How Data Visualisation Can Revolutionise Your Business

Data visualisation has become a buzzword lately, and for good reason. You’ve all heard the idiom “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Let’s change that up to “a picture explains a million numbers”. That’s really what data visualisation is all about.

Every day massive amounts of data are being created, collected, and stored by people, devices, and machines. Ninety percent of the data in the world has been created in the last two years alone. However, many organisations struggle to derive real benefit from all of their data, in essence, to turn all that data into information and the information into actionable insights. Organisations need to be able to turn their data into insights which inspires action and change in their business processes.

One of the best ways to discover insights in your data is through data visualisation, the practice of representing your data in graphical form. With the way data is stored in a data warehouse or excel spreadsheet, it can be hard to recognize patterns, identify trends, and gain insights. Plus, there is the goldfish effect, which asserts that humans can only focus on a single task for eight seconds before becoming distracted or move on to something else.

In this article, we’re going to look at the high-level benefits of visualising your data. This is part one of a five-part series on data visualisation. In the series, we’ll explore the strategic aspects of successful implementation of data visualisation for executives.

Our focus will be less on the tactics, like what software to use or colour palette work with. As we’ll see in a later article, most organisations struggle with their business processes, and that’s why they don’t get value from their tactics.

Here are the three main reasons you should visualise your data more:

1. Find Connections Between Objectives and Activities

How do you know if your initiatives are making a difference in your key performance indicators and Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)?

Take a manufacturing company as an example. It can be challenging to find out what’s really moving your metrics when you’re running four distribution warehouses, handling a hundred vendors, and dealing with a few hundred employees. Is the change you’re seeing something you did to your warehouse layout? Was it a change in your inventory picking process? Was it the vendor you fired?

The task of identifying the activities that move your metrics becomes a monumental challenge when your scale is 10 or 100 times that of the example given above.

Data visualisation makes it easy to identify patterns and connections between your actions and objectives. Managers can see how day-to-day activities have an impact on their key performance indicators and objectives.

In the manufacturing company example above, they could, for example, map out the geographic location of all of their customer orders and compare it over a few quarters. This would allow them to recognise if their profits increased and costs decreased because they had more orders closer to the warehouse.

Armed with this insight, they could begin to optimise delivery routes or offer preferential treatment to high-value customers. This is a perfect example of how organisations can take data and turn it into insights that create actions which help them reach their metrics.

2. Data is Given Context

If I told you one of your customers has a profit margin of three percent, how would you feel? Well, that depends – and that’s not just because I’m a consultant 😉 For some, you would kill for three percent profit and treat this customer like royalty. For the rest of you, three percent might be too low and your organisation would have a serious discussion about firing them, increasing rates, and more.

When I told you about a customer’s profits, you added context based on intuition and years of practice. Why is this significant?

Visualisation gives context to our data. An easy example is a whale curve, which maps a product’s or customer’s profitability in comparison to others. Financial managers have been using the whale curve for a long time, and you have probably had your fair share of experience with it.

We could take this one step further and overlay our whale curves for a specified period of time. This could reveal all sorts of insights for an organisation. For example, are you growing the number of customers profitably? Growing unprofitably can destroy a company. Are you making customers more profitable over time?

3. Quick Access to Data and Insights

Humans absorb information much faster when it is in a visual format. The ability to see large amounts of data in clear and cohesive ways, through data visualisation, allows executives to draw conclusions faster and solve problems in a timely manner. We can identify potential problems before they become real problems.

Take the area chart below, which maps an organisation’s total cost and revenue, as an example.

Data Visualisation Area Chart Example

Image Source: Sisense Blog – 10 Useful Ways to Visualise Your Data.

Within seconds, you can gain several insights. You can see how your costs compare to your revenue over a given quarter. Then, you can see how the organisation is keeping costs consistent, with only small incremental growth over time.

You could gain all of these insights by pouring over a P&L and looking at your quarter-over-quarter report. But why bother? Looking at an area chart, you can get the same insights at a much faster rate. When you’re a busy executive, finding the time to dive into reports is tough. You need a solution that delivers insights, the CEO demands from you, in a fraction of the time.

