Post: Have No Fear, An Easy Cognos Upgrade Is Here

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CoBank provides loans, leases, export financing, and other financing services across rural America. They serve agribusiness, rural power, water, and communications providers in all 50 United States. As a member of the Farm Credit System, CoBank is part of a nationwide network of banks and retail lending associations focused on supporting the needs of agriculture, rural infrastructure, and rural communities.

CoBank and Cognos

The team at CoBank relies on Cognos for its operational reporting and main financial reporting system. Keeping Cognos upgraded allows them to maintain integration with their other BI tools and systems. The team consists of 600 business users with a handful developing their own reports in the “My Content” space.

CoBank has five Cognos environments to ensure they can manage projects on the business end. This enables the team to confidently work on many items simultaneously. The data environment and the ETL environment can be truly separate. This results in a lot of testing and reliance to get the team from Development to Test 1, Test 2, UAT, and into Production.

Easy Audits

Sandeep Anand, Director of Data Platform, values MotioCI’s version control capabilities. As a financial institution, CoBank is frequently audited and having quick access to reports is essential. With MotioCI, the team can quickly and easily run a report that shows the entire history of any Cognos object. CoBank relies on the MotioCI repository as their single version of truth for audits for/regarding Cognos content.

Sandeep explained, “Having version control over anything that gets put into various environments is extremely helpful. It gives clear visibility of not just the core promotion, but who did it, what they did, and makes the audit possibility easier.”

Faster Cognos Upgrades

When it was time to upgrade to the latest version of Cognos, CoBank leveraged its existing MotioCI investment. CoBank used MotioCI for their current upgrade and are planning on using it for future upgrades as well.

Lindy McDonald, administrator in the internal IT Data Platform group, shared, “This is a game-changer. We set up sandbox environments when we do the upgrade. We have a sandbox 1 and 2, following Motio’s guidance. One is on the old version of Cognos, another is on the new version. And being able to just set up the test cases, clone them over, run, and find out which of our 700 reports have issues right off the bat is just very useful. If we had to do that manually it would just be a nightmare.”

MotioCI is a trusted product for the team at CoBank, helping them to work more quickly and efficiently, and resulting in a task-driven process for future upgrades.

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As the BI space evolves, organizations must take into account the bottom line of amassing analytics assets.
The more assets you have, the greater the cost to your business. There are the hard costs of keeping redundant assets, i.e., cloud or server capacity. Accumulating multiple versions of the same visualization not only takes up space, but BI vendors are moving to capacity pricing. Companies now pay more if you have more dashboards, apps, and reports. Earlier, we spoke about dependencies. Keeping redundant assets increases the number of dependencies and therefore the complexity. This comes with a price tag.
The implications of asset failures differ, and the business’s repercussions can be minimal or drastic.
Different industries have distinct regulatory requirements to meet. The impact may be minimal if a report for an end-of-year close has a mislabeled column that the sales or marketing department uses, On the other hand, if a healthcare or financial report does not meet the needs of a HIPPA or SOX compliance report, the company and its C-level suite may face severe penalties and reputational damage. Another example is a report that is shared externally. During an update of the report specs, the low-level security was incorrectly applied, which caused people to have access to personal information.
The complexity of assets influences their likelihood of encountering issues.
The last thing a business wants is for a report or app to fail at a crucial moment. If you know the report is complex and has a lot of dependencies, then the probability of failure caused by IT changes is high. That means a change request should be taken into account. Dependency graphs become important. If it is a straightforward sales report that tells notes by salesperson by account, any changes made do not have the same impact on the report, even if it fails. BI operations should treat these reports differently during change.
Not all reports and dashboards fail the same; some reports may lag, definitions might change, or data accuracy and relevance could wane. Understanding these variations aids in better risk anticipation.

Marketing uses several reports for its campaigns – standard analytic assets often delivered through marketing tools. Finance has very complex reports converted from Excel to BI tools while incorporating different consolidation rules. The marketing reports have a different failure mode than the financial reports. They, therefore, need to be managed differently.

It’s time for the company’s monthly business review. The marketing department proceeds to report on leads acquired per salesperson. Unfortunately, half the team has left the organization, and the data fails to load accurately. While this is an inconvenience for the marketing group, it isn’t detrimental to the business. However, a failure in financial reporting for a human resource consulting firm with 1000s contractors that contains critical and complex calculations about sickness, fees, hours, etc, has major implications and needs to be managed differently.

Acknowledging that assets transition through distinct phases allows for effective management decisions at each stage. As new visualizations are released, the information leads to broad use and adoption.
Think back to the start of the pandemic. COVID dashboards were quickly put together and released to the business, showing pertinent information: how the virus spreads, demographics affected the business and risks, etc. At the time, it was relevant and served its purpose. As we moved past the pandemic, COVID-specific information became obsolete, and reporting is integrated into regular HR reporting.
Reports and dashboards are crafted to deliver valuable insights for stakeholders. Over time, though, the worth of assets changes.
When a company opens its first store in a certain area, there are many elements it needs to understand – other stores in the area, traffic patterns, pricing of products, what products to sell, etc. Once the store is operational for some time, specifics are not as important, and it can adopt the standard reporting. The tailor-made analytic assets become irrelevant and no longer add value to the store manager.