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2.5 min to readPublisher Advisory Services

How does the licensing of IBM Cognos Analytics work?

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Sorina MileaSAM Technical Consultant
Publisher advisory

Nowadays, many end users enrich their decision-making processes with all relevant data that streams within the business. As such, they invest more and more in Business Intelligence and Analytics tools that could help transforming raw data into useful insights. One of these tools is Cognos Analytics. A software platform provided by IBM, Cognos Analytics contains different components designed for reporting, analytics, score carding and events monitoring.

If you’re using Cognos Analytics, IBM expects you to know how to deploy, use and license it. So, are you aware of how this program needs to be licensed and what the licensing impact could be for distributing Cognos reports across your entire company? The objective of our article is to help you gain a better understanding of the IBM Cognos Analytics products and the licensing terms and conditions.

Different Cognos licenses

After moving to a more simplified license model in 2014, IBM currently has the following 4 different types of Cognos Analytics licenses available:

  • Analytics Administrator
  • Analytics Explorer
  • Analytics User
  • Analytics Viewer

The different functionalities of Cognos Analytics are defined as capabilities (e.g. Administration) and each capability contains a specific set of features (e.g. Administration tasks). All 4 license types have allocated a specific set of capabilities, respectively features.

The Cognos Analytics application comes with a list of default capabilities assigned to predefined roles (e.g. Consumers). In order for an individual user to have access to different capabilities, he/she needs to receive membership to the roles allocated to those capabilities – either receiving membership directly to his/her user account or indirectly through a Cognos group he/she is part of.

Common issues

As a result of the above, if you change the default permissions or allocate individuals capabilities they shouldn’t have access to, those individuals could move up to a different license than the one that they were granted by default. Moreover, the licensing issues could be created also by people who don’t even have a Cognos account, but who do receive reports created in Cognos Analytics.

Through the “Analytics Viewer" license, individuals without a Cognos account can receive Cognos reports at no-charge. This use right is however not applicable for all kinds of reports. If you have an Authorized User licensing model (meaning that each user with access to Cognos functionalities needs to have his/her own license) and distribute reports that are not eligible for the “Analytics Viewer” license, this might result in a large non-compliance issue.

As an example:

An organization acquires Cognos Analytics Viewer on Authorized User licensing model. A specific report created in the Cognos Analytics application is distributed to the whole company (let’s say 3000 individuals). This particular type of report is not the one covered by the Analytics Viewer license. The organization bought only 100 licenses for users who are actually accessing Cognos and the Analytics Viewer functionalities. If such organization is not aware of the fact that not all type of reports are allowed to be distributed, this results in an additional license need of 2900 licenses.


As with many software licensing matters, the devil is typically in the details. By constantly monitoring your usage of the purchased Cognos licenses and what type of access your users are granted, you can mitigate any potential non-compliance risks and prevent spending more than needed.  Putting all your efforts into tackling this process can be tough and lengthy.

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We're here to help!

If you need assistance with your IBM Cognos Analytics license compliance position, feel free to reach out to us.

We're here to help!

If you need assistance with your IBM Cognos Analytics license compliance position, feel free to reach out to us.


A silhouette of a woman on a white background.

Sorina Milea
SAM Technical Consultant

Oracle, IBM