Data visualisation can change every organisation by allowing them to find connections between their objective and activities, giving context to their data, and helping them find insights faster.

Getting Started with Visualisations

This article has been an introduction to data visualisation. In the next article, we’re going to dive into more of the specifics of getting started with visualisation by exploring the common mistake that many organisation make. This next article will be out in about two weeks, so stay tuned!

What KPI’s are Right for You and Your Organisation?

Here’s a universal truth: Key Performance Indicators, or KPI’s, are an essential building block to achieving your most important organisational objectives. But are you using the right KPIs? Picking the best KPIs isn’t easy as most people try to stuff every metric possible into “key” performance indicators. What KPIs are right for you and your company?

Managers selecting their KPIs from an article on the “This Year’s 10 must-know KPI’s”, or trying to analyse 20+ KPIs, or continuing the same processes year-on-year when they still don’t hit their targets are all symptoms of a larger problem — a misunderstanding of what a KPI really is.

Today, I want to clear up any ambiguity by establishing a definition for a KPI and show you how to pick the KPIs that are “key” for your organisation.

What is a Key Performance Indicator

Consultants and executives like to define key performance indicators as specific metrics, like revenue, customer profitability, cash conversion cycle, on and on. The internet is flooded with articles on the “must-have” KPIs and every conference features a KPI expert. This happens because defining a KPI as a particular metric is easier for us to understand and wrap our heads around.

While the metrics I listed above certainly could be your KPI’s, this type of mindset have caused a lot of organisations to collect and report on everything — treating their key performance indicators more like metrics.

So, let’s clear this up together. A KPI is any metric, financial and non-financial (we’re seeing a rise in the latter), that your organisation has chosen in an effort to help achieve your most critical objectives. The right KPIs will help you realise an ROI for new improvement initiatives and it will increase the probability that you hit your strategic objectives.

Unfortunately, most managers are struggling to identify the vital few, so here are some best practices for picking your KPIs.

Best Practices for Key Performance Indicators

The reason KPI’s are treated like metrics is that managers or executives lose sight of the word “key”. That’s often caused by the fact that each department within an organisation will have their own objectives — growth, profitability, revenue, retention, cash flow, market share, etc.

For example, the marketing department could measure KPIs such as conversions or average order value, which is unlikely a good KPI at a high-level. Those KPIs will typically roll up to the manager or executive, where they’re left analysing hundreds of “KPIs”.

As a rule of thumb, each person should have no more than 10, but three to four is ideal. Too many metrics means they aren’t “key” and finding time to analyse them can be near impossible. Your KPIs should be the vital few that will help you achieve your objectives. Collectively, they will help your organisation — or department at lower management levels — achieve its objectives.

Let’s say your organisation is looking to expand and gain market share outside of Sydney, specifically into Melbourne and Brisbane. By expand, we mean significantly over the next year (double or triple percentage growth).

Using a balanced scorecard approach, you might create a few initiatives for reaching your goal. For example, to expand market share, you might create marketing and sales initiatives, such as developing channel partners, deploying a larger sales force to acquire new customers, or engaging a web based marketing campaign ?. You might also look at retention initiatives, since the more customers you can keep, the less you have to acquire.

That’s pretty standard, but what should the KPI be? I’ll give you a second to think about it.

Is it the Scoreboard or What Drives it?

Remember, a KPI is any metric, financial and non-financial, that your organisation has chosen in an effort to help achieve your most critical objectives. Meaning, our KPI’s should measure how effective each initiative is at achieving our objective — not the “success” of the initiative itself. So, we’re interested in what contributes to the score, rather than the scoreboard itself (a cricket team will unlikely win a test match if they drop 10 catches or have a slow run rate in a T20 game).

The most common mistake that I see is picking metrics that measure the “success” of an initiative without framing it around the company’s objectives. For example, let’s say you decided to push an initiative to decrease “wait time” on the phone — assuming that this will improve customer service and increase retention.

