Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Shortcut Guide to Achieving BI in Midsize Companies

By now, you've probably heard a lot about business intelligence (BI). But if you think it's still only for companies with big IT staffs and bigger technology budgets, you haven't heard the good news.

New techniques and technologies are making effective BI affordable, manageable and effective for midsize and even small companies.

Read The Shortcut Guide to Achieving BI in Midsize Companies and discover the truth about BI today. Here's what you'll learn in four concise chapters:

Chapter 1: What is Business Intelligence, Anyway?

The business goals of BI
A brief technical overview of the concepts, components,
and visualizations of BI
The use of BI for analysis and decision-making

Chapter 2: How Business Intelligence Happens

The process, tools and techniques involved in implementing a BI system
Technologies that make BI easier to implement and affordable
The basic processes required to implement BI in your environment

Chapter 3: Debunking the Top Three Myths of BI for Midsize Companies

BI is affordable
BI does not require specialized expertise to implement or operate
BI can be implemented in just a few weeks

Chapter 4: Successfully Adding Business Intelligence to a Midsize Company

Take it one capability at a time
Why you don't need expensive consulting services or new hires
How to implement without disrupting day-to-day business activities

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Report Studio - Burst Options (Directory Entries)

I know this is out of context a bit but a customer opened a PMR where she had problems bursting to a directory entry (see Burst Options in Report Studio). I believe this is the documentation she was referring to.

Please refer to this technote if you face any troubles bursting to directory entries:
http://www-01.ibm.com/support/docview.wss?rs=3528&uid=swg21342658

In the course of that PMR me and the customer both tried to use the search path for an actual directory but that does not seem to be working. Gives a path not found error.

The technote was suggested by the second level support engineer and it has worked in his setup. Hopefully it works for the customer too.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

COG-105 - Cognos Specialist

I recently passed the COG-105 test.

Not that I wanted to share the results. But if anybody out there needs any assistance with the test, I can provide the same. No, I will not disclose the questions and I did not use any of the dumps (does not fit my principles), but yes I can guide with the study material, questions, queries and so on. You can reach me at darshan[dot]donni[at the rate]gmail[dot]com

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

IBM FixCentral

The place you head to when you need to download a fixpack for any IBM product is:
http://www-933.ibm.com/support/fixcentral/

For Cognos fixpacks, choose Information Management as the product group. Some time in the future you may have to choose Business Analytics as the product group. For now, Information Management should work well.

Business Analytics Forum 2010

Whether your focus is Business Intelligence, Advanced Analytics, Financial Performance and Strategy Management or Analytic Applications, this is the place to get the practical know-how you need to maximize the value of your deployments and do your day-to-day job more effectively.

Please visit the main website here.

There are discounts available till August 31st. That apart, you can even attend the Information On Demand (IOD) conference which will be happening around the same time.

Report Specification

Under various circumstances, the support engineer will ask you for your report specifications. Usually it is when the engineer is not able to design a report which mimics your functionality. It can also be when you have some calculations going wrong and need help with those.

Please do note, that support engineers are not supposed to design your reports. They will definitely help you with issues but do not expect them to write the report from scratch. Unfortunately, they do not know your model and package as well as you do. They have no clue whether there are internal calculations involved. So it is pretty difficult for them to help you with creating the reports. Of course, issues and queries are very much welcome as long as they come as separate PMRs.

I have faced many customers who were asked to give a report specification and gave an XML output of the report instead. A report specification is the definition of the report and not it's XML output. The specification (which is an XML document) can be generated in Report Studio by clicking on Tools -> Copy Report To Clipboard. Then save the report to a text file and make sure it starts with a "report" opening tag and ends with an ending tag of the same name. If it does not, the specification has not been exported correctly or there was a data loss somewhere. An exported report specification can be imported back using Report Studio - Tools -> Open Report from Clipboard. The best way to know whether a report specification is valid or not, is to open it in Report Studio. If it opens well, the report specification is valid. If the Studio complains, well there is a problem.

Again the best way to explore a report specification is to open it in an XML editor and view it. The tags are pretty much self explanatory. In there, you should find the package the report is based on, list/crosstab/chart specifications, burst options, styles and many such attributes depending upon the complexity of the report.

Sometimes a report specification is enough. But many a times, the support analyst will also ask for either the Framework Manager model or the package. He/She may also ask you for the DDL of your reporting database. This is especially true when the report fails validation for some reason.

In the next post we will see what to pass when an analyst asks for the model.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

cogstartup.xml

The cogstartup.xml is found in the Cognos 'configuration' folder. That folder is found in the Cognos installation directory. This means there will be a cogstartup.xml on every machine where a server install takes place. Modelling components do not need the file.

This file is the one which holds all the configuration data that you enter in Cognos Configuration. That includes dispatcher URLs, gateway URLs, Content Store information, mail server configuration, ports used by the Cognos service, namespace information, certifcate authority information, etc. Basically, everything that you can enter in Cognos Configuration makes it's way to this file. Cognos will automatically keep timestamped versions of this file.

The best way of knowing whats in that file is .. to open it in an XML editor. You should note that the Content Store database access information is encrypted and so are other passwords. That is done as soon as the information is entered in Cognos Configuration and the Save button is pressed.

Apart from being asked for by support, the only other time when you see this file is when the Cognos cryptographic keys expire. There is a detailed procedure to fix that problem and it can be easily found in the documentation.

Again, as for the other files, if you have a multiserver installation, please make sure you label the files appropriately so that the support analyst knows the origins of the file.