In this post you'll learn about the exciting new features available in the personal analytics solution, IBM Cognos Insight, directly from Senior Product Manager - IBM Cognos Insight, Trevor MacPherson. Take a read and you'll see why Trevor's so excited about this release not to mention a cool new challenge in which he's running that you'll want to find out about. Here's Trevor's post:
“They” claim it's always darkest before the dawn. There's something to say about this but actually it's darkest at midnight, sidereal time. But “they” can make stuff up being quite anonymous a source. To be fair, it isn’t exactly bright out at dawn either. The gradients of sky we see as dawn begins to break are difficult to discern from black taking little time to unfold. Crazy as it may seem this "break" takes just a slight rotation of a mass of ~5.97219 × 1024 kg to really brighten things up.
826 busy days ago, IBM Cognos Insight was “electronically generally available” (or “eGA’d” as we acronym crazy software folks would call it), so I’ll understand if you wonder why I might say that "insight" is “in sight." Now I’m not referring to our worldwide conference this fall (although it too is in sight), not even the software that we call IBM Cognos Insight (thanks to everyone who offered to donate a Thesaurus), but the noun that we use so often to describe what we hope to discern from data. I tell you that its availability is in sight.
On this day, I am sharing with you the culmination of a great effort that we have ostentatiously called version 10.2.2. You’ll notice it is different from the last release by the final .2 instead of the .1. A friend of mine who got an early peak sent me a note last week calling it “Cognos Insight version AWESOME”. I agree with my friend and humbly blush, but the naming convention would be tough to follow. The .2 might not get your attention but for a few things L’ll now share with you.
“Undo”, a capability delighting users since 1974 makes an encore performance, this time supporting not just data change, but navigation, filtering, and authoring. These are the kind of things I get wrong at least as often as right. When I chase a path of interest, it’s just a nice way to get back to where I started.
We’ve added conditional formatting, which might seem mundane until you spin & scroll a cube with it, lighting up your data with as many conditions as you like, easily defined, and looking every bit as good when published to IBM Cognos 10 and opened in Cognos Workspace.
Interactive Dynamic Values
We brought Dynamic values to bear on the problem of quickly highlighting information that matters from the mass of data that doesn’t, and we made it interactive, because we thought you would like that. I like it.
As far as interactivity is concerned, we’ve made a step change that might get you excited if you’ve ever tried to build a nice big workspace with a lot of filters, slicing and dicing and drilling– a synchronization model that will handle global, tab, or custom grouping so you can filter like never before.
Custom Views for Reviewers and Contributors
For those who deploy Insight so their users for contribution or review purposes in workflow-based TM1 applications, you might be interested to know that you can use the additions to engage your users with default views customized for either reviewers or contributors.
All of these things will make for a more exciting experience with data, and make for the kind of eye-candy that will delight those afflicted with what I have called “grid blindness”.
Improved Data Import Features
There is more to data analysis than colors and shapes though – somewhere behind these flashy things are numbers, and, yes, they are important. To make sure you get your data imported easily, we’ve broadened our support for the structure of your data – adding unbalanced & ragged hierarchy options for import so that your fully expanded chart of accounts looks like, well, a chart of accounts and not a grass rake. If you're like me, and still need to drag data out of a source that doesn’t have a 64-bit driver, you can now use 64-bit Cognos Insight to get at the data.
These are exciting additions for me, and I’m delighted to show them off. But what I believe brings real insight nearer than ever is that we have exposed the tremendous calculation capabilities of our underlying TM1 engine in a way that you can get your arms around. When I show someone how to build a simple profitability model in minutes, not hours, see the impact of increased freight costs on thousands of outlets in sub-second time, or create a single expression that can cover a hundred thousand points of data, or just one, I feel as though the pain of working every week on a spreadsheet is almost over.
You see, I do believe in the importance of a great visualization, and interaction. And for the multitudes who might be disappointed because they're waiting for more gorgeous visualizations in Cognos Insight, we haven’t forgotten! However, I don't believe you can replace the business logic of a spreadsheet with beautiful charts and fluid navigation and pretend that it answers the problem. The problem is that we all need to very, very quickly evaluate a decision, understand growth and change and allocated costs. That involves data in several systems of record, and even just in our mind. We need to validate and test the impact of changed assumptions because the price of materials went up again. We need something with 'write-back',powerful expression logic, and an engaging and interactive means of sharing the results. Without these things, I wouldn’t try to replace one spreadsheet.
In the conclusion of Raymon Panko’s study of “What We Know About Spreadsheet Errors”, he writes:
“Every study that has attempted to measure (spreadsheet) errors, without exception, has found them at rates that would be unacceptable in any organization”, but also quotes a corporate officer who “agreed with the error rate numbers but felt that comprehensive code inspection is simply impractical”.
There are tools today that promote the idea that they can turn spreadsheets into Self Service BI. When hear this, I get a twitch under my right eye that makes people near me nervous. Folks, we have the whole world running on flawed data, feeling powerless to fix or manage the problem. If I live long enough to discover that Mike Judge’s“Idiocracy” was as prophetic a work as Jules Vernes’ “From the Earth to the Moon”, it will have been too long.
My Challenge: This involves you too!
You probably already know that I wouldn’t be complaining about this if I wasn’t willing to do something about it, so I’ll tell you what I am going to do. For the next year, I am going to try to replace every single spreadsheet that I get my hands on (ok, not the grocery list, that is a great spreadsheet), and I’m going to share with you how I did it, in the hope that you will too. I’m not going to build beautiful dashboards (ok, I won’t be able to resist a few tree maps), but fully functioning workspaces whose business logic is crafted with a sustainable approach, so that you can forget the spreadsheet altogether. Anyone who wants to come along for the ride is welcomed to – the road will be very long, and very bumpy, and perhaps even the most determined may turn back. I will keep going because I know that what is at the end of the road is beautiful, through the thin twilight of dawn this very day, I can see it, and it is just In sight. Stay tuned for more on this and, of course, I'd love to hear your comments on the same.