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Element61 Insight IBM Cognos 10 What is New

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    IBM Cognos 10 :Business Intelligence Unleashed,Expectations Exceeded ?

    Summary of whats new in version 10

    Maarten Vanleenhove


    Early November 2010, IBM Cognos 10 was finally released. "Business Intelligence Unleashed was the

    as usual- catchy and (overly ?) promising marketing slogan. Expectations were rather high as thiswas the first major release since Cognos had beenacquired by IBM in 2007. Currently part of the IBMBusiness Analytics software offering, IBM Cognos 10 offers a lot of enhancements compared to theprevious version. This insight tries to shed light on the highlights of this new release and investigateswhether expectations have been met or even exceeded.

    User interface targeted at business users

    Since the early days of business intelligence, much has changed. Not only has the amount of availabledata exploded, but technology matured and business users have become far more proficient at usingBI technology. This leads to new opportunities where users can be provided with the freedom on how

    to present the data they need, whilst IT maintains the standards in security, performance andreliability centrally. When looking at the renewed product offering with IBM Cognos 10, the theme ofself-servicing BI is considered to be the main plotline. IBM Cognos 10 features a completely newuser experience by offering a unified BI workspace: Business Insight. Although marketed as a newproduct, Business Insight was already known as Cognos Go! Dashboard.

    With this release it is no longer a separate product butnow an integral part of IBM Cognos 10. TheBusiness Insight workspace is built by dragging/dropping complete reports or parts of a reportonto the canvas. Charts, crosstabs, metric objects, TM1 objects everything can be included.

    Additionally filters can be added that will filter seamlessly all associated objects. Two types of filtersare available: value filters using checkboxes and slider filters to filter on date.

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    Figure 1: The Business Insight canvas

    Importing objects is done by selecting reports or by selecting a part of a report from the contentpane, which shows the content of the content store. Drilling and drill through definitions of theoriginal report are kept in the imported version. By means of an on demand toolbar, changes can bemade to the content or layout of the report. Lists can be switched to charts, columns can be added,highlights can be set

    Each report on the canvas is represented as a widget that is kept internally in the content store. Thisallows a user to thoroughly modify the content or layout of an object without modifying the originalobject. These modifications can be done in 2 modes. The simple modifications such as switching fromtable to chart can be done from within the on demand toolbar. For more advanced modifications anew studio has been developed: Business Insight Advanced. This studio is aimed specifically at

    business users and is positioned between Query Studio and Report Studio. Business Insight Advanced specifically replaces the Report Studio Express mode. As with Query Studio, data ispreviewed while developing a report. However more formatting/data presentation options areavailable then in Query studio. Business Insight offers a common workspace for all supportedanalytics. This moves the user experience from a role centered approach to a progressively interactiveand dynamic self-servicing Business Intelligence experience by leveraging existing content andeasily creating new content.

    Enhanced searching and collaboration

    IBM Cognos 10 offers integrated search capabilities that will search both the content of a reportas well as the metadata behind the report. By doing a refined search, even selections on specific

    object types are possible. In Cognos 8, these search capabilities were part of Cognos Go! Search. Thisproduct has now been added to the base product, requiring no extra license cost. Also added by IBM

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    are a number of collaboration capabilities. According to IBM, this will offer faster and betterdecisions. To achieve this, Lotus Connections has fully become part of IBM Cognos 10 and allowsusers to consume BI content and discuss it with others through a common interface. This socialsoftware allows users to set up due dates, activity owners, discussion threads, wikis, blogs,communities . By using an Inbox a user is notified of new tasks, approval requests and notificationrequests which the user can act upon. More importantly, users can finally create annotations inreports and dashboards. Annotations can be entered on 2 levels: cell and object level. The entirethread, including who posted what annotation when, is available to the user. When exporting adocument to Excel or PDF, the annotations are exported as end notes.

    Figure 2: Annotation thread

    IBM Cognos 10 offers improved data lineage functionalities. Report and model information can beviewed with IBM Cognos Lineage Viewer. With the integration of IBM Infosphere MetadataWorkbench it is now possible to look at ETL, source data and impact analysis information.


    Cognos Mobile features the ability to access Cognos from a mobile device. While Cognos Mobile 8used to be limited to Blackberry, IBM Cognos 10 allows for any Windows Mobile system, NokiaSymbian, iPad, iPhone or Blackberry device to be used. The product allows users to fully view andinteract with all relevant BI content such as Business Insight dashboards, reports, metrics and analysis

    in a secure environment. Users can get a real-time view of Cognos BI data, including real-time alertsor perform drill up and down and use improved prompting capabilities while running a report on their

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    mobile device. IBM Cognos 10 Mobile also is location aware, so values can be filtered based onGPS coordinates.

