Cognos vs Business Objects

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If you have a business, you must be able to deal with big data.

Due to this necessity, the commercial climate has spawned software built to manage and analyse huge amounts of data for you. But in such a busy and competitive market, it’s by no means easy to find the best Business Intelligence software that you need. Today, we tend to turn to the two major BI tools on the market, IBM Cognos and SAP Business Objects. These two enterprises have been around since the beginning of the BI market, and they have both proven themselves as big-hitters. But how can you possibly choose between the two?

In this helpful guide, we have assessed IBM Cognos vs SAP Business Objects. What are the strengths and weaknesses of these products, and which one will be the right software for you? 

Introduction to IBM Cognos

Cognos is a business intelligence software suite from IBM, one of the leading contenders on the market. This software essentially comprises of three segments: Analysis Studio, Query Studio, and Report Studio. Firstly, the Analysis Studio can analyse large data sources and search for background information about a specific action or event. This component also offers multidimensional analysis that recognises trends with more insight than a standard report.

The Query Studio enables simple queries and self-service reports to answer simple business questions through a customisable report layout service. It has a variety of filtering and sorting functions, and allows formatting and the creation of diagrams as well.

The Report Studio allows the creation of management reports in two different modes:

Professional Authoring Mode – which offers Cognos’s complete range of capabilities, and allows the user to create any type of report. The user can work with any type of data, whether relational or multidimensional.

Express Mode – provides a simpler interface for non-technical users. These users can create traditional reports with a more focused user interface. Unlike professional authoring mode, express authoring mode can display dynamic data.

Essentially, via their AI Business Intelligence Tool IBM Cognos Analytics enables you to 

  • Find answers quickly by using machine learning and AI
  • Experience thorough and detailed pattern detection
  • Create data visualisation in various formats
  • Reduce time needed for data preparation

Introduction to SAP Business Objects

Business Objects exists to make sense of big data corresponding to Business Intelligence. In short, it’s a collection of applications that help businesses manage, view and analyse large amounts of data. These applications allow users to generate reports, create interactive dashboards, analyse big data, and provide a user interface. Business Objects contains many of the same basic components as Cognos, where many of the main differences between the two subjects can be found.

In short, a business intelligence tool such as SAP Business Objects will ensure that your employees have real-time access to all the tools they need in order to make better informed decisions based on detailed data analysis. 

  • Eliminate guesswork – all your data is processed in real-time
  • Monitoring of your key metrics
  • Actionable insights to enable you to make better informed decisions

Cognos Report Studio vs SAP Web Intelligence

BO’s equivalent of Cognos Report Studio and Query Studio is Web Intelligence, a web-based tool for ad-hoc analysis. Unlike Cognos, which separates its components, Web Intelligence does not distinguish between a developer-based report writing tool and an end user business-based reporting tool.
Web Intelligence is easier to learn and use than Report Studio, but this comes at the cost of more limited functionality. Whilst Report Studio lets you build and format prompt pages however you want, the prompting capabilities are much more restricted in Web Intelligence.

There is also more flexibility available in Report Studio to create and join queries, adjust cardinality and change the method of aggregation applied. There is also more scope to control report formatting and create predefined objects to use on reports. However, Web Intelligence’s simplicity is advantageous for charting, as turning a report into a chart is a simple right click, whilst more options need to be established before a chart can be created and viewed.

Query Studio vs Web Intelligence

Conversely, Query Studio’s querying capability is simpler than Web Intelligence’s. It has fewer features and object properties, which will appeal to less technical users, but like Business Objects’s report capabilities, its simplicity hinders its flexibility. In this case, which tool would provide the most advantage depends on what the user requires of it; a technically savvy user that needs to build complex reports would need Web Intelligence, whilst a less knowledgeable user or someone who just needs to quickly view data would get more out of Query Studio’s simple functionality.

Effects of Metadata and Databases

Perhaps the most obvious difference between the tools is the way the reporting capability of each is designed to process metadata models and database designs. Business Objects requires a metadata model and underlying database designed for reporting, and the quality of the design constrains Web Intelligence’s reporting functionality. The advanced options that Cognos provides allows a developer to get more reporting options from a limited database design.


Both systems divide their functionality into many different tools. Cognos, as we have seen, divides its tools into components such as Analysis Studio and Report Studio, with good integration between all of them. This allows for a very clear BI. Business Objects is made up of many different applications with exact purposes. The integration between them is not smooth at all, despite being built into the same platform, which obscures the BI to initial users. Business Objects offers plenty of financial consolidation products, but this lack of appropriate integration makes navigation between them problematic.


Business Objects requires drilling through the contents to be done hierarchically, which is excessively time-consuming. Cognos easily allows the user to drill from one report to another. While this can also be done in Business Objects, it is much more difficult, as it entails some exhaustive and laborious changes to be made using the software development kit. The comparatively more difficult process of modifying content, which requires IT specialists, is a major weakness of Business Objects.


Both Cognos and Business Objects are scalable. However, there is a loss of performance in Cognos whilst scaling up the hardware, as opposed to Business Objects, which maintains its performance whilst scaling.

All things considered, both systems successfully provide all of the basics you would need from a BI system. The approaches of both are different, so the answer to the Cognos vs Business Objects debate really depends on your company’s requirements. Perhaps the most important consideration is how well the system would suit your metadata model. A developer who needs flexibility for custom features would get more out of the advanced options of Cognos, which can correspond to more metadata designs than Business Objects. A less-experienced user who needs to create reports would prefer the natural simplicity of Web Intelligence over the more technical Report Studio.

Finding the right solution for the project requires an analysis of the project’s requirements, as well as the skillset needed, which the YourShortlist can provide. Our service is completely non-chargeable, and you will not be obliged to follow our advice. Get in touch with our dedicated IT experts via our contact page.