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Ahmed Lashin

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Category: Cognos 8 BI

Cognos (Cognos Incorporated) was an Ottawa, Ontario-based company making business intelligence (BI) and performance management software. Founded in 1969, at its peak Cognos employed almost 3,500 people and served more than 23,000 customers in over 135 countries.

Originally Quasar Systems Limited, it adopted the Cognos name in 1982. On January 31, 2008, Cognos was officially acquired by IBM. The Cognos name continues to be applied to IBM’s line of business intelligence (BI) and performance management products.

In January 2010, as part of a reorganization of IBM Software Group, Cognos software and software from recently acquired SPSS were brought together to create the Business Analytics division.

Acquisition of Cognos by IBM

In 2007, following SAP’s acquisition of Business Objects and Oracle’s acquisition of Hyperion,[8] IBM announced its acquisition of Cognos in November for $4.9 billion.[9] It continued to operate as a wholly owned subsidiary (Cognos, an IBM company) until January 1, 2009, when it was absorbed into IBM’s Information Management brand within the company’s Software Group. The software is now called “Cognos Business Intelligence and Financial Performance Management” or Cognos BI and FPM.

BI market

IBM’s purchase of Cognos and other business intelligence software vendors was a step in establishing IBM as a BI “megavendor” (along with Oracle, Microsoft, and SAP). This consolidation may prove beneficial for customers to have fewer vendors to deal with, but this raises concerns about integration of the software as more vendors are bought out by the big four. Another challenge is maintaining the same level of customer service.

Products

IBM Cognos 8 BI, initially launched in September 2005, combined the features of several previous products, including ReportNet, PowerPlay, Metrics Manager, NoticeCast, and DecisionStream. There are also Express and Extended versions of Cognos 8 BI. Full features:

* Report Studio (Professional report authoring tool formatted for the web)
* Query Studio (Ad hoc report authoring tool with instant data preview)
* Analysis Studio (Explore multi-dimensional cube data to answer business questions)
* Metric Studio (Monitor, analyze, and report on KPIs)
* Metric Designer (Define, load, and maintain metrics to be available in Metric Studio)
* Event Studio (Action based agents to notify decision makers as events happen)
* Framework Manager (Semantic metadata layer tool which creates models or packages)
* PowerPlay Studio (formerly PowerPlay Web)

IBM Cognos Express, launched in September 2009, is an integrated business intelligence (BI) and planning solution purpose-built to meet the needs of midsize companies. The features of Express are:

* Cognos Express Reporter (Self-service reporting and ad hoc query)
* Cognos Express Advisor (Freeform analysis and visualization)
* Cognos Express Xcelerator (Microsoft Excel-based planning and business analysis)

IBM Cognos TM1

IBM Cognos TM1 (formerly Applix TM1) is enterprise planning software used to implement collaborative planning, budgeting and forecasting solutions, as well as analytical and reporting applications. Data in IBM Cognos TM1 is stored and represented as multidimensional OLAP cubes, with data being stored at the “leaf” level. Computations on the leaf data are performed in real-time (for example, to aggregate numbers up a dimensional hierarchy). IBM Cognos TM1 includes a data orchestration environment for accessing external data and systems, as well as capabilities designed for common business planning and budgeting requirements (e.g. workflow, top-down adjustments). The latest version, IBM Cognos TM1 9.5, became publicly available on February 9, 2010.

By Mark Karas, Senior Consultant

Since Express Authoring mode has been around, I have asked many of my fellow colleagues if they have used the Express Authoring Mode for creating a Report Studio report yet, which is a functionality addition in 8.3, and I believe all answers were “no.” Seems there is little experience out in the field, so here is a brief summary of some high-level information on Express Authoring mode and some comparison to the more familiar and popular Professional Authoring mode:

Some facts about, and prerequisites for, using the Express Authoring mode:

  • Its main purpose is to provide non-Cognos report professionals the ability to create Financial reports
  • Express Authoring Mode works best with a package that contains a multi-dimensional data source (DMR, Cube) but will still work with standard, relational source.
  • Reports created in either authoring mode can be edited using the other mode.
  • The mode that is set in Report Studio at the time of authoring a report is not tied to the report specification or vice-versa.
  • There is no properties window for setting object properties in Express mode.
  • The Express Authoring mode works only with Crosstabs. Lists and Charts are not available in the tool set, nor are there any prompting capabilities.
  • Like Query and Analysis Studios, the default Express authoring environment works with live data.
  • By default, the reports authored in Express mode are not Drill-Down enabled but drilling up and down is available.
  • Levels are not part of the toolset, strictly entire hierarchies and the members, a la Analysis Studio.

There are some nifty little functions added to facilitate easy report authoring using members.

  • To add all the children of an existing member in the report (Data menu, Insert Children, After | Before | Nest)
  • Toggle between creating individual Members, or Member Sets when dragging a member onto the report
  • Selection to insert a single member only, the member’s children only or both with the drag in.

To get an understanding of the differences in the 2 modes, I used the GO Finance cube as a data source to create a Balance Sheet report in Report Studio using what is now known as the Professional Authoring mode. Professional mode utilizes the full-feature/function set of Report Studio, where the Express mode only has a small sub-set of those features. I then switched to the Express Authoring mode and re-created the same report. Here are my findings and in some cases opinions about Express Authoring Mode:

Findings of the Express Authoring mode

On the positive and/or neutral side:

  • Formatting was pretty much the same from the toolbar aspect. You do not have a properties window like in Professional mode, so the toolbar is the place to change font, justification, add borders, indenting (padding), etc.
  • Creating the Balance Sheet report in Express mode was indeed faster than using the Professional mode
  • From the Financial Analyst’s viewpoint, he or she will be working with the accounts and account roll-ups… things they are already very familiar with, as opposed to levels of a hierarchy which is often confusing to them.

