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5/27/2009
06:50 AM
Cindi Howson
Cindi Howson
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IBM Cognos Forum: The Secrets and the Sizzle

Much of what I learned and got excited about at IBM Cognos Forum I can't yet write about. So I will stick to the practical, the here and now, about two things in IBM Cognos 8.4 that caught my attention. First are the new metadata features: Business Glossary and Data Lineage.

If you are an IBM Cognos customer, you know this blog is two weeks after the fact. Blame the delayed posting on too much travel, or on my first having to figure out what I could and could not write about.

Non disclosure agreements (NDAs) are one of the trickier aspects of analyst-vendor relations. Vendors will share things under NDA for a number of reasons. Sometimes, it's to gauge the reaction, and if it's consistently negative, then maybe the vendor changes course. Often, though, the NDA is for only a week or so until an announcement has been made publicly. Those NDAs are easy to respect. The harder NDAs to respect are broader, with no deadline, and lots of exceptions. Like "anything said during this four-hour period is NDA, unless it was about product A or Z, release N or N.1." And in this age of blogging and tweeting, timely and clear NDA guidelines are a must.With NDA violations, the risk to the vendor is unethical analysts who tell NDA secrets to competitors or to the market ahead of time. The risk to an analyst who breaks an NDA is, at worst, a lawsuit or, more common, being black listed. Either way, not good. What I am still puzzled by is how some vendors are so open about their strategy and product developments even a year ahead of time (think Microsoft and project Gemini), whereas others are much more restrictive. SEC rules and revenue recognition are sometimes cited as reasons.

So the bottom line here (besides my griping about NDAs) is that much of what I learned and got excited about at IBM Cognos Forum I can't yet write about.

So I will stick to the practical, the here and now, about two things in IBM Cognos 8.4 that caught my attention. First are the new metadata features: Business Glossary and Data Lineage. With the Business Glossary, users can author business metadata in a Wiki-like page. But the best part and new in 8.4 is that a report consumer can access the glossary via a simple right-click over a particular report-column, such as "Revenue." Some customers have countered that they aren't interested, because they've standardized on a different metadata product. In this case, the new Data Lineage menu provides a good alternative, also accessed while viewing a report and right-clicking on any report column. While technical metadata may be of only moderate use to a business user, the data lineage screen also shows the business description (see the screen shot below). Many BI products expose this information only to report authors, not to report consumers and not with the degree of information shown in Cognos 8. Like the chicken-and-the-egg, few Cognos customers currently fill in that business description. Why bother, if users can't readily get to it? The Data Lineage menu and the way it's invoked in 8.4 makes it worth the effort!

Cognos 8.4 Data Lineage Interface

The second attention grabber was the dashboards. I first blogged about Cognos 8 Go! Dashboard when it was previewed at last year's user conference. The product was officially released in November, with service pack one released last month. As I discuss in this just-published evaluation, the use of Flash is a big improvement. However, there are trade-offs versus the predominant approach of Report-Studio-style dashboards. From a competitive standpoint, many of the evaluations of leading BI platforms show dashboard capabilities have the biggest room for improvement for flashy, visually rich dashboards and that can scale to the enterprise.

Regards, Cindi Howson, BI ScorecardMuch of what I learned and got excited about at IBM Cognos Forum I can't yet write about. So I will stick to the practical, the here and now, about two things in IBM Cognos 8.4 that caught my attention. First are the new metadata features: Business Glossary and Data Lineage.

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