Using the administrative features - IBM Cognos

Enhanced search

When trying to answer critical business questions, gain insight, or identify new trends, users might potentially execute many reports, and spend large amounts of time browsing report output searching for desired results. With IBM Cognos BI, licensed enhanced consumer users have the ability to search for keywords located in report names, modelled metadata, report output, values in the reporting databases, and results returned from an external third-party search engine, such as the Google search appliance.

When performing a search through IBM Cognos Connection, enhanced consumers are presented with an interface that contains the following frames:

  • Refinement
    The left frame that allows users to further refine the search results by filtering by various elements. The types of filters that are available are creation date, object type, owner of the object, and metadata. Selecting one of these refinements filters the results contained in the results frame.
  • Results
  • Center frame that displays the search results based on the search criteria and the refinements applied. Based on the search criteria, there can be multiple sections within the search results returned. The standard section contains the search results directly related to the criteria used to perform the search.

    The Create and Explore section provides the user with a default query that is based on the search criteria on which to start building a report. This display is an excellent way to provide users with a headstart on getting the information that they are after when there are no existing reports that provide the necessary detail. Users can use the default query and then customize to query to create a report that can be reused or shared with others.

    The last section provides users with suggested content based on predefined suggestions that are defined on the Index Search tab. For example, if there is a report template that should be used for financial reports, then a suggested definition can be created that displays the link to the report template any time that users searched on words such as sales, profit, results, or budget.

  • Related
    The related frame brings back results from an external third-party search source, such as the Google search appliance, which is an excellent way to include content that is not IBM Cognos so that users are presented with more inputs to help answer their questions.
  • Enhanced search user interface
    Enhanced search user interface

Before users can use the new search capabilities with IBM Cognos, an enhanced search index must first be constructed. Administrators can influence the contents of an index by customizing the types of objects that are included as part of the build process. Because creating an index can be a lengthy process, depending on the types of objects included and whether reporting data is being indexed, build an initial index that just includes IBM Cognos content. This type of index results in a shortened time to build the search index and allows users to perform searches for content immediately versus having to wait for a full index to be constructed. After the first index has been created, incremental additions can be made to the index to expand the search results returned to business users.

Table provides steps for building an effective enhanced search index.

Steps to building an effective enhanced search index

Define indexable object types
Define indexable object types

Although the default parameter settings for enhanced search allow administrators to build an initial index, it is good practice to verify that all of the content types are required for a particular environment or to meet business requirements.

To modify the types of content included in the search index:

  1. On the Index Search tab from within the administration console, select the Index task from the left frame and the General tab in the right frame.
  2. Index Search General tab
    Index Search General tab

  3. In the Indexable Types section, select the object types to be included in the initial search index. For the initial build, deselecting the output type eliminates the time required to crawl through the report output results stored in the IBM Cognos content store.
  4. Indexable object types
    Indexable object types

  5. After the desired object types have been selected, click Save.

Securing the index and search results

The index update service can retrieve the access control list from IBM Cognos Content Manager during indexing. This option consumes additional resources, but is turned on by default because it speeds up searching.

To secure the index and search results:

  1. In IBM Cognos Connection, in the upper-right corner, click Launch IBMCognos Administration.
  2. On the Index Search tab, click Index General.
  3. Under Security, review the settings listed in Table.
  4. Index search security considerations
    Index search security considerations

These are the minimum considerations required to build the initial index.

Build an initial index

Search results depend on the access permissions of the person who indexes the content and the user who searches the content. Build the search index with an account that has access to all content in the public folders so that all content is available to users. To build an initial index:

  1. Navigate to the Content Administration task on the Configuration tab within the administration console.
  2. Select the New Index Update icon from the toolbar, which launches the New Index Update wizard.
  3. Specify a name of Initial Index for the new index update task on the Specify a name and description wizard page. Only the name is required, but, if desired, the other values can be supplied as well. Click Next.
  4. On the Select the content wizard page, the content to be included in the search index can be specified. By default, all of the reporting content located in the Public Folders is included. Content can be selected for exclusion if desired, but for the initial index, index all Public Folder content unless there is absolutely content that should not be included. Click Next.
  5. On the Select an action wizard page, click Save only, and then click Finish.

