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UPCOMING WEBINAR! Stunning reports that are easy to create — we’ll show how it’s done in IBM Cognos Analytics!

Date: Thursday, March 28, 2019

Time: 11:00 am ET (8:00 am PT)

Register HERE


If reporting remains a specialist activity limited to a few experts in the IT department, then getting the reports you need will always be a bottleneck. In this webinar, you will see an AI-driven reporting and dashboarding tool that uses machine learning and built-in intelligence to help users better understand their data — all by themselves, with no bottlenecks – and ultimately share those understandings through stunning reports. Even more importantly, you’ll learn how the value of reporting goes up as more people within your organization create their own reports.

Join this webinar to learn about the exciting new capabilities in Cognos Analytics that make it easier for managers and directors in just about any business to use advanced analytics to make better decisions.

  • Automatically generate compelling visualizations, even with minimal authoring experience
  • Create visualizations that interact with extra data provided by other report authors
  • Benefit from responsive performance driven by browser-side data caching
  • Employ new visualization types including bullet, hierarchical packed bubble, Marimekko, network, and tree maps
  • Share and reuse custom color palettes across reports to preserve corporate branding
  • Blast reports across your company through a variety of means, including Slack

Cognos Analytics Dashboarding Best Practices

Another installment of our educational blog series is here! If you have suggestions for future blog topics, we want to hear them. Email us at marketing@capitalizeconsulting.com with your ideas!

Visualizations are eye-catching when first created. However, once the glamour has worn off, a well-designed dashboard will continue to be used by decision makers. Below are some dashboard design tips to give your dashboard a long life.

Dashboarding Terminology

 Widget: Any item on a dashboard, including shapes, visualizations, summaries, prompts, etc.

Widget Group: Widgets grouped for focused prompting and filtering.

Visualization: A chart/graph widget.

Summary Widget: A single value widget that shows a summary of a measure.


Value: Measure used in a widget. Can be referred to as length, or size, etc. in the User Interface.

Category: Attribute used in a widget. Can be called color, bars, sections, etc. in the User Interface.

Cleaning Up Data

Data Sets and Data Modules

Dashboards run faster from data sets than packages. It is better to create a data set form the package and schedule it to refresh on a daily/hourly basis. Create the dashboard on the data set or create a data module from the data set.

Data Items Names

Name things you want them to be displayed on the dashboard in the data module or in a dashboard calculation. As of 11.1, you can’t rename data items in dashboards yet.

Save Calculations for Dashboard/Data Module

If there are calculations in your package, recreate them in the dashboard/data module. If you copy them over to the data set, you can’t recalculate based on filtered data.

Measure Groups

Divide measures like experience and salary into groups to be used as categories. Be sure to keep the original measure in the data module as well so you can use it as a value.

Displaying Data

Storytelling with data

Figure out what type of story this dashboard will be telling. Decision makers typically find dashboards with a consistent message to be more easily digestible.

Dashboard stories can usually be broken down into one of two categories: “Show Success” or “Find Failure.” A third, less common, type is titled “Show Exactly As This Report."


These are the kinds of visualizations you might show at board meetings, use for end-of-year reporting, etc. The audience is usually comprised of decision makers in charge of the fate of a project.  This Dashboard should be designed to show improvement since a project was implemented.

Tips for Show Success Dashboards

  • Larger numbers are more impressive than small ones. “83% Attendance Rate” is more positive than “17% Absence Rate.”
  • Ideally, employ a color-coordinated palette with little variation. If possible, use soothing cool colors like blues and greens. Yellow should be the strongest color on this dashboard to highlight the best points. Avoid reds as this color often signifies danger.
  • Prompts and filtering should be limited. Larger visualizations look more impressive than multiple visualizations.


The consumers will use these visualizations themselves to find problems, make decisions, and respond to situations.

Tips for Find Failure Dashboards

  • Smaller numbers overall will make larger numbers stand out. For example, an absence rate of under 9%% compared to an absence rate of 13% will catch a decision maker’s eye.
  • Not everyone reads visualizations the same way. Show the same data in multiple ways and see which the decision maker likes best for finding issues.
  • Use a high-contrast palette. Use red and orange to highlight areas of issue and cool colors for areas of less urgency/importance.
  • Offer lots of prompts and filtering options to help narrow down the source of the issue. The more options on a tab, the better.


