Most Cognos environments are organized to support a world of IT authored report consumption – a fact that I confirm over and over as I present about Cognos modernization across the United States and am asked by beleaguered but hopeful looking Cognos admins, ‘How am I supposed to support all this self-service stuff?’ Never fear – here’s my take on how to organize Cognos.
Why your environment needs a re-org
11.1.4 is out, is excellent and you need to utilize all its features in production ASAP. Reticent clients sometimes object that their existing folder structure and security cannot support all the new features. Honestly they probably can’t. The typical IT managed legacy Cognos environment has some combination of the following:
- High level folders that reflect the org structure (finance, HR, etc…) in which users can do nothing
- Low level subject area folders nested within the org folders in which users can do nothing
- A hidden data sources folder that users can’t find
- A self-service folder where old timers use Query Studio
- Non-prod environments where all real work must be done
- A deployment cycle that takes weeks to bring finished reports to production
No path leads to modernization with these roadblocks to user adoption in place. Feel no shame, however, if this describes your environment in part or whole – this was absolutely best practice when most Cognos environments were first established.
Towards a new folder structure
Modern Cognos environments deliver consumer oriented experiences built around use cases rather than org structures or IT priorities. Redesigning folder structures and security to achieve this feels daunting – but it’s crucial. Here’s an example of what it looks like:
Curated content is the closest thing to a traditional IT-centric approach and is where a large portion of existing IT authored reports wind up. Mission critical reports live here alongside anything too high profile to mess up. Tight security and IT control are the name of the game here.
Nobody saves to curated content without IT approval and strict documentation. If your requirements involve audit, regulatory reporting or the CEO’s eyeballs it goes here.
The data library is a semi-curated area and is THE PLACE to go to find data in your company. The data must be high quality and IT should exercise significant oversight, however data stewards and trusted power users have the ability to promote data to this location.
Do not structure the data library by data source or modeling tool – that’s thinking like IT! It’s okay to have folders mingled with packages and data modules. Using linked modules to reference the data library maintains single source of truth.
Sensitive data targeted at only a specific department – HR data for example – can be located here as well provided you have appropriate object or data level security in place but may be best kept in department content
Department content is a semi-curated area controlled by the data stewards and power users in each of your business units. Much of your existing content migrates here and becomes the responsibility of the business unit to secure, maintain and update. This means granting admin, modeling and report authoring powers to trusted individuals in the business.
Yes this means dissolving the responsibility for maintaining department content folder security to the business. This is a shocking recommendation, I know, but this power belongs with those who know the data and user community best.
Help contains everything to assist your users with Cognos. The Cognos samples go here. Example content you build goes here. Everyone has access to this location.
Self-service is hands off to IT. Anybody with access to Cognos can fully utilize all their capabilities in this location without asking permission first. That means making folders, building data modules, uploading excel files, etc. I mean it – everything!
You are indeed inviting chaos into Cognos, but this chaos already exists in your organization – it goes by the names ‘Tableau’ and ‘Power BI’. Giving full access to all Cognos features in the self-service folder encourages users to, well, use Cognos.
This is not to say you surrender all control – rather, you closely monitor what users are doing using the audit reports or a product like PMsquare’s Thrive and intervene as necessary under the following conditions:
- Users are sharing inappropriate data
- Users need help utilizing Cognos
- Self-service content gains too wide an audience
The beauty of the self-service folder is this: When a user builds a dashboard based on spreadsheets that winds up being used by 200 people, you’ll know. And you and the relevant data steward from the business can transition that report to department reporting or curated content where it belongs.
Now you’re ready to organize Cognos
I hope this gives you some inspiration to deploy a more modern approach to your Cognos environment. There is much more to this than simply changing the folder structure, but a new folder structure is a crucial piece of the puzzle and one that I get asked about all the time. You’ll also need to consider things like persona-driven development, data governance with linked modules and thinking like an app instead of a report. I’ll cover all these topics and more going forward.