What Makes IBM Cognos Analytics Award-Winning Software?

Posted on Monday 14th May 2018 9:00

Award-winning IBM Cognos Analytics proved itself again by being named Business Analytics winner in Computer Reseller News (CRN) magazine’s Annual Report Card. CRN has allowed solution providers across North America to grade their vendors for 32 years as part of their Annual Report Card. Solution providers can score vendors in 22 technology categories, and those scores come in three categories: product innovation, support, and partnership quality with the vendor.

Award Winning IBM Cognos Analytics

IBM Cognos Analytics ranked highest in the following categories:

  • Richness of functionality and product features
  • Quality and reliability
  • Technical innovation
  • Product potential and revenue
  • Ease of integration and compatibility

Why Did IBM Cognos Analytics Do So Well?

The majority of enterprises are well-versed in collecting the huge amounts of data on offer, but they need assistance in turning this data into insights and leads to be acted upon and distributed across the organisation for superior business value. This is where IBM Cognos Analytics enters the field.

The software’s self-service solution gives people great tools to work with complex data and make discoveries about what is actually happening within their businesses. This can lead to the development of more strategic decision-making, driven by data. This has enabled thousands of enterprises worldwide to swiftly transform data into relevant insights. Within minutes, you have all you need to produce compelling reports that can be distributed securely and measurably, in accordance with corporate policies.

IBM Cognos Analytics Trophy Cabinet

This isn’t the first time Cognos Analytics has won a major award. Earlier in 2017, the software ranked highly in a BARC Score Business Intelligence report. This report analyses the strengths and weaknesses of the most prominent enterprise BI platforms, and is a leading think tank in the industry.

The bottom line is that IBM Cognos Analytics is recommended by some of the most trusted and highly regarded authorities in the business world.

Award-Winning IBM Cognos Analytics

At Influential Software, we have spent over 25 years implementing data solutions for enterprises in the UK, and we are proud to be an IBM Partner.

Buy Cognos Analytics licences in flavours to suit your business needs, from Cognos Express for SME’s to Cognos Enterprise.

Photo: IBM Business Center by Daniel Voyager licensed under Creative commons 4

The Predictive Powers of IBM® Planning Analytics

Posted on Monday 7th May 2018 9:00

IBM® Planning Analytics, the 2018 release of Cognos TM1, automates your planning, budgeting, forecasting and analysis processes into a single platform. Harness the predictive powers of IBM Planning Analytics and aligns your business cloud/on-premise/hybrid hosting strategies.

Harness the Predictive Powers of IBM Planning Analytics - team reviewing reports with dashboard and notes

IBM® Planning Analytics can bring predictive powers to your organisation. Planning Analytics offers a comprehensive solution to formulating planning models and generating analytics from the results, constructed on a powerful analytical processing engine that is both in-memory and online.

The IBM Cognos TM1 enterprise planning platform is the foundation, and the planning tool is being used by a growing number of organisations around the world. Through its multidimensional technology, businesses can create complex models easily, and perform analyses of profitability to identify the customers, products and sales channels that are generating the most profit.


Spreadsheet Power

Since a large number of finance professionals work primarily with leading spreadsheet software, IBM® Planning Analytics is designed to have advanced spreadsheet functionality wherever it is necessary. You can take full advantage of the power of spreadsheet formatting and layouts with superb Wide Area Network performance. The latest Planning Analytics release can be deployed on-premise, and boasts the following advanced features:

  • Hierarchy capabilities that facilitate the modelling of specific attributes of hierarchies, enabling advanced granular analysis and simple administration and maintenance of any planning models you devise.
  • Improvements to the interactive analytics workspace, wherein you can design compelling visualisations and custom dashboards.


Predictive Power

IBM Planning Analytics enables you to take advantage of the data analysis and predictive powers and functionality of IBM Watson Analytics. With these powerful tools implemented in your planning process, you can generate automatic predictive insights from the software’s analysis of internal and external information.

The first tools for planning and analysis did little more than automate processes that would otherwise be undertaken manually, but IBM Planning Analytics takes the process a few steps further than that. Through complex agile planning and exploratory analytics processes, you can actively drive your business forward in the way you want things to be done.