This third type of visualization is more common in a school or government. Government reporting is an amalgamation of formulas and requirements. Some groups find dashboards to be a useful tool to display this collection of information. The decision maker has no control over the story they tell, so they want warning of their story ahead of time. My tip is to try to get a copy of the report you are trying to build a dashboard for and make sure the dashboard best represents that report.

Choosing a Visualization

Avoid using the same visualization repeatedly. A dashboard filled with only bar charts is monotonous. Try to change it up with a column chart or a stacked bar chart instead.

Visualizations for the Data

Choose which visualizations to display your data with care. The below is a sampling of visualization options. There are other types of visualizations available. Google is a good source to figure out how to best use them.

Individual Parts make up the whole

  • Pie
  • Stacked Bar/Column
  • Area

Distribution of Data to find outliers and trends

  • Scatter Plot
  • Line
  • Column
  • Bar

Trends over time

  • Line
  • Heat Map
  • Column

Relationships between Measures

  • Scatter Plot
  • Bubble Chart

Geographic Data

  • Map

Other Notes

  • Do not use percentage bar charts with data with large ranges. It will inflate the importance of a few individuals.
  • Cities do not make good geographic data points unless the area is small, or you are looking at a small number of cities.
  • Include a cross tab widget with a map to show the data values in a table.

Reference Visualizations

Use a summary widget, a pie, or a bar chart as a base reference for the entire dashboard. Create a separate widget group for this visualization, so the filtering does not apply to it. As the dashboard user is selecting prompts, this visualization will not change and will remain as a reference point to compare with the filtered data.

Building the visualization

With a Package Data Source, always start with a category, then a filter, and finally the value when building a visualization. Repeating columns and rows can be useful for categories with only a couple of items like Gender or School type.

Formatting a Dashboard


When you first create a dashboard, use a predefined layout. They can be limiting at times, but ability to drag a visualization to an area and it snaps to the size of the box leads to a cleaner, more finished look.

Titles and Labels

Do not make assumptions that the dashboard’s audience will know what all the values, axis, and prompts mean. Label everything and label it consistently. Give every visualization a descriptive title. Add a comment to note the scale if necessary.

Example Titles

  • [Measure Value] by [Axis 1] and [Axis 2]
  • Salary by Location and Year
  • Employees by Gender and Experience
  • [Axis Measure 1] and [Axis Measure 2] for [Data Point]
  • Salary and Experience for Employees

Examples Labels

  • Attendance %
  • Expenditure $
  • Student Population (Thousands)
  • Average Unit Price


Category Sorting

Sorting a dashboard’s categories is important for color coordination. Ideally, if a category is used in multiple visualizations, each item should be the same color on all visualizations. Sometimes this won’t work out if one visualization is missing a category.

Time Sorting

Make sure your time categories are sorted properly. School years and fiscal years do not start in January, so you may have to create a calculation for custom sorting.

Backgrounds and Borders

Give a widget a background and border. It gives the dashboard a finished look. Below are a few different design routes when choosing colors for a dashboard.

Color Schemes

Neutral Format/Color Data

Use neutral colors, like black, white, or grey, for backgrounds and borders. We want the data to stand out, not the formatting.

Format Matches Summary Widgets

Use a border color that matches the text color on summary widgets.

Assign each Widget Group a color

If using widget groups, assign each widget group a color to give a visual clue to which visualizations are in which widget group. For example, the orange widget is excluded from the blue widget’s filtering.

Format Summary to match a corresponding color on a visualization

If there is a summary widget showing a count of international students and international students are green on another visualization, then make the text and board of that visualization green. In the below example, the actual amount is in green on the bar chart, so the summary widget is colored in the same green.

Shape Widgets

Add a shape to summary widgets when the value is easily countable.

For more information or assistance creating dashboards, please contact marketing@capitalizeconsulting.com.




BusinessPLUS: Why Cognos?

Join us for a free webinar to learn how Cognos for BusinessPLUS can change the way you do reporting!

Date: Thursday, January 24th
Time: 11:30am ET (8:30am PT)
Register HERE

Why Cognos?

Do more with your data! School districts are asked for more information, more analytics and more future planning than ever. Using Cognos for BusinessPLUS allows you to go beyond basic reporting to help make data-driven decisions and support your strategic initiatives.

