ACG Business Analytics Blog

Working with Virtual Dimensions in IBM Planning Analytics 2.0.

Posted by Theo Chen on Mon, Apr, 23, 2018 @ 02:01 PM

Ability to create virtual dimensions from attribute-based hierarchies is a key update in IBM Planning Analytics 2.0 and a huge source of value. This is a major differentiation for IBM PA compared to other similar platforms. It provides even greater flexibility to the user to analyze data using user-defined parameters on the fly. With virtual hierarchies, companies have much greater flexibility in designing solutions that will provide greater efficiency yet maintain the flexibility to include attributes for thorough analysis.

What are Virtual Dimensions

Virtual dimensions are dimensions that are created in an existing IBM Planning Analytics system on demand by selected end users (system administrators). These dimensions are not part of the core system structure / design, but rather are created ad-hoc as needed based on attributes of individual existing dimension elements. Attributes can be created as and when needed while the system is in use and there are no practical limitations to how many attributes can be created for every single member.

Once a virtual dimension is created, it can be used just like any other dimension. It can be selected for reporting, it can be brought into a cross-tab view for analysis or used as a target for input for (plan, forecast) data.

What Virtual Dimensions are NOT

Virtual dimensions in IBM PA are NOT the same as the ability to create alternate rollups / hierarchies or sorting / filtering by attributes. We find that the concept is a bit hard to understand initially and people default to the capabilities they know. Unlike filtering and alternate hierarchies, virtual dimensions go deeper and provide a more thorough way to analyze the data.

Example:

We have a sales reporting application with Customer and Business Unit being the two key dimensions. Other dimensions include Account, Time etc. The Customer dimension is organized by Industry – so Customers rolling up to Sectors rolling up to Industries that roll up to Total Customer.

Let’s say I want to understand my sales by size of company (Enterprise vs Mid-Market vs Small and Medium Enterprise, or SME) in addition to the industry rollup. I do not have “Company Size” defined as a dimension so under previous rules I would have the following options:

  • Redesign the cube to include “Size” as a dimension – depending on the size of the overall model that could be a significant undertaking and could take a lot of time
  • Build an alternate rollup of Customer by size – in this case I would have to choose the Industry or Size rollup for reporting and analysis but I could not use both and would still not get the desired cross-view
  • Embed “Size” inside the existing “Industry” rollup – this would be extremely inefficient as I would have to include multiple rollups within each Industry / Segment for Size and repeat them for each Industry / Segment and deal with conflicting element values – not desirable from maintenance perspective and yet I would still not get the same flexibility for analysis

Enter “Virtual Hierarchies” – with IBM Planning Analytics 2.0 I can simply create a new “Attribute” and label each Customer an Enterprise, Mid-Market firm or SME. Once that is done, I would turn this Attribute into a Virtual Hierarchy and it would show up in my “Set” menu. Once there, I can simply drag the “Size” Hierarchy into the cross-tab view and see the breakdown of customer by size and industry in a simple cross tab view. I am able to drill down or pivot to analyze the data and even input into the virtual intersections to post adjustments or forecast sales. And of course element security still works at the leaf level. Extremely powerful…

Key Benefits

The key benefit implication from this capability include the following:

  • Savings in (RAM) memory due to less number of core dimensions required and thus the size of the core model
  • Better overall performance and usability of the model with less clutter / complexity
  • Much greater flexibility to adjust existing models and get deeper insight
  • Ability to conform with model standards with any customization done locally

What to Look Out For

Some points to be aware of when working with virtual hierarchies include the fact that they can currently only be built with 2 levels – TurboIntegrator scripting is required for deeper hierarchies with more levels. Also, elements in virtual hierarchy are not elements in main itself – each element in virtual has to be unique from every element in dimension. There is no security (yet) for 'virtual' elements, although that should be addressed soon.

The impact of Virtual Hierarchies will be different for existing vs net new applications. For existing models, it will add flexibility through the ability to expand structures without going through a potentially substantial application redesign. For new solutions, it creates an opportunity to design models with more simplicity and rely on Virtual Dimensions to provide scalability and flexibility in the future.

Give us a call to discuss how this great new capability can add value to your platform and review options to provide more insight and analytical power.