    Figure 3: Cognos Mobile

    Offline reports

    Viewing offline content used to be a feature within Cognos but was dropped when launching the newReportNet architecture back in 2004. For years, existing and long-standing Cognos customers andend-users have requested this feature to become available again, especially as the main competingproducts offer such capability. Active Reports offer interactive dashboards that business users canuse offline. Active Reports are an extension of normal Report Studio reports and can be scheduled orbursted through Cognos Connection. Existing Report Studio reports can easily be converted to

    Active Reports by adding active report controls and active report variables. A report can be run asHTML or be saved as MHT file. This file is viewable in Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox. Due to thevery flexible nature and the ability to burst and apply row-level security, it is not unlikely that this

    format will soon replace a lot of the PDF burst reports that were traditionally sent to for examplecustomers or business partners.

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    Figure 4 Active Report dashboard

    Enhanced reporting capabilities

    With the acquisition ofSPSS by IBM in 2009, it was only a matter of time before these capabilitieswould be integrated in Cognos. Report Studio now offers a new report type: Statistics. By meansof a wizard driven interface, it is possible to create reports with descriptive statistics, histograms,boxplots and Q-Q plots (for more details, see below). At the backend, the Statistics service isrunning the SPSS Statistics engine. By integrating these features, statistical process control can nowbe embraced and for example, Six-Sigma projects can leverage the existing Cognos-platform.

    New features include:

    - Descriptive statistics: will quantitatively summarize a dataset such as mean, standarddeviation, minimum, maximum- Histograms: display a range of variable values in intervals of equal length such as a

    frequency of incidents over a range of months- Boxplot: is also known as a box and whisker chart and shows groups of numeric data. In

    the chart, minimum, maximum, median, upper and lower quartiles, outlying and extremevalues.

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    Figure 5: Boxplot

    - Q-Q Plot: a quartile-quartile plot charts the quartiles of a variables distribution against adistribution of your choice, including the normal distribution.

    -Figure 6 : Q-Q plot

    Report Studio is now using a new chart engine for any new chart created. Legacy charts can beconverted to the new charting engine, or they can be used in legacy mode. The new charting enginewill allow setting more properties to modify the appearance, and will give a preview of the chart atdesign time. Pie Charts for example can now group the smallest slices into a single category,preventing pie charts to become overly busy with small slices. Only one new chart type is available inCognos 10: the Bullet chart. A bullet chart will compare the actual to the targeted measure.

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    Figure 7: Bullet chart

    It should be noted that Cognos 8.4 already included Marimekko and Micro-charts. Marimekko chartswill show a 100% stacked chart, with the width of column being proportional to the total of thecolumn value. Microcharts are a miniature version of line and bar charts and are ideal to be used in atable. Another small but convenient change in Report Studio is the naming of output files. When areport was run in Excel or PDF, the report name used to be a random string. IBM Cognos 10 will nowuse the report name as the default name when the report is saved. Other user interface related

    improvements include:

    Insertable Objects and Properties can now be positioned to the right of the work area Reports can be previewed when opening or saving a report When drilling up / down: the column title can now show the level label value Calculations have been made easier The default report style can be used as a new color scheme Alternative text can be added to non-text objects. In case the reader would not be able to

    show the object, this alternative text is shown. Using Map Manager, new region layers can now be created. Each new region is made up of

    one or more regions from the original map.

    Another small improvement is the scheduling of reports during a certain period of the day. You cannow schedule a report to run hourly between eg. 9 am and 5 pm. It is also possible to change theowner credentials for a schedule or suspend a scheduled activity.

    Using external data

    The use of external data within a Report Studio report allows users to leverage data not present in thedata warehouse or centrally managed data sources. This allows users to act upon data much fasterthan before when external data files first had to be made available in the data warehouse or in aTransformer cube.

    Excel, tab-delimited text files, csv-files and XML-data files can be imported as external data. Theexternal data is not report specific. When external data is imported, a new package is created,containing both data and relationships between the objects. To prevent some users to tamper with

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    data, the administrators can grant or deny the Allow External Data grant. When the data is importedinto the package, it is shareable with other users in a secured manner.

    Business Warehouse

    SAP BW packages can now be directly created in Cognos Connection. It remains possible howeverto create and publish SAP BW packages using Framework Manager. When creating a new SAP BWdata source, a user friendly and easy wizard is available, that is capable of leveraging the SAP BWsecurity. Also new, is the support for Microsoft Analysis Services 2008 use a similar mechanism. Rarelaatste zin

    Microsoft Office

    IBM Cognos 10 heavily integrates with the Microsoft Office product family. Within Microsoft Excel,the user can connect to the Content Store and select a package on which data analysis will be

    performed. The actual analysis is created by dragging and dropping package items from the foldersinto Microsoft Excel. The use of the framework semantic layer ensures stability and security overdirect access to the data source. A new feature is that the analysis can be saved in the content store,directly in Excel-format. While it is possible to create your own analysis in Microsoft Excel, you are notrequired to do so. Within Word/PowerPoint and Excel, the Cognos Content Store can be viewed andobjects such as reports or analysis can be imported directly using the Cognos security model. When areport is imported, the data link is saved so the report content can be refreshed when reconnecting toCognos.


