IBM Cognos Analytics 11.1 Summary Review
Date: 04/12/2018

By Ahmed Eltoukhy, Senior Consultant at Cornerstone Performance Management

Upon attending a short session in Sydney about IBM Cognos Analytics (CA) 11.1, I was        impressed with the new features added to the tool. IBM has already provided short but      very informative YouTube videos for the new features in Cognos Analytics 11.1:

What’s new in IBM Cognos Analytics data exploration?
What’s new in IBM Cognos Analytics dashboarding?
What’s new in IBM Cognos Analytics reporting?

However, with more than 10 years of experience using Cognos BI/Analytics, I was more focused on the tiny enhancements to the current tools such as Report Studio, Data Modules, Dashboards etc, rather than the completely new features added to Cognos Analytics 11.1.

In this blog, let’s have a closer look at those enhancements at a high level.

Architecture

  • Although it’s a major release/version, CA 11.1 can be installed on top of any previous CA 11.0 release directly, without the need to go through a complete migration process
  • It brings loads of Augmented Intelligence (AI) features to the tool: Business Insights from dashboards, data patterns, visualisation suggestion, natural language processing, predictive charts, completely new Data Exploration tool
  • Compatibility Query Mode (CQM) is still supported by enabling the 32-bit Report Server in Cognos Analytics configuration. However, IBM strongly discourages any new implementations based on CQM
  • Legacy studios are still available to support users moving from Cognos BI 10
  • Event Studio will be around for a long time as it is very powerful, and there’s a possibility IBM might rebrand it to the new CA interface, although it’s not known when
  • PowerPlay is still supported in CA 11.1.

Dashboards & Reports

  • Custom palettes, with a full range of custom colours, is now available in Dashboards. It can be created and reused across the other tools as well. Conditional Palettes are still only available in Reporting
  • External files can now be dragged and dropped directly to either Dashboards, Reports, or Exploration through the Cognos Analytics portal (not necessarily Dashboards as it used to be in earlier CA 11.0 releases)
  • Assistant is now part of Dashboards, and uses Natural Language Processing
  • Reports now have 11.1 visualisations. The good news is that the new visualisations now have almost all the features available for legacy visualisations. Previous CA 11.0 releases used to have only a handful of properties available to change by authors, which pushed the use of the legacy charts - title, width, height, and that was it!

Data Modules

  • Data Modules has been greatly enhanced by adding many of the FM features to it, including using functions in expressions, determinants, and row-level security filters
  • Row-Level security filters can be added to Data Modules if they are based on database sources only (not supported if the source is a file)
  • Object-Level security is not added to Data Modules
  • Data Module new calculation supports SQL Queries
  • IBM recommends using Data Modules for any new implementation where none of the specific FM features are required. On the other hand, IBM has no intention to remove Cognos Framework Manager (FM) or replace it with Data Modules.

Copying components across tools

Although this is a generic feature that has been made available across the Cognos Analytics platform, I think it could have other benefits and thought I’d mention it separately.

CA now allows the simple CTRL+C & CTRL+V combination to copy and paste any component across the different tools, if supported. For example, a Data Exploration visualisation can be copied to Dashboards or Reports, and a Dashboard visualisation can be copied to Data Exploration or Reports, which can be very handy.

Debugging CA dashboard visualisations was always an issue for me since there was no way of showing the underlying queries getting generated, and it isn’t possible to have a look at the XML specifications of the Dashboard. With the ability to copy a Dashboard visualisation to Reports, it copies all underlying query(s), query items, filters, and visualisation. While this is not a formal method for Dashboard debugging, it can be used to analyse the query(s) generated by CA Dashboards. Note that it is not possible to copy a component/visualisation from Reports to Dashboards, which makes sense because Reports allow for many more capabilities that aren’t available in Dashboards.

Top 5 Things to consider when moving to Cognos Analytics 11.1

I’d recommend considering these if thinking about switching to Cognos Analytics 11.1:

  • If possible, switch to Dynamic Query Mode (DQM)-While CA 11.1 still supports Compatible Query Mode (CQM), DQM is much better in terms of performance, caching capabilities, configuration, and connectivity. IBM is continuously investing in DQM (like the new Planning Analytics datasource which support DQM only!)
  • Switch to the new 11.1 Visualisations- While CA 11.0 visualisations had limited features and properties, CA 11.1 visualisations extended those properties which would stop you from continuing to use the powerful but less appealing Cognos Legacy Charts
  • Enhance your CA Dashboards with components from Data Exploration tool and custom palettes- With the new additions to CA, you should consider enhancing your current CA Dashboards with new visualisations (like predictive charts) and Data Exploration components, as well as using the latest features in CA Dashboards visualisations themselves, like custom colour palettes. Luckily, Dashboards is very user-friendly and easy to use, with a short learning curve that business users should be able to enhance with a bit of help.
  • Plan to move away from Legacy Studios (Analysis, Query, Workspace, Portal Pages) - While legacy tools are still available in CA 11.1, IBM discourages any new use for them with no intention to rebrand them to the new CA interface. A plan should be put in place to gather enough information about those Cognos objects, the need for them, and whether they should be deleted or rebuilt using Dashboards/Reports.
  • Train your business users on Data Modules - Although Data Modules has been there since the very beginning of Cognos Analytics, it’s been greatly enriched with features and capabilities in CA 11.1. Frequently this allows it to be used instead of Cognos FM, depending on the business requirements and level of complexity. Data modules are easier to maintain, web-based, and can be used by business users for external data and data prep.

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