Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Implementing a navigation path

The Dashboard application, as of I blogged before, contains a navigation path ('kruimelpad' in Dutch).

The navigation path is a series of one or more hyperlinks showing the path of reports a user has run from the Portal via the Dashboard down to the Monthly reports ('Marap') and the Trend graph reports.

The path is presented as one line in the top of the report and looks like this:

Each hyperlink in the navigation path consists of an HTML item object in the report. The '>' signs are just text item objects.

The HTML item contains an anchor tag calling the browser's page history and skipping a number of pages back.

For instance the link to 'Marap' looks like this, calling the history two pages back (-2):

<a href="#" onclick="history.go(-2);return false;">Marap</a>

Why two pages back and not one? Well, when Cognos executes a report, it will show an intermediate page "Your report is running." as long as the report is not ready and you're waiting for it. This page needs to be skipped when navigating back, so I don't go back one page but two.

In case of the prior run reports 'Integraal dashboard' and 'Portal', the same code is used, but instead of -2, the number of pages back is -4 and -6 respectively.

The main drawback of this technique is that Cognos does not show this page when the report can be run very quickly, so in that case the history call should be only one page back. For this potential issue, I have not found a solution yet.

I don't want the report to be re-run, as this is not user friendly in my opinion. By the way, a re-execution of the prior report would be possible using the following code:

<script language="javascript">
function exit()
document.formWarpRequest.method.value = 'release';
document.formWarpRequest.m.value = 'portal/report-viewer-release.xts';
setTimeout("document.formWarpRequest.submit()", 1);
<a class="ccOptions" href="javascript:exit()">Marap</a>

If someone knows of a way to elimininate the intermediate "Your report is running." page, please let me know! Cognos offers no solution for this as fas as I know.

Monday, January 29, 2007

How to automatically select the first prompt value

In the dashboard application I blogged about in the previous post, I now have added a prompt in the main portal report page showing the current period. When a new year arrives, the users often don't just want to see the few actual details if the new year, but also want to look back into the details of last year. This requirement calls for a prompted list of values.

Here is a screenshot of the actual prompt (red circle). The first value ('2007 t/m januari') is automatically selected. Mind there is NO prompt page! This is the first 'report' page that is presented to the user.

In Cognos it is possible to provide a Default Selection but this contains a list of static values. I cannot use this a each month there is another first value to be selected. So what I've created is a Value Prompt object presenting its values by a query with Use Values and Display Values, and have added an HTML item with a piece of JavaScript that selects the first value. The HTML item is added just after the Value Prompt object.

The JavaScript code in the HTML items looks like this:

<script type="text/javascript">
function init()


(document.formWarpRequest._oLstChoicesPeriode.options[3].selected == false)



(document.formWarpRequest._oLstChoicesPeriode.options[2].selected == false)


document.formWarpRequest._oLstChoicesPeriode.options[2].selected = true;



<body onLoad=init()>

The first value to be selected in the list is actually the second value in the list object, which JavaScript sees as a list of three values in total. If no value is selected initially (third and second selections are false), the second value is selected by the script.

Tip: Did you know that the Cognos role "Consumers" needs to be given read permission to the Report Studio capability "HTML Items in Report" in order to get HTML item objects working in reports for Consumers? Please mind this and check the Tools > Capabilities in Cognos Connection!

Creating a Dashboard application as an hierarchy of reports

One of my projects last year, has resulted in a dashboard application as a hierarchy of ReportNet reports, making it easy for users to locate and view Key Performance Indicators, perform drill through operations et cetera. The main page of this application looks like this (sorry for the blur, it is needed to respect my client's privacy):

In the large white box (blue brushed) you see the latest news, which the administrator can update using the button next to it! Actually, this update button calls another ReportNet report, starting with a prompt that is passed to a stored procedure in the database. This stored procedure performs the record update.

The large buttons act as hyperlinks. The button text is derived from an item in a query retrieving organizational unit names.

Each button drills through to a common ReportNet report containing high level KPI's colored red, orange or green, something like this:

Each high level KPI is not only an indicator, but also a drill through to a report showing the low level indicators by color, including its achieved values by month and the forecast values:

This 'Marap', or Monthly Report, contains small buttons for drilling through to reports for organizational Monthly Report breakdown and graphs:

Other characteristics of this hierarchical approach:
  • Users are provided with a URL (which has also been published to the client' s intranet) eliminating the Cognos Connection header, resulting a clean interface;
  • The user's path through the report structure (in Dutch it is called 'kruimelpad') is displayed at the top of every report page and contains links back to previously opened reports.

I plan to reveal the technical details of each of these characteristics in upcoming blog posts. But for now, it's only to show you an approach to creating easy-to-use dashboard applications.


Hi and welcome to my weblog about my experience with Cognos Business Intelligence!

I am a Netherlands-based consultant (ranging from development to project management) using Cognos Business Intelligence technology. My goal is to satisfy customers and users in their business intelligence needs by providing them with powerful, easy-to-use custom-built applications. Cognos provides flexible and powerful tools that enable me and my colleagues to develop the applications needed by managers and analysts in companies anywhere in the Netherlands.

Cognos plays an important role in my professional career. Though not having been employed by the Cognos company itself but through the Cognos Partnership from Inter Access, I have been involved in using Cognos products from 1989 onwards - first 4GL PowerHouse, from 1996 BI-tools like PowerPlay and Impromptu, a bit of Planning, and since 2003, SOA-based business intelligence platforms like ReportNet and Cognos 8 Business Intelligence.

The goal of this weblog is to share my long time experience with you. I hope it will be useful to you and look forward to your comments!

Disclaimer - All the information in this blog is my personal view, and not necessarily the view of neither Inter Access BV nor Cognos Inc. All products mentioned are trademark Cognos Inc. unless mentioned otherwise.