Top Ten Cognos and Planning Analytics Features in 2022

Top 10 Cognos and Planning Analytics Features in 2022
Top 10 Cognos and Planning Analytics Features in 2022
Written by Mike Bernaiche, November 11th 2022

It is that time of year where you start to see top ten lists of different things.  I thought it would be a good idea to highlight some of my favorite things about Cognos and Planning Analytics in one place and thus provide you my top ten features in Cognos and Planning Analytics in 2022.  Without further delay….  Here are my top ten features in Cognos and Planning Analytics for 2022!

Favorite Features 10 to 7

10. Learn Panel in Cognos and Planning Analytics.  IBM spent considerable resources on the quality and usefulness of documentation on both products.  The learn panel is intuitive, gets you answers quickly and even suggests things to view as you look something up.  It includes webpages, videos, tutorials, and documents.  Let’s say you need to figure out a rule in Planning Analytics or how to set up bursting in Cognos Analytics.  Simply start typing in the learn panel and watch the magic happen.  As you can see below, the results speak for themselves. You can even click on the forum area to get even greater info for a broad user base.

Learn Panel
Learn Panel

9. Insights in Visualization using Analytics Panel in Cognos Analytics.  Insights in visualizations provide analytic insights that can help users to detect and validate any important relationships and meaningful differences based on the data that is presented by the visualization.  The type of insights depends on the displayed data by the visualization.  Available types of insights are Average, Predictive strength, Meaningful Differences, Fit Line, and Most Frequent.  Average provides the mean of the displayed summaries, and most frequent the category or category that appears most often in the data.  The rest of the insights depend on more advanced analytics and statistical tests.  The goal is to provide reliable information that you can use for an enhanced description of the viewed data and discovery of any relationships that are expected to be found in the population that is represented by this data.  This area is new to Cognos Analytics 11.2.3 and I would expect IBM to continue to enhance this area in future releases.

Insights in Visualization using Analytics Panel

8. Explorations in Cognos Analytics.  Explore is a flexible workspace where you can discover and analyze data.  You can also explore an existing visualization from a dashboard or story, uncover hidden relationships and identify patterns that turn your data into insights.  Correlated insights are represented by a green icon with a number on the x-axis, y-axis, or the title of a chart.  Ok that was the technical speak.  Now for my thoughts.  At first, I didn’t really get why explorations could be powerful or why you would even use it.  After spending some time really getting to understand how explorations can work and how much effort IBM has put into improving them, I’m a big fan.  Simple case, select 2 points of your data and let the system tell you what to start to look at.  Pin that information and quickly use it in a dashboard.  Speaking of pins.  This is 8.1 of my favorite things in Cognos Analytics.  Pinning visualizations allows you to save information and use it across Cognos Analytics in a quick and efficient way.

Explorations in Cognos Analytics
Explorations in Cognos Analytics

7. Planning Analytics for Excel (PAFe) in Planning Analytics.  Everyone loves Excel!  With PAfe you can have an excel experience in Planning Analytics while exploring data, reporting or inputting data.  You can create several different items in PAFe.

  •  Explorations – slice and dice your data
  • Static – Create a report that is disconnected from the PA database and send to anyone
  • Dynamic – Create presentation style reports and also create data input files
  • Custom – Start from scratch and build what you want.

By the way, whatever you create in PAFe, you can publish to Planning Analytics Workspace

Planning Analytics for Excel
Planning Analytics for Excel

Favorite Features 6 to 4

6. Data Models and Data Sets in Cognos Analytics.  You can use data modeling in Cognos Analytics to fuse together many sources of data, including relational databases, Hadoop-based technologies, Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, text files, and so on.  Using these sources, a data module is created that can then be used in reports, dashboards, or explorations.  Data sets are customized collections of data items that you use frequently.  As you make updates to the data set, the dashboards, stories, or explorations that use that data set are also updated the next time you run them.  You can create data sets from packages or data modules, and use as sources to create dashboards, stories, explorations, and data modules.

Data Models and Data Sets in Cognos Analytics

5. Navigation Paths and Relative Time in Cognos Analytics.  To expand on your Dashboards and Reports using data models and data sets, use navigation paths and relative time.

