Post: Improve How You Solve Cognos Report Access Issues with Impersonation

You check your emails Friday afternoon and see that Ursula has lost the ability to see some important reports after a new release. Ursula desperately needs these BI assets available Monday morning. You can’t walk over to Ursula’s office though, because she is in New York and you are in Honolulu.

You E-mail Ursula now, but it’s already after working hours in New York. You can hope that she checks her e-mails, and the two of you can pick a time to work on the issue. But your cousin’s wedding is on Saturday, so Saturday won’t work. And Sunday morning, well, you will need to recover from Saturday night.

Maybe 2:00 pm Sunday in Honolulu (8:00 pm in New York) will work! So now you have a time, how do you solve the problem? Do you screen share? Do you dare ask Ursula her password? Password sharing is a huge company policy violation (Besides, is she willing to admit her password is the name of the favorite of her cats?) Why can’t this all be easier?

Let me introduce you to Impersonation, a feature of Motio’s PersonaIQ product. Impersonation allows authorized administrators or support personnel to login to Cognos as different users. You see exactly what the user is seeing, so you can troubleshoot issues quicker and without temporary passwords or screen sharing. Impersonation also combats the frustrating back and forth of trying to explain your issue over chat or phone (this is worsened by the 8 hour time zone difference.) Additionally, Impersonation requests are fully audited, so it is a much more controlled and secure way to troubleshoot.

Back to Ursula. You can set up an impersonation rule (which authorizes you/your support personnel to use it) in Persona IQ. In this situation, we’ve set up an impersonation rule that allows one of your support personnel (Robert) to impersonate any user from the New York Branch.

Robert can impersonate everybody in the group “New York Branch.”

To see a demonstration of the impersonation feature, watch the webinar here.

Login to Cognos as Ursula to see Cognos exactly how she sees it.

Once the impersonation rule for the New York Branch members has been authorized for Robert, he can see Cognos the exact way that these users can. In this case, Ursula. This gives Robert the freedom to poke around for issues on his time schedule, without needing Ursula on standby.

In this example, Ursula doesn’t have the ability to view the Category Sales report for the first quarter, but can still see other assets. This leads Robert to believe there is a permission on the Category Sales Q1 report that Ursula doesn’t have access to.

Ursula does not have access to “Category Sales- QTR 1.”

Robert can log out of Cognos as Ursula, and back in as himself to see what permissions are set on the Category Sales- QTR 1 report. He discovers that, for some unknown reason, someone “denied permissions” to the Category Sales -QTR1 report to members of the Department Heads group

Robert is able to ensure the New York Branch (and thus Ursula) is able to view full permissions.

Robert is able to correct the issue in Cognos. He can then log-in as Ursula, and verify that the issue is correct (before notifying her!) Robert can enjoy the weekend in Honolulu and Ursula knows it won’t be her head on the chopping block Monday morning.

As you can see, Impersonation allows a Cognos support user to solve an issue without the hassle of guessing and checking. Compare this to the time consuming, “Okay, does that solve your problem?” “Can you see your data now?” cycle. The back and forth conversation has been eliminated, and you can have a stress free weekend (which is, after all, the reason you moved to Hawaii!)


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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.