May 31, 2013, 2013 by Paul Hausser, Envisn, Inc.
"Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler." - Albert Einstein
We regularly get feedback from customers and prospective customers on the challenges they have to deal with as a Cognos BI administrator. Much of this makes its way into our CRM system in summary form and we recently sifted through this to see what learnings, if any, there might be. Below are some of the key lessons that we came across and they are in the approximate order of importance or frequency of mention.
- Stay Ahead of Your Cognos Security Model. Einstein was probably talking about security when he made his quote. Your security model is going to evolve whether you want it to or not. In many Cognos environments this happens passively and all too often gets to a point where it becomes unworkable. A better approach is to develop a model you want to evolve too. The major reasons for an outdated security model are:
a. Organic growth
b. Acquisitions – this can be a new company, combining content stores, etc.
c. Organizational change
So how do you intelligently evolve your security model? Keep track of the changes you are making to security, or where your current model is not appropriate, to see what, if any, patterns exist and use them as a guide to the next point of evolution. Stay focused on the key attributes of groups, roles and accounts and be consistent on what should be used where. You need to be control of what your Cognos security model evolves to.
- Know where you’re currently spending your time. This isn’t just you but your colleagues that work in support of the Cognos environment as well. Is this where it makes sense to be focused? If not, how should you change it? It’s easy to get trapped into the daily routine of simply reacting to what needs to be done every day. Step back and figure out what you need to do to make it more focused on your key deliverables.
- Get rid of no reward activities. Think of dumb, time wasting activities that get repeated all too frequently and have limited or no value. Do you or your people waste valuable time helping users, authors, etc. with things they would know if they had been better trained? Then conduct more training. Another example is responding to user requests to help find a particular report or subject area. If your content is not organized to make it easy for users to find what they need then reorganize it based on user feedback and input.
- Invest in tools to support your work. Successful Cognos BI administration is focused on two things: Getting the information you need about your environment(s) in a timely manner and managing key tasks on a routine basis. Think about it. You’re using the best BI tools in the business with IBM Cognos but you don’t have any tools to manage the work needed to support them. Does that make sense?
- Archive report output – In almost every Cognos environment that’s been in place for a while this is usually the largest part of the Content Store and often dwarfs reports, packages, etc. in terms of storage size. If large enough, this stored output can negatively impact Cognos’ performance. You can learn more about how to deal with this here: Archiving Cognos Content.
- Eliminate unused content – Nothing is more valueless than maintaining and updating reports, queries and models that have outlived their usefulness. If you don’t know what part of your content is being used then look to the Cognos audit tables to help you get started or consider third party tools to get this information. Content that that has not been used during a given period, say 90 days or more, should be a candidate for removal unless it’s a report that is designed for a longer time period or is required for policy purposes.
- Set some rules for the user community. The majority of most Cognos environments appear to have few if any rules around output retention, personal content, etc. This area can be tricky because once you’ve given users the ability to do what they want it can often be difficult to take them away or limit what they can do.
- Listen to the users. Don’t know what your users like or dislike? Ask them, but remember that you have to be willing to do something with the answers you get.
Have any learnings worth sharing? Post them as a comment to this article.
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