  • Navigation Paths – provide a drill up and down feature to your data.  In data models or dashboards simply click on the navigation path area and create your drill path.  Go from Country, to State, to City with clicks of a button in your data and visualizations.
  • Relative Time – with a few clicks of a button create YTD, QTD, MTD, last month, current month and so many more relative time filters in your data to be used across Cognos.
Navigation Paths and Relative Time in Cognos Analytics
Navigation Paths and Relative Time in Cognos Analytics

4. Dashboards in Cognos Analytics.  Dashboards in Cognos Analytics has come a long way over time and especially in the last year.  First, with Cognos Analytics version 11.2.1 the speed to render improved signficantly.  IBM has added in a ton of formatting enhancmenets from colors, fonts and the like.  There are many new visualizations that compete with other BI products available and you can now export the dashboard to a PDF document.  All things considered I believe Cognos Analytics dashboards compete and exceed any BI product available!

Dashboards in Cognos Analytics

The Top 3 Features in Cognos and Planning Analytics for 2022

3. Applications and Plans in Planning Analytics.  Applications and Plans have seen significant enhancements in 2022.  Honestly, Planning Analytics Workspace has improved so much that it is imperative you own it and use it.  More on that shortly.  Back to application and plans.  I wrote a detailed blog on everything new in applications and plans and you can find that here.   Everything written in the blog above is now available as of Planning Analytics Workspace 82 (the most recent version).  In short if you haven’t checked out applications and plans in Planning Analytics, do so now!

Applications and Plans in Planning Analytics

2. AI Assistant in Cognos Analytics.  The AI assistant is game changing for Cognos Analytics.  It has gained so many enhancements over the past year that if you are not using this, you are missing out.  In Cognos Analytics version 11.2.2 and 11.2.3, the AI assistant added in time specific filtering.  Things like:

  •  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
  • YTD, QTD, MTD and abbreviations like Mon for Monday and Thur for Thursday and Xmas for Christmas to narrow your search in the assistant.

Type in “Show quantity between 1/1/20 and 2/29/20” and let the system generate visualizations based on what you typed. 

As you can see, I typed that into the assistant, and it provided the following.

AI Assistant in Cognos Analytics

Now let’s check to make sure it is correct.  I simply created a visualization and filtered on the dates I typed into the AI Assistant.  As you can see the system generated the correct data.

AI Assistant

Finally, my favorite feature in the AI Assistant is the ability to grab a data source and type in “create dashboard’ and watch the magic happen.  The system will create a dashboard with relevant data and then you can pick and choose what you would like to keep by pinning it and then creating other items to complete your dashboard. 

Create Dashboard in the AI Assistant

1. Workspace in Planning Analytics.  Finally, my favorite feature in Cognos and Planning Analytics is Workspace.  IBM has done an excellent job with Workspace in Planning Analytics and I’m going to spend a little time on why you should be using this.  And if you don’t already own it, why you should reach out to us at sales@lodestarsolutions.com to discuss adding this to your license entitlements.

IBM Planning Analytics Workspace is a web-based interface for IBM Planning Analytics with Watson™.  It provides an interface to TM1® data, with ways to plan, create, and analyze your content.

Planning Analytics Workspace helps you focus on the things that matter to your business. Using Planning Analytics Workspace, you can identify and understand patterns and relationships in data.  You can use this information to understand why things happen and predict what might happen. Planning Analytics Workspace opens the world of advanced analytics to all business users.

IBM has spent an enormous amount of time building Workspace to be your A to Z space to build models, input data, analyze data and reports.

Over the past year IBM introduced the Workbench in Workspace.  This is the main area for modelers to create TI processes, dimensions, cubes, rules and everything else you need to build your models.  Those of you who build models in Architect remember having multiple windows open to simply create a cube.  Now with the Workbench you have a flexible space that allows multiple windows open in one place adding great efficiency to the model building task.

Workbench in Workspace

Now that we have talked about the Workbench, let’s spend some time talking about the power of Workspace from a user perspective.  The ability to enter data and create visualizations based on the data that sync with data entry is so powerful.  After data entry the ability to create a dashboard to analyze that data in a visual way brings many insights to your data that were not readily available prior to Workspace.

Planning Analytics Workspace

Trust me when I tell you, if you are not using Workspace or do not have licensing for Workspace, you need to reach out to us today!

Helpful Links and Summary

There it is!  My list of the top ten features in Cognos and Planning Analytics for 2022.  There are so many more great features that didn’t make my top ten list.  However, both Cognos and Planning Analytics have come a long way and are both very impressive offerings from IBM.  Based on the roadmap for both products even more is coming in 2023. 