This results in an index update definition being created, but will not have executed the actual build process because the Save only option was selected.

Index update definition created and ready to be executed
Index update definition created and ready to be executed

Building the initial index for enhanced search can be a lengthy, resource-intensive process, depending on the options selected to index, whether metadata and reporting data values are included, and the topology of the installed IBM Cognos components. To help ensure that building the initial index has limited impact on users, the common practice is to schedule the index build process to not occur during periods of heavy reporting usage:

  1. Click the Run with options icon in the Actions list, which launches the Run with Options dialog box.
  2. Assuming that the task is to be run at a later time, select Later.
  3. Using the drop-down calendar control beside the date field, select a month and day on which the task will execute.
  4. Modify the time that the task will run so that it does not coincide with heavy reporting periods.
  5. Because the initial index should just include the reporting content, ensure that only the Properties and metadata option is selected for the content options.
  6. The scope should be set to All entries, as this is the initial creation of an index. If an index had previously been created, the All entries option would replace the older index with the index created as part of this task.
  7. Click Run.
  8. Scheduled initial index update task definition
    Scheduled initial index update task definition

To verify that the index update task has been scheduled for the desired time, navigate to the Upcoming Activities task on the Status tab and then use the graph Next control to scroll to the appropriate date. If the task was set to run at a much later date, you can use the Advanced options in the Filter section. After the date is located, the index update task displays in the results list.

Upcoming scheduled index update task
Upcoming scheduled index update task

Refresh the search index

As the content of the IBM Cognos BI analytics solution evolves, administrators must ensure that the contents of the search index remain as accurate as the business demands. Neglecting to periodically update the search index results in search results returning links to reports that are no longer present, or incomplete results because newer content is not highlighted.

To avoid staleness of the search index, it is important to first determine how frequently the content is changing. If auditing is enabled, the easiest way to check the volume of change to the content for a given period of time is to execute a report against the audit database.

After the frequency of change has been detected, it is essential to understand how long it takes to build the search index. Because the only point of reference at this juncture is the initial index update task, the execution duration for that task must be used.

  1. In the administration console, navigate to Status Past Activities.
  2. To locate the history detail for the index update task, use either the Period drop-down menu in the Filter section to select one of the pre-generated periods, or click the Edit link to define a date range using calendar controls,that corresponds to the date and time when the index update task was started.
  3. If a lot of results are expected for the selected date range, click the Advanced options link and select Type Index update
  4. Click Apply.
  5. In the list of results on the right frame of Past Activities interface, locate the index update in question and select Initial Index View run history details
  6. Viewing the run history details of an index update task
    Viewing the run history details of an index update task SubmitViewing the run history details of an index update task Submit

  7. Examining the upper portion of the “View run history details” dialog box reveals the start time, end time, and date, in case the duration spanned more than one day. Because future index updates will not likely include all of the content that this task did, administrators are now provided with the maximum amount of time that should be required to update the index incrementally
  8. Verifying time taken to execute the initial index update task
    Verifying time taken to execute the initial index update task

Expand index to include reporting data values

With an incremental index update strategy defined and in place, you might expect there will no longer be any additional search index updates required. However, there is still a factor missing from the equation.

The previous sections covered creating the search index and populating it with both modeled metadata and object properties, but the last dimension to providing users with a complete enhanced search index is the inclusion of data values from the underlying reporting databases.

