Category Archives: IBM Cognos

IBM Vision 2012

IBM Vision 2012

Greetings from Orlando. I left Munich Saturday morning to attend the IBM Vision 2012 conference. This three day event for finance & risk management professionals will be exciting. There are fantastic keynotes lined up as well as a ton of awesome break-out sessions. I am really looking forward to it.

IBM Vision 2012

Keynotes

The keynotes at IBM Vision 2012 promise to be especially interesting this year. The list of external speakers includes John Hagerty from Gartner, book author Michael Mauboussin and Everest explorer Alison Levine. Of course, there are also exciting IBM speakers including Les Rechan (GM for Business Analytics) and Mark Loughridge (CFO of IBM). I will be showing some great new solutions as part of the general keynote Tuesday morning from 11am – 12am EST.

Join the conversation

For those of you who will attend IBM Vision 2012, please do reach out to me (@cpapenfuss). I would love to connect. If you cannot attend the conference, you can still participate in the conversations. There are two main options:

  • Join via Twitter. The official hashtag is #vision12 . Also, make sure to follow @ibmcognos for updates. I will try to tweet whenever possible.
  • View the keynote sessions from your desk via Livestream. All keynote sessions will be broadcast and should be available for viewing after the event as well.

Stay tuned for updates!

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Part 2 – Interview with the TM1 book author. More about TM1

Last Thursday, I posted an interview with the author of the new TM1 book Karsten Oehler. Here is the continuation of the conversation. This part of the interview focuses on the new IBM Cognos TM1 10.1 release.

Christoph Papenfuss: IBM Cognos TM1 10.1 was released in February of 2012. What is so special about this release?

Karsten Oehler: One of the central components of version 10.1 is a new modeling environment. It is called Performance Modeler. It really encourages finance and business professionals to develop their own models. Performance Modeler allows them to develop complex rules and links. You can also easily import data into applications. None of this requires deep technical knowledge.

Christoph Papenfuss: Does Performance Modeler replace Architect?

Karsten Oehler: Performance Modeler is an enhancement. The user can choose which tool to use. Architect is closer to Excel and has some features which are currently not supported by Performance Modeler. This includes dynamic subsets and report generation of Excel sheets from the cube viewer.

Christoph Papenfuss: There is a new desktop tool call Cognos Insight. It looks similar to TM1. Is there a relationship or connection between the products.

Karsten Oehler: Cognos Insight is a very powerful desktop tool that allows business people to conduct analysis, explore data and to develop prototypes. TM1 and Cognos Insight are closely connected – a local TM1 engine is part of Cognos Insight. It uses the same rule syntax and a simplified Turbo-Integrator version for data import. You can also import Cognos Insight models into Performance Modeler and refine them further.

Christoph Papenfuss: What is the advantage of using Cognos Insight in the planning process along with TM1

Karsten Oehler: There are two aspects: Planning applications are often created by prototyping. Cognos Insight is a great tool to express ideas and to develop prototypes. Secondly Cognos Insight can be used an additional front-end for contributors to the planning, budgeting and forecasting process.

TM1 Book

The TM1 book was the big star at the Budapest Finance Forum on May 9th

Christoph Papenfuss: Who should use Cognos Insight as a client for planning and forecasting models?

Karsten Oehler: TM1 has strong tools to support a highly decentralized planning and forecasting process. I recommend to use the IBM Cognos Contributor front-end because it is easy to distribute (non-local installation). With TM1 10.1 you can also integrate web sheets created via the Excel add in. However if somebody is using Insight for data discovery it is very interesting to contribute to the planning process directly within Cognos Insight. Another advantage is the scalability: With Insight it is possible to let the local insight engine do all the calculation which is needed for the planning slice assigned to the user.

Christoph Papenfuss: What do you like best about TM1?

Karsten Oehler: It is definitely the rule language. It is the most compact way to formulate all kinds of calculations to solve all kinds of business problems. The most complex cost and profitability calculations often look pretty easy after modeling them with TM1 rules.