If you are not on the latest versions and you need help upgrading, reach out to me at services@lodestarsolutions.com.  We have several different offerings to get you upgraded and save you dollars and time.

If you do not own Workspace and would like to learn more reach out to us at sales@lodestarsolutions.com.

For everything new in Cognos Analytics

For everything new in Planning Analytics

IBM Cognos and IBM Planning Analytics Price Increase Coming!

IBM Cognos and IBM Planning Analytics Price Increase Coming!
IBM Cognos and IBM Planning Analytics Price Increase Coming!
Written by Heather L. Cole and Mike Bernaiche, October 21st 2022

Inflation is everywhere!  Have you seen the price of eggs lately?  Well, I am sure you will not be surprised that inflation is impacting the technology industry too.  Software costs, support renewal costs and consulting are all rising.  IBM Cognos and Planning Analytics price increase is coming in January 2023.  Unlike the price of eggs that increases every trip to the store IBM has held their prices all year. But that’s about to change!

(Want to learn more about what’s causing this inflation, check out this NY Times article.)

IBM Price Increase

IBM has announced that effective January 1, 2023, that most of their products worldwide will increase 8% with a few countries increasing at a different rate.  See IBM’s recent announcement for your specific country. 

For many of us 8% seems outrageous, but is it?  The Consumer Price Index is around 8.2%.  Pricing all around us from gas, to food, to well everything is increasing.  Even the government is recognizing inflation by increasing social security payments in 2023 by 8.7%.  So, thank you IBM.  An 8% increase by IBM is not that bad. 

Take Action Now!

Budget and Save Money

My goal is to make sure every IBM Cognos and IBM Planning Analytics client knows the 8% price increase is coming.  This should allow you to plan accordingly and make sure your budget for 2023 reflects this increase because your annual software support renewal will reflect the 8% increase.  For some IBM Cognos and Planning Analytics clients that have not reviewed their licensing with an IBM licensing expert recently, there may be ways to reduce your support costs.  At Lodestar Solutions we have helped hundreds of clients save on support by ensuring they are in the correct licensing mix.  Think of it this way, licensing is like a cell phone plan, IBM comes out with new bundles and licensing models periodically.  But, if you don’t ask if you are on the right licensing plan, you might end up paying more than you need to.  (See our blog How to Save Money on Cognos Analytics and Planning Analytics)

If you would like a licensing review with one of our IBM Licensing experts, email Services@lodestarsolutions.com.

Buy Software Now to Save

The second reason I want to sing this from the roof tops is that there is an opportunity!!  If you believe you will need additional licenses of IBM Cognos, IBM Planning Analytics, SPSS or any other IBM products in 2023 you might want to act now!  Many clients Lodestar Solutions’ works with are in acquisition and merger mode.  If this is you, you may need more licenses with your acquisition.  Or maybe you are rolling out new dashboards or planning models and need to add users.

It’s important to know that December is IBM’s end of year, which is always the best time to buy software and the pricing is still at 2022 rates.

NOW IS THE TIME TO BUY SOFTWARE!

Buy Future Year's Support to Save

But let me tell you a little trick!  Often when a client makes a significant purchase, they miss an opportunity to lock in their future year’s support.  How can you lock in support?  If you prepay for 2 years with your purchase, you will reduce the annual uplift and save money. 

Now, I know you are thinking “we don’t want to spend our cash.”  So, consider leveraging IBM Global Financing to purchase your licenses and 2 more years of support.  At Lodestar Solutions, we can help you do the analysis to see what rates you qualify for with IBM Global financing and see if the numbers work to save you money.  (Learn more about IBM Global Financing)

Consulting Rates Increasing Too

I would be remised if I did not also announce that Lodestar Solutions, and most consulting firms are increasing their rates too. 

Over the past year we have done our best to keep prices for our services at the same rates we have had for the last 5+ years. As we mentioned above, costs are rising and as such we will be increasing the price for services approximately 8.5% in 2023. This cost increase will be reflected on Statements of Work created starting Jan 1, 2023.  We hate to do this but to retain our top talent we need to compensate them fairly.

Lodestar Solutions offers many services including:

  • Technical Support – This includes upgrades, installation of new IBM Analytics software, database work, security and much more.
  • Planning Analytics and Cognos Analytics Consulting Including - architecture, modeling, model redesign, end user reporting and dashboard creation.
  • Power BI Consulting – data, creating reports, and visualizations.
  • Training – Cognos Analytics and Planning Analytics training for both the novice and experienced. Including both modeler and end user training.

