Cognos Applications Overview

Welcome to the Cognos Business Intelligence Collection. The primary focus of this column will be the delivery of approaches and concepts to help you to meet real business needs using the Cognos Business Intelligence Suite. While the topics will center on the current version (EP Series 7) in most respects, many of the concepts can be extrapolated to earlier versions with minimal alterations. The majority of the articles in the Collection will be hands-on tutorials. With the exception of this, the first article, each article will typically introduce a business need, and then present a straightforward approach to meeting the need using the appropriate Cognos application(s).

Some of the tips I pass along will be indispensable for Cognos administrators, report developers, business analysts, and others who interface with corporate data using the Cognos toolset. The articles may generate ideas or paths of research that have not yet occurred to you; they may also deal with topics that are quite familiar in general, but from a perspective which offers an “angle of approach” that is in itself useful. (I’m a firm believer in the effective use of what Brian Eno has called “oblique strategies.”) Moreover, I will occasionally toss in a word of advice regarding reporting, implementation, and / or development in general, based upon my eight-plus years experience with Cognos, Business Intelligence, financial systems, and data architecture in general.

The articles in the Collection will not be linear in a traditional “how-to” serial perspective. We will not follow a “roadmap” similar to the many excellent training and operational documents that accompany the Cognos software installation. The articles – and the choice of components involved within each – will be driven from a standpoint of a “possible solution” for a defined need, generally one approach per article.

You, as a member of the intended audience, are trained in the basics, and use the Cognos tools routinely, in the day-to-day performance of business-intelligence related functions. I assume that the applications are installed and operational, and that you can access them, as well as the data with which you are concerned, with enough freedom to perform the steps we will undertake together. We will be focusing on specific needs that often lie beyond the rudimentary training library – real world requirements that surpass the relatively simple scenarios that are given in the basic training documents and samples, whose focus is to introduce and train in the basics with minimal distraction. The inherently simplistic examples in the on-line training (which is easily navigable via the well-organized roadmap that is provided) are excellent for purposes of teaching the essential basics, and I am assuming that any serious user has taken the initiative to understand what is covered in the freely available documentation.

We will rely upon the sample data sources supplied with a typical installation of MSSQL Server 2000, the Cognos sample data sources and objects, and other sources as we progress through the articles of the Collection. All our examples can be extrapolated to your own data environment if it differs, in most cases with minimal effort. Much of my subject matter will be based upon common questions that I hear on a daily basis from Cognos users worldwide, both my current and past clients, as well as a vast array of users that participate in on-line forums and other channels and circles within which I move.