Christoph Papenfuss: Thank you so much, Karsten!

You can purchase the TM1 book on Amazon.com: IBM Cognos TM1 – The Official Guide

About Dr. Karsten Oehler (author of the TM1 book):

Karsten is head of the Performance Management Client Technical Professionals at IBM Germany. Prior to joining IBM, he spent more than 15 years with several international software companies as a product manager, marketing executive, and consultant for financial accounting and business intelligence software. He has published several books and well over 130 articles about business analytics.

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Interview with the TM1 book author: IBM Cognos TM1 – The Official Guide (Part 1)

The new TM1 book

The highly anticipated 10.1 version of IBM Cognos TM1 was released in February 2012. Along with the software there is also a great new TM1 book: IBM Cognos TM1 – The Official Guide. My German colleague Karsten Oehler is one of the authors of this comprehensive TM1 book. We had the opportunity to catch up last week. It was very early in the morning and we were both on our first cup of coffee. This is the first part of two short interviews. Check back Tuesday next week to read more.

Christoph Papenfuss: Let’s start this discussion with an important question. TM1 is a strange product name. What does TM1 stand for?

Karsten Oehler: The name sounds still fresh and interesting after 25 years, right? Oh well…..it is an interesting name, indeed. And we do get a lot of questions about it. Here is the truth. Don’t be shocked – it stands for Table Manager 1. And it is the solution No 1 from my point of view.

Christoph Papenfuss: What is TM1? Can you describe it in an elevator-speech style?

Karsten Oehler: Cognos TM1 is the universal tool for the business person wanting to do all kinds of analytical work like forecasting, planning, simulation, analysis and reporting. Some people call it the ‘Swiss Army Knife’ for the business. The only thing it can’t do (yet) is to cook coffee ;-)

Christoph Papenfuss: Who can use IBM Cognos TM1 and why should they?

Karsten Oehler: Everybody with a need or desire to perform analytical work should use TM1. TM1 links typical analytical office work (Excel) with a high performing analytical database. However it doesn’t require that much conceptual overhead so that a business user is able to define his own data structure. TM1 doesn’t replace spreadsheets or data warehouses. It literally brings both worlds together.

Christoph Papenfuss: There are many planning, budgeting and forecasting solutions out on the market. What makes IBM Cognos TM1 so special?

Karsten Oehler: I am heading up a research group at the Controller Verein, the biggest European community for management accountants and finance experts. We describe several classes of planning tools: spreadsheet enhancements, ERP enhancements, OLAP, specific (financial) planning solutions and generic planning solutions. The last category is the most powerful one because it provides a lot of flexibility while also allowing you to leverage strong predefined planning functions like workflow, simulation, financial intelligence. Within this group TM1 is the best one because it has the most modern architect (scalability, write back queuing, rule optimization, batch processing environment) and the newest interface.

Christoph Papenfuss: Is TM1 just for planning, budgeting and forecasting?

Karsten Oehler: Absolutely not! As I mentioned before, TM1 is extremely powerful and flexible. Planning, budgeting and forecasting is just one area where TM1 can add tremendous value. Other important areas where TM1 excels at is profitability and sales analysis, costing (an area where TM1 is extremely strong), management consolidation, and last but not least production planning.

Christoph Papenfuss: You have just released the book IBM Cognos TM1 – The Official Guide. What prompted you to write this book?

Karsten Oehler: When you look at the bookstores and see shelves of SAP books and hardly any book about the best analytical tool, you have to scratch your head. We wanted to change that. Also, together with our customers we had developed a lot of valuable business content over the past decade. We really wanted to share this with others.

Christoph Papenfuss: What can you expect to learn from the book?

Karsten Oehler: How to live a better life – just kidding. No, in all seriousness it should help you with your daily TM1 work. It explains the architecture in a focused and structured way. This is an area where the standard documentation is sometimes a bit too extensive. Also, we have included a ton of business content. There are several small models that explain how TM1 can solve specific business problems like rolling forecasting, inter-company matching, variance analysis, activity based management etc..