This is our first consulting price increase in many years, and we strive to show value far above the cost.

Lodestar Value Add -

This is our first consulting price increase in many years, and we strive to show value far above the cost.  One of the benefits that add a ton of value to our clients is our Lodestar Solutions’ Client Only, Quarterly Virtual User Groups. These are live interactive events that allow our clients to network and learn from our other clients.  We record all content and offer our clients access to our library of prior users group sessions.  This allows Lodestar clients to reference our content at any time. If you are a current Lodestar client and have not accessed your library, please reach out to us at services@lodestarsolutions.com and we will help you get access.

Our next user group is scheduled for Nov 15, 2022 (Cognos Analytics) and Nov 17, 2022 (Planning Analytics) at 11am – 2pm est. If you are an active Lodestar client and want to attend but have not received an invitation, please reach out to us at services@lodestarsolutions.com and we will ensure you are on the right list.

In Summary

Unfortunately, a lot of things must happen to slow inflation.  IBM Cognos and Planning Analytics Price Increase is Coming.  We can’t stop that. But we all can plan and take action NOW to SAVE MONEY!  If you would like to discuss your unique situation, email us at sales@lodestarsolutions.com.

Coming Soon in Planning Analytics Applications and Plans

Coming Soon in Planning Analytics Applications and Plans
Coming Soon in Planning Analytics Applications and Plans
Written by Mike Bernaiche, July 29th 2022

Recently, I had the opportunity to see what was coming in Planning Analytics Applications and Plans and received the approval to share some of what I experienced.  Actually, the first section is now available in Planning Analytics version 78 released July 13, 2022.  Those of you using Planning Analytics Applications and Plans will find these improvements much needed and exciting.  Those of you waiting for a similar experience to contributor applications in the older versions of TM1 will be excited to upgrade and have similar functionality.  Let’s get started!

Approval and Rejections of Submissions

Approvals and Rejections are now available in the planning process with version 78 released on July 13, 2022.  In addition, improvements to email notifications and the overall submission process make it easier to work with plans.  When you create a plan, you can now add approvers for each contribution.  These approvers can approve or reject the submissions.

Approvals and Rejections in Plans plus Improved Email Notifications

Also in version 78, enhancements have been made to email notifications.  Event triggered emails are now sent to relevant users in a plan when any of the following occur.

Event triggered emails

Examples of email notifications.

Examples of email notifications in Planning Analytics

You also have a new area to track submission and rejections with a logging screen.  Great for the plan admin to track progress and understand where each step of the plan is at.

Submission Log

Before I talk about future enhancements, please note that these are in the IBM roadmap and their release is planned for future updates.  There is no timetable for release, and I will update this blog based on their release version when available.

Monitoring the Plan

Plan owners will now have visibility to all information in a plan through a monitoring screen. 

Monitoring the Plan

Task Dependencies

For plan owners to put in place task dependencies for automatic task to open and close based dependent tasks.

Task Dependencies

Plan and Unlock

Plan owners will be able to lock and unlock contributed data allowing for a more contributor like experience in Planning Analytics Applications and Plans.  Once the plan submission is complete and approved, lock it, and ensure that data doesn’t change.

Plan Lock and Unlock

Schedule Plan Open and Close

You will be able to open and close plans based on pre-set dates based on your planning cycle.  Create your schedule, set it and forget it.

Schedule Plan Open and Close

Detailed Instructions with Attachments

Plan owners will be able to add detailed instructions with attachments to the plan to give guidance and detailed instructions to plan contributors.  Load your .pdfs to make the process more efficient and get rid of the back and forth on instructions.

Detailed Instructions with Attachments

Visual Workflow Authoring

To give clarity into the flow of the planning process you will be able to create a visual workflow of the planning process.  Use this to make it easier for end users to understand the flow of data.

Visual Workflow Authoring

Summary of What's Coming Soon in Planning Analytics Applications and Plans

As you can read there are several excellent enhancements coming to Planning Analytics Applications and Plans in the coming months.  Approval and rejection along with email enhancements are included in version 78 released on July 13, 2022.  The rest of the enhancements are coming soon, and this is a great opportunity to start planning your upgrade to utilize these great features.  We wrote a blog discussing upgrades and an exciting new bundle program for upgrades.  You can read all about it here, Solving the IBM Cognos Upgrade Challenge - Lodestar Solutions.  You can always reach out to us at services@lodestarsolutions.com.