It’s easy for managers and executives to pick “wait time” as the KPI. But if our goal is to increase market share, then at a middle management level, retention rates might be a better KPI and at an executive level, it could be market share using a YoY comparison. In this example, an executive should ask, is decreasing the wait time leading to higher retention thus allowing us to increase our market share? And any initiative that doesn’t increase market share, regardless of successful implementation, should be cut.

As a high-level executive, your KPIs should be focused on the company’s critical objectives. For a department, they will create KPIs based off initiatives and objectives that tie into the most strategic objectives.

Image courtesy of Performance Magazine

This is what I refer to as cascading and rolling up. The initiatives within an objective become the objectives for departments.

More Best Practices for KPI’s

Okay, a few more best practices for picking your Key Performance Indicators. Before you finalise your KPIs, you should test your assumptions. Using driver based planning, you can discover how your business is impacted pulling the levers on different variables.

Next, your KPIs should be dynamic and living. They need to evolve as your business evolves. Presented graphically and able to be easily drilled from to the detail supporting them.

We covered a lot and this way of thinking might be new to you, so let’s recap:

  • A KPI is a metric that you’ve chosen to help you achieve the organisation’s most important objectives.
  • A KPI can be anything and needs to be based on your goals.
  • What’s right for one company isn’t right for another.
  • It usually is not what’s on the scoreboard that counts – it’s what drives the score.
  • Use driver based planning in conjunction with your KPI’s
  • Implement a balanced scorecard approach to help manage them.

Now to you, what KPIs would you use if you’re trying to expand market share?

Our (Secret) Checklist for Producing Great Reports, Dashboards and Visualisations

Have you ever had a report built for you that is completely different than what you expected or asked for? Or worse still, asked someone to build a dashboard and it comes back as a nice visualisation of your data, but it misses the primary objective of building it in the first place? Today we are going to give away our internal checklist for creating fabulous reports, visualisations and dashboards for our clients (if you’d like a copy of the actual checklist, please let us know).

Obviously, we’re in the report, dashboard and analytics business. When we start a new gig, we’re often given a set of reports or analyses and asked to rebuild them. The first thing we ask is, “why?” This is not to be smart, but because that’s what a good consultant does!

  • Why do you need this report?
  • What’s its objective?
  • Who’s going to get it?
  • How is it to be distributed? 

Data in and of itself has little to no value. To get true value from the data it requires analysis.  In other words, your data is only as valuable as your ability to draw out actionable insights. Many organisations are rich in data and information, but poor in insights. That’s where reporting and analysis come in.

But it’s not enough just to produce a report on any data. A lot of organisations are using formal reports to simply transfer data from a database or ERP into a spreadsheet where the user then manipulates it into the report they really want! Bit dumb, huh? Something tells me that a key step in the report design process was missing!

Today, we’re going to cover a checklist we use at Infocube when facilitating workshops to define reports, dashboard and visualisation content. This checklist is a great starting point and should be used to provoke thought.

The “What” of Great Reports

Great reporting starts with a purpose and with the end in mind. It’s at this point I hear a lot of organisations say, “yeah, yeah, yeah, John, I know, let’s get to into the layout, how often we should report, and how we can get a pretty graph at the bottom.” Many organisations just skip right over this step and it’s a key reason their results fail to hit the mark. It means you end up with your reports being dumped out to excel where the real report is created!

Clearly, state the purpose of the report or analysis. Ask, what does the reader need to get from the report? A good response is, “understand what products the major customers of a rep bought this time last year”. Why? Because say you are in a seasonal business when armed with this information the rep can go see their customers and prompt them for an order.

Or alternatively, for a cash flow forecast, “calculate the short-term cash required on a weekly basis”.

When you’ve completed the design and then when you’ve built your report, circle back and check if your report answers the purpose you stated. If it doesn’t, then either change the purpose or change the report!

Maybe it’s really “the Why”!

When we understand the “why” of reporting, determining the “what, where, who and how” becomes a lot easier. The purpose of collecting data is to derive value. You can think of this value chain as:

Data > Reporting > Analysis > Insights > Action > Value

Looking at the value chain, you can see that reporting becomes the input to analysis and output of our data. It serves as a bridge between data and value so that you can analyse it and derive meaningful insights that are relevant and important to your business.

