IBM Cognos Analytics and Microsoft Power BI are two of the top business intelligence (BI) and data analytics software. Both of these applications are in heavy demand, as organizations seek to harness the vast repositories of data – with ever more created hourly.
Whether from unstructured data, social media, relational databases, or overworked enterprise applications, there is a vast amount of data subjected to data analytics. Instead of a small team of business intelligence pros mining data, now there are teams from marketing, sales, and IT all utilizing analytics in search of the benefits of digital transformation.
As two highly regarded analytics platforms, users often are forced to choose between Power BI and Cognos. There are arguments for and against each data analytics platform. It is hard to say that you could go wrong with either BI tool. But which is best?
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Cognos vs. Power BI: Key Features Comparison
Microsoft encompasses a massive number of associated platforms and applications. Power BI, therefore, offers a diverse set of features that range far beyond BI and analytics. Integration with the likes of Microsoft Office, Office 365, Teams, Azure, and SharePoint is a major selling point. Specific to analytics, Power BI encompasses data preparation, data discovery, dashboards, and data visualization.
Cognos Analytics supports data analytics from discovery to operations and is available in cloud and enterprise editions. It can be hosted onsite or in the cloud. It enables users to connect, verify, and combine data, and offers plenty of dashboard and visualization options. Cognos is particularly good at pulling and analyzing corporate data, providing detailed reports, and assisting in corporate governance. It is built on a strong data science foundation and is supported by heavy duty analytics courtesy of IBM Watson.
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A dashboard in IBM Cognos.
Latest Features and Updates
Microsoft releases weekly updates to its cloud-based Power BI service. Recent feature additions include AI-infused experiences, smart narratives (NLG), and anomaly detection capabilities. A Power BI Premium version enables multi-geography capabilities and the ability to deploy capacity to one of 42 data centers around the world.
Cognos, of late, has been upgrading its home screen to simplify the experience and give it a more modern look and feel. Onboarding for new users has been streamlined with new video tutorials and accelerator content organized in an easily consumable format. Improved search capabilities, too, and enhancements to Cognos AI Assistant help generate dashboards automatically, recommend the best visualization, and suggest questions to ask (via Natural Language Query) to dive deeper into data exploration.
Who wins on features? It depends on user needs. Microsoft is stronger on general cloud and mobility features while IBM wins on reporting, governance, and security.
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A dashboard in Microsoft Power BI.
Cognos vs. Power BI: Comparing Ease of Use
Newer users appear to find Power BI a little easier to use than Cognos. But the AI-powered and Watson-backed analytics of Cognos lower the barrier to the use of advanced data science techniques.
The conclusion: Power BI wins on broad usage by a non-technical audience whereas IBM has the edge with technical users. That said, both platforms cater to beginning and advanced users. Overall, Microsoft wins in this category due to generally more favorable user reviews and commentary about ease of use.
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Cognos vs. Power BI: Analytics Capabilities Comparison
IBM Cognos has tools to bring together a multitude of data sources as well as an AI Assistant tool that can communicate in plain language to get fast recommendations that are easy to understand. It also generates an extensive collection of visualizations.
This includes geospatial mapping and dashboards that enables the user to drill down, rise up, or move horizontally through visuals which are updated in real time.
Power BI, too, is good at crunching and analyzing real-time data, but Cognos may have the edge in this area.
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Cognos vs. Power BI: Comparing Cloud and On-Premises
Both products have pros and cons with regard to the strength of their platforms. Power BI has a fully functional SaaS version running in the Azure cloud as well as an on-premises version resident in Power BI Report Server.
Power BI Desktop is also offered for free as a stand-alone personal analysis tool. Yet when power users are engaged in complex analysis of multiple on-premises data sources, they need to download Power BI Desktop. The on-premises Power BI offering isn’t as rich as the cloud version with regard to dashboards, streaming analytics, natural language, and alerting.
Cognos offers cloud and on-prem versions. But its DNA is rooted in on-prem so it lags behind Microsoft on cloud-based bells and whistles. Therefore, Microsoft gets the nod for cloud analytics, and Cognos for on-prem. But both are good at each.
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Cognos vs. Power BI: CRM Comparison
CRM and BI often go together. Power BI integrates relatively well with Microsoft Dynamics CRM. IBM Cognos doesn’t venture much into the CRM territory, although IBM is more than happy to integrate Cognos with other CRM platforms.
Microsoft Power BI, then, wins when a business wants a unified BI/CRM package.
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Cognos vs. Power BI: Comparing Integration
Microsoft has an extensive array of integration options, APIs, and partnerships. Power BI is tightly embedded into much of the Microsoft and Windows ecosystems. The company, though, is addressing some integration challenges.
Gartner noted that Power BI’s handling of content promotion and publication can generate administrative overhead. This isn’t an easy fix, which will add manual labor between Power BI apps and its collaborative development environment known as Workspaces.
IBM Cognos connects to a large number of data sources, including spreadsheets. It is quite well integrated into some parts of the vast IBM portfolio. Microsoft is stronger on mobile integration and wins overall in this category.
Cognos vs. Power BI: Price Comparison
Microsoft is very good at keeping prices low as a tactic in growing market share. It offers a lot of features at a relatively low price. Power BI Pro, for example, costs approximately $10 per month per user. The premium version is $20 per month.
The bottom line for any rival is that it is hard to compete with Microsoft Power BI on price when it comes to automated ML capabilities and AI-powered services.
IBM Cognos Analytics, on the other hand, has a reputation for being expensive. It is hard for IBM to compete with Power BI on price alone.
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Cognos vs. Power BI: Bottom Line
Microsoft is committed to investing heavily in Power BI and enhancing its integration across other Microsoft platforms. Any organization that is a heavy user of Office 365, Teams, Dynamics, and/or Azure will find it hard to resist the advantages of deploying Power BI.
And those advantages are only going to increase. On the AI front, for example, the company boasts around 100,000 customers using Power BI’s AI services. The company is also putting effort into integrating with other applications and in making it easy to autotune query performance. Those with an eye on budget, yet still want a rich BI platform, will probably favor Power BI.
Consider, too, the existing sales teams and distribution channels for Microsoft products. With such a huge user base and so many tentacles across the world, Power BI may only be a click away for many organizations.
But IBM isn’t called Big Blue for nothing. It boasts a massive sales and services team, and global reach into large enterprise markets. Cognos, then, is likely to do well against Power BI within the existing IBM customer base. But for non-IBM shops, it struggles to compete with Power BI.
Where Cognos Analytics can win, though, is at the high end. Microsoft offers most of the features that small, mid-sized and even many large enterprises would ever need on analytics. But at the very high end of the analytics market, and in corporate environments with hefty governance and reporting requirements, Cognos can certainly carve out a niche.
Such factors certainly played a role in Gartner’s latest “Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms.” Microsoft was graded above all other similar applications as a Leader whereas IBM merited only a Niche Player rating.
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