I hope you find these enhancements as exciting as I do.  Some of our clients have been asking for these for many months and I’m excited for IBM to release all of the updates to Planning Analytics Applications and Plans.

PowerPoint Options Cognos and Planning Analytics

PowerPoint Options Cognos and Planning Analytics
PowerPoint Options Cognos and Planning Analytics
Written by Mike Bernaiche, June 23rd 2022

As someone who worked in finance and analytics for many years, I found myself having to update many different reports, often in PowerPoint, with financial numbers for management, board members and others.  It can be a time-consuming process of hand typing numbers, verifying they are correct and then updating all over again each month or quarter.  Did you know that there are PowerPoint options to automate this process?  I wish I knew about these PowerPoint options for Cognos and Planning Analytics many years ago.  One of the products for Cognos Analytics has been around a long time, the other product for Planning Analytics is new to market through a company called Intito (Intito – Solutions and services for smarter performance management), called Office Connect.  Below I will talk about both options.

IBM Cognos for Microsoft Office

IBM Cognos for Microsoft Office is a product that allows you to use Excel, Word and PowerPoint to import data directly into presentations or documents and have that data refresh at the push of a button. 

What is it?

  •  IBM® Cognos® for Microsoft Office provides the framework that leverages the business intelligence architecture, including security, metadata, and content storage.  This infrastructure helps you manage your Microsoft Office documents and monitor the financial performance of your organization.
  • Use the applications of IBM Cognos for Microsoft Office to create, view, and consume reports, analyses, and other business intelligence content using familiar Microsoft Office applications, such as Excel, PowerPoint, and Word.

What Problems does it solve?

  •  The need to update PowerPoint presentations with data from Cognos Analytics or Planning Analytics (this is done by connecting your Planning Analytics cubes to Cognos Analytics) without having to copy and paste or hand type everything in.
  • Accuracy is important and you are nervous hand typing everything in each month.
  • When the closing process is complete you have very little time to update, and you are not into working nights and weekends.
Whatproblemsdoesitsolve
automaticupdates

The above examples show the Microsoft Office add-in and a resulting report once imported.  Every time the data updates in Cognos Analytics, you simply open the presentation and click the refresh data button and voila, your numbers have been updated.  Best news is, if you own Cognos Analytics you already own IBM Cognos for Microsoft Office. 

Intito Office Connect

Intito Office Connect is software that works directly with Planning Analytics and allows you to update data and report objects directly in PowerPoint with a few clicks of a button.  When I first saw this product, I was blown away and believe anyone who has presentation style reporting that needs to be updated each month should investigate purchasing this product.

By using Intito Office Connect you will save time, increase efficiency and accuracy, and spend more time analyzing and less time verifying numbers in a presentation.

IntitoOfficeConnect
IntitoOfficeConnect2

Would you like to learn more about Intito Office Connect?  Reach out to us at services@lodestarsolutions.com.  We have uploaded a demo that can be watched here.  I highly recommend checking this product out.  For years the only way to get Planning Analytics data into PowerPoint was either hand typing or connecting to Cognos Analytics.  With this option you can skip all of those steps and direct connect!

Summary

As you can see, I have provided two good PowerPoint options for Cognos and Planning Analytics.  Why not make your life easier and more automated?  Reach out to us at services@lodestarsolutions.com to discuss both PowerPoint options. 

Need to know what is new in Planning Analytics Workspace – check this out.

What’s New in Planning Analytics Workspace 75 and 76 - Lodestar Solutions

What’s new in Cognos Analytics - What’s New in Cognos Analytics 11.2.2 - Lodestar Solutions

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?

Forecast in Planning Analytics with AI

AI and Forecasting in Planning Analytics
AI and Forecasting in Planning Analytics
Written by Mike Bernaiche, October 14th 2021

Did you know that you can forecast in Planning Analytics Workspace by using automated tools that model time dependent data?  What does this mean for you?  You can take a series of time related data and let Planning Analytics suggest a forecast for the coming years based on statistics and trends from years past.  You can create a forecast, forecast low or forecast high version simply based on the trends of the past.  Below I will walk you through the steps to get started and create a forecast in Planning Analytics.

