Choosing the Right Tool for the Job

July 24, 2014

Cognos 10, End User Self Service, Metrics and Scorecarding, Mobile, OLAP, Report Authoring

Cognos Workspace vs. Traditional Studios vs. Active Reports

One of the challenges every Cognos user faces is, "Which tool should I use for my application?" With Cognos 10, you have many choices: Active Reports, Cognos Workspace Standard and Advanced, the traditional studios (Query, Report, etc.) all with different features and functions.

In this presentation and demo, we highlight the important differences in features between the various Cognos Studios, as well as the newer tools, such as Cognos Workspace Advanced. This session outlines important criteria that should be considered before investing significant hours (and dollars) in development, and provide tips on how to make the right tool choice.


BI Developers, BI Report Writers, BI Authors, BI Power Users, BI Report Consumers, Cognos and BI Support Staff


IBM Cognos BI 10, Cognos Workspace, Cognos Workspace Advanced, Cognos Report Studio, Cognos Active Reports, Cognos Query Studio, Cognos Analysis Studio, Cognos PowerPlay Studio & PowerPlay Client, Cognos Metrics Studio, Cognos Insight, CAFE (Cognos Analysis for Excel)


John Peterson
Co-Founder, Senturus, Inc.

John is the company’s thought leader and visionary. John directs the delivery of all projects with Senturus, providing the bridge of technical and business understanding.

Peter Jogopolus
Senior BI Architect, Senturus, Inc.


The Challenge: Which (Tool) Studio Should We Use?

  • The Olde Days
    • Impromptu Client – Relational Source
    • PowerPlay Client – Dimensional Source (OLAP)
  • The Good News: Cognos 8 & 10 BIVision
    • Universal Web-based Front End
      • Relational Source
      • DMR Source
      • Dimensional Source (OLAP)
      • External Data
  • The Reality: Cognos 8 & 10 BI
    • One application server, but too many different Tools & Studios.
  • How Cognos Thought It Should Work
    • Use determines the tool.
      • Use: Ad Hoc Query
        • Tool: Query Studio
      • Use: Drill-down Analysis
        • Tool: Analysis Studio
      • Use: Formal Report
        • Tool: Studio Report
      • Use: Dashboards
        • Tool: RS/Portal or Workspace
      • Use: Mobile
        • Tool: Active Reports
  • Framework Manager Metadata Model
    • Relational Source
    • DMR Source
    • Dimensional Source (OLAP)
    • External Data
  • How Analysis and Reporting Really Work
    • It’s a continuum.
      • Ad Hoc query: a simple question.
      • Drill-down and explore: needs more detail.
      • Simple report: make it routine.
      • Complex report: make it fancy.
      • Complex report or dashboard: automate and distribute it.
  • Other Factors
    • Training on all tools for all users doesn’t make sense.
    • Licensing on all tools for all users doesn’t make sense.
    • Handing off to Report Studio pros is not scalable (nor is it self-service).
  • The Challenge: Lots of Front End Tools
    • Report Studio
    • Query Studio
    • Analysis Studio
    • PowerPlay Studio & PowerPlay Client
    • Metrics Studio
    • Cognos Workspace (Standard)
    • Cognos Workspace Advanced
    • Cognos Insight
    • CAFÉ (Cognos Analysis for Excel)
    • Active Reports

Important Criteria: What Should IConsider?

  • Uses to Consider
    • Standardized Reports
      • Self-run
      • Automated Distribution
    • Ad-hoc Reports
    • One-off Queries
    • Individualized, Interactive Dashboards
    • Scorecards
    • Speed-to-thought analytics
    • Visualizations
    • Mobile Reports and Analysis
  • Features to Consider
    • Software Requirements & Browser Support
    • Data Source & Package Support
    • Report Types & Visualization Capabilities
    • Report Functionality
    • Query Support
    • Prompting
    • Report Formatting & Outputs
    • Printing, Distribution & Security
    • Licensing Considerations
    • Overall Ease of Use & Development Speed

Feature Set Comparisons: How Are Tools Different?