So what reports do you need to produce? This should vary based on your company’s most important metrics and objectives.

A common pitfall we see is when a company brings an executive or manager from another organisation and they insist on creating reports the other organisation used. These reports often don’t align with the company’s objectives.

Another error is picking too many metrics or producing reports for the sake of creating reports. They have a report for everything. A report for customer profitability, a report for marketing plans, and a report for toilet paper use.

Remember, reports arenot the analysis itself, they are just the input to analysis. Have you ever read a great blog post and thought “we can do that”, and then done nothing? Producing reports without doing any value add analysis is the same as reading and not acting on that great blog (nudge, nudge, wink, wink!).

We see some organisations produce 40+ reports for the CFO, but the CFO has no time to analyse them. When the CFO finally gets around to the reports, the data is often redundant and ignored. This brings me to the “who” of great reports.

The “Who” of Great Reports

The next step is to figure out the “who” of reporting:

  • Who will be the consumer or end-user?
  • Who will be the owner?
  • Who will be responsible for producing the reports?

Most organisations have heaps of KPIs that need to be reported on and analysed. Each department has their own KPIs and each team within a department often has their own KPIs. For example, it’s common for the finance department to have one set of KPIs and the procurement team to have another set. That’s okay, but remember what the “K” stands for!

When determining the who, make sure you define a person or group for whom the reports are being produced. The keyword “a”. Make it singular. It might be the CFO. It might be the marketing team. Or it might be someone in IT. Other’s may benefit from the report, but it needs a focus consumer.

This will help you shape how you plan to organise the data or whether or not you allow for self-reporting.  With the democratisation of data, people and teams within your company can produce their own reports and analyse them. They can get the data faster and on their own timeframe.

Lastly, make sure there is one person, just one, who will be the report owner. It is their call on signing off on it, reconciling it, checking the layout, and ensuring it meets the stated objective.

The “How” of Reports

This is where a lot of organisations like to focus their time. As a result, they build reports that don’t answer their organisation’s most critical questions. When you ask the what and who first, the answer to, “how will we produce these reports so that we can get what we need,” becomes clear. You’ll know how often reporting should be, how to distribute the report, how to format the layout, what sort of filters and prompts to use, and more.

What’s not on our checklist is determining which software or reporting tool to use. That’s because the tool you use is only as good as your ability to answer the what, who, and how of reporting.

You could have the best reporting or visualisation software, like Cognos, Tableau, or Board, but it won’t matter if you don’t answer the what, who and how of reporting. CFOs are struggling to gain insights from data because of outdated processes and data availability across the organisation.

So ask yourself:

  • What question is a report trying to answer?
  • Who will own it and who needs it?
  • How will you provide that information?

By answering these questions, you improve your value chain and ability to get value from your data.The Infocube Reporting, Visualisation and Dashboard checklist is a fantastic tool for brainstorming what to include and how to deliver information. If you’d like a copy of our “secret” checklist please pop us an email or just fill in the form below!

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The Golden Rules for BI Success

Business Intelligence: Golden Rules for BI Success

In our last article, I had a bit of fun satirically encouraging you not to pursue a BI project. But the truth is, nearly every business — from the small-firm generating $100,000 in revenue to blue chip companies — can benefit from BI and should pursue it. BI success is achievable — you just have to know how!

Unfortunately, many companies fail to realise any real benefit from their BI initiatives. BI projects are seen as costly or they’re abandoned because they don’t deliver. That being said, according to Gartner, most projects fail because of people and processes.

So what makes a BI project successful? This article will focus on how organisations, big and small, with multiple stakeholders, can successfully implement BI without all of the typical headaches that many companies experience.

Set the Right Direction

It all starts with looking at your company’s long- and short-term goals. There are plenty of businesses out there who are launching BI initiatives simply because they’re being told by sites like Gartner and Harvard Business Review, they need to become more “data driven”.

While the need to become more data driven is true, some organisations rush into BI without a clear strategy. Executives are being convinced that a BI project means being data driven as an end goal. But it’s no more a goal than building an effective lead generation marketing campaign or offering employee benefits to retain workers. In other words, BI is just a tool to help you achieve the goals that are most important to your organisation. It is a journey, not a destination.

