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Tips and Tricks for the AI Assistant

Recently, we had a demo for a customer who was really interested in the new AI features in Cognos. He said he has a user base that is not particularly technical and they want to able to just ask for what they want and get visualizations back.

The AI Assistant is new to Cognos Analytics (it is currently just in Dashboards, Stories, and Exploration). It allows you to write natural language queries against Framework Manager packages, data modules, data sets, or uploaded files. You say “Show Revenue by Branch region” and it gives you a visualization (or a few visualizations).

Doesn’t that sound amazing? No longer having to write your reports – let the AI assistant do it for you!

Well, that is the dream. But as of today, it’s still a dream. The AI Assistant is still in its infancy. If you ask very specific questions with a lot of knowledge of the data source, you can get visualizations back (sometimes). That request above took me a pile of attempts to get what I wanted back (and I’ve been teaching GO Data Warehouse (query) for ... so many years).


Here is what I tried:




Finally, I gave up on Year and did Show Revenue by Branch region.

So, not ideal. A business user would probably quit right away. As of today, you have to be really specific to get it to work. That said, every new release seems to make improvements to this feature. This probably is not the solution today that my customer was looking for - he wanted a way to make it easier for non-technical users to get more from their data. This solution still requires users to be too knowledgable.

I have worked pretty hard to figure out how to use this as it is right now (11.1.3). Here are a few of my tips:

You can do an AI analysis of a different data source than your dashboard/exploration uses. If you want the AI assistant to focus on a particular data module type: show data <data module name> or Load data <data module name>.



If you want to see a column in a data module: show <column name>.



Typing help in the AI tool will give you some starting points. While this is an impressive list of things the AI Assistant could do, most of these won’t always get you the results you want (yet).



If you want to teach AI tool that a certain word means a particular column: Customer means Retailer name (this one works 14% of the time and today I’m 0 for 100 tries)



To see a top 5 report: show top 5 Retailer name by Revenue.



Cool feature (if it picks good fields): create dashboard. This one gets a bit silly if you have any unimportant fields in data module named 'Number' (week_number_of_year) suddenly becomes the most important field.




You can add some filters to data: what is my average revenue for 2013.

The good news: this version of "AI" has made me much less worried that machines are going to take over the world anytime soon.