IBM Cognos Analytics

IBM Cognos Analytics (formerly IBM Cognos BI) is a web-based product for formatted reporting, ad hoc reporting, analysis and dashboards with a central platform for administration, data modeling and accessing data sources. A completely revamped UI was introduced in version 11 including the interactive viewer and the capability to search and navigate content and build new reports, dashboards and data modules. Data modeling (and data preparation) for business users has become a central capability of the Cognos Analytics platform, which is a clear shift from the developer-oriented Framework Manager.

IBM is one of the world’s largest vendors of IT hardware, software and services. The company, which generated $79.1 billion in revenues in 2017, has a global workforce of approximately 380,000 em­ployees and is active in over 170 countries. At the end of 2007, IBM purchased the Canadian software vendor Cognos for about $5 billion (including Planning Analytics, formerly TM1) to become the center of its future BI product portfolio.

IBM offers a comprehensive portfolio of on-premises and cloud BI, performance management (planning, financial consolidation, disclosure management) and advanced analytics solutions. The core offering of IBM’s Analytics portfolio consists of Planning Analytics, Watson Analytics and SPSS Predictive Analytics. This product review focuses solely on IBM Cognos Analytics.

IBM Cognos Analytics was acquired from Cognos back in 2007. Today the product is IBM’s core BI and analytics platform.

IBM’s strategic goal and the positioning of its BI and analytics portfolio is to empower as many employees in its customer organizations as possible with sophisticated analytics functionality. Watson Analytics is aimed at business users who demand an intuitive cloud solution for data exploration and analysis (“smart data discovery”). For cloud or on-premises BI use cases such as dashboard and report creation, planning or statistical analysis, Cognos Analytics, Planning Analytics and SPSS fulfill the various needs of different user groups.

IBM Cognos Analytics is the vendor’s product for BI use cases ranging from formatted and ad hoc reporting to analysis and dashboards. In the past, it primarily addressed centralized (managed) reporting conducted, for the most part, by IT users and developers, somewhat overlooking the evolving needs of business users for more self-service. Although Cognos 10.x offered Analysis Studio and Workspace Advanced for multidimensional analysis, its ETL and data modeling capabilities were primarily in the realm of power users.

Cognos Analytics is based on a three-tiered architecture consisting of an application server, web server and a web-based front end that access all types of data sources. Advanced data modeling, as well as the settings for security and data access, take place in the solution’s central administration tools. Framework Manager is the established metadata modeling tool to develop a semantic layer based on the data model of a relational data warehouse or multidimensional database. This metadata is stored in a relational database. Typically, developers build the models and publish them as Framework Manager (FM) packages to the application server.

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5 products most often evaluated in competition with IBM Cognos Analytics


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IBM Cognos Analytics

Peer Groups Large enterprise BI platforms, Large international BI vendors
Number of responses92
ProductIBM Cognos Analytics
OfficesGlobal offices in more than 200 countries worldwide
Employees> 380,000
Revenues (2017)$ 79.1 billion