Guest blogger Trevor MacPherson, IBM Product Manager - IBM Cognos Insight, provides a wealth of information on the whys and hows of IBM Cognos Insight.
Here's Trevor's post:
Those of you who've seen my earlier discussions with Tim O'Bryan on spreadsheet prevalence & issues, and the hope of something better to come already know the challenge that I have determined to face this year. Detailed in this blog will be my attempt to replace every single spreadsheet that I get my hands on with a Cognos Insight Workspace. This is probably a good point to insert the standard disclaimer that although I work for IBM, my opinions, comments, and actions do not represent those of IBM, or in fact, necessarily those of any sane person on the planet. Further to this, if I achieve my goal, there are clearly subjective motives for my approach - I am using IBM Cognos Insight to do so, and my being the Product Manager clearly displaces any plausible objectivity I might have otherwise had.
There are other reasons to do so though, and perhaps as we work through this together, you'll come to see that my primary motivation isn't quite as subjective as you might expect. I love many of IBM's motto's from as far back as "Think" and initiatives like "Smarter Planet" as well. But, this is not because I'm an IBMer with a commercial interest in promoting Cognos Insight. But, because I'm made weary of people who don't THINK and things like this make me believe that having a smarter planet isn't just a goal with a really low bar, but a basic survival necessity for the species.
I'll put the journey that I'm going to go through in this particular post into broader context, and have the nice corollary effect of me appearing a little less naive, or utterly mad.
Part 1 of this set of videos (at left) introduces a taxonomy of error types suggested in the research, and also demonstrates one way in which Cognos Insight helps prevent the most common error type found in the studied sample of operational spreadsheets which had yielded "wrong results" - errors of reference. This is one area that I believe is solved so soundly by the Insight approach that I think it deserves special attention. It isn't just because I've made an epic error of this type in the past.
Part 2 at right rolls on through errors of logic, hard coding, copy & paste, and omission, each deserving of consideration, and I believe can be reduced in part by a number of the features native to Cognos Insight, and the approach used by Insight's underlying TM1 engine.
Last in this series (below) demonstrates a few capabilities to make the collection of data less error prone, key to these being the centralization of said collection to ensure that it has but one version of the truth. Or, as David Mitchell more succinctly puts it in Cloud Atlas - “Truth is singular. Its 'versions' are mistruths.” Also demonstrated is an approach to reviewing applications rapidly developed by business analysts to ensure they meet the standards of enterprise deployment.
Before I leave off this first post, I will also share a great quote about why spreadsheets have become the de facto tool for planning and analysis in the first place:
“User developed systems, by contrast are built by small teams of people who understand exactly their own requirements, and are motivated to build exactly what they require in order to achieve their primary goal, which is a tool to further their business. Every minute they spend on the system (for them) is wasted effort, because they want to do something else. They only build the system because, without it, they cannot do what they actually want. Thus they have a strong incentive to minimise costs, and have by and large no reason to incur those costs in the first place.” [FSA,2004]
Failing to preserve the capabilities necessary to satisfy the above need means a failure of the tool, full stop. If though the tool doesn't allow for further development suitable to enterprise-level needs which requires a sound data architecture, any deployment will quickly prove to be wasted effort or burdened with unnecessary risk.
Please take a few minutes to check out these videos included in this post. In them you'll see why Cognos Insight can satisfy both ends of the spectrum - user driven and developed with an enterprise-level architectural foundation. This is a deployment that can be governed with shared ownership, review, and accountability, standing on a platform built for this purpose.
Be on the lookout for my next post, Replacing Spreadsheets, where I'll tackle an operational spreadsheet & replace it with a Cognos Insight workspace, and share tips on how you can do the same.
Meanwhile, click here to download your free copy of Cognos Insight Personal Edition now from AnalyticsZone.