IBM Cognos Review

We can distribute interactive reports. Simple tweaks to some of the tools would increase productivity and development.

What is most valuable?

  • Ability to produce reporting solutions which are accessible on other devices (iPads, iPhones and Android).
  • Ability to distribute interactive reports (Active Reports) to over 1400 recipients. It became too difficult to create reports on a portal page and have people access the portal to download their report, especially on devices like iPads and iPhones. Getting a consensus on the data that these “portal reports” had to display was also difficult for security reasons. The active reports allowed easier access to data (email distribution) and the ability to display more data without security concerns. Each report was tailored to its audience.
  • Ability to produce self-service models and utilize self-service tools is a big advantage. I’ve successfully converted report-only data models into dual purpose, reporting, and self-service models without too many headaches. I’ve had success in training managers to use Workspace Advanced to generate their own reports. Some of the less computer savvy users had some difficulty at first.

How has it helped my organization?

  • Active Reports: More detailed data is available to sales reps and management. The reports are configured for the rep/manager role with a focus on their own territory/market data. The reports are delivered to email, so there is no difficult and lengthy navigation to get the data to the recipient. The ease of use and access meant that more of the audience was utilizing the reports. The amount of inquiries, issues, and complaints was greatly reduced. We received a great response from everyone involved.
  • Self Service: The demand for reports was much greater than our resources could provide. Being able to produce self-service models and deliver tools such as Workspace and Workspace Advanced was a huge benefit to my team and to the company as a whole. The fact that we could modify the current models with self-service style packages helped us to provide consistent, dependable solutions without having to “reinvent the wheel”.

What needs improvement?

When bursting a low volume report using a burst key, I would like the ability to copy myself on the reports. The Carbon Copy (CC) field disappears on the ‘Run with Options’ email option when a burst key is used.

Simple tweaks to some of the tools would increase productivity/development such as the following:

  • Ability to control how reports generate queries to the server without having to use custom SQL.
  • Ability to make changes to a calculation or column in Workspace Advanced without automatic validation.
  • Allowing any object in Workspace Advanced to be moved/deleted. Lists become locked into place once placed on the page.
  • Conditional formatting limitations in Report Studio resulted in more report versions for different audiences (Active Reports). We could reduce our 24 report versions down to 8 report versions with a more versatile formatting function.
  • Formats are linked to specific data items within a specific query. Queries sharing the same data items should be able to share conditional formats.
  • It would be beneficial to have prompts or other (render) variables to control formatting.
  • Ability to ‘scroll lock’ in Report Studio: You create a list within a block and set the block to a specific size. The block allows the list to be scrollable within the report. This is useful when the report will be displayed on smaller devices like phones and tablets. When editing the list within this block, after every change is made, the focus returns to the top left of the block. This makes it time consuming to make simple changes to the list and ultimately making it difficult to keep focused on the changes.

For how long have I used the solution?

We have used Version 10.2.1 for three years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We encountered some minor issues. With Active Reports, we have a recurring HAL error that is being investigated by IBM at this time. It only affects 0.01% of our 1500+ outputs.

Other reporting tools such as Report Studio (standard reports), Event Studio, Workspace, and Workspace Advanced work well with no issues.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We encountered a scalability issue, but it has been addressed.

With Active Reports, the size of the data and complexity of our model combined with the size of our audience led to an additional month of development.

Ultimately, the Active Reports were generating far more queries than expected when bursting. In some cases, they produced temp space issues. Most of these issues were mitigated through aggregation, indexing, and partitioning.

We were able to streamline the Active Reports in the process which helped to a degree. The biggest gain, from what we understand, will be seen when we are enabling DQM. This is planned for 2017.

How is customer service and technical support?

I would give technical support a rating of 7/10. Response time tended to be a little slow, but their support team seemed to be very knowledgeable about the tools and best practices.

Some issues were resolved with “quick fixes”, not long term solutions which I didn’t like, but it worked.

Too many questions were answered with “upgrading to 10.2.2 will solve the problem”. This seemed to be IBM’s knee jerk reaction to uncommon, but known issues.

I would award them one point for their upsell tactic, one for their response time, and one for quick fixes versus long term solutions.

Which solutions did we use previously?

I am not aware of any previous solutions.

How was the initial setup?

I don't know about the initial setup as I was hired after it. Upgrades seem to take some time and some fine-tuning with IBM's assistance. There has been nothing out of the ordinary.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

The standard user licensing is straightforward. It seems like they are expanding these licenses now to cover more of the tools so there is less complexity there. PVU licensing must be researched and understood before committing. The terms of PVU licensing seemed to be a little vague and confusing.

We discovered a great deal more by asking IBM some detailed questions. This will save us some headaches in the future.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We evaluated OBIEE and QlikView to the best of my knowledge.

What other advice do I have?

Cognos provides a multitude of reporting options and I love working with it. I would recommend it as a reporting one-size-fits-all solution. If a simple reporting tool is all that’s required, other solutions might be more suitable.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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