How to create an innovative culture – Part 2

So, hopefully you read my previous blog on Innovation and creating an innovative culture..  It is essential to success in this market.

WHAT IS INNOVATION: A new way of doing something.

Let’s look at a great example of innovation.   In 1968 at the Olympics in Mexico, a man named Dick Fosbury set an Olympic record with a move that others called “unorthodox”.  He began experimenting with alternative, unconventional methods of high jumping as a high school sophomore. Rejecting the straddling approach, which had been the standard for the prior forty years, he tweaked the old-fashioned scissor kick.  The result of his creativity and willingness to try something different, was a completely innovative method of high jumping called the “Fosbury Flop” that is still used today.

INNOVATION IS PERSONAL and what lead to the creation of amazing companies like Microsoft, and Apple. In the challenging business world we live in, it’s time for all of us to be innovative.  Maybe you don’t think you have the influence in your role to create major innovation.  Start small.  Look at where tasks are done repetitively or processes that seem disjointed and broken.  Create ideas on how you could improve the task or process. Talk to co-workers and get their ideas.  Create three options on how to solve the problem with pros and cons to each solution.  Calculate the return on the investment.  This should include man hours saved multiplied by an assumed rate, estimated opportunities it creates, expenses saved, less costs to implement.  Determine the best solution and pitch your idea.   When companies are looking to downsize and need to determine who to cut, employees that provide innovative ideas which save the company money or help the business find new opportunities are less likely to be on that list.

INNOVATION IN REPORTING:  For years we have leveraged tools like Excel to do our corporate reporting and budgeting processes.  It works, but can be painful when cells are overwritten, formulas change …    Or maybe your organization has 5+ reporting solutions depending on the system the data is coming from.   You may have “Business Intelligence” tools thinking you were innovative.   That’s just step one.   Start looking at ways you can have an innovative culture within your BI environment.  IBM Cognos Event Manager can eliminate the manual distribution of reports by automatically triggering reports to be emailed to recipients on a specific date, or when specified data changes.  How about integrating your BI reports into Power Point for your monthly meetings?  This would allow you to simply refresh your Power Point monthly saving significant time in meeting prep.  Did you realize you can integrate IBM Cognos Planning with IBM Cognos 8 Business Intelligence?  If you own both, why don’t you leverage their integration?  So, if you are looking for INNOVATION in Reporting, check out some of our webinars for more ideas at this link.

INNOVATION IN BUDGETING: Are you still doing the annual budget in Excel and spending hours prepping hundreds of spreadsheets for departments to complete?  Only to wait for the users to send the mega files back to you where you get the fun task of consolidating them while praying that they didn’t add rows or columns.  It’s time to INNOVATE!  IBM Cognos provides solutions that allow you to use powerful OLAP technology leveraging your knowledge and the corporate familiarity with Excel.  Each user can complete their templates and data is automatically aggregated.   By simplifying the process with powerful tools, you can move away from the annual budget to a rolling forecast.  Start modeling your business with models that do true “What if” analysis.  And how excited would the CFO be if they had a process that took the forecast process all the way thru to the Income Statement, Balance Sheet, and allowed you to Forecast Cash?   For more information on creating an innovative culture and innovation in budgeting, check out our events and webinars.

See Part 1 HERE

Integrating Cognos Planning & BI – Dimension for Publish

Choosing the dimension for publish is one of the most critical steps in the Integrating Cognos Planning & BI process. In addition, the Generate Framework Model admin extension will model the dimension chosen for publish as the fact table. More simply put, the dimension chosen for publish will be your measure dimension.

Typically, you’ll find candidates for the dimension for publish contain items by which the business tracks or measures performance. These items are often numeric and can be aggregated across other regular dimensions. For example, a common reporting requirement is the creation of a Profit and Loss type report where dimensions could include:

• Time (year, month, day, etc)
• Version (Budget, Actual, Forecast etc.)
• Summary Expenses (Revenue and Expense detail)
• Contract Type (Current Year Signed vs. Ongoing business)
• Organizational Hierarchy (typically this is our Elist and cannot be used as the dimension for publish).

In this scenario, the Summary Expense dimension contains fact information that is numeric and can be aggregated across the other dimensions. Therefore it is an excellent candidate for the dimension for publish. However, depending on what type of reporting you are looking to accomplish, other dimensions for publish could make sense as well.

Using the same scenario above, let’s say you wanted to preserve the hierarchy from your Summary Expense dimension for use in reporting. Typically, this would be found in a drill down scenario where users can navigate the revenue account hierarchy to see what revenue accounts contribute to a total revenue number. You would likely choose a different dimension for publish in this scenario to preserve the Summary Expense hierarchy (remember, the measure dimension will not have a hierarchy). I would say Version or Contract Type could be candidates for the dimension for publish; however, it really depends on what type of reporting requirements you are working with.

Clear as mud ehh? I’ve found that looking at my reporting requirements and sketching out how I’m going to construct each report in report studio helps bring the appropriate dimension for publish to the surface. It’s a quick exercise that will help you lay out the components of the report and what type of structure will work best for you!

Integrating Cognos Planning & BI – Reporting Applications

Integrating Cognos Planning & BI – Reporting Applications

It is always important to consider any Business Intelligence requirements during the design of planning applications to ensure planned information is structured in such a way that it can be leveraged in Cognos BI. Anyone who has ever used planned information as a source for reporting will attest. That being said, it is not always possible to create a planning application that is both Planning and BI friendly. As a result, we have pioneered the concept of reporting applications which help bridge the gap between Planning and BI Requirements. I like to think of it as a mini data mart masked as a Cognos Planning application.

The basic idea is that reporting applications are a standalone planning application that leverages existing planning applications to structure data in a more easy to use form for Cognos BI. It is an application that is not published to the web and is NOT built with the Contributor end user in mind (they will never see it). It’s truly a planning application whose sole purpose is to enable a more seamless integration with Cognos BI.

There could be a variety of valid factors that cause your planning applications to be constructed in a fashion that isn’t necessarily conducive to BI.
Some may include:

  • Contributor user requirements dictate organizational or account hierarchies that differ from reporting requirements.
  • Cube and application size require the introduction of feeder cubes that undermine the end reporting requirements.
  • Reporting requirements have specs that are not easily achieved with the various BI studios.

Reporting applications can help in many of these areas to get your CPM solution over the proverbial ‘hump.’ You can leverage native planning functionality to build from and mold your operational applications into a reporting application that contains all the necessary components to satisfy otherwise difficult to obtain BI requirements.

For example,
XYZ Corporation has reporting requirements impacted by a combination of the issues listed above. One of which is a report requirement to calculate variance between planned versions (Budget and Actual) using a different variance calculations (Budget – Actual or Actual – Budget) depending on account type (Revenue / Expense).

Unfortunately, the logic required to determine an expense vs revenue account and apply the appropriate variance calculation is a daunting task with Report Studio. It would have involved the use of multiple crosstabs which ultimately would have led to a sloppy presentation of the information. As a result, Variances was calculated inside of the reporting application using add and subtract links (and other native planning functionality). It was added to the Versions D-List and was ultimately passed to BI pre-calculated eliminating the design issue.

Again, this is one example of the use of a planning reporting applications. The reality is that reporting applications can be designed in a variety of ways to help you achieve that full CPM solution.