Topics: IBM Cognos TM1, TM1 Technology, Performance Management, Financial Planning and Analysis, IBM Planning Analytics

Object Security Integration with IBM Cognos TM1

Posted by James Doren on Sat, Jun, 27, 2015 @ 10:40 AM

One of the key security-related selling points within IBM Cognos TM1 is the tool’s ability to assign different security levels to different objects within the TM1 model for any given user or group. Properly handling object security interaction within a TM1 model can provide an unparalleled level of control over the system, user base, and data. As we have seen at many clients, it will improve the reliability of your data by ensuring that only the users qualified to change data at a given intersection point will be doing so, and allows for unique configurations by personalizing the security rights for each individual group. This added flexibility helps users get the most out of their TM1 model, so understanding exactly how it works is very important.

The security rights can be set up to gain the most control possible over what users can and cannot see, add, delete, or change. There are 4 different levels of object security which pertain to a user’s ability to manipulate data:

  • Cube Security
  • Dimension Security
  • Element Security
  • Cell Level Security

For the examples following, we will assume a single user is assigned to a single group. This way, when we talk about the ‘User’, we understand that this user is part of a TM1 security group. Let’s look at these different levels of object security in the simplest form. Say for example, a user is assigned READ access to a cube called ‘Planning Cube A’. If this is the sole security assignment, then the user will have READ access on all intersections of the cube. If a user is assigned READ access to a dimension called ‘Time’, then the user will have read access to all intersections involving the ‘Time’ dimension. Now let’s say that the only security assigned to a user is an Element level security on the ‘Time’ dimension. For example, the user is assigned READ access for the element ‘2015’ within the ‘Time’ dimension, which gives the user READ access ONLY to the element ‘2015’. The same concept applies to cell-level security.

Simple enough, right? Well, the tricky part lies within the way the security settings for these four different objects interact with each other when multiple levels of object security are assigned. Let us look at the example below:

You have a cube called ‘Planning Cube A’ with the following dimensions:

  1. Version
  2. Territory
  3. Account
  4. Year
  5. Measure

You assign a user READ access to the ‘Planning Cube A’ cube, but you also assign the same user WRITE access to all of the elements in this cube.

What do you think would happen in this example? In this case, the READ access of the cube will override the WRITE access of the elements, allowing the user to view the data within the cube but not allowing them to update any of the data.

Let us look at another example, assuming we are talking about the same cube with the same dimensions as the last example:

You assign a user WRITE access to the ‘Planning Cube A’ cube, WRITE access to all of the elements within all of the dimensions EXCEPT for the ‘Version’ dimension where you assign the user READ access to all of the elements within the ‘Version’ dimension.

In this case, the elements in the ‘Version’ dimension identify every intersection in the cube, and since the user is assigned READ access to all elements in this dimension, the user is unable to update data within the cube.

As stated by IBM, “When groups have security rights for a cube, those rights apply to all dimensions in the cube, unless you further restrict access for specific dimensions or elements”.

Why this type of interaction is useful

This type of object security interaction is essential for having a full level of control over your users and groups. By being able to set security access at different object levels, you are able to pinpoint and assign the security settings for a giver user exactly how you want them to be. Imagine this scenario, referring to the same cube/dimensions as the prior examples:

You wish to have all groups be able to view and read cube data for all territories specified in the ‘Territory’ dimension. You also want each group to be able to update cube data ONLY for their own territory and ONLY for ‘2015’.

By properly manipulating the different levels of object security, and utilizing the way they interact with each other, this can be accomplished quite easily with no coding and no additions to the security model.

To achieve this, we would take the following steps:

  1. Assign each Territory group WRITE access to the ‘Planning Cube A’ cube
  2. Assign each Territory group READ access to all territories (element level security) within the ‘Territory’ dimension that do not apply to that group
    • For example, assign the ‘North’ territory group read access to all elements except for ‘North’ in the Territory dimension
  3. Assign each group READ access to all elements except for the ‘2015’ element in the year dimension (element level security)

With this security scheme set up, users will be able to view all cube data, but will only be able to update cube data related to the territories applicable to them.

While these are just a few examples of how the interaction between object security works, there are many great applications that can come out of fully understanding how the relationships work. In summary, if a cube has READ access specified for a group, then even if the elements or cells are specified as WRITE access, users in the group will not be able to update any cube data. However, if a cube is given WRITE access for a specified group, all of the dimensions by default take the access of the cube security assignments. It is in this way, a sort of top-down approach, that specific intersections and elements can be restricted for a particular group.

