Cognos Analytics 11.1.6 is live! This release features a ton of great quality of life enhancements. Chief among them is a great dashboard UI refresh, a new interactive data table in report authoring and some very welcome changes to data modules. There are also some shifts in IBMs design language with refreshed icons, and a great new ‘help’ section that pulls support directly into the Cognos UI. Overall I feel this is a strong release. So let’s take a look at what’s new in Cognos Analytics 11.1.6.
Cognos Analytics 11.1.6 UI and usability updates
Cognos Analytics 11.1.6 brings two changes to the UX that you will notice across all features and help keep Cognos looking fresh while enabling end users with much improved support features.
UI and design tweaks
IBM continues to apply the Carbon Design System to Cognos Analytics. For those of you who are unfamiliar, this open source system for products and experiences drives the UX of many IBM products including Cognos, Planning Analytics, Watson Studio and Cloud Pak. For Cognos Analytics 11.1.6 this means first and foremost the adjustment of icons and fonts in the UI as well as more subtle tweaks located throughout. I personally think the new icons look fresh and appreciate the hard work of the IBM design teams in Toronto and Ottawa.
New ‘learn’ pane
The ‘learn’ pane replaces the ‘help’ section and basically does a 360 degree dunk in its face. The improvement here is dramatic. Accessed via the new learn icon in the upper right corner, the learn pane is a context dependent help section that surfaces guides, documents and even videos directly in the Cognos UI. It understands what feature you are currently using and suggests related content – in the example above it suggests data modules assistance when accessed from the data modules UI.
Cognos Analytics 11.1.6 Dashboard Changes
New dashboard UI
Dashboards receives a most welcome UI refresh. It is much easier to understand visualization composition and formatting options thanks to changes to context menus and a new ‘fields’ section. Subtle tweaks also bring the tool closer to the carbon design standard with new icons.
- New icons in both the side menu and in the data tree. Cognos looks more and more modern with each release.
- The visualization properties are now pinned to the top of the screen like in reporting. This makes interacting with visualization so much easier!
- Left clicking on a visualization will highlight the visualization. The pinned visualization properties at the top of the screen will apply to the select visualization
- Right clicking on a visualization element like a bar, line, point or label will bring up the interactive options for just that element
- Access to options like linking visualizations, filters and properties has been grouped and simplified. There is also a new ‘Fields’ button
- The ‘Fields’ button brings up a new fields view, which shows the fields of the selected visualization. If you select a new visualization this section will change to reflect your new selection
This impactful redesign makes navigating dashboards so much easier compared to previous releases because you can always tell what visualization is selected and easily and quickly access all visualization elements. You no longer have to rely on hidden menus and focus mode, which has received a redesign.
Revamped focus mode
Focus mode has been repurposed and now functions basically as a ‘full screen’ button for an individual visualization. As a result of the general UI changes all the old focus mode features reside in the new ‘Fields’ view. Focus mode is now also available to dashboard viewers, not just in edit mode.
Expand/collapse in crosstabs
This is one of those features that people have been asking for since 2005 and suddenly it has arrived! And better yet, it functions exactly like you hoped it would. Expand and collapse currently function only for OLAP sources – not for navigation paths made in data modules. I’ve been told this will be fixed in an upcoming release.
Enhanced unit formatting
With enhanced unit formatting, dashboard users now have the ability to append a custom label to the end of measures displayed inside Cognos visualizations. For example, if you have a field that is measured in units you can label them as such.
View source in dashboards
This is a very welcome addition. A new popup appears whenever you hover over a data item in the fields view. This solves a major problem. In previous versions it was impossible to tell which table supplied a field in a visualization, leading to much confusion when there were multiple fields with the same name in a model.
Be sure to read Matt Denham’s great overview of Cognos 11.1.6 dashboards.
Cognos Analytics 11.1.6 Reporting Changes
Cognos 11.1.6 doesn’t contain a ton of reporting changes but the ones we get are very good. The data table in particular gives a ton of functionality to end users that we’ve been requesting for a looooooooong time.
