Europe’s largest bank recently completed a transition to IBM Cognos from its legacy Business Objects system. As one of the Top 6 global banks, serving over 40 million customers worldwide, their network is spread across 64 countries. To sail through business-as-usual conditions and turbulent times in the global economy, adaptability was needed in its BI platform to grow its core business and expand business opportunities. While legacy BI reports repositories in Business Objects Analytics and Reporting had grown by the thousands across many business areas and departments, the sheer volume of data increasing by millions of records posed performance bottlenecks. The business needs had grown fast. There was an immediate requirement to visualize historical and current data in real-time by integrating data from multiple systems so that frontline employees could make faster and better decisions. The business accumulated an unprecedented amount of big data, and our customers wanted to combine these in the BI to develop insights for increasing customer satisfaction and expanding their business.

To accomplish these business goals, IBM Cognos was chosen as a new path forward. The project goal was to seamlessly complete the transition in 9 months and benefit from IBM Cognos’s AI (Artificial Intelligence) infused BI (Business Intelligence) solution that enables smarter data discovery and drives better cognition of data and decision making through stunning visualizations.

Due to an established track record in completing fast-paced projects of this scale with zero disruption, DataTerrain was a natural choice to lead this transition initiative. DataTerrain was also tasked with establishing best practices in the target IBM Cognos system landscape from the outset.

The solution approach proposed by DataTerrain sought to automate the entire transition process while preserving years of efforts by the client in designing reports and their layouts.

DataTerrain’s automated transition framework

DataTerrain applied its robust methodology for Business Objects to IBM Cognos with the following key tenets:

1.    Reduce transition effort by redesigning models/universes using automation
2.    Reuse – simplify and reuse similar reports across business areas
3.    Revamp processes by eliminating manual steps
4.    Industrialize and establish best practices for IBM Cognos in the target system

DataTerrain worked with the client team to create and execute a project plan which had the following phases –

1.    AS-IS Discovery/assessment – using DataTerrain’s proprietary tool to assess the Business Objects set up in the client environment as below:

a.    Inventory – Number of Universes, reports, users, types/versions of reports, number of reports per model
b.    Usage analysis- Owners, users, administrators, size, execution dates, save dates
c.    Structural analysis – Report and model content, tabs, blocks, data providers, filters, prompts, variables, tables, graphics, cross tabs, expressions, SQL
d.    Redundancy analysis – Similarity analysis, report grouping, compression, and targets for scope reduction

2.    Detailed planning and design – The output from the AS-IS analysis was used to plan out the transition effort and flag potential transition issues and considerations to be addressed for specific elements. A pool of DataTerrain subject matter experts(SMEs) developed responses for pinpointed risks and issues, and these were translated into granular interventions to be made during the automated transition. Here are a few examples of specific items given appropriate attention to prevent potential downstream issues proactively:

a.    database-specific functions, undefined cardinalities, aggregate awareness in Business Objects Universes
b.    complex queries, calculation contexts, merged dimensions in Business Objects Reports

3.    Automated transition and validation – DataTerrain’s transition tool handled the transition of universes, database objects like tables/joins/measures/dimensions, native functions, and complex formulas based logic embedded in BO reports, calendars/events, security, user privileges, and more. The automation tool also ensured that the newly created metadata (Framework Manager) layer was compliant with best practices for Cognos and supported ad-hoc reports and integration with other tools. Adhering to strict Quality control guidelines, the DataTerrain tool also performed automated validation of every individual object ported to IBM Cognos. This resulted in improved accuracy and saved time.

4.    User acceptance, training, and roll-out – User involvement was maximized at every significant step to ensure they understood the unique characteristics of the new system and to accelerate their training and adoption. Converted reports were delivered to departmental functions and units for validation in a continuous flow to identify and address issues early and hasten acceptance ahead of a seamless rollout.

The DataTerrain Advantage

Upon the successful completion of this project within the stipulated tight timelines and budget, the customer shared the following highlights as reasons for its success:

1.    Global delivery model – With activities following the sun, this project continued non-stop across the delivery locations of DataTerrain and provided the velocity mandated by the challenging timeline.

2.    Performance tuning – DataTerrain SMEs took charge of the large databases with millions of records and tuned their performance during the project. This resolved a long pending issue faced by the user community.

3.    Value-added customizations – Productivity gains due to automation freed-up additional bandwidth to add value through customizations and changes to identified priority reports. This addressed some long-pending demands of users and improved the adoption of the new system.

By seamlessly completing the transition On-Time, DataTerain ensured a smooth switch to IBM Cognos when the contract ended with Business Objects. This banking industry leader is now rapidly moving forward to utilizing the capabilities of IBM Cognos to further their business goals.