LodestarSolutions.com. Members will gain access to our private library and educational newsletters.

7 Keys to Building Dashboards for the C-Suite

Lodestar Solutions was recently interviewed for their thoughts on building dashboards for the C-Suite.  We discuss Building Dashboards for the C-Suite!

Businesses have access to more data than ever before. But, is this data actually helping business leaders make more informed decisions? In many cases, the answer is “No.” Why? Far too few businesses actually capitalize on their data. In this article, you’ll learn how effective dashboards will help your executives capitalize on your data, as well as tips for building dashboards that work.

The 7 steps in summary:

  1. Hold a dashboard workshop.
  2. identify which data points really matter.
  3. Display what the need and more
  4. Give them a way to get more data if necessary
  5. Provide Customization options
  6. Don't forget design
  7. Review the dashbaord using the “Reverse PEG System

Read what else Lodestar Solutions had to say in this article:  http://www.mrc-productivity.com/blog/2015/01/7-keys-to-building-dashboards-for-the-c-suite/

Make sure you join the Lodestar community by going to lodestarsolutions.com and taking less than 1 minute to join!  You will star up to date on our latest programs and offerings and have access to the information first!   Also if you have any questions on this or anything else please contact us at services@lodestarsolutions.com

If you liked this blog on Building Dashboards for the C-Suite, be sure to check out this blog on dashboard 101 by clicking here.

Building Dashboards for the C-Suite

Dashboard Basics

Dashboards have become more and more popular over the years due to their ease of use and the information they provide.  It is important to make sure you follow some key rules when starting a dashboard project to make it successful. Follow along with these dashboard basics.


  1. Make sure your data is correct and usable.  The number one killer of dashboards is BAD DATA!  Take the time upfront to stage your data and make sure it contains the necessary pieces that the business requires before starting a dashboard project.  This will insure that you have one version of the truth.
  2. Make sure that the dashboards you are building help align the strategy and the organization with its goals.  It is very important that everyone be on the same page.
  3. Dashboards should be actionable.  They need to include not only historical information but forecasted or predictive information as well.   By doing this, you can help drive employee efficiency, pinpoint strengths & weaknesses, and identify trends quickly.  This leads to the main goal of dashboards – MAKE OR SAVE THE COMPANY MONEY!

There are 3 types of dashboards:

  1. Strategic – Executive level dashboard that shows alignment of the organization
  2. Tactical – Senior level / manager usage that shows more detail and drives towards goals of areas within the business (sales, marketing, manufacturing)
  3. Operational – typically department level with actionable items that look at goals and history (think project level, product level or down to a department in manufacturing or marketing)

Lastly, make sure you build the right team to make your dashboard project a success.  Try and get an executive sponsor if you can.  Gather experts from each area that will be presented in a dashboard.  Invite someone from IT to be a part of your team.  It is very important to have a good relationship with your IT department!  Some others you can invite to be a part of the team would be someone with project management experience and an individual from your graphic design or marketing department to help with design elements of your dashboard.

Lodestar Solutions can help coach you through each phase of your dashboard project and insure that your dashboards drive action and make or save the company money!

Dashboards basics

Cognos Insight – Powerful but Simple Analytics Tool

Cognos Insight – Powerful but Simple Analytics Tool

As I sat and played with Cognos Insight (v10.2.2), it dawned on me that the opportunities are huge with this product.   New and veteran users alike can build high quality dashboards and reports with different data sources in little time.

Let’s start with the basics of Cognos Insight:

  • Free download of a slimmed down version of the software for any user through the Analytics Zone.  The free version allows you to bring in a data source from excel, .csv, or .cdd files
  • The full version is available to those customers who have current licensing agreements with IBM, or through a “buy it now” link.  The full version allows the above files types, plus the ability to connect to TM1 and BI package data.  You are also allowed to share your dashboards or reports with other users.
  • The data sources are quickly turned into OLAP or cubes and the user can quickly build reports or dashboards.

Simple Analytics Tool

The report above was created in very little time using an excel file as a data source.  Those of you who use crosstab reports and charts in Cognos BI should find this very familiar.

With the ability to connect to TM1 cubes and Cognos BI packages in Cognos Insight, the opportunity to quickly build powerful dashboards and reports is now available to many more users than in the past.  You do not need an expert in Report Studio to build objects – as many of you know it takes a long time to master Report Studio.  Now, with a day of training, end users can produce actionable reports and share with the organization.

Simple Analytics Tool

Dashboard created using Cognos Insight.

Make sure you contact us at services@lodestarsolutions.com to find out where and when our next demos are located.