Key Benefits

With packages designed to give users everything they need to be successful, you will see the true value of this combined power tech stack, including:

  • Licenses: PowerSchool and IBM partner to get districts access to the most powerful analytics platform available, at a fraction of the retail price. Create and share reports and dashboards with anyone in the district!
  • Mentoring: Our experts work with you on the first few reports and dashboards, accelerating creation of valuable content while learning best practices.
  • Training: PowerSchool provides formal classroom training on the BusinessPLUS database. This offering jump-starts your ability to make data-driven decisions!
  • Analyst on Demand: We all get stuck sometimes! Rather than spinning your wheels, ask an expert, who is just a phone call away!

Capitalize is BuyBoard Approved!

We are excited to announce the Local Government Purchasing Cooperative has awarded Capitalize Analytics a BuyBoard contract effective January 1, 2019!

As an approved BuyBoard vendor, Capitalize can now sell software and services to over 6,000 state agencies, local agencies, universities, and school districts across the US.

We are approved for the following software products & services:

  • IBM (Cognos, TM1/Planning Analytics, SPSS)
  • Alteryx
  • ThoughtSpot
  • Software Support Maintenance Agreements
  • Technology Staff Development and Training
  • Installation & Repair Service
  • All Types of IT Position(s)

For more information, please contact marketing@capitalizeconsulting.com.

We look forward to supporting you in 2019 & beyond!

Tools of the Trade: Which BI Tool Is Best?

As consultants, we are always being asked “Which tool should I use for BI/Analytics?” For better or worse, the answer isn’t simple. It’s a bit like saying “I have to cut some wood. What saw should I use?” To answer that question, we would need to know:

  • What kind of wood are you cutting?
  • What are the dimensions?
  • What are you doing with the wood that requires it to be cut?
  • Is the wood mobile, in a fixed place, hard to reach?
  • Are you just cutting it in half or are you doing something intricate?

Once we know the answers to those questions, a woodworking expert may say “Compound Miter Saw!”

Does that mean we should throw out all other saws and forever use a Compound Miter Saw? NOPE!

And so the story goes with BI. We need to know things like:

  • What type of reports do you need to build today?
  • Do you see the need for different functionality in the future?
  • Do you need to be able to build dashboards?
  • Who will be creating reports and what is their technical background?
  • Will you be doing anything that needs to be highly formatted in PDF?
  • How will people get to the reports?
  • What tools/infrastructure do you have today?
  • Is this for analysts, IT, end users?

There are dozens of questions we may ask.

What platforms and solutions do organizations need?

In the BI space we currently see a few “core” solutions: Enterprise Reporting, Dashboards/Visualizations, Predictive/Machine Learning/AI. Every organization is different. We need to understand the current state, technologies available, difficulties with the current environment, and goals of the organization before we start throwing technology at the problem.

Where do we start?

No company can run without enterprise reporting. You need financial statements, regulatory reports, invoices, etc. and those require distribution inside and outside the organization. Every ERP, CRM, and operational system has built-in reports, but having a single place to go for cross-system reporting, custom reports, etc. is essential. This is where tools like Cognos, Business Objects, SSRS, and others like them are incredibly important.

These tools can build dashboards, scorecards, and include web service APIs, but much of the time these tools are driven by IT and require a bit of technical knowledge to utilize fully and correctly. They may not be as “agile” as your departmental users and analysts would like!

Ideally, in your enterprise reporting solution, you’ll have something that has built-in enterprise security and a reusable data model. There will be change management ensuring published items can be trusted, governed, etc. Your CFO doesn’t want anyone changing up the P&L after he or she signed off on it!

Enterprise reporting is your Compound Miter Saw. It’s required.

When do we consider something else?

Sometimes we need something more agile, something that we can grab quickly, wherever we are, and do a quick job. Maybe you’re an analyst, you don’t have a “server,” and you probably don’t know much about metadata. You just want to install something on your computer and get stuff done! Hopefully you’ve realized that while Excel can do practically ANYTHING, it’s also a very manual and cumbersome process. For that, we may turn to our friends at Tableau, PowerBI, or similar agile analytics tools.

These companies have made names for themselves by giving non-IT people tools that are more effective and efficient than Excel in many ways but don’t take a lot of effort or background knowledge to get started. You download a trial, grab some data, and you are slicing, dicing, and visualizing!

Your teams in marketing, accounting, engineering, etc. all have data and they STRUGGLE with it! Many of those organizations are dumping data from your enterprise reporting solution (that they hate) and then jamming it in Excel. They spend two days trying to cobble that data together, so they can get an answer for the sales team, controller, a client, etc. They live in Excel Hell.

