As consultants the first question we are often asked by our customers is can we build reports directly against our transactional systems.    While there are some exceptions our general best practice is to recommend against this type of architecture.

The reasons are long and detailed, but simply put, some high level reasons not to build reporting systems off of normalized databases are:

  • Query performance
  • General production system performance
  • Aggregate view of data vs transactional view
  • Complex SQL
  • Normalized databases are typically tuned for simple queries

The discussion then leads to questions surrounding data mart or warehouse creation.  Typical initial concerns are time, money, maintenance, and flexibility. All which are real considerations when traveling this path.

With IBM-Cognos’s long history in this area, they have often heard feedback surrounding this classic problem.  We believe, that IBM’s Analytical Application Framework (AAF), provides a good foundation to begin to solve this problem.

“IBM Cognos 8 Analytic Applications are packaged, adaptable software solutions to help improve business performance by providing actionable, cross-functional insight from information locked in ERPs  and other data sources. Built on the Cognos 8 platform, they enable organizations to implement a solution quickly and easily extend it using the full range of Cognos 8 capabilities.”

How is this done you may ask?  Before we delve into the technology portion of our discussion, it is important to note that the IBM Cognos AAF approach is rooted in business process and focused on business value.  The technology, and all of the best practice to deliver this business value is embedded in the AAF process and development methodology.

Each Cognos AAF is created from the standpoint of a traditional business process, Workforce Performance, Supply Chain Analytics, Sales, Procurement or Finance.   Using IBM’s common business models for data mart/business model definition provides a starting point for initial deployment of each module. While this is good, a standard business model often only meets a portion of then need for your business, typically 60-80%.

IBM Cognos has anticipated this need and has built flexibility/adaptability into the AAF process to handle this unavoidable reality.    Management of changes or customizations are handled with a drag and drop gui, not expensive code changes. The goal is to allow IT/Business resources to “focus on the business, not the plumbing”:

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As a result AAF customers can:

  • Meet business change head on- to change as fast as your business does
  • Minimize your IT departments role in constantly managing the application
  • Ensuring that the application’s content is continuously relevant
  • Optimizing the TCO of the applications

Technology:

Cognos AAF, leverages existing foundational technology like Cognos Report Studio, Cognos Framework Manager, and  Cognos Data Manager.   Cognos has also provided a duo of configuration tools to make managing the environment easier.   Adaptive Warehouse client, which allows for GUI level mapping of data fields from source ERP to target AAF Data Mart and Adaptive Analytics Modeler (AAM), which is the configuration client for the reporting layer. While Report Studio is also available to develop complex customized reports, AAM allows a less technical business user to “Configure” reports based upon a large number of templates. This provides easier report development and maintenance, plus makes management of updates, upgrades or changes easier to administer.

Licensing:

IBM has bundled all the licensing of this technology as well as the standard business data model and initially suite of reports into a single purchase price. Coupled with implementation costs at roughly 1x license price, IBM Cognos AAF’s provide a foundation that should be considered when your business is run from a standard ERP platform.

The Ironside Group is an enabled partner to implement Cognos AAF solutions for our clients. Please contact us to discuss applicability to your specific environment/business need.