Cognos, RAVE and D3: An Interview with Cognos Paul

Paul Mendelson HeadshotWithin the worldwide Cognos community, when you ask someone who to turn to about some special trick or complex feature you need to implement, the first name that comes out is Cognos Paul (Photo, right).

Paul Mendelson, aka Cognos Paul, is a certified freelance Cognos developer. He has been working, tinkering, and playing with Cognos since 2007.

For most of his professional career, Paul has consulted on projects from a wide array of companies. While sometimes difficult, especially as a project comes to a close, this has given him the opportunity to learn from a wide range of methodologies spanning many industries. Paul’s clients have included banks, pharmaceutical companies, government and military organizations, institutions dealing in manufacturing, logistics, insurance, and telecoms (the list goes on). Without the opportunities of working for these clients, Paul feels he would not know half of the techniques half as well as he should, and would like Cognos half as much as it deserves.

If you have a challenging Cognos question and are seeking help, you can contact Paul at and can come to an arrangement.

1. IBM recently released its latest version of Cognos (rebranded as Cognos Analytics). Can you tell us your thoughts on the new release and also how Watson Analytics plays a part in it?

Cognos Paul: The new version seems heavily self-service centric, with the advanced dashboarding tools and the various improvements to Workspace Advanced. The most exciting part of it is the expanded data sources used to power the new dashboards. It should make self-service dashboards must easier for users to build. The caveat is that, as usual, it is a complex tool. Users will absolutely need to be trained, or Cognos IT group will be swamped with issues.

Watson is a drastically new direction. While I haven’t played with it much myself, it seems to make statistical analysis open to non-statisticians. I still have some reservations, but I’m looking forward to seeing more.

2. From a data visualization perspective, why would I want to consider Cognos Analytics versus, say, a Tableau, Microsoft Power BI or MicroStrategy?

Cognos Paul: Data visualization is actually one of Cognos’s historically weak spots (although they are working on it, with RAVE). I believe Tableau still maintains the standard of advanced dataviz capabilities. That being said, the other capabilities offered by Cognos more than makes up for it.

The flexibility of report design and ways end users can consume the reports is without compare.

Cognos Analytics

3. MicroStrategy recently released their v10.3 which offers an integration to a D3.js library. Is Cognos Analytics doing anything similar?

Cognos Paul: Several years ago, IBM released a tool cared Rapidly Adaptive Visualization Engine, or RAVE. Using a declarative language, the author is able to easily and quickly build very advanced graphs. Users can define the graph to modify shape, size, color, opacity, based on any elements in the data set.

Admittedly, RAVE doesn’t offer the complexity of D3, which is why D3 is integrated in one of the upcoming versions. From what I understand, RAVE will be able to use almost any publicly available D3 library.

4. What advice would you give a developer who is new to Cognos?

Cognos Paul: Taking a Framework Manager (FM) course is absolutely necessary. The best practices for framework model development make sense, and deviating from them can cause performance issues.

Report development does take some time to get the hang of. There are always multiple ways of doing things, and if you’re working hard, you’re doing something wrong. Try multiple things and don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Google Search is your friend, if you’re having a problem with something, then chances are good that other people have as well.

Most important, don’t be afraid to try new things. There are many things Cognos can do, and many associated tools. If something isn’t working one way, there is a very good chance it will work another.


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