How to Increase User Adoption with IBM Cognos 8 Auditing

One of the most daunting tasks for any Cognos administrator is the process of providing a sustainable and intuitive reporting solution that deciphers the often overwhelming user requirements into the simple question “What do they want?” Feedback is essential in developing methodologies and standards that increase the efficiency and usability of your Cognos environment. While the previous statement sounds straight forward, detailed feedback is often difficult to gather, quite frequently lacking articulation or clear definition. In addition, there are situations where people simply can’t communicate exactly what they want, or do not know how to ask for it. One of the most overlooked and underutilized tools in the IBM Cognos BI arsenal can assist you in forming an idea of what and how you need to deliver on user requests, providing feedback anytime you want without the need for multiple user requirement meetings.

IBM Cognos auditing offers a rich set of functionality, which when added to an administrator’s repertoire can help make sense of some of the detailed session data that is by default provided by Cognos. Understanding how your users interact with the Cognos infrastructure can bring to light many of the KPIs that can be used to further optimize Cognos performance, a critical component of overall user acceptance.

Audit reporting can provide useful information regarding a diverse set of users; from BI managers and data modelers to BI professionals and system administrators. The following list contains some of the basic questions that Audit reporting can help answer:

  • Which are the most used reports?
  • Which reports are least used and/or are no longer used?
  • What time do users log on or log off?
  • What is the total number of reports each user ran?
  • What time were certain reports run?

These questions are a segue into how you can use this information for things such as report schedule utilization (to avoid multiple simultaneous tasks), identify widely used reports or those that may need to be decommissioned/archived and ascertain which reports may benefit from being consolidated into a single report. There are many actionable items that can be derived simply by looking at the way users behave.

How to Provide Audit Reporting

As with all Cognos BI reporting, it is necessary to model the audit logging database in Framework Manager in order to create reports based on the logging data. Cognos conveniently provides a model and set of sample reports (execution history by users, report execution history, report usage, session error details, report by package, etc). This is a great start, but there is a great deal of additional information that can be gleaned from the available information with further model customization. In addition, the sample reports can be modified to answer the specific questions being asked by the users. Don’t forget that these reports can be generated, automated and sent to the targeted audience on a scheduled basis to facilitate system maintenance.

How it works

Cognos auditing works in conjunction with logging capabilities embedded within the application. There are several levels of logging available: minimal, basic, request, trace and full. On the performance spectrum, system resource taxation increases as we go from minimal level logging to full logging but so does the information that becomes available. If a system is delivering a poor response, then logging may help identify reasons for the issue. Similarly, warning messages in the logs may be indicative of questionable results that users may be receiving.

Emphasis should be placed on using the appropriate logging level for the task at hand while minimizing system performance overhead. One of the key questions that needs to be asked when adjusting logging levels is the type of information the consumer hopes to identify. As a rule of thumb, we strongly recommend directing logging messages to a database during configuration of the application.

Peel back the covers and see the Queries

One other very useful capability that is often overlooked during the audit configuration is the option to create audit reports showing the actual queries that are run against the reporting data source. In order to activate this functionality one must enable native query logging. . This type of information can often be critical to understanding and pinpointing performance issues within certain reports. Be sure to keep in mind the aforementioned performance statements; low level logging can impact overall performance

Auditing Can Help Save the Day

Using the auditing features allows not only for the ability to analyze your environment, it can be used for proactive problem solving, more effective planning, and a better understanding of your environment. Often, you can provide a solution to a problem that your end users may be experiencing before they are even aware of the issue. Auditing is just one of the many IBM Cognos BI tools that can help organizations ensure greater user adoption and a higher ROI.