Requirements to use Forecasting

Time Dimension

  •  One or more time dimensions can be used to forecast against, and they must all appear on the column of the exploratory view.  In either case, the leaves must result in contiguous, evenly spaced periods of time.

Historical Data

  •  The historical data must represent at least double what is being forecasted.
  • The historical data must represent at least two seasons of data if it has seasonality.  For example, if the data cycles yearly and the leaf time members are at a month level of granularity, then it must have at least 24 months of data in the history.  This way, the feature can automatically detect the cycle.

Forecasting Data Cells

  •  The historical data must represent at least two seasons of data if it has seasonality.  For example, if the data cycles yearly and the leaf time members are at a month level of granularity, then it must have at least 24 months of data in the history.  This way, the feature can automatically detect the cycle.

Version Dimension

  •  The version dimension, if you want to use one, must appear in the context of the exploratory view.
AI and Forecasting in Planning Analytics

In the example above we have historical data to 2013 and will be forecast 2014 to 2019.

The Process to Forecast in Planning Analytics

The process starts by highlighting the members you want to forecast.  In the example below you will see that I selected all members shown.  Then click the forecast button .  This will open the forecast dialog box.  You will see 2 options.  Set up and advanced.  The first forecast we will create is in the set-up area.  I am forecasting years 2013 to 2019 based on the set up below. 

forecast button
forecast in planning analytics

Once you have selected everything correctly you will see the preview and forecast button enable and you can select one.  Preview will provide the below info.  You will see I changed the drop down to member 4 and the accuracy based on the AI in the Planning Analytics is high.

forecast preview

If you click the statical details tab you will see all the different statistical points.  This is for all of you data scientist out there!  You can click the learn more link and it will open a window that explains all of this information.

statistical details

If you like what you see you can simply close the preview window and click forecast.  The process will run and you will see all of the forecasted data in the cube.  You will notice the comment flag in 2013.  If you open the comments, you will see that the system has added in the statical information for each member.

forecasted data
comments

Advanced Tab Forecast

Keeping the time frame loaded in the set-up tab, you can now choose to have the forecast written to the optional version dimension (if you created one for your cube).  You can also ignore certain time frame(s).  This can be useful for times like the last 18 months of Covid data that may skew your data high or low, depending on your business.  Now you can select the version dimension and hierarchy.  And assign where you want the values to be loaded.  See below.

select version dimension and hierarchy

Now hit the forecast button and watch the forecast in Planning Analytics get loaded into the version dimension.  I moved the version dimension to the rows to show the below results.  As you can see Planning Analytics wrote data to the Forecast, Forecast Low and Forecast High fields.

forecast low and high

For detailed information on Forecast in Planning Analytics

Forecasting - IBM Documentation

For what is new in Planning Analytics Workspace

What’s New in IBM Planning Analytics Workspace Version 64, 65 and 66 - Lodestar Solutions

Summary

As you can see the process is very simple to get the automated forecast in Planning Analytics.  Take your planning process to the next level with this automated forecasting process.  Is it perfect, no.  But does it give you a great starting point with some artificial intelligence, yes!  For more information on forecasting or anything else planning analytics related reach out to us at services@lodestarsolutions.com

Are you ready to become a Transformational Leader?

Are you wondering how you become the transformational leader?  Lodestar Solutions is here to help!  You might want to check out our blog, It’s Time for CFOs to Leverage Transformational Planning.  

But more importantly Enroll in our complimentary webinar on Thursday, November 18th  from 10:30am-noon Eastern.

Mastering Transformational Planning: Why CFOs Should Lead this Initiative?

In this webinar you will discover:

  •  Why every CFO must discover and lead Transformational Planning
  • How to identify where the quick wins are in your organization
  • How to move your organization to Transformational Planning
  • How to find more time for Transformation Initiatives
  • And more….

To Register for this complimentary webinar, click here.

Scorecards and Metrics in Planning Analytics

Scorecards and Metrics in Planning Analytics
Scorecards and Metrics in Planning Analytics
Written by Mike Bernaiche, September 30th, 2021

Did you know that you can track your key performance indicators (KPI’s) with Scorecards and Metrics in Planning Analytics?  Many people do not realize that Planning Analytics has built in functionality to create the highly visual scorecards and metrics.  A while back the only way to create these up or down arrows or the red, yellow, green indicators was through Metric Studio in Cognos BI.  IBM moved this functionality into TM1 with the use of Performance Modeler and today you can create charts like the above along with visual maps or flow charts to track all your metrics.