Christoph Papenfuss: Who should read the book?

Karsten Oehler: Anybody who has an interest in TM1! Early feedback shows that power users and business consultants are the primary readers of this book.

Christoph Papenfuss: What is the best way to read your TM1 book? Is it more like a workbook or a resource guide that you pull out when you need it?

Karsten Oehler: Of course you could read the entire book, but I wouldn’t recommend that. It’s 800 pages strong! I would rather suggest to focus on just those business areas that you are interested in. Simply read it section by section. I would imagine that most people will use the book as a powerful reference.

Christoph Papenfuss: IBM recently released TM 10.1 . Do you cover the latest version in your book?

Karsten Oehler: We certainly cover it but it was not easy because there were a lot of short term changes in the development process. The business models are backward compatible. We wanted to make sure that users from the older releases are also able to leverage the book.

To be continued next Thursday…..the second part will focus on the 10.1 release.

Karsten-Oehler

About Dr. Karsten Oehler (author of the TM1 book):

Karsten is head of the Performance Management Client Technical Professionals at IBM Germany. Prior to joining IBM, he spent more than 15 years with several international software companies as a product manager, marketing executive, and consultant for financial accounting and business intelligence software. He has published several books and well over 130 articles about business analytics.

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Forecast Analysis – An Effective Dashboard

FORECAST ANALYSIS

Last week I argued that a detailed variance report is not very helpful before and during the forecasting and budgeting process. That post continues to be one of the most popular ones recently. But why not take the basic ideas a few steps forward and create a dedicated forecasting dashboard? A dashboard allows us to view the critical information that we need to get our job done (i.e. create the forecast or the budget) in a single place. Conducting forecast analysis with this dashboard becomes easy and is less time-consuming than analyzing hundreds of variances in a spreadsheet.

A COGNOS 10 DASHBOARD

My colleague Paul took the ideas from the last post and he created an awesome forecasting dashboard in Cognos 10. Take a look (click on the image to enlarge):

forecast analysis

Forecast Analysis with IBM Cognos 10 - Business Insight

This forecasting dashboard is geared towards a revenue forecast. The widget in the upper left corner provides a quick overview of year-to-date product sales. You might notice the use of micro-charts: the sparklines display the sales trend for each region. The accompanying bullet charts show the current status against plan (YTD).

The other widgets provide a balanced mix of historical data (revenue, deal-size, expense ratio) and leading indicators (Win/ Loss Ratio, Customer Satisfaction). But there is also other important forward-looking information. Take a look at the lower left corner: We can view upcoming marketing events along with the anticipated number of participants and the expected sales pipeline. That is helpful for assessing future sales.

EFFECTIVE FORECAST ANALYSIS

This forecasting dashboard can help prepare for the actual forecasting process. It provides a better picture of the business than any detailed variance report can. And think about the time savings as well. The latter requires a lot of effort to be consumed. The dashboard on the other hand is efficient and effective. Last but not least, the dashboard can be utilized on a daily basis.

So, that is a forecasting dashboard built with Cognos 10. I love the look and feel. It is simple, clean and easy to interact with.

 P.S.: The type of information to be included in such a dashboard obviously varies by company and industry.

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What’s happening in the IBM Labs? The BA Forum Keynote – Day 2

Information on Demand 2011

The IBM Business Analytics Forum 2011 featured two keynotes this year. The day 1 keynote focused on the general IBM strategy in the business analytics segment along with several product updates and demos. The day 2 presentation had a bigger focus on specific solutions. And not only that: There was a preview of what is being developed in the IBM Labs. You will have to watch the hands-on demo.

The Cognos keynote chapters

In case you have limited time, here are some key chapters that can view in the video below.