It shows only the object metadata and properties were included as part of the initial index. To expand this data to include actual data values that are contained within the report and the reporting database, modify the index update task to include one of the following types of data:

  • Referenced data
    Specifies that only data referenced by the expressions encountered in reports, queries, and analyses that are included in the scope of the indexing task are indexed
  • All data

Specifies that all data encountered in the models that are within the scope of the indexing task are indexed, regardless of whether the metadata has been used in reports, queries, or analyses After a strategy is devised for which content will have data included in the index, create a new index update task with the appropriate settings and ensure that the scope is set to include only entries that have changed so that this new content is added to the index incrementally.

Restricting the scheduling options

Administrators for IBM Cognos environments are able to control user access to object such as reports, packages, and data sources, as well as access to functionality within the application. Users can access current activities, past activities, upcoming activities, and schedules on the Status tab in IBM Cognos Administration to monitor the server activities and manage schedules (as long as they have been granted access). To grant access to the scheduling functionality independently from the monitoring functionality, use the scheduling capability.

The scheduling capability controls access to the scheduling functionality for items that can be run, such as reports. The following secured features are associated with this function:

  • Schedule by day
    Users can schedule entries daily.
  • Schedule by hour
    Users can schedule entries by the hour.
  • Schedule by minute
    Users can schedule entries by the minute.
  • Schedule by month
    Users can schedule entries monthly.
  • Schedule by trigger
    Users can schedule entries based on a trigger.
  • Schedule by week
    Users can schedule entries weekly.
  • Schedule by year
    Users can schedule entries yearly.
  • Scheduling Priority

Users can set up and change the processing priority of scheduled entries.

Sam Carter is the Administrator for the IBM Cognos environment at the Great Outdoors company. Sam is busy and decides to delegate several of his more simple tasks so that he can pay more attention to other work. Sam decides to permit certain users at the Great Outdoors company to access the IBM Cognos scheduling features so that they can create and manage their own schedules. Because Lynn Cope is an Advanced Business User and Report Author at Great Outdoors company, Sam decides to grant her access to IBM Cognos scheduling capabilities

To simplify the addition of this capability for more users in the future, Sam creates a new role in the Cognos namespace called self-serve scheduling and adds Lynn Cope to that role. Sam now grants scheduling capabilities to the new self-serve scheduling role.

To grant access to scheduling capabilities within IBM Cognos BI:

  1. Log on to IBM Cognos BI using credentials for a user with access to administrative features and open IBM Cognos Administration.
  2. Click the Security tab.
  3. Click Capabilities.
  4. The default display settings for IBM Cognos BI only display 15 items per window. Scheduling capabilities are controlled through a capability called Scheduling. If necessary, you can display the scheduling capability by clicking the Next icon.
  5. Note that the scheduling capability is highlighted as a live link. This indicates that there are additional features associated with this capability that can be secured individually. Click Scheduling. Figure shows the Capabilities panel.
  6. The Capabilities panel within IBM Cognos Administration
    The Capabilities panel within IBM Cognos Administration

  7. Access to secured functions can be configured through the capability’s properties. Click the down arrow next to Schedule by hour, and then click SetProperties. Figure shows the features that are available within the scheduling function.
  8. Setting properties to grant access to schedule by hour capabilities
    Setting properties to grant access to schedule by hour capabilities

  9. When the Set Properties window opens, click Permissions.
  10. Click Add and browse to the Cognos namespace by clicking Cognos.
  11. Select the role by selecting Self-serve Scheduling, click the add arrow, and then click OK. Figure shows the process of selecting the role that will be granted access to the schedule by hour capability.
  12. Selecting the custom self-serve scheduling role
    Selecting the custom self-serve scheduling role

  13. Grant self-serve scheduling execute and traverse rights for the schedule by hour capability by selecting Self-serve Scheduling and then selecting Execute and Traverse under the Grant column. Click OK. Figure shows an example of granting access to a capability for an IBM Cognos role.
  14. Granting access rights
    Granting access rights

  15. Members of the self-server scheduling custom-created role can now access scheduling functionality and schedule their own activities without administrator involvement. You can also use the process that we described previously to restrict access to scheduling capabilities. Administrators can permit or deny users the right to schedule their own activities based on schedule frequency or by trigger. For example, one group of users can be granted full access to scheduling functionality, whereas another can be limited to only scheduling activities on a weekly basis.