Which Colour Hat?

What colour what? Get your “Green Hat” on (Edward deBono suggested different coloured hats for different types of thinking—green is for creativity). Once you understand that BI is a journey, it’s time to get cross functional business users into a room to begin brainstorming ideas and determining what reports and analyses are important for your business. For example:

  • Do your reps need to know what was sold to each customer at this time last year so that they can make calls now to drum up business?
  • Are you collecting variance analyses by cost centre vs last year vs plan (whether you should do this at the GL account level is a different discussion!)?
  • Which customers are actually profitable (because chances are half of them are not!)?
  • What are the staff turnover and satisfaction rates by department and what can you do to improve them?
  • Who is responsible for the products that are burning a hole in your working capital and why?
  • Do you wish to know the working capital required while the business is trying to expand? 

For each of these of course, there is an underlying reason. Dump all of your ideas out during this brainstorming session. Even the most (apparently) dumb ideas can spark someone else to come up with the most amazing idea. During the discussion, there should be a facilitator asking questions to help flesh out all of the ideas. Some questions to ask might be:

  • Why is this information important and what central objective does it tie into?
  • Who will use this information and how?
  • How will this impact the decision making process?

Stephen Covey, the famous business educator, said climbing up the wrong ladder only gets us to the wrong place faster. Spend time to make sure your ladder (read: BI project) is on the right wall (read: right purpose).

Chart the Course and Use a GPS

Once you have all of your ideas down, it’s time to start filtering, prioritising and planning. Before you do this though, take a break and make it very clear to the participants that when they come back, we will move from ideation to filtering.

The first step is to filter out any ideas that aren’t realistic for your organisation due to any number of factors such as cost, information availability, or your IT infrastructure. The goal is to strike any idea where the costs are higher than the benefits.

Next, begin prioritising your ideas. In the medical field, there is a common practice called triage. This is the practice of prioritising treatment of the wounded based on severity of conditions when resources are scarce compared to the need.

You likely have a list of ideas that requires more resources than you have available. To prioritise your projects, consider the input costs — both time and money — the impact it will make on your business, and how long it will take for your company to realise the benefits of the project.

You want to pick the projects that are going to have the lowest costs, make the biggest impact, and where the results can be seen almost immediately. This is key for continuation of a BI initiative as it will cause further buy-in from other executives and managers.

You’ll then want to create a rough plan for the next 18 months to two years and bring the right team together based on your triaged list.

Now that you have the first project to pursue, you have clear objectives, you have executive buy in, you’re all keen, so get into it!

Find the Right Crew for BI Success

Remember how I said many BI projects fail because of people and processes? Building the right team is critical to the success of your initiative. And one of the most important team members is a project manager who understand business first, technology second. This way, the project remains focused on the company’s objectives.

I don’t say this to promote Infocube, but we do recommend bringing in someone from the outside. Aside from being able to help you implement your project, organisations like ours can help you prioritise your ideas. Consultants, especially those who are accountants first, will have experience from multiple businesses and have launched several BI initiatives.

Light the BI Fire!

It’s important to pick a project that doesn’t cost heaps and where the results are fast. You get traction and credibility (assuming the numbers reconcile, are delivered in a timely manner and answer the key questions posed). This will allow you to internally market the heck out of your initiative.

Eventually, you’ll hit what Malcolm Gladwell calls the “tipping point”. This is the magical moment when an idea and project begins to spread like wildfire. In BI, it’s that time when we get people lining up at the door for us to help them solve their problem.

In our next post we will share with you our internal checklist for creating great reports. It’s gold and what we use when facilitating the direction meetings above.

Now, I’ll leave you with a final question. What business problem will you try to solve with BI (here’s a tip – don’t try and boil the ocean)?

“Don’t Do BI” – Save Your Money and Avoid the Heartache!

Ignorance. Is. Bliss. Nothing could be truer than that when it comes to implementing BI projects. Many believe it’s far better to bury our heads in the sand than to know how we can develop competitive edges, take advantage of opportunities, outsmart the competition and over-deliver to customers. In short – don’t do BI!

