For all you die-hard fans of Powerplay who feel you are yet to see a tool that’s as easy and flexible, you will find a new love for Workspace Advanced and be left wishing you had converted sooner.
Figure 1: Workspace Advanced interface with example report. Right – What’s in the toolbox
Powerplay has a huge fan base, myself being one of them. During my time as a developer, and now consultant, I’ve trained hundreds of people on it (and all the other Cognos BI tools). Whether you loved the simplicity of the web based version, or the flexibility of the desktop/client version, IBM had a huge task on their hands to prise Powerplay away from loyal fans. When Cognos 8 launched, they tried to lure them away with Analysis Studio. Despite its benefits over Powerplay, not all were convinced, myself included. With Cognos 10, IBM hit it big when Workspace Advanced took to the stage.
In its wake, this one tool is set to replace Query Studio, Analysis Studio, Powerplay Studio and Powerplay client. So, how does it measure up?
- One tool to learn – Workspace Advanced (WSA) is suited to both lists and crosstabs. It works with all types of packages including Powerplay cubes, TM1 cubes, Dynamic cubes, DMR packages and Relational packages. Before now, each tool was suited to different styles of reporting and different types of packages. Educating the business on which to select and why was a headache. Jumping between different tools was time consuming and inefficient. Interface designs differed dramatically requiring double learning. Having one tool to cover all bases dramatically simplifies the business’ journey of data discovery.
- Cubes with no size limits and super-fast speeds – Unlike Powerplay, WSA is compatible with TM1 and Dynamic cubes which means that the tool opens up opportunities to work with newer technology. These types of cubes are different to Powerplay because they work in-memory, which means they have the potential to process data faster, and they don’t have size limits. Companies using Powerplay to report over big data often split the data into separate cubes due to size restrictions and speed issues. If a report requires a group summary, they may need to manually add up the figures across different cubes. By using TM1 cubes, you benefit from being able to be speed up your budgeting process as the cubes can be used for budget collection. All the hard work of merging budget submission numbers and getting them into the cubes is cut out. Using WSA with newer cubing technology gives rise to more powerful analysis.
- Superior charting engine – Chart layouts are highly customisable in Workspace Advanced. There is a secondary charting engine called “RAVE Visualisations” which contains new chart types such as waterfall charts, tag clouds, dynamic maps, heat maps, network bubbles, etc. It also contains all the old favourites but they have a more modern and slick look. Let’s face it, none of the previous tools did a great job of charts. Not only did they look very 80s, but customising the charts was only achievable by changing the crosstab layout. Because of this restriction, many chose to export data to Excel for charting. With WSA, the charting possibilities are far superior to Excel.
- Dynamic integration with Microsoft Powerpoint, Excel and Word – Any Workspace Advanced report can be imported into PowerPoint, Word or Excel. The data within the embedded report object can be refreshed easily. This is made possible with an add-in called ‘IBM Cognos for Microsoft Office’. Most analysts and accountants are exporting data from Cognos BI tools into PDF or Excel, then re-formatting it before pasting them into a variety of documents. If the data is updated, the long process starts all over again. Work smart, not hard – make Workspace Advanced do all the hard work.
- Create your own dashboard in a couple of hours – Workspace Advanced allows you to achieve dashboard style reporting for 3 reasons:
- It allows more than one reporting object on the same page. From the toolbox you can drag onto the page any number of crosstabs, lists, charts, text items and images.
- A table can be used to position many reporting objects side-by-side.
- WSA can work on packages which have multiple cubes in them. So one crosstab could be based on a sales cube; another could be based on P&L cube; a list could be based on transactional/relational data. All this could feature on the same page.
The simplicity of the tool makes all this quick to author.
- Simpler to use & more flexible than Powerplay – Powerplay has previously been a firm favourite. The web version was popular because it was extremely easy to use. The client version was popular since it was flexible on layout. Despite this popular belief, it had its frustrations. Those using the web managed to cope until that one time where they needed it to be more flexible than it was capable of. Those using the client found it flexible but had its limitations. For example Powerplay Client could only allow you to show “next level children” and “lowest level children” but any level in between was tricky. The advanced subset definition made it difficult to exclude anything on the lowest level as you could only exclude a parent. Its interface was outdated. You had to choose between Explorer or Reporter mode which was confusing for people and you couldn’t have the best of both.
Workspace Advanced cleverly achieves the best of Explorer and Reporting mode, making it easier to pick up and less confusing. Instead of “next level children” and “lowest level children” you can switch to view the levels of the hierarchy allowing you to pick any level you like with ease. The advanced subset definition is replaced with a much easier wizard. There are a plethora of advanced calculations to choose from which you never had in Powerplay. It also has a more modern interface. Furthermore, it still contains all the other favourites from Powerplay such as page layers, running to PDF, Excel & HTML, conditional formatting, intersect and report variables. Like Powerplay, this software can be taught in just few hours.
- Schedulable Reports with a Report Selection Page – Since Workspace Advanced is part of Cognos Connection, its reports benefit from being schedulable and can feature a report selection page (prompts) prior to running it. This is the same as Query/Analysis/Powerplay Studio. Powerplay Client as a standalone tool could not be scheduled, or create prompts unless cleverly using another part of the software. Cognos Connection allows you to schedule reports to run to email, print, save to a file system, push to a mobile device or saved within Cognos Connection. This dramatically reduces the number of reports which are a variation of a theme and automates your reporting.
- Supported and heavily invested – With every new release, IBM packs more and more value adding features into Cognos. WSA gets heavy investment along with other areas which they consider ‘core’. If you stick with WSA you will reap the benefits with every new release. Query Studio and Analysis Studio will not feature in any release beyond 10.2.2. A short time later they will no longer be supported which means any bugs/issues will have to stay there. Powerplay on the other hand is still clinging on, yet in recent years there have been little improvements to it. In my opinion, there will be little future investment in it. I urge you to move on from it. There is a brave new world out there, and it starts with Workspace Advanced!
Contact Aramar to see how we can help you make the most out of your BI solution