    Framework Manager largely remains the same. Noteworthy is the Model Design Accelerator. Thisis a graphical tool that allows you to map tables on facts/dimensions and from there on easilygenerate a framework model. When the model has been generated, a 3-layered framework model hasbeen built, containing a Physical, Business and Presentation View. In older Framework Managerversions, it was a best practice to use a design language that was not used by business users. Thisdesign language was usually a dialect of a main language such as English Zimbabwe. This ensureddurable models by preventing compromising the report integrity when attribute names were changedin the model. With this new release, a new property: Use Design Locale for Reference ID hasformalized this best practice. What is no longer available is the native support for repository controlsuch as Visual SourceSafe though it remains possible to use an external repository control.

    Under the hood

    IBM Cognos 10 presents some remarkable performance gains: MDX queries could run up to threetimes faster, PDF generation is 40% faster These gains are realized through the use of the dynamicquery mode. With ever increasing query complexity and growing data volumes, Cognos created aJAVA-based optimization application that will optimize queries by using 2 separate mechanisms: keyoptimization and in-memory caching.

    Key optimization is used for OLAP data providers such as IBM Cognos TM1, Oracle HyperionEssbase and SAP BW. It uses a number of optimizations:

    Direct Java Connectivity is supported for SAP BW and Oracle Hyperion Essbase Null Suppression optimization: when levels are added to a report, the number of cells needed

    grow exponentially. A lot of these cells contain null values, slowing down the report evaluationprocess. By leaving out those cells, the report performance is enhanced. This feature isavailable in Business Insight Advanced, Query Studio and Report Studio.

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    Master-detail optimization: master queries are pushed to the detail level, leaving only onequery that is executed in the database.

    64 bit optimization: allows more caching to occur as the Java Virtual machine is no longerlimited to the 2GB memory boundary in the memory address space

    When a report is built or run, several requests are made to the report service, returning metadata anddata to the report. In-memory caching will cache all that data for future reuse. When a userrequests the same report once more, the data no longer needs to be retrieved from the data source.There are however a few "buts: the cache is both data-source and user specific, diminishing the effectof the caching. As data is cached, changed data at the database is not captured, so care is required insetting cache refresh rates.

    In order to be able to easily search for bottlenecks in queries, a new client based tool is delivered:

    Dynamic Query Analyzer. This tool provides a tree based view on the query and indicates possiblebottlenecks using color coding. The Dynamic Query Mode must be configured to log the run trees.This is done by modifying the appropriate Query Service Setting. The resulting logs are written in the

    /XQELogs/ and can be viewed directly or remotely (HTTP) with the Dynamic Query Analyzer tool.

    Figure 8: Dynamic Query Analyzer

    Interesting to know is that IBM Cognos 10 can be installed with or without a preinstalled content

    database. When you choose to install a preconfigured database, IBM DB2 is installed.

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    Figure 9: Scheduled activity breakdown

    Several small improvements were finally made to the administration interface. One of them is the

    ability to graphically look at the schedule load by timeslot as seen in the image above. Anotherimprovement includes the scorecard type view of the server topology indicating availability of servers

    and services.

    Figure 10: Server Scorecard view

    Migrating from older versions

    The last topic of this insight, discusses the inevitable migration process from previous releases. TheCognos 8 Upgrade Manager was face lifted and renamed to Cognos Lifecycle Manager. This toolenables the automated migration of Cognos 8 reports to IBM Cognos 10 in a visual and easy manner.Migration to IBM Cognos 10 can be done from any Cognos 8 release and this is the last release thatwill support ReportNet as a source system.

    The Lifecycle Manager tool is a tool that automates the validation, executing side by side and finallycomparing the report output. When creating a project in Lifecycle manager, the source and targetenvironment are defined. Next, the application credentials to log on both content stores are definedand the list of content to be included in the project is added. The first step in the actual migrationprocess is to manually deploy all the content from the source to the target environment with anidentical folder structure. When this is done, Lifecycle Manager can be used to validate all the objectsin the target environment. Before Lifecycle Manager can programmatically execute the reports,prompts must be supplied. If prompts are defined and saved in Cognos Connection, Lifecycle Managerwill automatically include these in the migration project. If no prompts are defined, Lifecycle Managerallows for automatic generation. When all prompts are entered, the reports are run in both the sourceand target environment. Next the reports can be compared by Lifecycle Manager. When the outputsdo not match, a blinking option is available, so the developer can quickly visually asses where thedifferences are located. If there is real difference, the report can be rejected by the user.

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    Figure 11 LifeCycle Manager interface


    In the past 5 years, IBM has invested US$ 14 billion in the acquisition of 24 software companies. WithCognos being one of them, the overall offering starts to clearly benefit from some of these new

    technologies. Following the consolidation in the Business Intelligence market a few years back, whenIBM acquired Cognos and SAP acquired Business Objects, Cognos clearly seems todigest well thetransition into the IBM family. Not only were integration issues tackled, but this release also delivers aseries of enhancements, even if some of them originated from innovative, original approaches ofsmaller challengers in the BI space. However, all in all, one can say that IBM Cognos 10 offers anextremely complete, mature, enterprise BI solution, built from the ground up on a SOA Architecture,and clearly sets a new standard for end-to-end performance management solutions.

    For more insights & research on IBM Cognos 10 visit the Knowledgebase at