IBM Cognos. Scalable and flexible, but watch's expensive.
Updated March 17, 2014

IBM Cognos. Scalable and flexible, but watch's expensive.

Robert Goodman | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 8 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User

Software Version


Modules Used

  • Report Studio
  • Analysis Studio
  • Transformer
  • Framework Manager

Overall Satisfaction

IBM Cognos is a comprehensive reporting tool. It is being used by almost all central offices at Georgetown (HR, Finance, Student, Advancement, etc.). The Report and Query Studio tools are sophisticated and support our talented user base. They provide flexibility and the ability to query the packages in an ad-hoc way. We've also seen some adoption of the Cognos Mobile tools which is really neat. We're working with end-users to make the mobile features more apparent so that they can access data on-the-go.
  • The Report and Query Studio tools are nice for sophisticated power users. This allows power users to query and report on data which has already been modeled.
  • The architecture of the application can be tiered nicely for performance. This allows us to scale the application to support our growing user base.
  • Mobile features are more mature than other comparable products
  • Licensing for Cognos is difficult to understand. It is based upon a proprietary 'PVU' or Processor Value Unit calculation which has been created by IBM. This effectively licenses each server by the number of processing cores.
  • The software licensing is expensive.
  • The product requires very technical staff to maintain and support. This adds greatly to the TCO of IBM Cognos that many overlook.
  • Even with version 10.2.1 - browser compatibility is an issue for Report and Query Studio users. For example, they still don't work in Google Chrome. This causes a lot of confusion.
  • IBM Cognos is currently serving approximately 2000 unique logins per month across 18,000 interactive report executions.
  • Access to structured data is more widely available to our audiences
  • Ad-hoc query capability is extended through the use of Cognos Query Studio
  • Ad-hoc report generation is supported through the use of Cognos Report Studio
We will continue to use IBM Cognos to support our student community. In other areas of the university, Microsoft's SQL Server Reporting Services has become a cost effective alternative. That being said, the Report and Query Studio tools of Cognos still remain superior and will bring business benefit to Georgetown for many years to come.
After upgrading to 10.2.1, I am upgrading my overall rating. We have been pleased with the ability to publish 64-bit packages, IBM added new visualizations, a nice Workspace feature, and several new Excel output options. Plan to budget a 5-7% increase annually to continue to support this tool.

Product Usage

3500 - Student Accounts, Student Records, Financial Aid, Financial Affairs, Human Resources, Advancement - these groups also span multiple campuses (i.e. Main, Medical, Law).
5 - Cognos requires a more technical skill set. Our staff that manage this product have extensive backgrounds in supporting Cognos and many have Informatica/data integration skills. In addition to Cognos, they need to have a solid understanding of database platforms (i.e. Oracle 11g, MS SQL 2012) and also have to feel comfortable with writing queries.
  • IBM Cognos drives corporate reporting for the university. Primarily, it serves the Student community by reporting on Ellucian Banner and ODS data.
  • Ability to query structured data in an ad-hoc way via Query Studio
  • Access to data on-the-go with Cognos Mobile
  • Security data at a fine grain across multiple functional areas and multiple campuses
  • I've been pleased with the innovation around dashboards. We're now exploring further uses of the new Workspace functionality.
  • Cognos Mobile adoption will grow very quickly. Cognos Mobile now supports push notifications to the status IOS status bar in the iPad app – users can now be notified when a new version of their report is available, further reducing the latency in decision making on the go.
  • We are also looking at ways to support further data export and integration capability. Cognos 10.2.1 now allows increased spreadsheet maximums to 16,384 columns by 1,048,576 rows. It also adds an Excel output format called Excel 2007 Data which is perfect for lightweight data transfer to Excel without any report formatting.

Evaluation and Selection

Yes - Legacy shadow systems were replaced. They were replaced due to security, data governance, scalability, and performance.
  • Product Features
  • Product Usability
  • Product Reputation
Cognos was chosen due to the fact that it is a market-leading reporting product. Georgetown is a large university with many complexities. We needed an enterprise-level reporting tool that would support our growing need for data and analysis.
The landscape has changed slightly since we implemented Cognos. However, we'd approach the process similarly now and put out and RFP and allow the vendors to bid on the project.


The implementation was handled very well. The initial implementation exposed a lot of disagreement between our campuses and departments as to how we define data. This was not entirely unexpected, but I thought that we did a nice job as a team to work through some of these challenges.
  • Vendor implemented
  • Professional services company
We implemented in partnership with a 3rd party professional services vendor, Entigence, and IBM.
Yes - We implemented Student reports during the first phase of the project. Financials were handled primarily in phase 2.
Change management was a big part of the implementation and was well-handled - Early exposure to the tool is necessary. We have several different environments setup (i.e. DEV, TEST, QA, PROD), so we were able to allow users to get into the lower environments informally for testing and training. We then held formal trainings closer to rollout.
  • Defining data security
  • Data governance
  • Data access requests


  • In-person training
Onsite training provided by IBM Cognos was effective and as expected. They did not perform training with our data which was a bit difficult for our end-users.


