A Detailed Look at Planning Analytics Workspace

Mar 27. 20198 min read
Gerhard Pool

What is Planning Analytics Workspace (PAW)?

IBM Planning Analytics Workspace (PAW) is a web-based interface for IBM Cognos TM1. It brings new exciting possibilities in terms of visualization of your TM1 data. IBM succeeded in expanding the TM1 interface options with a user-friendly and attractive experience aimed at a wide user community.

It is a view-based application which allows you to analyze data, plan and create new content. This is achieved primarily by using the built-in drag-and-drop tools, that come shipped with the product to build dashboards and reports. The tools themselves are visually intuitive and are easy to get started with. The created content can then be shared with others within or outside of the business

Dashboards and reports are structured around the concept of “books”.
You can think of a “book” in the same way as you do when visualizing a workbook in Excel.
A “book” can have multiple sheets and each sheet can contain multiple objects.

Objects that could be included to name a few: 

  • Cube views 
  • Single-cell widgets 
  • Filter controls  
  • Imbedded web sheets 
  • Pictures 
  • Text boxes / shapes  
  • Visualizations (like charts or maps) 
PAWworkbook
Example of a PAW Book with Multiple Sheets

Is PAW the replacement for TM1Web, Perspectives and Planning analytics for Excel (PAX)?

While there are some functionalities that overlap with TM1Web/Perspectives/PAX, it is just not the same. Instead of the question above, it may be better to ask yourself, “What is the primary need of my business user? 

As PAW strongly focuses on ad-hoc analysis and quickly generating reports/dashboards, it should suit the needs of the Business analyst, CFO and Financial manager quite well. 

If the user need is more focused on intensive data input or capturing of large amounts of data, TM1Web/Perspectives/PAX may be a better fit. Financial controllers and planners may benefit here more by using TM1Web/Perspectives/PAX, or others that are part of the budgeting, planning or forecasting process.  Each organization needs are different though, so the choice should be considered with this in mind.

Example of a PAX Input Template in Excel

Another key question is:
Do I want to take this opportunity to redesign my existing user interface for my reports? 

PAW is visually more appealing than TM1Web/Perspectives/PAX and today aesthetics does sway user acceptance levels for new software. For example, a nice feature available in PAW, is the ability to navigate between different sheets inside of a book with the use of custom navigation buttons. If you are designing a workspace which has multiple input sections, reports etc. it really enhances the user experience as it is easier to navigate the workspace and not “get lost” in the contents therein. 

If overhauling the user interface is not a business priority, it may be better to stick to your existing “core” reports in TM1Web/Perspectives/PAX.  PAW can then be used as a complementary tool to the before mentioned clients, rather than a total replacement. 

Book security 

PAW leverages the existing security as set up in the underlying TM1 model for the different model components (i.e. Applications, Cubes, Dimensions, Elements etc.). However, PAW also adds a layer of security for the books and folders created in PAW itself. This implies that the security needs for these books and folders need to be configured and maintained in PAW. It is important to know that currently security is set on user level and not on user group level. Therefore, if you are using many different workbooks or folders, there could be a significant maintenance overhead involved. 

PAW User Administration

Can PAW be used as my new primary development environment? 

As it stands at time of writing this article, PAW is not a complete development environment. However, it is possible to edit rules and processes as a by first dragging a widget to a book to create an editing canvas. Dimensions and hierarchies can be maintained in PAW as can element security and attribute values. But PAW is undergoing a continuous fast evolution, and IBM is adding to its development capabilities with each monthly release. 

Frequent Releases 

IBM is focused heavily on PAW feature enhancements and improvements with regular feature updates. With regular releases it may only be a matter of time before missing features are included as part of the product. One should however take care when upgrading between PAW releases though. New functionalities may impact on the workings of those in previous versions. Manual testing of existing workbooks in a development environment is advised before implementing a new release on production, to avoid breaking changes. 

PAW Installation considerations 

PAW can be run in the cloud from TM1 version 10.3Alternatively, it can also be run on premise (locally) and it works with TM1 version 11.

 For steps on determining your planning analytics version, please refer to the following blog post: https://code.cubewise.com/blog/determine-the-version-of-ibm-planning-analytics 

For on premise installations PAW uses Docker.

Never heard of Docker before? In short Docker containers wrap a piece of software in a complete operating system that contains everything needed to run that software: code, run time, system tools, system libraries…anything that can be installed on a server. This guarantees that the software environment will always run the same regardless of the server environment. For more details on Docker, refer to the following link: https://opensource.com/resources/what-docker 

Closing thoughts

With its intuitive drag-and-drop nature, easy interface and quick report generating abilities, PAW brings provides a great new alternative. The business user and user interface needs should be weighed up against its strong points though. Rarely does one product exist that will handle all business scenarios equally well. It is therefore important to strike the right balance between the available user clients, to leverage their individual strong points. 

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