This article is for those of you who like me, have lamented and long suffered the downturn that Cognos endured beginning with the introduction of Cognos 11.0.2 in May 2016.
To set the stage, I led the first global implementation of Cognos 10 in 2010. I was a Cognos evangelist. I appeared with then Cognos CEO Rob Ashe at the Cognos 10 launch to proclaim it, so some of what I say in the following paragraphs is painful for me, and I’m sure for IBM as well. Please read through that – I promise that there is some very good news for IBM Cognos here.
Slide Into the Abyss:
Without going on for too long about all of the things that I didn’t like about Cognos 11 at its introduction, the short story is that changes to the user interface made operation for both ad-hoc users and advanced report developers much less intuitive and a LOT harder. In their race to hide everything, important functionality was left on the cutting room floor. Navigation was more difficult, everything was hidden and harder to find, thus requiring many more mouse clicks to get the same work done. All of this generally reduced Cognos’ effectiveness as a productivity tool, which in the end is what it is all about. N’est pas?
I hated it, and I told my contacts at IBM so at every opportunity to encourage them to remedy the situation. I went from favorite son to wicked step-child status at Cognos headquarters in Ottawa. For the intervening years it got increasingly hard, and then outright impossible to remain a Cognos evangelist. We experienced a nearly complete evaporation of demand for Cognos consulting services. Like much of the market, I had to eventually give up on Cognos.
Rebirth: Then Came Cognos 11.2 – Wow!
Cognos 11.2.0 was introduced in May 2021. With Covid raging worldwide and with most of our client base focused on either Power BI or Tableau I didn’t take notice. I didn’t even know that they had released it. Whatever notification lists that I had been on were radio silent.
Cognos 11.2.1 was released in September 2021. At about the same time a major client of ours came forward with a very complex set of requirements that included the entire gamut of analytics capabilities at giant scale.
Multitenancy for up to 1,000 tenants supporting thousands of both internal and external users, multiple authentication providers, full user self-service ad hoc, dashboards, self-service data modeling, self-service aggregates creation, bring-your-own-data, not to mention meat and potatoes Enterprise Standard reporting.
We bounced the requirements against most of the market vendors and one way or another they came up short. We weren’t even considering Cognos. With no other product meeting the requirements I went back to take a fresh look at Cognos to determine the state of the product. I had not even looked at it for over a year. I discovered 11.2.1 had just been released. Okay, I thought, let’s install it and have a look.
When I opened it up and started punching around my mind was blown. The Portal user interface has been completely re-engineered and logically organized. Nearly everything that I hated about it, all of the navigation and mouse-click hell that I have been complaining about for years has been elegantly resolved. The cumulative effect of all of these user interface improvements is a dramatically improved user experience. It is a dream to look at and operate.
After all of those pleasant surprises pertaining to the user interface, we moved on to a feature comparison where we reconciled our client’s extremely complex requirements with Cognos’ ultra-rich Enterprise feature set developed over nearly two decades since the introduction of Report Net in September 2003. User interface issues aside, the depth and breadth of Cognos ability to meet the widest array of technical requirements has always been where Cognos shines, and where Cognos took command of the conversation.
- Natively Configurable for Multitenancy – Check
- Dynamic parameter-based database connections that can be controlled by tenant to simplify manageability of metadata models with hundreds of tenants – Check
- Multiple concurrent authentication providers & authentication types to accommodate heterogenous pools of internal and external users – Check
- Giant scalability – Check
- Best in class report authoring for both novice self-service ad-hoc and advanced pixel-perfect formatted report authors – Check
- Competitive dashboarding capabilities – Check
- User self-service bring your own data and web data modeling – Check
- Native save report output to AWS S3 bucket, file system, internal archive – Check
- Robust ecosystem of partner utilities to facilitate management of very large-scale implementations – Motio CI, BSP Metamanager, EnVisn. – Check
No other product on the market came even close to meeting all of the requirements. We looked at all of the more recent entries to the market, most of whom Gartner has swimming around in the upper right quadrant of its magic diagram. These all had glossy veneers that delivered the top layer of the presentation requirements, but when we drilled into what it would take to force fit the client requirements into those products there wasn’t sufficient depth or breadth on the back end – administration and configuration options – to yield manageable solutions at the required scale. We looked at the other platform vendors. They fared better, but nowhere near as well as Cognos.
There just isn’t any replacement for almost 20 years on the road. Cognos took a 5-year detour into oblivion with their mistakes on the Cognos 11.0 and 11.1 interfaces, and it cost them dearly in the market. But all the while they have been listening to the criticism, adjusting, adding, and improving functionality. The result is that with the release of version 11.2, in my opinion Cognos is again the premier Business Analytics solution on the market.
Take it from someone who has some mileage in the Business Analytics space, who loved and then hated Cognos, make no mistake:
COGNOS IS BACK! With a Vengeance.
Recovery will take time, but we are again recommending Cognos as a top choice to Enterprise customers for new implementations.
The Road Ahead:
For those of you who are thinking about migrating away from Cognos, think carefully about abandoning your investment when you already have a premier platform with all of the capabilities. Avoid spending money chasing something that you think Cognos can’t do. Instead spend a little time taking a fresh look at what Cognos 11.2 already does and then compare the total cost of migration away from Cognos to the cost of improving the content of your existing Cognos platform. I think that you will be surprised to learn that you already have it all right in your hands, for a fraction of the cost. If you need help with that, Perficient can supply that assistance. We have deep expertise on migration and content improvement.
Footnote: For those of you who are still waffling around on older unsupported 10.xx versions of Cognos, log4j should have forced you to move forward. If you haven’t then you are living on borrowed time. For those of you who are on any C11.0 or 11.1 version of Cognos for which log4j patches are available, you should strongly consider moving to Cognos 11.2.2, which is the first version of Cognos that fully addresses all log4j v1 and v2 issues natively out-of-the box without patching.
Here are a couple of C11.1.7 and C11.2.2 screen shots that demonstrate the improved Full Page content view: The Cognos 11.2 portal interface is beautiful. Gone is the horrible Cognos 11.1.7 fly-out content navigation. My Content and Team Content are always visible as tabs – a giant improvement:
For a complete listing of new features in Cognos 11.2 see the following IBM Document:
What to Do?
Contact our team to get a full featured demonstration and draw your own conclusions. We are experts at helping manage the upgrade cycle, including installation, configuration, and training.
In addition to features and fixes, upgrades are a great time to deal with content issues like portal reorganization, unused content removal, security model analysis and modification, etc. that you may want to address at the same time. We have decades of experience with tools that can help streamline the upgrade content migration process.