IBM Planning Analytics Flavours

And you have several options to choose from with IBM Planning Analytics:

Get the Predictive Powers of IBM Planning Analytics

Influential Software has been working for over 25 years with businesses of all sizes to create tailored software solutions that help to grow and increase profitability. Our passion is for technology, and our commitment is to quality, so we only deal with the best software solutions available on the market.
If you would like to know more about how IBM Planning Analytics could be implemented in your business, please feel free to contact us and we can arrange a consultation to discuss your needs and the power of the software we offer.

Photo: Business Startup Planning Offers by homethods licensed under Creative commons 4

InfoPath And The Future Of SharePoint Forms

Posted on Tuesday 10th October 2017 12:00

Organisations are currently looking ahead to find viable alternatives for their SharePoint forms solution currently based on InfoPath forms.

Infopath retrofitted in SharePoint

From the start, InfoPath was never built for but rather retrofitted to support SharePoint forms.

Microsoft turned to researching a web-based solution for the design and creation of forms online rather than on a desktop.

InfoPath is generally a great tool for businesses needing to build forms because of its support for basic calculations, external data sources, conditional formatting and custom code.

Over the last decade, SharePoint has outgrown InfoPath, exposing its limitations, especially its XML foundations. First of all, when publishing forms to SharePoint, users can encounter rendering issues, the forms are not mobile friendly and the usability is lagging. For large lists, the publishing process is not stable.

Status of InfoPath and SharePoint forms

The updated guidance from Microsoft is that InfoPath will still be supported until 2026, which is a long time in terms of software technology.

SharePoint 2016 supports InfoPath browser forms. InfoPath 2013 works with SharePoint 2016 InfoPath Forms Services.

InfoPath 2013 is the last version Microsoft will release, and support has been extended until 2026 to match SharePoint 2016 support lifecycle.

Office 365 will support InfoPath browser forms officially until further notice, although they are not working in the mobile view. The browser forms containing code are not supported anymore.

Microsoft provides guidance that the successor to InfoPath is PowerApps, but with some caveats: feature parity with InfoPath is not a goal and InfoPath will still be preferred for some scenarios like offline work or rich XML documents.

Alternatives to InfoPath forms

A common usage scenario for InfoPath customers is to build moderately complex, interactive forms that integrate with SharePoint lists and libraries.

Currently there are not many options available from Microsoft:

  • PowerApps (and Flow)
  • Excel Surveys in Office 365
  • Custom .NET forms in SharePoint

As a result, major players are currently offering powerful alternatives to InfoPath:

  • Nintex Forms
  • K2 SmartForms
  • Formotus


Comparison PROs CONs
PowerApps (and Flow) Runs on every device
Easy to deploy
Bring your own data
Basic workflow offering
Complex in hybrid scenarios
Excel Surveys in Office 365 Easy to extract and transform the data
Accessible to the masses
Not mobile friendly

Not useful for complex forms

No integration with external data sources

Custom .NET forms Highly reusable and extensible
Integrates well with other technologies
Highly customizable
Virtually no implementation constraints
Hard to maintain
Developer knowledge needed
Big learning curve for some InfoPath customers
Nintex Forms Mobile phone/tablet support
Friendly workflows
No code solutions
Web based, drag and drop experience
LOB systems integration missing
Licence and cost implications
K2 SmartForms Low code powerful BPMS
Reusable forms automatically generated from SharePoint lists
Mobile friendly forms
Cost of licences implications
Steep learning curve even for technical staff
Formotus Mobile/touch optimized forms
Seamless migration of InfoPath forms
Rich offer of data store connectors
Basic workflow offering
Licensing costs (as license-months)

The future of SharePoint forms

SharePoint has never been known for having the best user interface, but has provided a platform around which organizations could develop powerful business solutions using forms, workflows, lists and by manipulating the look and feel.

Forms are challenging to design and, with all its advances, the fact remains that SharePoint has a user experience (UX) problem. The developments and news coming out of Microsoft suggest they are focusing on improving the user experience.

Everyone using InfoPath is to some extent concerned about finding a replacement. Need some help? Just ask.

Why Bother Training Staff? How Can You Make It Effective?

Posted on Friday 10th February 2017 2:11

Why Bother Training? Influential Blog on benefits of Staff Training - computer screen showing L plate, graph with questions going down, graph with revenue going up, and Influentials Logo.

A huge number of organisations forget to factor in a training cost to their projects. There is an assumption that ‘people will just pick it up’, perhaps thinking this will save time and money. That may appear true on the monthly balance sheet, but over time your business can pay a far higher price.

Can The Lack Of Training Impact Business?