What are Scorecards and Metrics in Planning Analytics?

Let’s start with the basics.  IBM Cognos Planning Analytics Scorecards and Metrics integrates scorecarding and strategy management capabilities to provide better integration of performance management with planning.

This allows you to:

  • Visually capture and monitor organizational strategy and goals
  • Define and monitor your key performance indicators (KPIs) with traffic light and trend icons
  • Compare your KPIs to corporate strategic goals
  • Create interactive scorecard diagrams and data visualizations

Components of Metric Cubes

Metric cubes are made up of the following:

  • Metric dimension
  • Metric Indicator dimension
  • Metrics cube
  • Impact diagram – auto created with metric cube
  • Strategy map
  • Custom diagram
  • History chart - - auto created with metric cube
Metrics Cube

Metric Dimension Properties

Metric dimensions are made up of the follow properties that need to be set:

Format property

      Specifies the numerical or date/time display format.

Performance Pattern

      Above target is favorable

      On target is favorable

      Below target is favorable

Tolerance Type

      Absolute - the value in the tolerance indicator is the tolerance and is used as-is.

      Percent - the value in the tolerance indicator is used to calculate the tolerance as a               percentage of target.

Tolerance Type

Metric Diagram Types

There are four types of diagram types that can be used with scorecards and metrics.

  • Impact diagram
    Impact diagrams visualize the positive and negative relationships between the metrics in your metrics cube.  This type of diagram shows how the business actually works by displaying how one metric influences another.
  • Strategy map
    A strategy map is an industry standard visualization that tracks business performance by perspectives, objectives, and metrics.
  • Custom diagram
    A custom diagram is a strategy map where you import a custom image and show metrics with dimensional context onto the image as data points.
  • History chart
    A history chart shows a column chart of data for a metric.

For even more information on scorecards and metrics from IBM check out this link, Understand Cognos TM1 Scorecarding - IBM Documentation.

IBM Planning Analytics and Transformational Planning

Recently we started researching and developing a program to teach clients transformational planning.  Heather Cole recently wrote in this blog, It’s Time for CFOs to Leverage Transformational Planning - Lodestar Solutions “the world has changed. Organizations of every size are being forced to rapidly adjust to the new world where distribution challenges are the norm and employee retention is top of mind. The uncertain world is forcing companies to create a transformation strategy. I believe this needs to start with the CFO. It’s Time for CFO’s to Leverage Transformational Planning.”

I couldn’t agree more with these words and believe that scorecards and metrics in Planning Analytics can help take you to transformational planning in your organization.

Here is another blog from Heather that further talks about getting on board the transformational train before some else does.  Finance Must lead Business Transformation Before Someone Else Does - Lodestar Solutions.  Also, inside this blog is a place to register for our free webinar titled - Mastering Transformational Planning: Why CFOs Should Lead this Initiative?  This webinar is on Thursday, November 18th, from 10:30am-noon Eastern.

In this free webinar you will discover:

  • Why every CFO must discover and lead Transformational Planning
  • How to identify where the quick wins are in your organization
  • How to move your organization to Transformational Planning
  • How to find more time for Transformation Initiatives

If you have any questions regarding the webinar or scorecards and metrics in Planning Analytics, please reach out to services@lodestarsoltuions.com.

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.

What Should Finance’s Role Be In Pricing?

What Should Finances Role Be In Pricing
What Should Finances Role Be In Pricing
Written by Heather Cole, April 1st, 2021

As COVID 19 has changed the world, finance departments are challenged to rethink their business.  In some sectors costs are souring while buyers are shrinking.   With an eye on profitability financial planning and analysis (FPA) departments are running numerous forecasting scenarios.  CFO’s understand how to manage the cost side of the margin equation, but what about the price side?  Should finance set pricing?  Does the finance team understand the real value of the products or services?  What should finance's role be in pricing?  And does your finance team have the right tools?

Cost + Basis Is Not Enough

Some organizations have looked at pricing as a Cost + Basis in defining their pricing.  But is that the best way to drive profits?  Let’s look at the effect of increasing the price 1 percent.  According to a McKinsey article The Power of Pricing,

“Consider the average income statement of an S&P 1500 company: a price rise of 1 percent, if volumes remained stable, would generate an 8 percent increase in operating profits, an impact nearly 50 percent greater than that of a 1 percent fall in variable costs such as materials and direct labor and more than three times greater than the impact of a 1 percent increase in volume. Unfortunately, the sword of pricing cuts both ways. A decrease of 1 percent in average prices has the opposite effect, bringing down operating profits by that same 8 percent if other factors remain steady.” 

