SAP BusinessObjects v Cognos

SAP BusinessObjects v Cognos

Cognos is IBM’s cloud-based offering into the Business Intelligence (BI) market. It is a full suite of software designed to provide a self-service approach that encompasses data extraction, data analysis and visualisation and reporting. It’s built on open standards so it can be used with a variety of data sources.

With the powerful name of IBM behind it, Cognos certainly appeals to many organisations, especially when terms like Artificial Intelligence and their famed Watson are used. But how does it stack up against SAP BusinessObjects?

It's All In the Preparation

Data preparation is integral to ensuring you get the insights you need. Cognos largely does this for you, through automated BI features, and a combination of AI and Machine Learning. The idea here is that it spots the trends and insights for you – no data scientist needed.

This can be both appealing and disappointing depending on your situation. Larger organisations, perhaps with more complex operations and the in-house capabilities may want the more detailed control available to SAP BusinessObjects users. Similarly, smaller operations may decide that a simpler, self-service approach suits them better. It really is horses for courses.

BusinessObjects allows a significant level of control over data preparation through its unique universe concept, also referred to as The Semantic Layer. Data experts can create a multitude of universes, or data models, from their data sources, which can then be accessed and used for analysis and reporting by end-users. It means you can create whichever version of data-truth you need in-house, whilst ensuring that end-users don’t need to worry about database structures or the source.

Putting On A Show

When it comes to the act of visualising data, Cognos can hold an advantage over BusinessObjects for some users. Whether that is you will depend on many and varied factors such as the size of your organisation, the complexity of your data and who and how they will access it.

Cognos’ self-service approach, combined with being based in the cloud, allows end-users to access and create visualisations from anywhere. Helpfully, it will also suggest ways in which you could choose to visualise your data – depending on your level of expertise this could be incredibly useful or not at all. All the visualisations you would expect are present and dashboards are simple to create.

Cognos generally offers much greater flexibility in its reporting functionality, Report Studio. It has a developer-based writing tool that grants more control over formatting but requires you know how to use it first. Web Intelligence, from BusinessObjects, is generally considered easier to learn initially but suffers from limited functionality as a result.

BusinessObjects has an array of other reporting tools on its platform which can offer greater functionality. In general, these require a certain level of expertise to get the most out of. Crystal Reports can create detailed, custom reports, Lumira can use CSS and JavaScript technology and reports can be run, scheduled and delivered in a variety of ways. The potential is much higher than Cognos, but then so is the learning curve for new users. With an experienced data or business analyst in-house, this may not be an issue.

Getting the Right Fit

Choosing which BI software for your organisation’s needs is not an easy process. There are plentiful offerings, and often it is not clear which are better suited for what. By and large, both Cognos and BusinessObjects are more than capable of delivering a comprehensive BI solution. Choosing between the two may hinge on your approach to data.

If you have the skills in-house, or the need, to create a multitude of complex data models to base your reporting from, then the extra functionality of BusinessObjects’ Semantic Layer may fit the bill perfectly. Equally, for end-users seeking a more self-service approach to visualisation and reporting Cognos could also work. There is a trade-off between control and accessibility that will need to be addressed.

Want to talk to one of our BI consultants about SAP BusinessObjects or IBM Cognos? Get in touch today.