Cognos Analytics: Dashboards or Reports?

April 19, 2018

Cognos Analytics (v11)

Matching Tools to Business Requirements

With all the capabilities that have been added to the Cognos Analytics platform, it can be a bit unclear as to which is the right choice – dashboards or reports?

In this webinar recording, we break down the benefits and differences in functionality between Cognos reports and dashboards so you can determine the best tool for your business requirements.

We address these questions and more

  • What is the difference between a dashboard and a dashboard-style report?
  • Where is the best place for experimental data discovery?
  • What are data modules and stories?

You may also be interested in these free Cognos Analytics resources


Cognos Analytics


Albert Valdez
Vice President of Learning Solutions

Albert has more than 17 years of experience in business intelligence education and technical training. In addition to founding and running the Senturus training division, Albert also serves in various roles in the company including senior consultant and solutions architect. Before joining Senturus, he was a Senior Education Specialist at Cognos. Albert is an IBM Cognos Certified Trainer and has his lifetime CTT and certification from CompTIA.


  • IBM Cognos Analytics rapid releases – history
  • Cognos Analytics releases – new dashboarding features
  • What is a dashboard?
    • From Stephen Few: “A dashboard is a visual display of the most important information needed to achieve one or more objectives; consolidated and arranged on a single screen so the information can be monitored at a glance.”
    • Our basic understanding, dashboards typically have the following characteristics or features
      • Multiple visual representations of data on a single screen
      • Interactivity, allowing consumers to narrow focus and understand interdependencies of the data via visual gestures
      • High-level measurements with access to underlying details via drill-down, drill-through or some other intuitive data exploration gesture
      • Examples: IBM Cognos Analytics; Tableau; Microsoft Power BI
    • What is a report?
      • Information delivered in ANY format
        • Excel workbooks – mostly tabular (row and column) format
        • Easy to combine with graphical representations (visualizations) of same, similar or related data
        • Mostly static (NOT interactive) snapshots of data
        • Answer specific questions, meet detailed, well-defined specifications
        • Can be highly formatted for the target consumer (internal business analyst, external customer, regulatory agency)
        • Examples: IBM Cognos Analytics, Tableau
      • Is a report a dashboard building block?
    • Demo: use case for dashboarding
      • Upload data, blend data, explore/visualize
      • Data discovery and experimentation – don’t know exactly which question(s) to ask
      • Little or very light data manipulation
      • Multiple data sources (cannot be linked)
      • All widgets interactive
      • All widgets connect to one another by default (automatically)
      • Use pinned items for reuse in dashboards and stories
      • Designed for on-screen consumption, now able to export to PDF for printing (as of Release 10)
      • No access to query model
      • Simplified tabbed layout
      • Widgets can be set to refresh automatically
      • Can use ANY source, including uploaded files and data sets
      • Tabular visualization available, very limited
      • Automatic visual interpretation and recommendations, more modern visual features, limited control over individual properties
      • Quasi-Natural Language Processing (NLP) search can recommend visualizations
      • Easily create tabbed viewing experience
    • Demo: use case for reporting
      • Use existing metadata
      • Highly-specific presentation requirements, like fixed-size, pixel-perfect layout and formatting
      • Extensive data manipulation
      • One source at a Time
      • Limited consumer interactivity to what author allows
      • Tedious inline filtering (prompting)
      • Use layout component references for templatization/standardization
      • Various delivery formats available (HTML, PDF, Excel, CSV, XML)
      • Advanced query modeling (master/detail, joins, sets, etc.)
      • Consolidate reports using report references
      • Robust scheduling, subscription and bursting
      • Requires data module or package (you can always create a data module on top of one or more of the various source types)
      • Advanced crosstabs, statement-style reporting
      • Tight control over visualization and chart properties
      • 100% user-directed design
      • Adding tabs to reports is labor-intensive