Consider this, would the world’s number one golfer or tennis star go straight into an important competition or match with new clubs or a new style racket without having tried them out first and practised with them? I very much doubt it.

The performance will suffer, more mistakes are made. This will impact on the result.

It is the same in any business. Just giving your workforce the right tools to do the job won’t magically provide the desired results unless they get the proper training to use them.

The bottom line is, training increases user adoption and improves performance.

If your business invests in new software, upgrades to a more recent version, or even brings in new staff, without training performance will suffer. If you want to both protect the investment and drive results, the most effective way to do that is through timely and efficient training.

SAP - Gold Partner - Official Logo

What Are The Benefits Of Quality Training?

So, what are some of the main reasons behind training your staff?

  • Increased job satisfaction and morale among employees
  • Improved employee motivation and engagement
  • Enhanced efficiency in processes, resulting in financial gain
  • Improved capacity to adopt new technologies and methods
  • Greater innovation in strategies and products
  • Reduced employee turnover and absenteeism
  • Improved skills improve business quality: Results, services or products will improve.

Business Benefits Of Training Can Include:

  • Improved Bottom Line
    Improving efficiency, productivity and profitability will ultimately improve the bottom line.
  • Improved Flexibility, Competitiveness and ability to Adapt
    Just as the latest golf club or racket can give a player the edge, so can new business tools – but if they are not used properly the advantage is lost. Allowing teams to implement new technology correctly not only improves direct results, it increases take-up of new strategies and ideas. Improved ability to embrace new trends and technologies creates better business flexibility. without suffering from skill shortages
  • More opportunities for Business Growth
  • Better customer satisfaction
  • Better internal communication and leadership
  • Less waste and reduced need for external costs

When Do Staff Need Training?

  • New software purchases
  • Upgrading to newer versions of old software
  • Migrating Systems
  • New staff, staff changing teams or promotion to new roles
  • To “pilot”, or test, the operation of a new system
  • When a performance appraisal indicates performance improvement is needed
  • As part of an overall professional development program
  • Succession planning, to help employees be eligible for organisational role change

Now we have in mind the benefits of training and when it may be needed, what is the best way to roll out your training plan?


Different Learning Styles

There are many different ways in which staff learn and we don’t all learn quickly or well by sitting alone with a text book! To ensure staff get the right training to suit their needs, different learning models have been defined to help understand how they learn.

One popular model explains that the vast majority of people fit into 1 of 3 learning styles. These 3 styles are visual learners, audio learners and kinaesthetic learners.

Visual Learner

  • Uses visual objects such as graphs, charts, pictures and likes seeing information
  • Can read body language well and has a good perception of aesthetics
  • Able to memorise and recall various information
  • Tends to remember things that are written down
  • Learns better in lectures by watching

Audio Learner

  • Retains information through hearing and speaking
  • Often prefers to be told how to do things and then summarises the main points out loud
  • Notices different aspects of speaking

Kinaesthetic Learner

  • Likes to use the hands-on approach to learning new material
  • Would rather demonstrate how to do something rather than verbally explain it
  • Prefers group work more than others

It is important to ensure when looking for staff training that the course leader fully understands the material and topic, but is also agile in adapting and incorporating different teaching methods into the training to suit.


Targeted Training – Goals And Planning

Now we understand how people learn, the next issue to address is what do they need to know.
Good trainers always answer vital questions when putting a training plan together.

  • What are your training goals for this session?
    • New skills
    • New techniques for old skills
    • Better workplace behaviour
  • Who is being trained?
    • New employees
    • Seasoned employees
    • Upper management
  • What is your training budget?
  • How much time has been allocated for training within your organisation?

All of the above questions should be able to be answered after a detailed Training Needs Analysis has taken place (which we will be covering in our next Training Blog instalment)


Back To School? Rediscover The Classroom

In summary – Business Training for staff is often overlooked, either as a cost or time-saving. However training isn’t just important to any company, it is vital.
The mid and long term business benefits of training drive down costs, boost efficiency and performance, which all improve the bottom line. Staff feel the benefit, engagement rises and turnover drops. Everyone wins.

Identifying the need for training is just the first step. Getting the right training is the real secret to success.

Choose A Training Company With Experience

Not only a breadth and depth knowledge of the course content but also a great ability to understanding the needs and requirements of your staff. It’s why we ensure our course leaders have years of experience under their belts, both using the software and delivering sessions to groups of all sizes, abilities and needs.

