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Post: So You’ve Decided to Upgrade Cognos…Now What?

If you’re a long time Motio follower, you’ll know that we are no strangers to Cognos upgrades. (If you’re new to Motio, welcome! We’re happy to have you) We’ve been called the “Chip & Joanna Gains” of Cognos Upgrades. Okay that last sentence is an exaggeration, however, we did create a DIY approach for Cognos customers to upgrade themselves. 

A technique we’ve yet to cover is the idea that you can outsource your Cognos upgrades. It’s not as simple as hiring a team and waking up to a fully functional, migrated Cognos environment. But it’s also not that hard.

We sat down with Cognos customer Orlando Utilities Commission, who outsourced their upgrade to Cognos 11. The OUC team previously upgraded to Cognos 10 on their own which  took five months. When they outsourced their upgrade, the whole process only took eight weeks. Ashish Smart, Enterprise Architect, shared the lessons his team learned through the upgrade process with us. He noted that his team followed best practices for a Cognos upgrade. 

Best practice Prepare and Clean Up to Narrow Scope:

1. Involve users early  in the process, and encourage subject matter experts to participate. Allow them to clean up Cognos and do the UAT testing. They can review what’s in “My Folders” to determine what needs to be moved  or not.

2. You’re going to migrate a lot of stuff. Clean up your non-production environment. You’ll see that things are out of sync between production and non-production. This will help you decide if you want to go through the effort to sync the two or rely on a backup. By overlaying the production reports, this cuts down on confusion.

Best practice: Automate as Much as You Can

3. Insert prompts for automated testing. This is beneficial for understanding how business users interact with reports.

4. Invest in administrator and on the job (OTJ) training. Ensure you complete admin training first so when configuration changes are recommended, you can move it into your future  environment. When combined with testing, you can avoid last minute stress.

Best practice: Ensure Sandboxes are Performing Well

5. Secure a training environment with some sample/core reports quickly. Activate a Cognos 11 instance for power users and trainers specifically so they can get in at the start. Your team can migrate the core templates/reports first to ensure they move to the same database and get the same result. This provides developers and consumers a chance to play early.

6. The Sandbox environment shields you from the changes. A sandbox ensures that Production does not have to stop servicing business users. With the outsource, OUC’s Production freeze went from weeks to merely 4-5 days over a weekend. This ensures the end users aren’t disturbed and can focus on daily activities.

Ashish added some final thoughts. Stay organized, keep a good mindset, and review the progress. By outsourcing the upgrade, OUC was able to stay ahead of competition, prevent distractions with a plan, and avoid unanticipated implementation problems.

Learn how you can outsource your upgrade like OUC in the Upgrade Factory.

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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.