By Elwood Philbrick - Envisn, Inc.
Cognos BI growth models
Cognos BI environments typically grow in two ways. The first way is with an initial deployment of BI in an environment that is clearly defined and bounded, typically up to 300 or fewer users. This generally follows a defined process of software purchase, content creation, training, initial rollout and full deployment over an appropriate time frame. Growth comes only as the organization grows with new people being added to the user base.
The second way starts out the same as the first but then it grows in large chunks or steps. An example might be a company that acquires BI for one or two functional areas, and once it’s proven itself, then deploys it to other functions or divisions across the company. Or it may grow through acquisitions that are then brought into the common Cognos BI environment. This may even involve different BI platforms that have to be moved over to Cognos.
Issues faced in scaling up Cognos
Growth that comes in big chunks is much more of a challenge than organic growth over time. Think about it. You currently have two functions, say finance and marketing, that currently total 500 users and now you have to bring on manufacturing and logistics that will have 450 users. You have to nearly double your user base in whatever timeframe you have been given and then grow it again and again.
The four major areas that pose a challenge to BI directors or managers in dealing with large increases in growth are:
Security – Creating a security model that can accommodate all future growth may not always be possible. The best you can do is to become well versed in Cognos security and then structure your security model around the core principals on setting up Cognos security. Practical experience goes a long way here. For Cognos administrators this is far and away the largest pain area that they experience. Work to create a model that can accommodate change and growth.
Training – Probably the most under invested area of Cognos BI deployments is user training. But training that is well structured and delivered has an incredible ROI. It not only makes it easier for users to get up to speed in terms of using the tools, but the big payoff comes from them being better able to make better business decisions which is what it’s all about. Just being able to share common business information across and between functions has a huge payback. Trying to cut corners here does not make sense. Give users the training they need and also clearly spell out any rules or guidelines around personal folders, saved output, etc.
Personal Content – Once a BI environment has been in place for any length of time the amount of content in personal folders will significantly exceed the amount of public content in the Content Store. In fact, the strategy of many organizations today is to have users create their own reports rather than have authors or developers write reports for them. This strategy can work, but if you don’t have some rules in place here you will likely see this area explode over time. If each user creates 5 new reports per month, and never eliminates any, what happens? Run the numbers; the results may surprise you.
Another factor compounding this issue is the ease with which users can now create content on their own. Every new version release of IBM Cognos BI has made this process even easier and Cognos 10 is no exception.
License Management – Unless you have an enterprise licensing model the task of tracking licenses is another challenge you have to deal with. This can be difficult depending on your license model and how it is deployed. We have covered this in a previous blog, Counting IBM Cognos Licenses, which you may want to read. The best advice is to try and get out in front of this issue early and stay on top of it. You may need to look for a solution that can help you in this area.
Those organizations that have had to deal with growing in large increments have learned how to address some of these issues. After the first large increment it may get easier if you have been able to take the learnings from it and build them into your planning for the next one. But there will always be some surprises that you did not expect. The best advice is to focus on careful planning and flawless execution. Anyone got any other issues that they think need to be addressed in dealing with large incremental growth in Cognos BI? Share it with us and other readers in the comments section.
Photo by Ben Heine