• Business Intelligence
  • Experfy Editor
  • JUL 04, 2014

SAP Business Objects vs IBM Cognos BI: Who’s the Winner?

Every business is data driven today. The inflow of humongous amount of big data requires equally competent tools to manage and analyse the information. Such pressing needs has led to an aggressive market of business analytical tools, all of which claim to be the best. Among them, some have been around for a longer time than the rest, such as SAP Business Objects and IBM Cognos.

The popularity of both these enterprises have been high since market inception. Thus, credibility of Business Objects and Cognos is established. Below, we assess the strong and weak areas of each of these big data analytics tools, with the aim of helping businesses make appropriate choice between the two.


SAP Business Objects

SAP Business Objects BI, a.k.a. BO or BOBJ, is an array of applications that help business personnel to manage, view and analyse big data corresponding to business intelligence. The applications enable generation of reports, creation of interactive dashboards, visual manifestation, online as well as offline analysis of big data, and an interface for navigation and search. Business Objects was an enterprise software company pioneering in business intelligence (BI), before it was acquired by SAP in 2007.

 SAP Business Objects Overview

 SAP BO Pros

  • The data stored has a flexible structure, thus scalability does not cost slowing down of the system.
  • Data is easily accessible. Also fetching data is quick, regardless of the complexity of the question.
  • Information is consolidated and unified, further simplifying maintaining and accessing accurate data.
  • The interface is intuitive and hence, convenient to master and use. All the suites follow the same intelligence platform. This enhances synchronisation between separate applications.
  • Deployment is fairly simple.

 SAP BO Cons

  • There are a number of applications each for a specific purpose. Though they are built under the same platform, the integration is not smooth. This makes the BI unclear to initial users.
  • The different portions of the suite require different developing environments, making the entire task tedious and often confusing.
  • There are numerous financial consolidation products available, but lack of proper integration results in poor navigation among them.
  • Modifying the content requires expert IT professionals.
  • Drilling through the contents hierarchically is an exhaustive process.
  • Though SAP claims that Business Objects is fully integrated with SAP BW, practical users say differently.

 SAP Business Objects Product Overview



IBM Cognos

A business intelligence software suite, IBM Cognos offers extraction of data, consequent analysis and generation of reports for users from non-technical backgrounds as well. Cognos is built on open standards, hence can be used with data sources from multiple vendors. Interestingly, IBM acquired Cognos in 2007 (a few months after SAP acquired Business Objects). The Cognos 8 BI provides reporting, analysis of big data obtained, dashboard for an all- encompassing view and scorecards.

IBM Cognos 8 Overview

 IBM Cognos Pros

  • The performance management system is built on a single, service oriented architecture (SOA) platform. Data access is fast and accurate.
  • The metadata is common for all applications. This optimizes handling complex queries and enables scalability.
  • The data generated can be transformed in various formats (for instance, HTML, PDF, etc.) and can also be accessed from multiple locations (e-mail, mobile, office, etc.).
  • IBM provides several planning capabilities such as forecasts, budgets, advance scenario modelling etc.
  • IBM places significant focus on their Innovation Centre, BICC services, communities, free trainings for partners. Learning and collaborating hence is a lot simplified.
  • The entire functionality is divided into many tools such as Analysis Studio, Query Studio etc., which are integrated well.
  • The business intelligence is clear and purpose oriented, easy for non-technical people to use.

 IBM Cognos Cons

  • IBM doesn’t support its own ETL tool in Cognos.
  • Cognos 8 does not provide offline reporting capabilities and subsequent analysis.
  • Performance suffers with scaling up, as is observed by various users.
  • Storing of documentation is difficult in the absence of a dedicated tool.
  • The division into too many studios seems cumbersome to users. A common tool for all the operations is often asked for. Learning all of them from scratch also draws criticism.
  • Visual analytics seems to suffer- there arises components of Cognos 7 or other vendors in pre-sales demos, which are not included in Cognos 8. Such interconnections causes unpredictable repercussions in its working.

IBM Cognos Product Tour (Demonstrating newer Cognos 10)


With newer versions and updates coming up so often, it is difficult to claim that our comparison is definitive. Both the companies have major merits as well as demerits. Specifications will depend on the version of the software being used. Hence, even after careful assessment, it is imperative to identify company needs first and then choose the BI tool for maximum benefit.


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