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.
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.
- 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 Column Details – type “show column (column name)” to see information and related fields.
- Show Column Influencers – Enter “What influences (column name)” to see what fields influence your chosen field.
- 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 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.
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
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
- 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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and we would be happy to talk with you.