IBM Cognos TM1 Review

Cognos BI/TM1: An Expected Integration


In recent years, IBM has worked towards the integration of two major components of its Information Management offering: Cognos BI and Cognos TM1.

The pairing of the two IBM IM flagships is gradually becoming an appealing combination for the vendor on the BI front. In this article, I will describe some of the main integration points from a technological point of view, some of their advantages for the business and related considerations.

Portal integration

Historically, the first effort made towards the integration of the two products consisted of making TM1 components available in Cognos Connections. Today, we have a series of widget and servlets serving this purpose. A user can, for example, access TM1 Applications (formerly TM1 Contributor) from within Cognos Connection or browse a TM1 cube in Business Insight. Although this approach provides a single point of entry for both products and represents a first step towards the integration, it can barely be considered an applicative integration as no real communication occurs between the two toolsets. For example, users are forced to identify twice (once in Cognos BI, once in TM1) even if they seem to be working in the same application. The workaround for this issue is discussed in the paragraph on shared security.

TM1 as a datasource of Cognos BI

Since Cognos 8 latest versions, TM1 cubes are fully supported datasources of the BI suite. This allows the TM1 cubes to be analysed and reported on within the various Cognos BI studios. The direct advantage of this is that TM1 has renowned performance when handling large amounts of data and can be leveraged in the Cognos BI reporting suite. Another not so direct advantage is the ability to mix budgeting and forecasting data from the TM1 cubes with operational data from a classic data warehouse. This requires both TM1 cubes and the data warehouse to be prepared upstream, but the benefit can be huge (actual vs budget data comparison, strategic dashboard). It has to be emphasized that in order to use TM1 cubes in Cognos BI, some additional developing effort is necessary. For example, in TM1, it is important to create aliases for the elements of the dimensions so that they are properly displayed in the BI reporting tools. A measure dimension has to be explicitly defined as well and named levels have to be created to allow the use of all the Report Studio functionalities when consuming a TM1 cube.

Framework Manager as TM1 logical Layer

Thanks to the more recently introduced IBM Package Connectors, Framework Manager Packages can now be used as datasources in TM1 Turbo Integrator, not unlike Cognos Transformer using Framework Manager Packages (or Impromptu IQDs for those who have been in the game for longer) as a datasource. The difference being that TM1 requires dimensionally modelled packages. This means that all the dimensional modelling happens in Framework Manager and that TM1 role is limited to storing and retrieving the data. Cognos FWM acts in this case as the sole semantic layer for classical BI packages (relational or dimensional) and TM1 cubes. If governed properly, this strategy will facilitate data consistency across the TM1 and Cognos BI platform and ensure the business logic is the same across all the solutions. This method requires the creation of TI process based on Framework Manager DMR package. The main TI process then generates a series of sub-processes (one per imported dimension) automatically. The code created this way is not necessarily easy to read (and probably was never intended to be read), which can be confusing for TM1 developers used to be in control of their TI processes.


You can now browse your FWM DMRs and use them as datasource in your TI processes.

Security

Major steps towards a unique authentication/security service for the two products have been taken in the recent years. TM1 can access Cognos BI authentication namespaces, including the third-party authentication provider namespace, meaning that BI users and user groups can be used to implement security in TM1. The implication for the end user is that they can use the same login to access both TM1 and Cognos BI content by identifying only once in the Cognos Connection portal. However, row-level security strategy implemented in Framework Manager (using security filter, for example) will have to be re-implemented in TM1 using element or cell level security.

On the other hand the groups on which the security is based won’t need to be recreated as they can be imported from Cognos BI. Ways of reducing the amount of duplicate work include creating and maintaining a relational table on which both Framework Manager Security filters and TM1 element/cell security would be based.


Cognos BI Groups and Users are available in TM1 Security.

As we have seen, TM1 and Cognos BI are more integrated version after version. Although the integrating process is not entirely smooth yet, it is already possible to achieve very interesting outcomes using this combination. As for all BI toolsets, there is no one size fits all and this may not be the best option for your needs. Generally speaking, the TM1 / Cognos BI combination is an option to be seriously considered when TM1 is already implemented in the company as a forecasting solution.

Disclosure: My company is partners with SAS, SAP, MicroStrategy, Informatica, Panorama & AnalytiX

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