by September 3, 2012 0 comments



Applies to: Database admins
USP: Learn to get useful insights into your organisation’s data and take decisions based on it.
Primary Links:Life After BI: The Next Big Thing – http://ld2.in/497
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The problem most organizations today face is that they have too much data to handle compared with the time available to initiate action on that data. The problem is fairly complex as the nature, dimensions and of course the volume of data available is disproportionately large. Are you too facing the same problem?

Business analytics tools are here to help. One such product, from IBM, is Cognos Insight. It is a personal analytics tool meant for desktop use. We discuss how to install and use the Cognos Insight 10.1.1 version. You can explore IBM’s Analytics Zone website for more information.


Getting the installer

Getting started is simple. A free registration to the IBM Connections network is required to download the trial version and participate in community discussions. Once logged in, you will get to the download page for the free 30-day trial. It may be noted that the file size stands at 219 MB.


Installing Cognos Insight

Once you run the installer, it unpacks the files. Due to technical issues, we had to force the executable to run with administrator privileges. This enabled the installer to continue beyond unpacking of files.

The actual setup proceeds as follows:

* Welcome page for language selection (English was the default in our case).

* IBM license agreement acceptance (although a subsequent step named as `Non-IBM license agreement` was listed in the sequence, no such license agreeement was actually displayed and the installer proceeded after this directly to the `installation location’ step.)

* Installation location: On our system, it stated that 508.99 MBs of free disk space are required. You specify the target directory here. If it doesn’t already exist, the installer will create one.

* Summary.

* Progress. It stated that 17 components need to be installed. This step took 5 minutes on our system, with 8 components being installed in the first minute itself.

* Finish. This screen allows you to view the log files (transfer log and summary error log) of the installation.

We found that a shortcut icon on the desktop and entries in the Start menu were created. On our system, no entries for IBM Cognos Insight were created in the `Add/Remove Programs` list and the software needed to be uninstalled using the Start menu entry for the same. This might make management difficult. Surprisingly, unlike the installer, the uninstaller did issue a UAC prompt on its own instead of requiring to be forcibly run with administrator privileges. It offered to remove only 15 components (against the 17 as stated by the installer). The uninstallation took unexpectedly longer than the installation (11 minutes) on our system and also stated that some components would need to be manually removed.


Using Cognos Insight

It is to be noted here that IBM Cognos Insight version 10.1.1 is built on Eclipse. It requires Java to be installed on your system.

The first launch prompted the Windows Firewall to issue two dialog boxes for blocking incoming network connections. We decided to unblock in both boxes.

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The application window, as shown (fig 1), resembles more of a mobile/tablet application in terms of the user interface rather than a conventional PC software.

The help provided is browser-based, running off a
local web server on a custom port. The Analytics Zone website asks that we run sample applications first using the given data sets to get a feel of what can be analysed, before moving to production use. So we downloaded samples from the Insight Community via the Analytics Zone website.


Basic reporting features

Let’s start with the Balance Sheet sample. The screenshot shows how it looks.

Choosing different currencies in the report does not dramatically alter the graph enough so as to be noticable in the screenshot. So let’s change the exchange rate for, say, USD-EUR to 100.

You might notice not only a change in absolute scale of the bars in the graph, but also a change in color of the text in the table. This is how Cognos Insight helps in the analysis of your data.


File formats supported

Cognos Insight supports drag-and-drop for multiple file formats to be provided as input, such as Excel worksheets, comma-separated-values, Cognos’ own workspace format, even JPEG images.

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Now let’s have a look at the HumanResources sample. Shown here first is the `Employee Expenses` tab of the sample (fig 2).


Displaying information through charts

Now suppose you want to change the rollup parameter for Expenses to display the count instead of average values.

As you can see, if the input data is in a format acceptable to Insight, it is very easy to chart and draw reports in a customisable manner.


Integrating components

Now let us move on to the Orders sample. In Cognos Insight, workspaces can be seamlessly shared with others for integration into the business workflow. They can also contain web pages. The Orders sample is one such example. Hence, it issues a warning as shown, about webpages being potentially malicious when you open the workspace.

IBM Cognos Insight can interact with IBM Cognos BI components by importing them as a web page. Here, in this sample, the gross margin, revenue and sales trend components were created in IBM Cognos BI Analysis, saved as a .MHT file and imported into Insight. That does not remove the interactivity. For example, here you can still see the sales trend line chart for year 2011.

However, we can interact with the BI Analysis component imported into Insight and obtain the sales trend line chart for say, year 2009.


Forecasting and planning

Now let us move to the Income-Debt Analysis sample. BI software is highly beneficial in planning and forecasting and hence it helps to use the software for What-if scenarios. When you open this sample too, you get the web page warning.

What we saw so far was just a sample of what there is to Cognos Insight. There is also Cognos BI itself, which comes under the Cognos Enterprise Edition, as well as the low-cost Cognos Express. There is even an online trial available for Cognos Express (which can be tried in sessions of 4 hours each). This uses the Citrix Receiver software for connecting to the IBM servers and may require firewall reconfiguration.

Which use cases are relevant to you? What do you want us to cover? Let us know at pcquest@cybermedia.co.in.

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