  • Minute 10:30 – Trends & Decision Making with Deepak Advani
  • Minute 23:30 – Demo: Social Media Analysis – Jason Verlen
  • Minute 28:30 – Solution update with Deepak Advani
  • Minute 45:00 – Demo: Decision Management – Jason Verlen
  • Minute 55:30 – IBM Labs (Personal Analytics) with Harriet Fryman, Eric Yau and Christoph Papenfuss

Watch live streaming video from ibmsoftware at livestream.com

IMPRESSIONS

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New Cognos 10 iPad app version available

Just a quick note. There is a new version of the iPad app for Cognos 10 available. As expected, the new version contains a few fixes and enhancements. The biggest improvement, however, is the ability to open up Active Reports directly from email attachments.

Cognos iPad

Sample content is supplied with the app

In case you have not noticed, you can also enter a default server address in the app settings.

20111030-142121.jpg

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IoD 2011 – Here we come!

Information on Demand 2011Greetings from Ottawa, Canada! I arrived here last Sunday to work with our team on getting ready for BA Forum and Information on Demand 2011. The conference will kick off with our annual partner summit on Saturday, October 22nd. It will be a great show. We have some cool stuff to show you and there will be lot’s of great sessions. I have the honor to deliver a few demos at the Business Analytics keynote sessions. That’s what we are working on this week.

Before I head out to IoD 2011 and BAForum tomorrow morning, I wanted to share a few infos with you.

KEYNOTES

There are two Business Analytics Keynotes this year. Make sure not to miss them. Rob Ashe, Eric Yau and Depak Advani are scheduled to speak. Together with some colleagues, I will show some interesting demos. Of course, there will be a few surprises as well (sorry….can’t share the details…). The sessions are:

  • Monday, October 24th: 3:45pm – 5:00pm
  • Tuesday, October 25th: 11:15am – 12:15pm

TRACKS AND SESSIONS

There are lot’s of exciting sessions this year. Please look at the agenda for the details. Here are my recommendations:

  • The Business Analytics Experience workshop: This is a real-life business simulation. You get to run a fictitious company called Future Chips. But the good news is that you and your team will have a live Cognos system available to prepare and make decisions. It is a lot of fun and you can learn a lot about business strategy, business analytics and decision making. There are a bunch of these scheduled.
  • Social Media Track: There is an entire track dedicated to social media this year. You will get to know Cognos Consumer Insight etc. I will definitely try to see some of those sessions.
  • Behind the scenes: My friends and colleagues Andrew and Jason will run a very cool session on Tuesday: How to build the keynote demos. You will get to see how our team build the different demos that we will show during the main sessions. Sign up early. This session will be packed.

SOCIAL MEDIA

There are two social media lounges this year: Connect and Share. From what I understand, this will be a perfect place to hang out during breaks. There will be phone charging station, social media feeds and a lot more. The lounges will be a perfect area for a tweet-up or just to get some work done. I will definitely try to stop by during breaks.

To stay current with the social media stream check out the Social Media Aggregator. It allows you to review relevant tweets and blogs for the entire conference. When you post something, please make sure to use the proper tags: #baforum or #iod11.

That’s it for today! Hope to see you in Las Vegas at BAForum. Ping me via Twitter if you have any questions or want to meet for coffee. I will also try to blog every day.

Cheers,

Christoph

P.S.: Last but not least, here are a few Tweeters I recommend following:

 

 

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A Cognos 10 Dashboard

Cognos 10 offers a huge library of charts. Several new types were added in the last release. There are now over 160 different charts available. Amongst the new additions, you will also find Stephen Few’s bullet charts. They nicely complement the existing sparklines that were already available in version 8.4. Cognos 10 also provides new and enhanced color palettes that help design beautiful reporting objects. Overall, Cognos 10 offers some really cool options for building effective dashboards.

A SAMPLE DASHBOARD

My colleague and friend Paul sat down last week to quickly create a sample dashboard in Cognos 10 using the new stuff. He took the new charts and also applied one of the palettes. Take a look – I love it! It’s simple but very effective. As a sales executive, I will immediately obtain an overview of my business.