Check The Course Has Positive User Feedback

It’s one thing for a business having a great training sales pitch, but it’s another to have proof. It is important to look for training providers that have positive feedback from actual course users.

Influential invite all those who train with us to provide feedback via CourseCheck. An independent 3rd party that allows verified course users to post reviews about the courses they take. So you can be sure that all the good feedback for Influential Training is genuine!

“Excellent course – well delivered.”

Edel M, 27 Jan 2017


There are many delivery styles available to cater for the training needs of your organisation, but based on the learning styles that people have, there is only one that can meet them all in one go.
It’s time to go back to school and rediscover the classroom!

Influential Software - Logo

Contact Influential’s Training Team

Tel: 0207 337 6136

Or complete the form below to arrange a call-back.


The Importance of APIs: Imagine a World Without Them

Posted on Monday 5th December 2016 10:30

What would happen if we woke up tomorrow and APIs simply didn’t exist? We know they’re a part of modern technological development and disruption, but do we really understand the importance of APIs?

A World Without APIs

Imagine this: the clock strikes midnight and APIs no longer exist.

Off goes your alarm and you reach for your smartphone: Facebook, Twitter, and every other social network isn’t working. Your weather app has no information to help you choose the appropriate outfit for the day and Google can’t find any traffic updates to help plan your travel. If you like to browse the morning headlines then you’re out of luck – the news app has gone silent.

Without APIs, we’re left with “application islands” – a world of isolated data and applications that can’t communicate. Without the ‘digital glue’ of APIs to hold systems together, the technologies we have come to expect and rely on simply won’t work… and it doesn’t just stop at social media.

A World Without APIs

Instant messaging applications give way to phone, email, or SMS – assuming that none of the back-end systems of your network provider use APIs to deliver their service. Global communication as we know it is gone. Without APIs, any and all services run from remote or cloud-based servers cease to function.

Say goodbye to Youtube, Netflix, FreeSat, Sky+, or Tivo; you’ll have to rely on video entertainment services delivered by cable. Online bookings won’t work; everything from the cinema to flight and rail travel will only be bookable via interaction with a human being.

Application Islands

You can’t check your banking information online anymore; you’ll have to visit a branch for details and an ATM to withdraw cash – again, assuming that ATM back-ends are API-free. Shopping online is a thing of the past – it’s back to physical catalogues and coupons sent via paper post.

We’ll be amazed by how many seemingly safe, non-cloud services fall down because some parts of their systems rely on APIs. The standardisation, reuse, and global sharing of APIs mean that companies and individuals everywhere leverage them for their business. Processes, services, and activities around the world will grind to a halt.

A Future Without APIs

So, what next? Consumer expectations of seamless connectivity and services are a product of APIs. Without them, business strategies will resemble those of 20 to 30 years ago, when success was dictated by a company’s size and resources.

Organisations worldwide utilise APIs for digital transformation and business growth, adapting to the disruption caused by the 4th Industrial Revolution – disruption that has suddenly stopped. Businesses no longer need to adapt for survival, and those that have failed to keep technologies and processes up-to-date may even be better off.

APIs are a democratiser in business, levelling the playing field so that SMEs and startups can compete with FTSE-100 companies. In our new API-free world, the web-startup from home scenario is no longer possible, and global offerings have to be fundamentally reassessed. The exponential increase in technological development slows to a crawl and businesses’ growth requires a different kind of innovation – innovation that might be a struggle for many to achieve.

An entire generation of people has grown up with API-powered technologies and services at their fingertips, absorbing information in a totally different way to generations past. The human thought process has evolved; problem-solving now demands the approach of “ask Google” and instant access to information through the internet. This new generation, shouldering the burden of society’s future, will have to learn about technology all over again. It will be a long time before we regain the technological functionality we once had, if it ever happens at all.

Why It’s So Important To Understand This

APIs, thankfully, aren’t going anywhere. They’re integral to the way our technologies, society, and culture have evolved – which is why businesses can’t afford to ignore them.

APIs are a core part of the disruption in Industry 4.0 and many believe that API-led connectivity is the solution to meeting the increasing demands on IT. A 2016 report about connectivity showed that 91 percent of business IT decision makers globally have an API strategy in place, or plan to have one by the end of this year. For the remaining 9 percent, time is running out to maintain a competitive edge.

There’s no time like now to start forming your API strategy. Need some help? You know who to ask.

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