Nothing could be truer than ignorance is bliss when it comes to implementing BI projects. Many believe it’s far better to bury our heads in the sand than to know how we can develop that competitive edge, take advantage of opportunities, outsmart the competition and over-deliver to customers.

“To know” means there is a level of responsibility for the actionable insights you gain. You have to act. And who would want that additional responsibility? Far better to just not know. Then you don’t have to worry.

Don’t know which 50% of your marketing is working? That’s okay. If you don’t do BI, you can keep closing your eyes, throwing a dart at your marketing plan, and praying that you choose the right half. Don’t know what your customers want? You can keep delivering products that they’ll only buy with steep discounts. Most people don’t really want to know the answers to their most critical questions. Nor do they want to answer the real questions in their business because then they’d have to do something about it.

Don’t know what your customers want? You can keep delivering products that they’ll only buy with steep discounts. Most people don’t really want to know the answers to their most critical questions. Nor do they want to answer the real questions in their business because then they’d have to do something about it.

By staying ignorant, you can keep the workload off your plate and spend more time putting out fires, answering your email, and surfing Facebook or LinkedIn. It’s far more important, anyway, to reach level 1,548 of Candy Crush. We could sit back in our ergonomic leather chairs, just be too busy and don’t do BI!

There are plenty of advantages and reasons not to start a BI project — it doesn’t matter that implementing smarter reporting and analytic solutions is right at the top of most surveys of what is hot on the CFO’s agenda.

Expensive, Expensive, and Expensive – Don’t do BI!

Look up the definition of BI Project and you might come across something like this, “An overly ambitious, unplanned, unrealistic project, handed down from an executive who read a blog post once, that is designed to fail, cost too much, deliver nothing, and require a heap of oversight.”

We’ve had prospects say “Let’s be clear. A BI project is an expense, not an investment.” If you’re thinking of starting a BI project, make sure you budget a large chunk of money and expect there to be a tonne of oversight. You’re going to be on the phone at 5 pm yelling, “Frank, I’m looking at this dashboard and want you to explain why you did it this way.” And Frank is just going to be angry that you don’t understand the value of all his hard work! Don’t do BI!

Excel Does a Superhero Job – Don’t do BI!

Anyway, Excel does a great job, so who needs BI? Excel’s functionality is robust, you never get formulas overwritten, can easily make simultaneous changes to all the spreadsheets out there being worked on, can load data easily, roll it out over the web, apply security simply and you can manipulate data until the cows come home. It mostly delivers accurate reports and information. And it’s nearly impossible to run into any reconciliation problems. Hmmm!

We won’t talk about how Excel errors and manipulation pretty much killed Enron. Or that a spreadsheet error cost the British taxpayers an estimated $105 million when the government made a mistake assessing bids for West Coast Rail Line in 2012. Or that JPMorgan lost $440 million because of a similar error. There is no way a mistake like that could happen to you, right?

Besides, everybody knows how to use Excel. Implementing BI software would require training on how to use a browser. We can’t seriously expect staff to be able to use Explorer, Safari or Chrome over Excel. Who needs fancy BI software when Excel is great for analysing unstructured data like email, customer service transcripts, and social media posts?

It’s an IT Issue – Let them do BI!

After all, business intelligence is just an IT issue, isn’t it? There is no need to get the C-suite involved in something like this. It’s better to keep the tech stuff with the tech team. Could you imagine being able to produce your own reports and have real-time insights? Now, you would be doing IT’s job. We can’t have that! Let them do BI!

“IT needs to just buckle down and build the project by the end of the third quarter.” we hear! Once it’s done, they can move on, never look at it again, and start ignoring all of this talk about BI, predictive analytics and big data.


Well, maybe not! Stay tuned for our next article on how you can do BI the right way, to escape Excel hell and get great results from your investment in BI now and in the future.

Planning Analytics: Cognos Analysis for Excel (CAFE)

Cognos Analysis for Excel (CAFE) has been around a long time. For those of us who come from the Cognos world originally, it emerged as an Excel add-in for building Excel based reports with BI data.