When those analysts get a hold of a tool that cuts a two-day job down to a couple of hours, they rejoice! No longer do they need to download, copy-paste, VLOOKUP, SUMIF, pivot, and export to PowerPoint. They use purpose-built analyst tools to get the job done.

These analysts need something handheld that can get into tight places, cut curves, etc. They found a Jig Saw and they are thrilled with it.

Problem solved?

Everyone is happy right? Not exactly. The IT department is FREAKING OUT! “We have crazy people out in the line of business trying to chop down trees with a JIG SAW! It’s not SAFE! It’s not SECURE! STOP EVERYTHING! You are ROGUE IT and you’re putting the entire company AT RISK with your shenanigans!”

On the other hand, the new rogue IT team/analysts are having a party because they never need to speak to IT again because they can DO ANYTHING now!

This polarization is running rampant at most organizations right now. The battle between enterprise IT and rogue IT is strong and it’s unhealthy. We must stop working against each other and realize that there are times when both strategies are appropriate. I believe the olive branch needs to be extended from IT.

Why is IT the one in the driver’s seat?

Because line of business knows IT as the team of “no.” “No you can’t have access to the database. No, we can’t build what you need this month. No, you can’t store those files on our server. No, we can’t give you remote access. No, no, no.”

So, the line of business finds a way. Coming in and telling them that “No, you can’t use the solution you found since we didn’t help you” is not the answer.

The best IT organizations we work with right now are doing everything they can to enable their data-hungry departments and individuals by giving them tools they can collaborate with on. That may mean bringing in something that isn’t “on your approved enterprise application list” but it’s WAY better than the crazy things going on in Excel behind your back!

Forward thinking IT departments are challenging their business unit counterparts to push the boundaries of automation, process improvement, and data analysis. They give them tools like Alteryx, Tableau, PowerBI, that empower the departments and give them a way out of the Excel nightmare.

But what about security, enterprise standards, etc.?

We need those too. We need a framework that embraces agile tools (jig saws) when they are the best tools for the job, and also supports enterprise tools (compound miter saws) when the solution calls for it.

We have discovered another amazing thing that happens when the users use these agile tools in their departments to build solutions. They are creating REQUIREMENTS! Think about it; when have you ever been able to pin down a user to create real requirements documents with legitimate use cases and test cases? NEVER! Now they are out building a working solution that gets them the data and answers they need!

If IT looks at the solution the user created, and it is something that needs to be turned into an enterprise class solution, just port over the solution the user created. IT can then add security, auditing, change control, and any other company standards. If done well, the users should be happy to use something that is more automated, scheduled, and bullet-proof that they don’t have to worry about supporting!

There are many saws and many analytics tools out there. Rather than saying one is the best and the rest are unacceptable, let’s think a little more openly. The best tool out there is the one that actually gets used and gets the job done. A tool that sits on the shelf while people do things with hand saws/Excel is a waste of money!

Conclusion and call to action.

Your organization is here to make money, teach students, cure cancer…not to fight over tools and internal fiefdoms. Let’s work together to advance the organization and let the tools enable that mission.

Capitalize Analytics is an organization passionate about helping people use data more effectively and efficiently. We search out and destroy manual processes, data challenges, integration problems, etc. We take the time to understand the entire problem and select tools purpose-built to resolve it.

Give us a call and let’s build a collaborative enterprise and agile data analytics community at your organization!

Upcoming Oil & Gas Webinar! DataHub: How to Trim Months Off Your System Implementation & Asset Migration

Monday, December 10, 2018 @ 12:00 PM CST

Asset migration and reporting is painful! DataHub can help!

If you’ve ever implemented a revenue accounting or land system, or converted from one system to another, you know the process is PAINFUL! It can take months to manually set up assets in a new system and it can be very error-prone.

Capitalize has implemented and converted hundreds of clients and assets over the past 13 years. We’ve improved each process every time, first with scripts to accelerate implementation, and now via a platform we have developed to trim months off your acquisition, divestiture, or system implementation.

That platform, called DataHub, is a “universal translator” that:

1) Automates the movement of master and transactional data from one system to another
2) Allows you to easily migrate single or multiple assets from your Test environment to Production
3) Creates a multi-data source “data warehouse” for cross-system reporting

DataHub allows us to move data from one accounting system to another (examples include Waterfield, Quorum, or even Excel spreadsheets) in a fraction of the time normally required. We can also combine your measurement, revenue, and financials into single reports and dashboards for a single view of your operation.

