Ten New Features for Report Users in IBM Cognos 10 Report Studio
The biggest additions to IBM Cognos Report Studio in version 10 have been Active Reports and Statistics objects. These two new ways of presenting data provide many new options for report authors to create reports that match the analytical needs of the user community. Entire classes have been created to focus on the creation of reports using these formats.
Other capabilities in IBM Cognos 10 Report Studio include the integration of external data sources and the ability to save Report Studio reports to be used directly by Business Insight Advanced authors. Using external data sources in Report Studio has been a customer request since IBM Cognos tools moved to a web-based architecture. This enhancement gives the report consumer new opportunities to process just the information needed for a specific situation. By using a common report definition between applications, users who aren't accustomed to complex reports can receive assistance to build reports that have features beyond those normally available to Business Insight Advanced users.
While the features I've discussed to this point are promoted as key features, other useful options in version 10 will increase the effectiveness of reports to your users. Some of these features were previously available through complex programming by the report developer, but IBM Cognos Business Intelligence now makes this job much easier. As a report writer and instructor who can appreciate the ability to create report designs designed to tell a story, I want to highlight 10 of these new features.
The Alternative Text property has been added to graphical objects, such as images and charts, to allow screen readers to translate the text (see Figure 1). Another aspect of this feature that's applied in various properties is to provide localized text without using conditional formatting.
Colored Regions, Plot Area Fill, Material Effects
The Colored Regions, Plot Area Fill, and Material Effects properties allow charts to have more creative designs in order to enhance the overall presentation of the charts. Mixed with other chart presentation options, these features help report developers to give new polish to the presentation of content. Figure 2 shows the additional gradient options that are now available, along with the new properties for the charts.
New Gradient Fill Types
Moving beyond simple linear gradients, some new fill types provide more choices for enhanced presentations. Backgrounds behind pages, objects, and selected areas can now display a number of gradient designs. The fill types include rectangular frames and embedded circular gradients, with many parameters to customize the blending of colors (see Figure 3).
Chart Combinations (Primary Axis, Secondary Axis, Primary Bottom, Secondary Bottom)
IBM Cognos 8 Business Insight had the ability to set Y1 and Y2 axes. Now combination charts can be stacked with two more axes for better analysis of related numbers. These options can be integrated into dashboard design to enhance the presentation of related measures. Figure 4 shows a chart with the additional axes selected.
Query Calculations in Query Explorer Replace Calculated Member, Calculated Measure, Set Expression, and Intersection (tuple)
In IBM Cognos 8 Report Studio, different objects were created for each of the dimensional functions. Now they're all bundled into the Query Calculations (see Figure 5). This option simplifies the toolbox for report authors, while emphasizing that dimensional queries can have enhanced calculations.
Summarize Small Slices and Exploded Slices
With pie charts, two improvements include summarizing small slices and exploding slices. These two options greatly improve the presentation of pie charts to emphasize the most important information (see Figure 6). In my classes, these options have been requested for years, and now they're delivered in this release.
Trendlines, Category Baselines, and Numeric Baselines
Report Studio functions have now improved on the predictive ability behind charts, without having to use external functions to calculate the numbers (see Figure 7).
Series Color Synchronization
With the changes made to enhance series, this feature allows report writers to simplify the legends when the series information is repeated across the combinations. By changing the Series Color property to Match (see the short arrow in Figure 8), the legend shows the different product lines and the nested measures differently (indicated by the longer arrow), increasing the effectiveness of the presentation.
Custom Properties for Prompts
Dimensional Set Definitions
As a welcome addition to dimensional functions, the Set Definition option (see Figure 10) allows report authors to create complex subsets that are presented graphically. This feature can make troubleshooting complex sets much easier by providing a more modular approach to set development. This was the best new property for me, since it simplifies the development of sets that had to be full of nested functions.