Cognos Sales Dashboard

ACTIVE REPORT

Bullet charts and sparklines are also available for Active Reports. You can therefore build awesome looking dashboards for online and offline use. Even better: they also work with the new iPad app.

If you happen to attend BAForum in Las Vegas in a few weeks from now, make sure to look for some the sessions that discuss Cognos 10 and dashboarding techniques in detail.

 

 

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Mobile BI – Cognos 10 on the iPhone

The recent release of the new IBM Cognos Mobile for iPad app has created many excited discussions. I will post a more extensive review in a few days from now. Today I realized that most people have stopped talking about the iPhone. It seems that the iPad is getting all the attention these days. But to be fair, most people probably carry their iPhones with them more often than the iPad. But the good news is that Cognos 10 also runs on the iPhone. There is no dedicated app, but Cognos 10 runs in Safari. While waiting in the airline lounge to board another flight, I logged onto one of my servers to test the new 10.1.1 functionality.

FIRST STEPS

Logging into Cognos 10 is easy. I plugged in the regular server address, entered my user name and password. You can see that I was on the normal 3G network.

Cognos 10 on iPhone

After logging in, I was able to browse through my content. Everything was there that I expected and navigation follows the regular iPhone gestures: You swipe to scroll through your content and you point to access folders or reporting objects.

Cognos 10 folders on iPhone

REPORTS AND DASHBOARDS

I selected a few of the reports and dashboards. Everything worked nicely – Business Insight dashboards as well as standard Report Studio content. The great thing about Cognos 10 is the principle of author once and consume anywhere: There is no re-coding required to make the content run on the iPhone. At this point I switched to the horizontal view as it was easier to review the dashboard below:

Cognos iPhone Dashboard

Of course, it is possible to zoom in and out using gestures. By pointing at data elements, you can bring up a small header that provides additional context (precise values, dimensions etc.). If available, you can also drill up/ down or through.

Cognos 10 iPhone

Response time on this dashboard was very decent given the 3G connection. The drill-down took less than 3-5 seconds.

Cognos iPhone

PROMPTS AND MORE

Prompts work as well. It is also possible to build reports with location-awareness prompts that pull the data from the iPhone GPS coordinates. I was not able to test that – maybe in the near future. But the possibilities are awesome if you think about it. And there are some additional features such as the ability to set favorite reports, select a home screen dashboard etc..

Cognos iPhone prompt

SUMMARY

Cognos 10 on the iPhone works pretty well. Dashboards and reports do look nice on the small screen. It is easy to review numbers & trends on the go. This is ideal for mobile workers wanting to stay connected with their business no matter where they are. However, the iPad and the laptop are definitely better suited for getting your tough work done. The screen is just not big enough on the iPhone. But that’s no surprise. The iPhone is a phone and not a full-fledged PC after all.

If you want additional information about the updates for IBM Cognos Mobile in version 10.1.1 click here.

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The new IBM Cognos Mobile iPad app is nice!

Just a quick post for today. It’s been a super busy week with stops in Barcelona, Munich and London. While sitting in the lounge in Munich, I was delighted to see that the IBM Cognos Mobile iPad app had been approved for the Apple iTunes store. A perfect opportunity to download it and test the offline capabilities at 33000ft cruising altitude. (I cannot wait to take the the app online this weekend!)

CLEAN AND SIMPLE

Once our plane had taken off, I pulled out my iPad and launched the app. European flights do not have WIFI, yet. But the app does support offline content. And so I was sitting there in seat 5D somewhere above Frankfurt and was able to test some of the dashboards and reports. Being able to work offline is a huge advantage, from my point of view. I have personally encountered so many situations where the wireless network was either poor or simply not accessible. But back to the Cognos app: The initial impression is excellent. The interface is nice and clean. It does not take any time at all to get up and running. Navigation is intuitive and all the usual finger movements (swiping, pointing etc.) work flawlessly.

IBM Cognos iPad

Offline content

Continue reading

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