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IBM Cognos Review
Allows me to control how my reports look and behave.


Valuable Features:

Various studios vary in the level of control they give you in putting together a report. As an example, I spend most of my development time in Report Studio. I have always been impressed by the level of control I have in how my reports look, behave, and allow interaction.

Improvements to My Organization:

  • Allowed the organizations I've worked for to standardize the information they deliver to hundreds of decision makers.
  • Allowed insight into the operations and trends of the business with speed and accuracy.
  • The toolset allows you to create a framework to deliver a range of BI solutions. These scale from high level strategic dashboards with key performance indicators to tactical and operational reporting for the day-to-day running of business activities.

Room for Improvement:

Metadata documentation could be improved. While IBM Cognos tools allow you to document most aspects of the metadata layer, the way this information is stored and exposed for metadata management is too basic.

Use of Solution:

I have been using IBM Cognos for 17 years.

Stability Issues:

I have had no issues at all with stability. Cognos is one of the most robust products out there.

Scalability Issues:

There are no issues with scaling this product to a large number of users. The technical architecture is such that scaling is handled easily.

Technical Support:

Most technical support issues that I had were revolved in a prompt manner. The amount of information on the IBM knowledge base is impressive. The user community online is full of some brilliant ideas and solutions that I have used many times.

Previous Solutions:

Most companies that I have consulted for had IBM Cognos in place for several years.

Initial Setup:

A lot of companies that I've worked with outsource the set up activity to IBM or a second-tier consulting firm.

In every case, it has proven to be a wise move. I've never seen the choice of machines or configurations become an issue later down the track.

My advice is to outsource what you are not in the business of doing every day.

Cost and Licensing Advice:

Do your homework on the licensing that you require. The penalties and costs involved if you are audited for licensing can be expensive.

IBM does not allow you to trade or swap licenses. Most companies don't allow this either. The definitions of what each license holder is and requires should be clearly understood before entering into any agreements.

Some of their requirements around user licensing for those who were only consumers of reports (e.g., they have output sent to them by email) used to be fairly onerous.

Other Solutions Considered:

When I've been involved with a software selection, the contenders were BusinessObjects, Cognos, and Oracle. Cognos won due to its broad coverage of features and solutions that it covers as well as the product maturity.

Other Advice:

  • Resourcing: Don't underestimate the resources required to build good business intelligence reporting and analytics. For example, if you skimp on training, you'll have a great tool set that is going to be used poorly by its user community. Businesses implementing IBM Cognos need to get the balance right in terms of who carries out what activity, especially who and where report authoring takes place. One of the companies I've consulted for gave little training to people in the business outside of IT. As a result, poor quality and slow executing reports were the result.
  • Culture: Use these tools to promote the right culture. A lot of the benefit of using IBM Cognos will depend on your organization's maturity level with regards to its use and implementation of these tools and how you integrate their usage into your business processes and decision making. The culture has to be present to allow any BI tool to be successful.
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.

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