Intra-day scheduling window

Administrators can further manage the distribution of system processing load through the use of intra-day scheduling features for IBM Cognos. Activities within IBM Cognos can be scheduled to execute on a recurring basis within a window of time during a single day. For example, a job can be scheduled to run every 5 minutes between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. on Mondays. Figure shows an example schedule frequency setting that uses the intra-day scheduling feature.

Schedule frequency set to run every 5 minutes between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. on Mondays
Schedule frequency set to run every 5 minutes between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. on Mondays

Allowing users to persist personal database signons

As an administrator, it can become challenging to manage user signons for large volumes of users across multiple data sources. IBM Cognos allows administrators to empower selected users to manage their own database credentials. This is essential when certain reports require a personalized view of the data instead of a generic result set. For example, a generic database credential is employed when running a summary call center report that compares the hourly breakdown comparison of incoming calls versus resolution rates. If deeper personalized analysis was required, such as managers looking to see their teams’ individual call closure rate, managers could provide, and persist, their own unique database signon.

Empowering users to manage signons

Administrators can provide users with the ability to manage signons by granting them access from within the administration console:

  1. Launch the administration console by selecting either the Administer IBM Cognos content link from the Welcome menu or by clicking the IBM Cognos Administration link from the Launch menu within IBM Cognos Connection.
  2. On the Security tab, select the Capabilities task from the left frame.
  3. Using the Actions drop-down menu for the manage own data source signons capability, select Set Properties.
  4. Setting the properties on the manage own data source capability
    Empowering users to manage signons

  5. On the Permissions tab, ensure that the Override the access permissions acquired from the parent entry check box is selected.
  6. Click the Add link to add users, groups, or roles to the capability access control list.
  7. Navigate to a specific user, group, or role by browsing the namespaces from the “Available entries” dialog box.
  8. a. If the namespace is large, there are numerous namespaces, or the location of the desired entry is unknown, administrators can search for specific accounts by selecting the Search link in the upper-right corner of the page. Remember to select Show users in the list if browsing for a user account. Otherwise, only groups and roles display.
  9. b. After you locate the appropriate user, group, or role, select it by clicking the corresponding check box. Then, click the green arrow button to the right of the dialog box to add the object to the “Selected entries” dialog box. Click OK.
  10. From the access control list on the left, select the newly added entry by clicking the appropriate check box.
  11. To enable this capability, the execute and traverse actions must be granted. Select the Grant check boxes for both of these actions, and the policy in the left frame updates automatically . Click OK.
  12. Assigning execute and traverse actions
    Assigning execute and traverse actions

Removing the IT burden of managing signons

There are a few scenarios in which the management of data source signons should be managed by IT, for example, when standard defined signons are required to ensure data consistency for all users executing reports. However, in most cases, providing that the users are aware of the necessary credentials, it is a good idea to empower users to manage their own signons.

For users to manage their signons, they must be granted the ability execute and traverse on the manage own data source signons capability, and they cannot have any access to an existing defined signon, managed by IT. There is an order of operation in effect when the query layer is determining which signon to use when the query is executed.

Order of preference for data source signons

Privileged users can optionally persist data source credentials
Privileged users can optionally persist data source credentials

The key element to this feature is that although it empowers the user to manage his own data source credentials, IT always retains control of the data source authentication strategy. In an IBM Cognos environment that has been deployed with IT managing the data source signons, either deleting the signons or denying everyone access to the existing signons (the most advisable approach), quickly converts the authentication strategy and shifts the responsibility to the user. If corporate policy changes and IT needs to assume responsibility once again, granting the user community access to at least one signon forces the usage of the defined signons, while ignoring the existence of any saved personal credentials

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