Meet the data table
- Expand/collapse for OLAP data sources
- Each column features interactive filter and search capability
- Color/size/image indicators for KPIs
- Scroll bar exists in the data table rather than for the page
All this flows from changes to how Cognos queries data and renders the data table. This is a preview of where reporting is headed, and you should expect this paradigm for many objects including prompts in the near future. For some reason most of this functionality defaults to ‘off.’ To enable it you must:
- Set ‘Show column filters’ to ‘Yes’ in the data table properties
- Click ‘enable expand and collapse’ in the grouping and summary popup found in the data table properties
I haven’t had time to play around with the data table as much as I’d like, so I cannot comment about specific formatting options that may be missing – I assume there are many. However even if it’s not as ‘pixel perfect’ as the list object, the data table is a killer addition to your authoring toolkit.
11.1 reporting visualization enhancements
Cognos 11.1 visualizations receive a number of enhancements in 11.1.6 to bring the authoring experience more in line with the interactivity available in dashboards.
- Measure groups in report authoring (this was already available in dashboards)
- Drill up and down (again, already available in dashboards)
- Categorical map coloring
You can read more about these changes in Rachel Su’s helpful blog post here.
Cognos Analytics 11.1.6 Data Module Changes
Data modules didn’t receive new features in this release. Instead there are three major quality of life enhancement for authors related to interaction with data servers. Small changes like these save authors a ton of headaches. I’m glad IBM consistently improves product usability rather than just piling on new capabilities.
Add individual fields to data modules
Data modules are easy to build but surprisingly frustrating to edit. A big part of the problem came from the fact that you could only add tables to data modules, not individual fields. As a result you sometimes had to re-add hundreds of fields then manually delete them just to get a single new field into your module. Consider this solved – you can now add individual fields directly to the tables within a data module.
See unused fields in data sources
The ‘show unused items’ feature makes it easy to identify which fields in your data source are not currently in your data module.
Reload metadata schema from data modules
The disconnect between data modules and data servers causes frustration for modelers for two reasons. First, it requires a ton of clicks to leave the module interface to make data server changes. Second, modelers frequently find themselves locked out of data server settings entirely and must ask administrators to make server changes. Cognos Analytics 11.1.6 alleviates part of this issue by giving authors the ability to reload metadata directly from the data modules UI.
Small changes are a big deal
These three changes are small but add up to a significantly improved modeling experience. It is now significantly easier to load metadata, identify new fields and add only those that you need to your model.
Cognos Analytics 11.1.6 AI & Advanced Analytics Enhancements
The AI assistant gets smarter with each release. Cognos Analytics 11.1.6 brings two significant enhancements to what is rapidly becoming the flashiest feature in the solution.
AI learning for visualizations
This subtle but very cool change makes dashboards and explore much better for end users. Cognos Analytics will now learn your visualization preferences whenever you click the ‘save’ button. It uses this information to suggest visualization types as per your preferences in the future. For example Cognos suggests a bar chart and you change it to a column, Cognos becomes more likely to suggest a column in the future. Right now this works on an individual level rather than system wide. You can control this with the AI>Learning capability
Automatic dashboard creation enhancements
Guided dashboard creation shows extremely well and is getting more useful with each release. The AI Assistant can now accept conditions alongside the ‘create dashboard’ command such as ‘Create dashboard for products by average profit in Florida’. This will generate a complete dashboard based on the criteria passed in, including the state = Florida filter as well as converting profit from a sum to an average. Very impressive stuff.
Stand alone calculations in advanced analytics
This enhancement is important for anyone using Framework Manager… so basically everyone. The AI assistant and explore capabilities in previous versions could not factor in standalone calculations. Framework Manager often requires a standalone calculation to aggregate correctly. The only way around this was to build a data set – which I still strongly urge you to do for a myriad of reason outlined in my article What are Cognos Analytics data sets. However as of 11.1.6 the AI Assistant and the Explore features now consider these important calculations when they do their magic.
See this interesting update from Jason Tavoularis to learn more about Cognos Analytics 11.1.6 AI advancements.
Support for R kernel in notebooks
Cognos Analytics 11.1.6 notebooks now support the R kernel in addition to python. IBM’s implementation of Jupyter is very good in so far as they wisely choose to implement standard Jupyter rather than some kind of Cognos themed reskin. Now you have another reason to check it out.
Don’t miss our Cognos Analytics 11.1.6 YouTube livestream
Want to see 11.1.6 live? PMsquare livestreams each Cognos Analytics release on YouTube. The Cognos Analytics 11.1.6 release stream goes live on 4/28/2020 at 3:00PM Eastern and will remain available afterwards so be sure to watch!