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Cognos reporting tool makes its debut at MIT

IS&T installed this web-based reporting tool last spring and is now doing a soft rollout to the MIT community that includes hands-on classes.
Image: Maija Ahlquist, IS&T

Summary statement. Detailed transaction report. Purchase order commitments. Sound familiar?

If you create reports for your department, lab or center, you're probably using BrioQuery (also called Brio), which has long been the primary tool at MIT for retrieving data from the Data Warehouse and creating reports.

Enter Cognos, a reporting tool from IBM with some compelling features that make it easier for Data Warehouse users to retrieve data and create reports. IS&T installed this reporting tool last spring and is now doing a soft rollout to the community. Cognos and BrioQuery will both be available for the foreseeable future, but if you work with reports, it's time say hello to Cognos, the new kid on the block.

But first, a bit of background.

The road to Cognos

A couple of years ago, Oracle released a major upgrade to BrioQuery and renamed it Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE). It looked completely different from BrioQuery.

Given this major change and grumbling from customers that Brio was hard to use, the IS&T Data Management group decided to do an in-depth evaluation of reporting tools.

An anonymous survey of Data Warehouse users showed that they had to know too much about the data to get going: they couldn't figure out which of several date fields to use, they didn't know how to join tables. After exploring this and other issues in focus groups, IS&T created a steering committee and a technical review committee to choose a reporting tool that would address user issues and be viable for the long term.

The search was quickly narrowed to three major players — IBM, SAP and Oracle — and one open-source vendor, Jaspersoft. The extensive review process included demos, hands-on use, and test installations, and resulted in both committees selecting Cognos as their first choice.

To be clear, Cognos isn't a new source of data. It isn't replacing the Data Warehouse. It's a reporting tool that accesses the Data Warehouse, as BrioQuery does, but it offers up-to-date features that aren't available in Brio.

Cognos delivers

Here are three big things about Cognos that benefit MIT users.
  1. It's web-based and authenticates via Touchstone. There's no software to download or upgrades to run. As long as you have a certificate or Kerberos ID, you can access Cognos at this link: Because Cognos is web-based, you can receive a URL through an application or via email that you can click to run a report. This linking capability means you may already be taking advantage of Cognos. Applications that are using it at this time include Reporting and Forecasting Tools (RAFT), Space Economy, Appointment Process Redesign (APR), and the close-out process.
  2. Cognos lets you drill up and down, from one report to another. You can drill from a summary report to a detailed report and back again, by clicking on data that is underlined in blue. This drill-through access, based on authorizations, gives users speed and flexibility in checking details and returning to the big picture.
  3. Cognos features packages — data structures made of tables that have already been joined in the background. Packages make it easier to create and modify reports. IS&T staff have been using packages to build reports in Cognos, several of which are already available. With customer input, IS&T will continue to create new reports, combining data in new ways that are useful for end users. Community members will also be able to build their own reports using preassembled packages.
Getting acquainted

The IS&T Data Management group expects that community members will take their time getting to know Cognos.

To get started, IS&T encourages users to attend the 90-minute hands-on course, Navigating Cognos. Upcoming sessions will be offered on May 10 and 29 and June 18; for details, check the MIT Learning Center — available through the Training tab in SAPweb Self Service.

This summer, IS&T plans to offer a second hands-on course, Modifying Reports in Cognos.

If you have questions about Cognos, send email to

A quick note about Brio

While IS&T will no longer create new report templates in BrioQuery, it continues to provide support to BrioQuery users. If you have questions about Brio, send email to

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