Why Cognos Analysis for Excel, not TM1 Perspectives?

Now CAFE has emerged as the path for TM1’s future use inside Excel as well. Why, I hear you ask? What happened to Perspectives? Well, simply, TM1 Perspectives is horrible to use over a wide area network because it downloads the entire data set for each subset in use in each view and presents that in Excel- thus downloads could be huge and take forever over a wide area network. CAFE, on the other hand, uses REST and only downloads the information required to present what is currently displayed – much like a browser does – making it much more efficient.

So why is that necessary? If you work in a distributed environment, then that is good news for you and you should push your TM1 admin sooner rather than later to roll out CAFE.

Also, with the emergence of TM1 Cloud, or Software as a Service (SaaS) model, called Planning Analytics, the TM1 server will be remote to your whole company – making CAFE mandatory.

What does CAFE look like?

TM1 Cognos Analysis for Excel (CAFE)

So what does CAFE look like? For those of you that remember PowerPlay web or have used Cognos Analysis Studio, it looks kind of like those, in that there is a Rows area, Columns area and a Context (or filter) area. You can drop existing TM1 views onto Excel or create new worksheets. All data is live against TM1, which means that you can enter information or update the report directly.

Here is a short video from the guys at IBM that explains a little about CAFE over Planning Analytics.


The Future

IBM have stated that Cognos Analysis for Excel is the future interface for TM1. This means that Architect will be removed and all administration will occur inside CAFE. We have no more details on that though other than expected timing, however we expect this change to be made sometime during the first half of 2017 when TM1 will fully move to version 11.


Are Those Planning Apps Too Good to be True?

Often when we visit a prospect for the fist time we are asked if we offer apps or templates or pre-built models for budgeting or planning, or for a dashboard or a standard set of reports. Apps that do capital planning or opex forecasting, or rolling forecasts, or demand planning or HR budgeting, or revenue forecasting.

Now I know that some vendors do exactly this. I also know that often after a vendor has enticed you with their pre built apps and, say, a 15 day project to build your entire budget complete. And then they start to learn about your requirements and reframe the project to a custom build that takes considerably longer. But you’re hooked and need to justify it cos you’ve signed off on it. And they know it.

The Problem with Prebuilt Applications

But you, the customer, need to really think about this when you’re being shown the glossy demo and told all about their apps and head start packages, or their pre built models for your industry.

Ask yourself questions like:

  1. How long did it take you to build your current model in Excel or whatever tool you currently use? And how much of that do you want in your new planning tool?
  2. Can you really use a vanilla tool and try to shoehorn your budgeting into it?
  3. What are the quirks to your business? Is it the cost centre structure, the allocations, the gross profit calculation methodology, the way you forecast inventory and demand planning, how you plan your factory and manufacturing, do you use driver based forecasting.
  4. Then think about labour planning. Do you plan by person or by role? Are people get split across cost centres? Do you use driver based labour planning? What are the inclusions to the way you plan labour that are not in the provided model?
  5. Then move onto Capex. Does capex cover a single asset in a single month, i.e. simple capex planning. Or does capex need to have multiple periods of expenditure and then capitalise it and start depreciation at the end of the spend?
  6. Allocations – do you use them? If so how and then how will they be planned and are they covered by the new solution?

These are just a few of the things to think about when you’re being tempted by an off the shelf planning solution or prebuilt apps. A tool where the vendor says they can implement in what seems too good to be true.

What You Can Do?

Test them out. Take a highly complex budgeting exercise (like multi step dynamic allocations, for example) and ask them to prove it on site (so you can monitor everything) in a proof of concept. And do it for multiple vendors simultaneously.

TM1 SSL Certificate Impacts Servers AND Clients

TM1 Servers AND Clients Need to be Updated

Please remember that the TM1 SSL Certificate issue that we have advised about on previous blog posts impacts both servers and clients. This means that not only do you need to update all your TM1 servers, but you need to update every installation of TM1 client software.