This webinar is ideal for oil & gas professionals working with revenue or land accounting software.

If you know the pain of implementation, migration, and reporting we can help! Join our webinar on December 10, 2018 and let us give you a deeper dive into what DataHub is and how it can save your organization both time and money!

Can’t make it? Still register and we’ll send you the recording!

Register Now

UPCOMING WEBINAR! Cognos 11.1 is a game changer! Let us show you why!

IBM recently released Cognos Analytics 11.1 and the buzz is in the air. Many in the industry feel this release is MAJOR in both added functionality and value. With over 20 years of experience in the analytics space, the Capitalize team agrees!

Please join us on Tuesday, November 6th at 1:00 pm EST where we give viewers a straightforward, in-depth look and demonstration of the new content and features including:

  • Data exploration guided by artificial intelligence (AI)
  • Increased geospatial capabilities
  • Automatic visualization recommendations
  • Ability to reuse content for quick, easy creation of new dashboards, reports, etc.
  • Stunning and fast visualizations
  • Simplified data preparation
  • Expanded machine learning processing

This webinar is intended for people interested in learning more about IBM Cognos and current users. We’ll even cover licensing and pricing!

Can’t make it? No worries! Go ahead and register and we’ll make sure to send you the recording.



Discount Codes for ThoughtSpot Beyond 2018 Conference

ThoughtSpot: Search & AI-Driven Analytics Platform for Humans

  • The world’s first relational search engine.
  • Get automated insights in a single click.
  • Data insights you can trust.
  • Maximum sources. Minimum modeling.
  • Get up and analyzing fast.
  • Scale enterprise-wide to everyone.

ThoughtSpot is holding their first conference, Beyond 2018, on November 13-15, 2018 in Washington DC. It promises to be The Enterprise Data & Analytics Event of the Year – you won’t want to miss it!

Hear from analytics thought leaders like Billy Beane, former General Manager of the Oakland Athletics and author of “MoneyBall;” Jaya Kolhatkar, Chief Data Officer of Hulu, and many more. Learn about cutting-edge trends in analytics and hear directly from enterprises actively transforming their businesses with advanced analytics.

ThoughtSpot has generously provided Capitalize Analytics with a discount code to share with those interested in attending. Codes are limited, so if you want to attend Beyond 2018, please contact us at marketing@capitalizeconsulting.com right away to take advantage!

For more information about ThoughtSpot:  https://www.thoughtspot.com/

For more information about Beyond 2018:  https://www.thoughtspot.com/beyond2018

Upcoming Webinar: Empower Your K12 Departments with Dashboarding and Analytics Using Tableau

Thursday, September 20, 2018 1:00 PM CDT

School districts have analysts in nearly every department. They analyze attendance, assessments, enrollment, performance, curriculum, financials, – the list is endless. With Tableau, you no longer have to rely on IT to create every report or dashboard.

In this webinar, we’ll show you how districts are using data from Excel, the SIS, and ERP to quickly answer ad-hoc questions and how you can build dashboards to enable principals, superintendents, school board members, etc. to make decisions with data-driven information.

Join us on September 20th to learn more!

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Can’t make it? Still register and we’ll send you the recording!


Upcoming Alteryx Higher Education Webinar

Alteryx: How Higher Ed Institutions Nationwide Are Simplifying Data Access, Automating Processes, and Forging Ahead with Predictive Analytics!

Higher education has so much data from the registrar’s office, admissions, financial aid, and institutional advancement, just to name a few. Alteryx helps institutions wrangle all this data by enabling higher ed departments and personnel to prep, blend, and analyze multiple data sources from across the university to help answer their most pressing questions and predict outcomes.

In this webinar, attendees will learn how Alteryx helps with:

Data integration to keep up with the ever-changing student, staff, and overlapping data changes.
Process automation to identify at-risk students and notify advisors and other applicable departments.
Predictive analytics to forecast student enrollment after application & acceptance. Alteryx’s geospatial capabilities will also be highlighted in this topic.

While these are just a few examples, Alteryx is relevant to everyone in higher education. If data integration takes up too much of your time, if you repeat the same steps in Excel each month, or if predictive analytics has moved to the top of your to-do list, then join us in watching this webinar, originally presented on September 26, 2018 and see how Alteryx is the answer!

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Can’t make it? Still register and we’ll send you the recording!