Microsoft Power BI vs. IBM Cognos Analytics: Compare Core BI Capabilities and More

Microsoft Power BI and IBM Cognos Analytics are two robust business intelligence software solutions that can be deployed in the cloud and on-premise. They provide clients with self-service functionality where end users can easily create visualizations and explore their data.

Here, we compare Power BI and Cognos Analytics on several factors.

What are the Differences Between IBM Cognos Analytics and Power BI?

  • Power BI and IBM Cognos Analytics allow users to share reports with others. But only Power BI has built-in ability for commenting, while Cognos Analytics requires integration with the Cognos Workspace platform.
  • Power BI Desktop is a free plan for individual users. IBM Cognos Analytics has a 30-day free trial.
  • While both vendors share similar support offerings, Microsoft doesn’t have live chat support, while IBM does.

Product Overviews

The following excerpts from our Power BI and IBM Cognos Analytics reviews summarize each software solution:

Power BI

Microsoft Power BI is a cloud-based business intelligence and analytics service that provides a full overview of your most critical data. Connecting to all of your data sources, Power BI simplifies data evaluation and sharing with scalable dashboards, interactive reports, embedded visuals and more.

There are several versions. Power BI Desktop is an on-premise solution that connects to a cloud-based service to easily upload and share data and information across the company. Power BI has two additional versions with advanced features: Power BI Pro and Power BI Premium. Power BI Pro allows users to share insights with collaborators. They can analyze data by using conversational language (the Q&A feature) and get insights from pre-built visualization and reporting templates. Users can share data in other Microsoft platforms like Teams or Dynamics 365. Power BI Premium enables an organization’s internal or external users (e.g., clients) to view Power BI reports without a license.

IBM Cognos Analytics

IBM Cognos Analytics is a cloud and on-premise-based business intelligence solution that offers users access to a wide range of business analytics functionality to help them make well-informed decisions, faster. It offers a full complement of essential analytics functions, including advanced dashboarding, data integration, reporting, exploration and data modeling.

Features Comparisons

Data Preparation

Power BI

Power BI connects with over 100 cloud-based and on-premise data sources (e.g., Excel, Salesforce, Azure SQL database). It includes automated daily refreshes, so data stays up to date. Note that the amount of daily refreshes depend on the tier: Power BI Pro performs up to eight refreshes per day, while Power BI Premium refreshes data up to 48 times daily. Users can prepare their data with the Power Query tool. Power Query has prebuilt transformation functions (e.g., removing columns, filtering rows) that users can simply select from within the interface. If a user needs to add a new transformation function, Power Query automatically adds in an M code, so the user doesn’t need to write any new code.

IBM Cognos Analytics

IBM Cognos Analytics connects with multiple cloud and on-premise data sources, such as SQL databases, Google BigQuery and Amazon Redshift. In addition, users can import data via a spreadsheet or CSV file. Cognos Analytics has a feature, AI Assistant, with data cleaning and preparation, such as joining data, adding calculated fields and creating new tables.

Bottom Line

Both Power BI and Cognos Analytics connect with many of the same data sources. Each solution has automated cleaning and prepping features, so users won’t have to manually handle those tasks.

Data Visualizations and Dashboards

Power BI

Users can create visualizations using the drag-and-drop tool by choosing from many templates from Microsoft and third-party providers or by creating their own. They can create mobile-optimized reports by selecting the Phone Layout button and then adjusting the chart or graph. The Power BI Pro tier lets users share the reports with their external or internal colleagues. Those colleagues can add comments to the visualization as well as subscribe for updates or alerts.

IBM Cognos Analytics

With Cognos Analytics, users can set up dashboards and reports via a drag-and-drop interface, and they can share them with others via email or Slack. They can also set up reports with branded colors, fonts and logos, set up a delivery schedule and send the reports in Excel or PDF.

Bottom Line

Both software solutions offer similarly robust functionality in this area. However, Power BI allows users to comment directly within a visualization, whereas Cognos Analytics requires integration with the Cognos Workspace platform.

Natural Language Query (NLQ)

Power BI

Power BI has a Q&A question box that allows users to explore data by asking a question in natural language. The technology uses rephrasings, autofill and suggestions to help users find the answers they need.

IBM Cognos Analytics

The AI Assistant allows users to ask a question and uses natural language to find those answers and then show them in a visualization. As users try to uncover any patterns or trends, the AI Assistant recommends new data joins and visualizations. There’s also the time series modeling feature to help users predict seasonal trends in the data.

Bottom Line

While the two solutions have similar NLQ functionality, this feature is available in all Power BI pricing plans, while IBM Cognos Analytics’s OnDemand deployment option only has it available in its Premium plan.

Mobile Functionality

Power BI

Power BI Mobile allows users to connect with data sources, see their real-time dashboards and share reports on the go. In addition, they can use the NLQ features and filter their data based on geographic location. The app sends push notifications that alert users to any changes in their insights.

