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IBM put out updates to Cognos Analytics at a rapid rate, with five releases during 2016. Release 6, also known as 11.0.6, is the first of 2017. Each release is a combination of new features and bug fixes, designed to be installed on top of an existing installation. Releases can be skipped, making it possible to upgrade to the most current version without installing previous releases.
The new features in R6 fall into five broad categories that support IBM’s vision for pervasive analytics and self-service reporting.
Making the old new. IBM continues to add features to ease moving from Cognos BI (v10.x) to Cognos Analytics ( v11). R6 supports OLAP packages so that cube technologies are now available as a data source. This includes PowerCubes (mdc files), TM1, Microsoft Analysis Services (MSAS) and DMR. Drill-down and drill-up functionality is automatic. Filtering data is as simple as placing a hierarchy onto the dashboard canvas. OLAP support in R6 permits customers to leverage their previous investments and to breathe new life into PowerPlay cubes.
Portal shortcuts. Shortcuts were used in Cognos Connection to streamline navigation for business users, but the feature was not originally brought forward. Now a shortcut to any folder can be added for any group of users on the left side navigation panel. This feature provides a convenient starting point for users, pointing them to the most relevant content and simplifying the user interface.
Data exploration. Widgets dropped onto the dashboard canvas are connected by default. Filtering the data in one chart filters the data in all the widgets. However, when trying to view the same data at different levels of granularity or when comparing data over varying time periods, this feature is not helpful. The widget connections can now be managed by clicking on the new ‘view widget connections’ button. A panel opens up to display all the connections between widgets. The connections can be edited so that some widgets have independent filters while others remain related.
Mapping. R6 pushes forward the Pitney Bowes polygons and MapBox integration with map boundaries down to the zip or postal code level. There is also a feature to detect and resolve ambiguous geographic data, for example to differentiate a reference to Paris, which could be Paris France, Paris Texas or Paris Ontario.
Reporting. The query editor is now available for use with data modules. This opens up the possibility of creating custom calculations and parameterized filters with data from outside the data warehouse. Another handy new feature is the ability to freeze column headings in list reports.
Data storytelling. R6 adds guided journey templates to assist in making data more interesting and understandable. A presentation, or scene, is created by dragging and dropping visualizations. Shapes can then be added and animated. For example, an arrow pointing out interesting data intersections on a graph could be made to appear after 15 seconds for dramatic effect.
There are also some enhancements in R6 on the infrastructure and administration side
- Advanced routing rules for data modules
- IBM Blue ID Authentication provider for SAML 2.0
- Multi-tenancy management
- Conformance updates (Google Big Query, Oracle 12C, MSAS 2016)
Cognos Analytics R6 is another step in IBM’s quest to help large data-driven organizations embed analytics into every business process. It is a compelling analytics-for-everybody agenda.
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Thanks to David Currie for attending our Senturus webinar on Cognos R6 and summarizing it in this post. David is a long-time Cognos consultant and former Cognos employee. He also blogs about business intelligence and big data at davidpcurrie.com.