Post: Compare Objects Across Two Cognos Environments

Most Cognos developers have been confronted with this situation before:  A report runs perfectly fine in the Cognos Development or Test environment, but has some sort of issue in the Production Cognos environment.   This scenario generally results in the Cognos team asking the question, “What are the differences in this report between the Cognos environment where it works (Development/QA) and the Cognos environment where it has an issue (Production)?”.

There are many features in MotioCI that allow Cognos teams to quickly identify and resolve issues across multiple Cognos environments.   In today’s example, we’ll take a look at Cross Instance Diffing.  This feature allows Cognos team members to compare the properties, policies, and xml specifications of objects in different Cognos environments.    Cross Instance Diffing can be used to quickly answer the question: “What is different about this object in these two Cognos environments.”

One scenario that can be quickly uncovered by Cross Instance Diffing is the situation where there are more restrictive permissions on the Cognos object in an upstream Cognos environment (e.g. Production).    We’ll use this scenario as the example below.

To begin, we’ll login to MotioCI and navigate to the report of interest under one of the versioned Cognos environments. In this example we’ve selected the “Actual vs Target Sales” report in the Development Cognos instance.  To the right, the selected object’s revision history tab appears.

Next, we’ll click on the revision number we want to use in the comparison so that it’s highlighted gray (we’ll pick the latest revision, which is what’s currently in the Content Store).

Now we’ll click on the Spec Diff Icon in the top right corner.

This will open the “Cross Instance Diff” window, where we will select the object in another Cognos environment which is monitored by MotioCI.

In this example, we’ll choose the same “Actual vs Target Sales” report under the “Integration and Testing” environment (note it is also possible to compare different objects across the two Cognos environments).

We’ll select the specific version we want to compare and a confirmation box will appear.  Click “Yes” to continue.

Now we’ll see a side-by-side comparison of the “Actual vs Target Sales” report in the two designated Cognos Environments.  This “diff” view will show differences not only in the report specification, but also a side-by-side comparison of all properties (including security policies).  If a user was having an issue running or editing this report caused by policy differences between the two environments, it is quickly identified using MotioCI’s “cross instance diff” feature.

MotioCI’s Cross Instance Diffing capability is a simple to use yet powerful feature to help debug issues from different Cognos environments.

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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.