IBM Cognos Analytics

With the Cognos Analytics mobile app, users can quickly access their frequently used insights on one screen with the pinboard feature. They can then interact with the visualization, such as drilling down into the data and sharing those insights with their team. The app also has natural language features, where users can ask questions about their data with their voice. Users can also receive notifications about key metrics, and their team members can get notifications about data changes, too.

Bottom Line

Power BI allows users to connect with data sources and create visualizations via its mobile app, while in IBM Cognos Analytics, users can set up pinboards, but they can’t create dashboards or reports.

Download Comparison Guide

Pricing

Power BI

Power BI Desktop is free to individual users. Here is the pricing for Power BI Pro and Power BI Premium:

  • Pro – The Pro version costs $9.99 per user, per month and includes a mobile app, the ability to publish and share reports, a 1 GB model size limit, eight data refreshes daily, the ability to connect to over 100 data sources, embedded application program interfaces (APIs) and controls, AI visuals, data security and encryption, metrics for content creation and publishing and up to 10 GB per user maximum storage. Pro is available for free for companies that have the Microsoft 365 E5 solution.
  • Premium (per user) – The Premium per user plan costs $20 per user, per month. It includes all of the features of the Pro plan, plus paginated reports, a 100 GB model size limit, 48 data refreshes daily, advanced AI features, XMLA endpoint read/write connectivity, data flows, the ability to analyze data stored in Azure Data Lake Storage, application lifecycle management and up to 100 TB of maximum storage.
  • Premium (per capacity) – This version starts at $4,995 per month, per dedicated cloud compute and storage resource. It includes all of the features of the Premium per user plan, plus on-premise reporting, a 400 GB model limit, multi-location deployment management, Bring Your Own Key (BYOK) and autoscale add-on.

IBM Cognos Analytics

IBM Cognos has a free trial where users get the full product capacity for 30 days. Then, there are three deployment options: On Demand (cloud deployment for up to 200 users), On Cloud Hosted (up to 10,000 users) and Client Hosted (on-premise solution).

The On Demand deployment has two pricing plans: Standard and Premium.

  • Standard – This plan costs $10 per user, per month and includes dashboards, storytelling, collaboration, up to 10 on-premise and cloud data connections and the Cognos mobile app.
  • Premium – The Premium plan costs $40 per user, per month, and it includes the features of the Standard plan, plus AI Assistant and Watson Insights, data exploration, smart data discovery and AI exploration and enterprise reporting and managed report distribution.

The On Cloud Hosted option has three pricing plans: Mobile, Viewer and User.

  • Mobile – The Mobile plan costs $5 per user, per month for access to the Cognos mobile app (e.g., dashboards and explorations, the ability to create pinboards, AI Assistant and get proactive alerts).
  • Viewer – The Viewer plan costs $40 per user, per month for viewer-only features (e.g., viewing and interacting with reports).
  • User – The User plan costs $80 per user, per month and includes all of the features of the Viewer and Mobile plans, plus data prep and connection, smart data discovery and AI exploration, managed report distribution and integration with IBM Watson Studio.

The Client Hosted (or hybrid) deployment has five pricing plans: Mobile, Viewer, User, Explorer and Admin.

  • Mobile – The Mobile plan costs $5 per user, per month for access to the Cognos mobile app (e.g., dashboards and explorations, the ability to create pinboards, AI Assistant and get proactive alerts).
  • Viewer – The Viewer plan costs $12 per user, per month, and it includes the ability to view and interact with reports and dashboards.
  • User – The User plan costs $40 per user, per month and includes all of the features of the Viewer plan, plus Cognos Mobile app, data connection, smart data discovery and AI exploration, the ability to create promoted reports and managed report distribution.
  • Explorer – The Explorer plan costs $75 per user, per month and includes all of the features of the User plan, plus the ability to work with Jupyter Notebooks and Python applications.
  • Admin – The Admin plan costs $450 per user, per month and includes all of the features of the Explorer plan, plus security and user management and Cognos SDK.

Bottom Line

Power BI Desktop is free for individual users, while Cognos Analytics only has a 30-day free trial. Also, the Power BI Pro plan and the Cognos Analytics On Demand Standard plan are priced similarly, but Power BI Premium is less expensive than Cognos’s On Demand Premium.

Customer Support

Power BI

Microsoft offers several resources:

  • FAQs
  • In-depth documentation on tools and features
  • Guided learning courses
  • A community forum
  • Samples of Power BI reports and dashboards

In addition, Power BI Pro users can submit a support ticket.

IBM Cognos Analytics

IBM Cognos Analytics has a Community support portal where users can:

  • Discuss troubleshooting and other issues with fellow users and IBM Support
  • Access product documentation
  • Submit a ticket request, and
  • Communicate with IBM Support via live chat

Bottom Line

Both vendors provide similar support offerings. However, Microsoft doesn’t have live chat support, but IBM does.

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