Thi client that need to be also updated include:

  • Architect and Perspectives (obviously),
  • Cognos BI (when it uses TM1 as a source),
  • Cognos Insight,
  • Performance Modeller, and
  • TM1Top.

Also Remember Everything Must be Fixed by 24 November 2016.

The fix is detailed in this post. 

Remember that if you need any help to resolve the TM1 SSL problem on either your TM1 server, your Cognos BI server or your TM1 client computers, please reach out to us.

Cognos Analytics Finally to be Properly Integrated with TM1!

Just in from the World of Watson at Las Vegas…

IBM has announced that there is a renewed commitment to integrating Planning Analytics (TM1) and Cognos Analytics (BI) on the cloud platform.

It will start with integration support in November with the Melbourne data center support for CA on Nov 31st and support for hierarchies in Q1. The other things like support for subsets and views will come later in the half.

Aggressive targets for feature integration include:

  • Support for Planning Analytics Hierarchies via REST API in Cognos Analytics (dependent upon Planning Analytics v2 release) – so this might mean we finally get multiple hierarchies from TM1 available in Cognos BI!
  • Support for OLAP/TM1 in Dashboards & Modules of Cognos Analytics
  • Support for Planning Analytics Subsets in Cognos Analytics – that is a biggie. We will be able to have subsets defined in TM1 that are available in Cognos BI.
  • Cognos Analytic support for text in crosstabs
  • Support for TM1 views (I assume this means we can utilise TM1 views in Cognos BI)
  • Design Effort beginning to share Cognos Analytics Dashboard & Planning Analytics Workspace board content

Finally, the Melbourne data centre will also support Cognos Analytics from the end of November 2016.

TM1 and Cognos Express SSL Certificate Fix Available

About a month ago we posted about the expiry of TM1 SSL certificates for here. In that post we alerted you that on 24 November the SSL certificate in your installation of TM1 will expire and no TM1 client will be able to talk with your TM1 server.

Fixes for TM1 have now been released by IBM. Details are below.

Please note that the TM1 SSL Certificate expiry will impact both servers and clients and therefore both servers and clients need to be updated.

Your Options

In our initial post we identified that your options are:

  1. Disable SSL in TM1s.cfg. This is not recommended because it will leave your traffic not protected by the SSL certificate.
  2. Apply the interim fix that IBM is expected to release in the coming weeks.
  3. Generate your own SSL Certificate and then apply it.
  4. If you are using TM1 10.2.2, upgrade to a 2048 bit SSL as discussed in this tech note from IBM.

Note that if you want TM1 to continue to work after 24 November, it is not an option to do nothing. TM1 will stop working on November 24 if you do nothing.

Automatic Update Kits From IBM for TM1 SSL Certificate Expiry

Late last week IBM released fixes for this problem. The updater kits are available from IBM here. These cover TM1 version 10.1.x, TM1 version 10.2.0 for Windows and 10.2.0 for Unix and TM1 version 10.2.2.

There is no update kit available for Cognos Express. For CX you will need to do the manual method detailed below.

There is also no update kit available for any version of TM1 prior to 10.1.x. For these as well you will need to do the manual method explained below.

Manual Update Method for TM1/Cognos Express SSL Certificate Expiry

If you use Cognos Express or any version of TM1 prior to 10.1.x you must apply the fix manually. Instructions from IBM on what to do are available here.

TM1 and Cognos Express Client SSL Certificate Updating

All TM1 clients, including Architect, Perspectives, Performance Modeler and Cognos Insight need to be updated. Instructions for these are available at these locations:

Cognos Express Server Side Client Components

Client components of Cognos Express (i.e. the client install files located on the server) also need to be updated so future installations are installed with the fix intact. Instructions for this are located here.

Cognos BI Client Components

Cognos BI can also obviously connect to TM1. There are separate instructions for updating the SSL certificates for BI where it connects to TM1 here.

How Long Will the TM1 SSL Certificate Update Take?

We estimate that it will take no more than half an hour to update a server (plus shut down and restart time) and about 10 to 15 minutes per client computer.

We are Here to Help!

If you need any assistance or advice on how to do it, please get in touch with us directly via or call us on 1300 136 755.

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