In Cognos Analytics, there are two main tools for reporting: Reporting and Dashboards.
The Dashboard tool is an online-only reporting tool. It is designed to be used by business users and is excellent for ad-hoc reporting or can be used to create an interactive dashboard.
Here are some of the features that make it useful for ad-hoc reporting:
Dashboards are designed to be simple. Data displays immediately. There are not complex filters or queries to modify.
As the user adds data to the work area, Cognos will select visualization based on the data. These visualizations can be changed if the pre-selected option does not match reporting needs.
As users add to dashboards, the widgets interact with each other automatically. Adding a text value will create a widget that can act as a prompt and let you automatically filter your other visualizations.
Users can easily create calculations to create new data.
Users can create custom data groups (if/case statements) to make data more meaningful.
Users can create own navigation paths to create dimensional-like data – even if the source is relational or an uploaded spreadsheet. These navigation paths do not have to follow the logical hierarchy of data.
The new (11.1.5) ability to see the data – even relational data – in the source is a huge new benefit to dashboards. If users only want to see a couple of values in a column, they don’t need to add a filter. They can simply drag the item they want onto the visualization.
Users can do forecasting on visualizations.
A few disadvantages:
Users cannot create complex filters or modify the queries. If complex queries or filters are needed, they need to be added to the data module, package, or source. Or the user will need to create the report in Reporting.
It’s online-only – output cannot export nicely to excel, pdf. The only “print” open is a screen capture.
While visualizations have some properties, they are fairly limited.
Pixel-perfect reporting is difficult. Users are much more limited with formatting options.
All this said, Dashboards have come a huge way in the last few versions and are now a great option for reporting. If you have not looked at Dashboards since 11.0, you should really give them a second look.
While Dashboards have improved, we still may need to use Reporting.
Here are some of the features of Reporting:
Reporting is the enterprise reporting tool. It replaces Report Studio from Cognos 10. Developers can basically do anything with this tool.
Users can create pixel-perfect reports with Reporting. They can control all properties, size of objects, formatting options (fonts, colors, labels, sizes, etc.).
Reports can be exported to PDF, Excel, CSV, XML, HTML.
Users can create complex queries, join data, create complex filters, calculations.
Users can create prompt pages or embed prompts into reports.
Reports can be built from multiple sources of data.
Users can create fully-interactive dashboards that can be used online or that can be exported to excel. Active Reports can be created in Reporting which allows developers to create fully interactive reports that are available offline.
Bursting can be added to reports – this allows users to build one report and have it create outputs based on data values. A user can add email addresses to the bursting and send out data specific reports to specific individuals on-demand or by schedule.
Users can add pagination options – splitting pages by data items.
Other reports can be combined into one report. This is almost like stapling reports together. These reports can be from different data sources (packages, data modules, etc.). If there are prompts in the report, users can choose to add an additional prompt page or if they share parameter names, they can just share the values from the current report.
Images can be added to reports.
The report can contain simple or advanced conditional formatting. For example, the user could conditionally color the background of a cell matching criteria or could conditionally show a different reporting object based on values selected in a dropdown.
A table of contents can be included in the report – that table of contents can include data items in a list/crosstab and take end-user directly to that spot in the data in a pdf or excel file.
These are just a few of the options in Reporting. It is an extremely powerful enterprise-level reporting tool.
One of the difficult things to do when it is time to build a new report is to select which tool to use. As the tools are completely separate, if you start to build in one and realize you need functionality of the other tool, you will need to start from scratch.
When I’m trying to decide where to build, I normally start with these questions:
Do I need to export or schedule this report? If yes, build in Reporting.
Do I need to provide the output of this report to users who do not sign into Cognos? If yes, build in Reporting.
Do I need to create complex query objects in my report? Do I need complex filters? If I can do this in a data module, I could still use a Dashboard. If not, Reporting.
Do I need pixel-perfect formatting? Reporting.
Do I need bursting? Reporting.
On the other hand, if you don’t need the stuff above and you do want to allow the user to be able to modify the dashboard, Dashboards is much easier for users to expand your original report.
The ease in creating an interactive report in Dashboards is far superior to Reporting.
Users can add navigation paths, custom groups, forecasts easily.
They can add an individual data item easily. This functionally has not found its way into Reporting as of 11.1.5.