  • Caveat Audience
    • Nowhere is change more constant than in software feature sets.
    • The following slides were based on the latest available information regarding Cognos 10 tool functionality (note: items are changing constantly).
    • Note, focus of the following slides is not on:
      • Cognos Insight
      • CAFÉ
      • Metrics Studio


  • Software Requirements & Browser Support
    • Software type
      • Requires Server software installation
      • Desktop Client (Windows)
    • Browser Support
      • Internet Explorer
      • Google Chrome
      • Mozilla Firefox
      • Apple Safari
      • Apple Safari on iOS
  • Data Source Support, Report Types &Visualization
        • Data Source & Package Support
          • Data Source & Package Support
            • Relational Package
            • Dimensional Package
            • External Data Sources
        • Report Type
          • Supports List Reports
          • Supports Crosstabs
          • Supports Charts
          • Supports Maps
          • Supports Active Reports
        • Visualization
          • Immediate Data Preview
          • Both Run & Design Modes
          • RAVE Support
        • Report Functionality
          • Filtering
          • Advanced Filtering
          • Slicers
          • Create Calculations
          • Create Complex Calculations
          • Copy Report to Clipboard
          • Drill-through Definitions
          • Drill-up/ Drill-downs
          • Variable Support
          • Layout Calculations (Param. headers)
          • Complex Nesting and Row Selection
          • Intersections/Tuples
          • Expand-Collapse Built-in
        • Query Support
          • Supports Multiple Queries
          • Supports Joins
          • Supports Unions
          • Supports Excepts
          • Supports Outer Joins
          • Supports Member Sets
          • Supports MDX Functions
          • Can “link” Dimensional and Relational Data
        • Prompting
          • Basic Prompting
          • Controlled Filtering & Sorting
          • Cascading Prompts
          • Cognos Prompt API
          • Prompting Page design
        • Report Formatting
          • Blocks & Tables
          • Box Type
          • Background Effects
          • Alignment
          • Size and Overflow
          • Conditional Styles
          • Advanced Conditional Styles
          • Data Formatting
          • Multiple Tabs
          • Multiple Pages (Report Books)
        • Report Outputs
          • HTML
          • PDF
          • Excel
          • CSV
          • MHT
        • Printing and Distribution
          • Page layout control
          • Multi-object page printing
          • Single Frame printing only
          • Bursting
          • Saved Prompt Values
          • Result set size constraints
        • Security
          • Supports row-level security in FM Model.
          • Supports row-level security in Cubes.
          • Supports portal/folder security.
          • Interactive report can be emailed.
        • Licensing Considerations
          • Minimal Role required (for development).
          • Minimal Role required (for consumption).
          • Ease-of-use (scale: 1-5, where 5 is most difficult).
          • Development Speed (scale: 1-5, where 1 is fastest).

    Other Considerations

      • Remember that many tools export to Report Studio for further enhancement, but only CWA can re-import modified reports.
      • Write-back capability not included (only available in Cognos Insight & TM1.
      • Use Event Studio for advanced report scheduling & delivery control.


  • Cognos OLAP Roadmap: How Should you Stage your Dimensional Data?
    • IBM Cognos OLAP Roadmap
      • IBM Cognos TM1
        • Optimal for write-back, what-if analysis, planning and budgeting, or other specialized applications.
        • Able to handle medium data volumes.
        • Aggregation occurs on the fly, which can impact performance with high data and high user volumes.
      • IBM Cognos Dynamic Cubes
        • Optimal for read-only reporting and analytics over large data volumes.
        • Aggregate-aware, with extensive in-memory caching for performance.
        • Star or snowflake schema required in underlying database (highly recommended to maximize performance).
      • IBM Cognos PowerCubes
        • Optimal to provide consistent interactive analysis experience to large number of users when the data source is an operational/transactional system, and a star or snowflake data structure cannot be achieved.
        • Cube (MOLAP) architecture that includes pre-aggregation is such that scalability requires careful management using cube groups.
        • Data latency is inherent with any MOLAP cube technology, where data movement into the cube is required.
      • Dimensionally Modeled Relational (DMR)
        • Optimal to easily create a dimensional data exploration experience over low data volumes in an operational/transactional system, and where latency needs to be carefully managed.
        • Caching on the Cognos Dynamic Query server helps performance.
        • Processing associated with operational/transactional system impacts performance.

Demo: Recreating Existing PowerPlayReports using Cognos Workspace Advanced

  • A Few Decision Making Tips
    • Carefully evaluate your expected uses (especially mobile use and delivery)
    • Seriously consider Cognos Workspace Advanced (particularly prior to deploying Analysis Studio).
    • If interactive mobile is important, look at Active Reports, but beware of significantly more effort.
    • Mock up Active Reports before starting development.
    • QS and CWA work well for quick research and validating.
    • Make full use of the ability to shift reports between of Report Studio and other tools.
    • Push logic and relationships “upstream” into the FM model & Mart(s), instead of relying on report tools (Self-service BI).