Cognos is highly configurable, but also takes advanced technical skill to do so. The product is highly flexible and highly configurable. The market-leading position demonstrates that other users/companies feel the same.
Spend time on building the right architecture from the beginning. Review your organization's security needs and define an appropriate security hierarchy. Spend time governing this hierarchy and ensure that it doesn't get out of alignment. Create test environments so that you can deploy fix packs and changes to the software prior to rolling them into production.
No - we have not done any customization to the interface
Yes - we have added extensive custom code - We have added numerous JavaScript snippets to our report prompts. They have allowed us to customize the report prompts to suit the users complex requirements.
Ensure to configure mobile and remember that version 10.2.1 has new visualizations and Excel capability that need to be installed.


When pressed, they ultimately get to the right people. However, IBM is still working through the Cognos acquisition. You can easily get lost in the IBM 'sea' that doesn't know much about Cognos. When you get to the right Cognos people, their support is very good. We often find that the difficult PMRs that are submitted are resolved by our Georgetown staff before the issue is properly routed and solved by IBM. This becomes frustrating.
Good followup
Kept well informed
No escalation required
Quick Initial Response
Slow Resolution
Problems left unsolved
Need to explain problems multiple times
Support doesn't seem to care
Yes - 20% of the license price charged annually for subscriptions and software maintenance (S&S).
Yes - They are typically good about identifying solutions for product defects. Typically, these are rolled into a fix pack.
We recently had an issue when upgrading from 10.1 to 10.2.1. Many images on our reports were broken, although the images were properly loaded on the server. Cognos support was able to jump in, recommend a solution, and ultimately held a screen sharing session with us to fix the issue.


We have a strong user base (3500 users) that are highly utilizing this tool. Basic users are able to consume content within the applied security model. We have a set of advanced users that really push the limits of Cognos with Report and Query Studio. These users have created a lot of personal content and stored it in 'My Reports'. Users enjoy this flexibility.
Like to use
Relatively simple
Easy to use
Technical support not required
Well integrated
Quick to learn
Feel confident using
Lots to learn
  • Basic reporting
  • Data exporting
  • Cognos Mobile
  • Report and Query Studio are easy to use, but require training. It would be more difficult to pick up these tools without any prior experience.
Yes - It's a good app - and a bit ahead of the competitors. It integrates nicely with your Cognos credentials and has the capability of saving your content across devices. We utilize Cognos behind a corporate VPN. As a result, we had to teach users how to setup a VPN connection on their mobile devices. That was more challenging than using the Cognos Mobile app!


The Cognos architecture is well suited for scalability. However, the architecture must be designed with scalability in mind from day one of the implementation. We recently upgraded from 10.1 to 10.2.1 and took the opportunity to revamp our architecture. It is now poised for future growth and scalability.
Cognos' services need to be restarted from time to time, but they are stable and require little maintenance.
In the right architecture, the performance of Cognos is great. We find that our firewalls and VPNs limit the performance, but are a necessary evil.


As a reporting product, Cognos integrates well with a wide variety of data sources. In version 10.2.1, they added support for MS SQL 2012 which was nice.
  • We have integrated data from numerous systems in Cognos
  • Ellucian Banner
  • Ellucian ODS
  • PeopleSoft Financials
  • Workday HCM
  • Sage Milennium
For each data source, we had to setup a corresponding data connection to the database. We typically do this via a service account. We then create a Cognos package which is then setup in each report using that data.
  • Workday Financials
Workday supports data extraction via their API and custom reports. We intend to use these supported methods of data extraction.
  • File import/export
  • Single Signon
  • API (e.g. SOAP or REST)
  • Javascript widgets
  • ETL tools
Do what is required to meet your business needs. Keep maintenance and upgrades in mind during every integration or customization.

Vendor Relationship

Their sales team is sharp, and sometimes pushy. They are rigid in the way they price their product.
The sales team remains in touch, but they are always after 'the next big sale'. Support staff is adequate, but we often solve the issues prior to their support staff.
IBM has some nice higher education discounts; however, the pricing remains very expensive to comparable products. For renewals, sometimes working through a business partner (such as CDW-G) can yield a better price and assist you to avoid the typical annual 5-7% increase for simply owning the product.
Meet with them in person. Clearly articulate your position and your budget. They'll work with you, but you may need to wait until the end of the month or quarter to properly negotiate.


Yes - The upgrade went fairly smoothly. We upgraded the product from 10.1 to 10.2.1 and also rehauled the underlying architecture. On a few of the packages, the governor limit was reset to zero. We had to manually change this as most of our packages were running with a higher limit. We also had a few issues with images on several reports. It turned out to be an SSL issue as the images were trying to render in HTTP vs. HTTPS. Ensure that you have the SSL certificate applied to each machine in the stack - not just the gateways.
  • Report output is now not stored in the Content Store.
  • 32-bit to 64-bit performance improvements
  • Visualizations
  • Improved Workspace functionality
  • Extended Excel output capability - spreadsheet maximums to 16,384 columns by 1,048,576 rows. Cognos 10.2.1 also brings a brand new Excel output format called Excel 2007 Data which is perfect for lightweight data transfer to Excel without any report formatting.
  • Improved performance
  • Better visualizations
  • Extended Excel output