Instant Insight: My 10 minute Cognos challenge

Today I set myself a challenge: How much insight could I get from a data set that is foreign to me in under 10 minutes?

Would it be enough time to evaluate the physical data file, understand structures, formats, columns, names etc? Would it be enough time to rank, sort, group, slice?  But most importantly, would I be able to not only understand the data, but draw conclusions about what it represents?

Armed with a phantom data set and IBM Cognos Insight, I started the clock!

I don’t want to bore you with details about features, functions and processes, so here’s the David Attenborough commentary to go along with my adventures.


<– Activate inner David Attenborough voice –>

An understanding of the natural world and what’s in it is a source of not only a great curiosity but great fulfillment.  Today we are very privileged to see a rare species of kat in her natural habitat, that is hunched over a computer, squinting at numbers of the screen, desperately trying to learn something she didn’t know before today.

As she opens the Cognos Insight application, one can only wonder what is going through that wild brain of hers.  She is in search of answers – we only hope she finds them before they find her. 

The deft movement of her fingers as she drags the unknown Excel spreadsheet into her workspace is pure magic – mother nature would be proud.  We can see Cognos Insight automatically evaluating the nature of the data and giving Kat’s insight a great start to life.

Then, with a few drills, drags, drops and clicks, she weaves the data in and out of her dashboard, learning more and more about the data in which she has been gifted.  We can see her eyes light up as she uncovers new insight, and draws conclusions about the data itself.  As the final result moves into sight, we can see she has uncovered some interesting facts about the global consumption of renewable energy.  Not only has she realised that her home country performed rather poorly around the time this data was captured, but the process of analysing the data has also bought into question the quality of the data itself.  We can see that North America and the United States are both listed separately.  How utterly fascinating!

And as we approach the 10 minute mark, we can see that she has been able to build an interactive workspace in a very short amount of time.  Typical of her species, I suspect she will now spend an hour crawling the web for the right background image to showcase her work.