Cognos Analytics Versus Watson Analytics

Cognos Analytics or Watson Analytics

Two Products for Business Analytics

IBM now has two business analytics offerings that our customers in Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatchewan and British Columbia have been using and evaluating. Cognos Analytics is the long standing product evolving from Cognos -> Cognos ReportNet -> Cognos Business Intelligence -> Cognos Analytics and now Watson Analytics – the new offering using cognitive analytics and natural language originating from Watson that competed on Jeopardy. With these two analytic products the question comes up – Which one do I need?

Cognos Analytics

Cognos Analytics has evolved significantly from its roots in Ottawa, Canada back in 1969. The main selling feature for years was their PowerPlay Cubes for quick top down analysis, and slicing and dicing data in so many ways. The offerings changed significantly over the years but became a more complete offering in 2008 when purchased by IBM and combined with the extensive research and development and other tools that IBM has had to offer. The core of Cognos Analytics is still that easy access to corporate information – but with so much more now. Cognos Analytics is moving more and more into business users self service access to information. With both Cognos Analytics and Watson Analytics IBM is reducing the technical skillset needed for more advanced analytics – empowering users as they progress in this direction. This has been discussed previously in our post on So You’re Not a Data Scientist… So What! Cognos Analytics is a truly complete business analytics offering for professional reports, dashboards, self service information access, emailed reports and more. This one tool provides the complete picture of where you are and where you need to go. This is the tool that allows users to make analytics part of their daily work routine with information at their fingertips and a reduced IT backlog. In addition, the sharable features of Cognos Analytics helps to build a community within the organization – with the all important single source of the truth.

Cognos Analytics

Watson Analytics

Watson Analytics is the new kid in town when it comes to Business Analytics. However, this does not mean it’s lacking in power. On the contrary, Watson Analytics is a very powerful tool that has many benefits to adding to your toolkit. The primary strength is in the simplicity – this is the epitome of empowering end users and reducing the necessary technical skillset. There is no need at all for an IT background or a degree in Statistics in order to find the gold in endless columns of data and even unstructured data such as social media analytics. Using natural language it becomes very easy to ask questions and immediately see reports that address those questions with options to drill in or filter to more specific data or alternative views to answer similar questions. Watson Analytics allows for immediate visual understanding of information with key exception reporting. No longer are you searching through data for a vital piece of information – this information stands out immediately.

Not only does a user not need to understand a SQL statement like

“Select name, location, age from table1 join table2 on table1.primarykey = table2.key where table2.lostTimeIncident > 2”

But that user doesn’t even have to drag and drop and create a report or design a report specification. A user can simply type in:

“Tell me about the lost time incidents”

Watson Analytics guides data exploration and by doing so a user can immediately see all of the lost time incidents and drill in to find any issues such as locations that are at higher risk, departments, etc.

Watson Analytics – More Capabilities

Watson Analytics can take things one step further with automated predictive analytics providing answers and new insights. Uncover patterns, correlations and key drivers in your data. Reveal unbiased insights – all without that highly technical data scientist skill set. Business users that truly understand their data will be empowered with new data discoveries. All of this with the ability to tell a powerful story through charts, dashboards and automated visual representations.

Watson Analytics also makes data preparation very easy – it can be as easy as uploading a spreadsheet of data or connecting to a cloud data source – with an automatically produced quality report. Refinement can be completed on top of this – creating new groups, calculations or hierarchies. All in an easy to accomplish fashion – easier than Excel. Then immediate guided exploration is possible.

One additional benefit of Watson Analytics is in Social Media Analytics. This provides a truly powerful and insightful view of your company or industry with insights about what people are saying including a sentiment analysis feature that quickly summarizes what people are saying to identify customer trends and consumer sentiment.


Curious about Watson Analytics? We can help you get set up with their free trial! To get your Watson Analytics Free Trial email us at


showing you what you didn't know to ask

Watson Analytics Versus Cognos Analytics?

It’s great that IBM has these two products and they each have some very distinctive advantages. If you’re looking for business intelligence without a huge technical skillset you have options! So how do you decide which one you should use and why?

First of all with Cognos and Watson Analytics it isn’t necessarily an either/or decision. These two products serve two distinct needs and can effectively build on one another. It doesn’t have to be a choice of one or the other.

However, because there are distinct usages of each it helps to point out that Cognos Analytics excels at the operational reporting and providing easy access to accurate information, and Watson Analytics excels in the Data Discovery/Predictive Analytics/and Pattern Analysis area.

Cognos Analytics tends to be more focused on the professional report side with easy viewing and sharing of information. Watson Analytics leans towards data discovery – showing you what you didn’t know to ask.

When comparing Cognos Analytics and Watson Analytics what it really comes down to is if you’re looking for a traditional (but highly advanced!) business intelligence implementation with professional reports and a shared environment then Cognos Analytics is going to provide a next generation solution for your business. If you’re looking for new data discovery with a new way of analyzing your business including predictive analytics and social media analytics – then Watson Analytics is the answer.


We can help you discover what is best for your specific needs with a custom needs assessment. Call us for a needs assessment or for your free trial of Watson Analytics  (587)-885-1090 or email us at It really can be that easy to make better decisions, quickly, and more accurately… today.