Cognos Series 8 Is Big Hit with Customers

From a competitive perspective, the Series 8 business intelligence suite Cognos announced last week was not necessarily earth-shattering. After all, one of its biggest selling points is integration: it’s the first Cognos release based on the company’s ReportNet architecture; it boasts a unified user interface; and it delivers what Cognos says is seamless integration between and among its BI functions.

But Cognos isn’t the first vendor to deliver as much. On the integration front, anyway, the BI giant is a bit late to the party: Business Objects SA delivered a unified version of its BI and reporting tools earlier this year, as did MicroStrategy. Meanwhile, data mining and statistical analysis champ SAS Institute, long a peripheral BI player, delivered what it calls a unified version of its BI stack 18 months ago.

But Series 8 still has the makings of a hugely substantive release. That’s because Cognos customers can’t say enough good things about it; and everyone knows the customer is king.

In fact, users are decidedly enthusiastic about Cognos 8’s integration, and many cite additional performance and usability improvements they feel help make the suite a much more attractive package. From a customer perspective, anyway, Series 8 looks to be a winner.

Take Louis Barton, director of data warehousing for Cullen/Frost Bankers, a financial holding company. A longtime user of Cognos’ Impromptu reporting tool, Cullen/Frost upgraded to the company’s ReportNet offering last year. As a result, Barton says, Series 8 seems a natural evolution, UI-wise, at least. “It was familiar. It was easier, particularly in the administration [of the BI tools]. I have a lot of technical people who work for me...[and] they’re telling me that many things—especially Metrics Manager—are easier to administrate because of the UI being a lot more seamless than it was before.”

On the client side, Barton says, Cognos 8 addresses several oft-lamented user pain points. “One main area of frustration for us was not being able to have the degree of integration between ReportNet and PowerPlay. Those were the two biggies in our company that brought us 80 percent of the value that we got from BI. So doing a ReportNet off of a cube is going to be huge for us,” Barton says.

Integration is just the tip of the spear, some users say. After all, Cognos’ ReportNet turns 2 this month—an eternity in the technology world. And even though Cognos refreshed that product with a 1.1 release, the new Cognos 8 BI suite fixes several of the revamped ReportNet’s shortcomings, too.

“To do drilling in ReportNet 1.1, you had to create two reports, and then you’d drill through from one report to the other. You create a summary report, and then you create a drill report, and then you connect them through drilling,” explains David Wheat, manager of decision support systems with United Agri Products. “[But in Cognos 8] you can set up drill paths at the metadata layer: you define them once, and then ReportNet can enable those or disable [them]. The drill-up and drill-down capability is far more advanced than it was in 1.1; we can choose if we want to do the metadata layer, and have the data be aware that there’s a drilling option.”

In addition, says John Hazenthal, director of knowledge services and data management for transportation and logistics specialist Schneider National, the new version of ReportNet is a much better performer than its predecessors. “One improvement we really saw [with ReportNet] is the PDF-rendering. We pretty much do all of our reporting with PDF. In Series 7, what we found was that the PDF rendering was very CPU-intensive. It would literally take an entire CPU for a portion of time while it was doing the PDF-rendering. They’ve done a lot of work in Cognos 8, and they’ve definitely fixed this, along with some other performance enhancements,” he indicates.

Hazenthal and other users also cite improvements in the new version of Cognos Metrics Manager. “There were some issues with granularity of the Cognos Metrics Manager metrics. What we had with Series 7 with Cognos Metrics Manager, if you define your metrics for one business unit at a monthly level, we have other business units that might want to see it at a weekly level. The granularity was more at a global [level], so if you define it monthly and they want to see it weekly, you had to do some special things to make that happen.”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a contributing editor for Enterprise Systems. He can be reached at [email protected].