I’m very excited about the opportunity that Cognos Insight provides everyone who is interested in Analytics.  Download it and give it a try, then contact us for coaching to turn your basic knowledge into rock star knowledge!

The Difference Between Cognos Express and Cognos Enterprise

The Difference Between Cognos Express and Cognos Enterprise

IBM Cognos has two offerings for organizations looking for a complete Performance Management solution. One is IBM Cognos Enterprise Solutions and the other is Cognos Express. If you are looking for the power IBM offers, you may have some questions about what is the difference between Cognos Express and Cognos Enterprise.

So, we thought we would take a moment to walk through some of the differences. Note with each new release this information will change. IBM is expected to release a new Cognos Express version in the very near future and we will write again on Express once it’s released. As for now, IBM Cognos Express is positioned as the mid-market solution from IBM however, large companies can purchase it.

Cognos Express offers integrated modules for query, reporting, analysis, visualization, dashboarding and planning. Once installed, the product essentially creates a local data mart (via TM1) behind the scenes.

The biggest difference between Cognos Express and Cognos Enterprise is the number of users.

Express product supports a maximum of 100 users running a single server. Originally IBM had four modules in Cognos Express: Reporter, Advisor, Xcelerator, and Planner. Over the years, they simplified the licensing. In Express you can invest in Performance Management (TM1) or Business Intelligence, or both. Below is an older comparison to help you translate the old license to the Enterprise licenses. For the latest information on the differences between Cognos Express and Cognos Enterprise check out our most recent Cognos Express comparison blog.

Cognos Express LicensesClosest Comparable Cognos Enterprise Studios
ReporterReport Studio & Query Studio
AdvisorAnalysis Studio
XceleratorTM1 Modeler
PlannerTM1 Contributor
CompleteReport Studio, Query Studio, Analysis Studio, TM1 Modeler, TM1 Contributor

The biggest difference between Cognos Express and Cognos Enterprise is clearly the price. As of this posting, Cognos 10 Enterprise has a lot of new functionality that is not available in Cognos Express. Functionality like mobility, Business Insight, Active Reports and Metric Studio is missing. My recommendation is that you evaluate your business requirements and explore how both options meet your needs. Consider your expected growth. Make sure you will not out grow IBM Cognos Express too quickly and you will have to upgrade to Enterprise. Both offerings provide powerful Performance Management solutions, but check it out for yourself. Lodestar Solutions would be happy to answer any questions you may have on the differences between Cognos Express and Cognos Enterprise.

Link to Latest Version of Cognos BI

For the latest information, contact Lodestar Solutions at Services@lodestarsolutions.com.

Use Dashboards to Get Your Entire Organization Managing Cash Flow

With the continuous tightening of the credit markets, calculating cash flow is in the spot light at almost every organization. Read further about how dashboards could help your organization. The first step in getting Cash Flow under control is to educate your organization on the importance of Cash Flow and how it affects the organization.  If you have an issue with Cash Flow, you need to closely monitor the variables that affect it.  The variables in an increase for Cash Flow include:

  • Accounts Receivable –  Decrease Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) – How long it takes to collect payment from customers
  • Increase Accounts Payable  terms –  How long do you have to pay your vendors
  • Decrease Expenses
  • Decrease Cost of Goods
  • Increase Prices
  • Reduce inventory- turning it back to cash

Although there are benefits from decreased DSO, and increasing the terms by which you pay your vendors, this is probably not a long term fix to Cash Flow.  If you have a Cash Flow problem and are not in a rapid growth pattern, the problem is probably related to Profitability.  Profitability is simple, if you sell your good or services for less than your cost + expenses you will lose money and have no cash.  Additionally, if you have heavily invested in inventory that is not selling, you will have cash tied up in inventory. The best way to solve the inventory issue to make sure you have the correct inventory mix.

So how do we monitor the variables that affect our cash flow including profitability and inventory mix?

Dashboards is a means of delivering reliable information in a useable format to the business, allowing better decision making.  Many organizations think of sales data when they think about a dashboard but a dashboard can easily provide information on DSO, Accounts Payable, Expenses, Cost of Goods, Inventory Mix, Inventory Turn and ultimately your cash position. But be careful!  Many organizations deliver what they call dashboards that are only sexy actual reports.  To be a full functioning dashboard, you need to regularly forecast your cash position.  This requires you to link your forecast information into your dashboard. By using the dashboard to view cash forecasts, you not only see your current cash position but plan for the inevitable peaks and valleys of cash demands from your organization. A true dashboard should provide drill paths to more information so the business can take action if issues arise.   To learn more about how you can use Dashboards to help cash flow, please call us at 813-254-2040 or email at Coaching@LodestarSolutions.com.