By Paul Hausser, Envisn, Inc.
Often frustrated by their inability to get the information they need, Cognos users are looking to administrators for help in finding the right report without having to do a slow search through existing reports that may or may not meet their needs. This is especially true in larger organizations and those where Cognos BI has been in use for a while. Many of these rely on standardized reports and have been reluctant to give users the ability to create their own reports or queries.
Top 5 Cognos User Needs
An informal survey of users identified a number of suggestions for making standard reports more useful to users. In approximate order of importance these are:
- An easier way to find needed reports – Since the title of a report is often not a good indicator of its content or usefulness, titles should be reviewed to insure that it accurately describes the purpose or content of a particular report. Some organizations have taken this one step further and added a report in each folder that lists all of the current reports in that folder and provides a short description of each report and what it provides.
- Information on data and fields used in reports – Where a data dictionary exists for Cognos BI data sources this can helpful for users understanding of the data and what it means. The issue here is the form factor; How easily can it be accessed and used? An ideal solution would be to provide this as annotations at the FM model level and have it propagate forward into all reports or queries that are created using that model. With a right click within a report users could get what they need. This could give not only information on the data but also on calculations that use the multiple data items such as Net Price, for example.
- Rating of reports – Give users the ability to rate reports based on their usefulness. One to five stars the same way Amazon allows customers to rate products they’ve purchased. This has the dual benefit of helping users find useful content quicker and making it obvious which content is a candidate for removal from the portal.
- Find similar reports – This would be useful for finding other useful reports in a given subject area. It would also help identify duplicate reports for possible elimination. Envisn already has this capability in its NetVisn product where it identifies other current reports using the same data items.
- Info on new reports – Highlight new reports in a folder and provide a brief explanation of their purpose and content. Doing this in an obvious but unobtrusive way would help users identify them and get them in use faster.
The Right Ones
Cognos administrators need to make it easier for users to find what they need. Doing this would not only improve user satisfaction but also cut down on duplicate and overlapping reports that make it even harder to find the right one. An interesting statistic is that over 70 percent of Cognos users have fewer than 10 reports that they use on a monthly basis. They may use them multiple times in that period, but it’s still a relatively small set of reports. Helping users find the right set for their needs is what it’s all about.
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