March 12, 2019 • Smart Resources
Spotlight On: Cognos Analytics with Joe Cline
At Smart Resources, we’re extremely proud of the innovative advancements in technology that our consultants work towards each and every day. Our skilled IT professionals work in a variety of sectors with a wide range of technologies. Each month, we sit down with a consultant to have an in-depth conversation about their current project to gain insight on the technology and its capabilities. This month, we’ll be discussing Cognos Analytics with Joe Cline!
Name: Joe Cline
Position: Sr. Consultant
Years with Smart Resources: 9
Professional background (specifically in regard to technology):
I’ve been using Cognos with multiple clients since the first ‘web-based’ portal version was released about 16 years ago.
Please tell us about the technology and how it’s commonly used:
Cognos is a business intelligence (BI) reporting and analysis tool. It’s used for standard reporting in businesses to display the data in any format needed, from detail-oriented financial data to graphical marketing reports. Usually there are a mix of scheduled jobs that vary from letting business users receive their reports in their email without having to lift a finger to allowing users to run multiple variations for different levels of detail. Businesses have the ability to start analyzing their data at an aggregated layer and continue to drill into the lower levels on subjects that require further analysis. The platform allows for delivery of the data in many formats, from excel to pdf to mobile. Over the years, self-service additions are allowing business users the ability to create more of their own reporting aspects. This takes some of the burden off the developers, speeding up the delivery of pre-formatted reports by getting more precise requirements from the business.
What originally drew you to working with this tech?
I originally started working with this tech based on an immediate need for work to be done! I had been working on backend ETL at the time and that project needed an additional person to help build out a reporting solution using this new product. Excited to get out of the backend development and work on something more user facing, I jumped at the opportunity and learned the tool the old fashioned way – no sleep and lots of work!
Why do you enjoy about working with this tech?
The direct interaction with users is one of the best parts about this tech – you’re creating things that are used daily and designed to make their jobs easier. The software itself is ever-changing, especially now with a more dynamic release schedule and IBM putting some serious development into it. As it continues to grow, the ways we can present data to a business is ever-expanding which also forces me to keep up on the tech and look for ways to incorporate the new offerings. So, in short, every time I think I have learned a majority of the software, they release or change things up, forcing me to continue learning.
What challenges have you faced while working with this tech?
The biggest challenge can be making the tech do what you want! In reality, the only limitation is in the mind of the developer – sometimes you need to get really creative in reaching the solution. Now with that said, there are times that users ask for things that just aren’t able to be done in a reporting environment. The other largest challenge is usually setting user expectations to a level that ensures you don’t create something that’s more confusing than necessary or just out of the realm of reality for any reporting tool.
What do you see in the future for this tech?
BI is moving toward more self-service/ad hoc reporting and less canned (pre-defined) reporting. Part of this is due to advances in data access speed. The latest release of Cognos now incorporates IBM’s Watson AI into it. Users can ask questions and get recommendations on where the data is located and, many times, it will even create sample reports or graphs on the fly based on those data points. Future releases are only going to make this more powerful, faster, and easier.
What is the best piece of advice you have for someone learning about or working with this technology?
Be willing to think outside of the box. The solution isn’t always straight-forward and may require a few left turns to make it do what the users want. Accept that the reporting tool is always the first thing to be blamed, because it is what they see. The database server you pull the information from could have literally melted, and the users would still blame the reporting tool because from their seat it’s all they know about.
Do you have any additional advice, anecdotes, or information about the tech that you’d like to share?
The reports are only as good as the data they are based on – garbage in, garbage out! Keep the client involved in the entire process and make sure they’re the ones that validate both the visual aspect of the output and the data being displayed.
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