Topics: TM1 Technology, IBM Cognos, IBM Cognos TM1

The Future of IBM Cognos TM1

Posted by Jim Wood on Wed, May, 13, 2015 @ 09:46 AM

IBM Cognos TM1 version 10 has now been around for a good while and has already gone through several minor and major updates. The move from version 10.1 to 10.2 itself was a significant change, even though it was within the same release stream. The key updates included the move from .Net to Java as the main platform and support for multi-threading queries.

Despite all these changes and updates, the underlying framework and structures remained the same. Despite the addition of CAFÉ, which delivered significant optimization of performance and flexibility for users over a wide area network, most interfaces have not changed for a number of years.

So the question has to be: What’s next for TM1?

IBM have been aware of some customer frustrations with the TM1 interfaces for quite some time. Performance Modeler and Application Web server were a step in the right direction but they were more aimed at the Cognos Enterprise Planning market for ease of transition. Interfaces such as Architect, which are still heavily relied upon, haven’t seen a major update since the start of version 9.

It seems that IBM plans to address these issues in the next release through a tool called “Prism”, which is currently in Alpha phase. It is not entirely clear and known what the new interface will look like as IBM is playing their cards close to their chest, however rumors have it that it will be a significant upgrade and will close the gap to some of the other analytics and visualization platforms. What has been confirmed thus far is that Prism will replace Architect and Perspectives.

IBM provided an overview of Prism at their IBM Vision 2015 conference in Orlando in May 2015

Is Prism going to be massive leap forward for TM1?

Hopefully yes. Even though only a small amount of information is available, it is clear that IBM is making a heavy push to further enhance the system and is determined to strengthen its position on the market by committing resources. This enhancement to the front-end of the tool would be a welcome and refreshing improvement that will go a long way in streamlining the overall usability. Time will tell if Prism will live up to its promise but the development seems to be moving in the right direction.

What do I need to do to make sure I’m aware of Prism will bring?

With the demonstration at IBM Vision 2015 in May, chances are a lot more information will be available in the near term as to the scope and look / feel of the system. You can always contact your IBM account representative / business partner and ask to be included on communication as new information becomes available. For those that want to be really close to the updates, you can sign up as Beta tester and gain a better understanding of what is coming and if / how it will impact your application and vision for the system.

Topics: TM1 Technology, IBM Cognos, IBM Cognos TM1, Performance Management

How Do TM1 Financial Systems Ensure Clean Data?

Posted by Peter Edwards on Wed, Jan, 08, 2014 @ 03:44 PM

Summary

Almost half of new business initiatives fail because of poor data, according to a recent article on the EPM Channel website. While manual processes can temporarily fix issues, The IBM TM1 technology uses a series of checks and balances to ensure that businesses can build a database on clean data, saving employees time and avoiding costly mistakes.

How Do TM1 Financial Systems Ensure Clean Data?

Almost half of new business initiatives fail because of poor data, according to a recent article on the EPM Channel website. This trend fuels mistakes in everything from bill payments to shipping, and often means that your best employees spend more time organizing data instead of analyzing it.

ibm_cognos_tm1This is a long-standing pain a lot of businesses incur with dirty data. With Big Data, businesses have large amounts of data, so the quality of that comes into question. Organizations often are looking at ways to improve their data because they have too many manual processes in place or their data is being cleaned in a non-automated fashion. If your data is clean and organized, you’ll streamline processes and align the organization on a set of numbers. As the EPM Channel article points out, it’s best to do this at the start, saving employee resources and avoiding costly problems.

There are systems that can help. TM1 financial solutions enforce what’s called referential integrity in data. Many times, when pulling data to put into TM1, there are problems in supporting systems that must be fixed. For instance, if you’re pulling data from a financial system that’s doing consolidations, there could be numbers at an account level that do not necessarily total to the parent account that they should roll up into. That’s because the system allows users to store two different numbers. This means there are a number of child accounts that fail to add up to the appropriate total because the database doesn’t enforce referential integrity.

Most relational databases or ERP applications don’t necessarily enforce these rules. They try to put business rules in place, but fundamentally the technology allows users to enter data in different places, creating conflicting information. When pulling data into the TM1 financial systems software, the detail-level account data rolls up into the parent account, creating that figure. This method ensures that the parent figure isn’t entered separately and avoids any situations where the child accounts don’t add up to the parent number. Therefore, users who leverage TM1 as there database are much more likely to have quality, clean data.

To learn more about TM1 financial solutions or see a TM1 demo contact ACG.

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Topics: IBM Cognos TM1, TM1 Technology, Clean Data, Performance Management, Business Forecasting

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