So just a 1% decrease in price would require a significant increase in volume to maintain the same profit levels. 

Pocket Margin

Pocket Margin

It is time for companies to look at what is actually pocketed from each transaction.  Profits can erode from the list or base price in the form of customer discounts, incentives, promotions, cash discounts, freight, and other giveaways to gain the contract.

The pocket price is the list price minus discounts, rebates, promotions, free freight, and similar offers.  The contribution margin of a sale transaction can be determined by subtracting the cost of goods sold from the pocket price.

For example, a company sells a product for $1,000 at list.  The client negotiates a 20% discount for $200, therefore the pocket price is $800.  If the cost of goods is $500, the contribution margin is $300. 

But we all know that discounts, rebates, promotions, and payment terms are rarely the same for all your clients.  To get a better view of your profits, you need to dive deeper down to profitability by customer and product. 

According to Deloitte’s CFO Insights article “Pricing for Profitability: What’s in Your Pocket,” an effective pricing “strategy should rely on understanding economic profitability at the customer, product, and segment level—the so-called pocket margin.” 

Finance’s Role in the Analysis

So what exactly is finance's role in pricing? For organizations to effectively drive profits there should be a team effort.  Marketing understands the value the products and services bring to the market as well as the competition.  Sales is in the trenches and understands the clients.  Finance is in a unique position to provide a profitability perspective to pricing.  Pricing strategies should align with corporate strategies.  For example, are you looking to be the lowest cost provider or the boutique specialty product?  FPA teams that take view at profitability from a customer-level can find opportunities to improve margins.

Does your FPA Team have the right tools?

The secret to unlocking profits using a customer centric approach requires the right tools for analysis.  Finance teams need to have access to the right data, and advance analytics modeling tools to do what if scenarios.  Could they use Excel?  Sure, but we all know that Excel is prone to user error and challenging to maintain.  Unfortunately for many financial analysts their organizations have not stopped to think about the time they spend data chasing and maintaining spreadsheets.  Valuable time that could be spent analyzing data for valuable insights. 

IBM Planning Analytics

IBM Planning Analytics

IBM Planning Analytics is a power tool that can help financial professionals add significant value to the pricing discussion by streamlining models and allowing time for insightful analysis.  The Planning Analytics’ multi-dimensional models allow for deeper dives into customer and product margin analysis.  But IBM Planning Analytics can also be used to increase the accuracy of your forecasts and simplify your budgeting process.  Check out this brief demo of IBM Cognos Planning Analytics. This is a valuable tool that can help finance's role in pricing.

Other Ideas to Increase Profits -

Now that we discussed what should finance's role be in pricing and the need for the right tools like IBM Planning Analytics, CFO’s need to also influence the other areas that have a role in the pricing discussion. 

Ending Steep Discounts:

In many organizations the salespeople are quick to give steep discounts so they can win the deal.  But are the discounts necessary?  What if you encourage your sales teams to change how they sell your goods or services?  What if during the sales cycle they proved so much value that clients did not ask for discounts?  Yes, for many this would require a cultural change, but I can tell you from my own business, retraining your teams to learn a different approach can have a huge impact on your bottom line.  To learn more about an approach I recommend check out the book Gap Selling by Jim Keenan.  Here’s a link to a book review I did on it. 

Teaching Negotiation Skills:

Do you offer your teams training in negotiation and influence skills?  Hmm I didn’t think so.  But why not.  By training your sales and finance team to improve their negotiation skills, you could see profits rapidly.  As a high-performance and executive coach I have a gift for you.  For years, under my Heatherized company,  I have coached CFO’s on the art of negotiation.  I feel so strongly that this is a vital key to profitability for all companies that I am going to provide you complimentary access to my Negotiation Skills Training.  

Time to Act

As a finance professional it is time for you to act. You now know finance's role in pricing, so let’s get started. 

  1.  Watch our Planning Analytics video to learn what power planning and modeling tools can do for you.  IBM Planning Analytics
  2. Upgrade your Negotiation Skills, start by watching my Negotiation Skills Training
  3. Contact me and let’s discuss ideas how you can increase your profits. Email hcole@lodestarsolutions.com.
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