On the Negative side:

  • Changes in the underlying hierarchies of the source will probably break these member-only reports.
  • Additions to the Chart of Accounts will not be picked up automatically, as they would if levels were used.
  • Lack of flexibility in object usage and setting.
  • No way to turn off the data preview
  • Didn’t find a way to change the Rows per page limit. My report went to 2 pages in HTML mode… very frustrating

In Summary:

I found Express Mode to be fairly easy to use for creating a quick financial report. It is not however, going to remotely replace a truly professionally authored and formatted report when it comes to the total end-user/consumer experience, given its “Ad Hoc” feel.

In many business cases you may need to have more than one Cognos environment on the same machine (like a development and testing environment or multiple development environments).

The installation is simply the normal Cognos installation. The only note in the installation step is to ensure that each instance has been installed into a different directory. for example

install instance 1 under c:\Program Files\cognos\cognos83dev\
install instance 2 under c:\Program Files\cognos\cognos83tst\

The real work will be in Configuring the second instance to overcome any potential conflict. So, amusing that you already have a running Cognos installation and you need to install another instance of Cognos. Here is how to do this,

1- On the web server ensure that there are separate virtual directories pointing to the corresponding install directory for each instance.

2- In Cognos Configuration under Environment, ensure that no two instances are both set to use the same port number (9300 for the default Tomcat application server) in the Dispatcher URIs for gateway, External Dispatcher URI, Internal Dispatcher URI, Content Manager URIs and Dispatcher URIs for external applications settings. (I used 9301 for the second installation).

3- In Cognos Configuration under Environment -> Logging, ensure that no two instances are both set to use the same Local log server port number ( 9362 was the default port used in the first installation, I used 9363 for the second installation).

4- In Cognos Configuration under Environment -> Cognos 8 service ensure that no two instances are both set to use the same Shutdown port number. ( 9399 was the default port used in the first installation, I used 9398 for the second installation).

5- Ensure that no two instances are pointing to the same content store. In Cognos Configuration under Environment -> Cognos Content database ensure that no two instances are both set to use the same Shutdown port number. ( 1527 was the default port used in the first installation, I used 1528 for the second installation). You will need to change the same port under the Data Access -> Content Manager -> Cognos Content Store.

Note : Make sure any new port assigned are not currently in use. You can run “netstat -a” to list out all the port numbers currently in use.

When I am working in Framework Manager, I always use the Context Explorer to check the relationship between database entities, fact tables and their dimensions in a star schema.  When I moved to Cognos v8.4, I noticed a very annoying problem. The Context Explorer is not saving the settings between sessions. So each time I open the Context Explorer I have to select the view options like Star Schema options and others. I am sure I didn’t have this problem in Cognos v8.3.

So after searching IBM support website, I found that it is a problem and that they have a workaround for it. here is what I found in IBM support website,

In Framework Manager, the level of detail settings (query items, relationships, cardinality, notation) are not saved. Changing these in the Context Explorer will not save these settings for the next session

Change these settings in the Diagram View, and they will be propagated the next time Context Explorer is used.

Steps
8.2:

  1. Open the Diagram View (View > Views > Diagram View)
  2. Set the level of detail, either by right-clicking on the whitespace and selecting Level Of Detail, or go to Diagram > Level Of Detail
  3. Save the project

8.3/8.4:

  1. Open the Diagram View (View > Views > Diagram View)
  2. Go to Diagram > Diagram settings…
  3. Specify the Level of Details
  • Select whether you want these settings to be the default for all new projects (8.4 Only) Click OK and then Save the project
  • The new features in IBM® Cognos® 8.4 BI provide benefits to business managers and analysts, business modelers, report authors, and system administrators. All studios include a new feature for suppressing rows and columns that contain zero values, missing values, or overflow values. A new lineage feature in Report Studio, Query Studio, Analysis Studio, and the report viewer, allows you to view life cycle information on each piece of data.

    Business Managers and Analysts

    In Query Studio, the addition of more user preferences and the enhancement of filtering and sorting options make it quicker for Business Analysts to set up and run reports. Also, because modelers can set default filters in a Framework Manager model, it is easier for users to set up and run reports.

    Analysis Studio includes a new feature that makes it easier to apply suppression across multiple items. From within Analysis Studio, you can also display the date on which a cube was last updated.

    Business Modelers

    Business modelers using Transformer can now use fact data from SAP BW OLAP data sources. This means they can create Transformer models based on existing dimensional models. Transformer also supports Microsoft® Excel spreadsheets as data sources.

    Report Authors

    Report authors now have more drill-through capabilities, including the ability to pass filters from the source report to the target report. They can also conditionally style crosstab cells based on values in other cells.

    More types of charts and more graphics are included with Report Studio for use in reports and dashboards.

    Report Consumers

    You can add additional information to a report by using comments. This information can include questions or explanations. Comments may include the original commentator’s ID and the time the comments were added.

    System Administrators

    Support for IBM Cognos 8 is extended to include more operating systems, data sources, Web servers, application servers, portals, and browsers. For more information see Appendix A: Supported Environments.

    It is now easier for Administrators to organize packages and control which packages specific users can see in the portal.