Cognos vs Power BI: Head-to-Head Comparsion Guide in 2023

Do you know the market of business intelligence tools is steadily expanding? According to TrustRadius, Microsoft Power BI has been one of the leading BI software of the past year.

business intelligence software


But IBM Cognos has been steeply rising in popularity and challenging the current top performer.

So which of these business intelligence tools should you choose as a business professional? Should you choose an established veteran BI tool? Or should you go with the Cognos? Read this blog to decide which BI tool is the best option for your business. So, without further ado, let’s dive in.

7 Core Differences of Cognos and Power BI

Check the following comparison table of both the tools Cognos vs Power BI on 7 different factors.

Factors Power BI Cognos
Pricing plans Power BI has a free trial Desktop version with a data capacity of 1 GB. The Pro and Premium version costs $9.99 and $20 per user/month. Cognos has multiple offerings for the organization—Workgroup, Standard, and Enterprise models. These are priced between $1,995 and $19,950.
ML Capabilities Power BI has pre-built ML models to help you with your data analysis. You can also make your own models with the Azure cloud system. Cognos has an AI assistant tool that can converse in simple language to assist you with your complex analysis and visualization.
Ease of Use Power BI’s resemblance to Microsoft Excel makes it easier for you to migrate and understand its functions. IBM’s proprietary Watson computing system enables users to directly use advanced data science techniques.
Cloud and On-premise operations SaaS version of Power BI is available on the Azure cloud system. You can use this version for streaming analytics, automated alert systems, and live interactive dashboards. They also have an on-premise version, but it is not as powerful as the cloud version. IBM also offers both on-premise and cloud options for Cognos. But, most of their advanced data analytics functions are only available on the on-premise versions. Currently, IBM constantly updates the cloud version with utilities to make it better.
Integration Power BI easily integrates with other Microsoft products, R and SQL. For other data sources, Power BI has multiple connectors and APIs. Likewise, Cognos is naturally compatible with IBM’s portfolio. Along with it, Cognos can also be integrated with spreadsheets, SQL, and R.
CRM Support Power BI works seamlessly with Microsoft Dynamics CRM. While Cognos is not specifically designed for CRM, you can still utilize it with third-party software.
Training modules Power BI offers countless modules and walkthroughs to help you understand the product. Cognos also offers multiple demos and reports building exercises to train you.

So, from the above comparison, you have got a basic idea about the BI tools on different parameters like learning curve, pricing, ML capabilities, and CRM support. But, to get a detailed comparison of both the tools, check the following section as it will help you choose the better software.

In-Depth Comparison Between Cognos vs Power BI

  1. Power BI vs IBM Cognos: Pricing

    Microsoft Power BI:

    Power BI has both paid and free trial versions. The free Power BI Desktop version is most suitable if you’re a beginner or new learner. However, this version has a 1 GB data limit. The Power BI pro version costs around $9.99 per user/month and offers more collaborative features. Lastly, the premium version costs around $20 per user/month and has various Ad Hoc reporting and publishing features. But to use the Premium version, large enterprises have to pay a minimum licensing fee of $4995.

    IBM Cognos Analytics:
    There are multiple variants of IBM Cognos Analytics. So, the cheapest plan can cost around $5 per user/month and go up to $450 per user/month, depending on your requirements. Like in Microsoft Power BI, the organization must pay an annual fee to use the product. They have divided their offering into three parts. The workgroup licensing model costs a minimum of $1995 per month. The Standard and Enterprise model is priced at $10,100/month and $19,950/month, respectively.

    Winner: IBM Cognos Analytics

    Cognos has more than 10+ plans for organizations to choose from. As a management, you are free to choose the plan that benefits you the most while being cost-effective.

  2. Power BI vs IBM Cognos: Machine Learning (ML) Capabilities

    Microsoft Power BI:
    Power BI has multiple machine learning models to help you out. The analysts only have to enter and process the data to get the results. Regression, binary, and classification are some of the predefined ML models in Power BI. Analysts can also create their ML models using the Azure cloud platform.

    IBM Cognos Analytics:
    Cognos has an Artificial Intelligence (AI) assistant tool that helps you combine data from multiple sources like Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, IBM Db2, Informix, and XML. The AI assistant can communicate with you in plain language and is easier to understand. Cognos has an extensive collection of visualization, including geospatial mapping and multi-functional dashboards.

    Winner: Tie

    AI/ML tools of both business intelligence platforms—Power BI and Cognos are potent and help you with number crunching. You can also use these tools to analyze real-time data.

  3. Power BI vs IBM Cognos: Ease of use

    Microsoft Power BI:
    Since Power BI is a Microsoft product, its features resemble those of Excel. Some even call it Excel on Steroids due to their similarities. The drag-and-drop features also make it easier compared to some of the other visualization tools.

    IBM Cognos Analytics:
    On the other hand, IBM’s proprietary AI computing system, Watson, backs Cognos. As a result, you can start using complex data (advanced) analytics techniques. This feature of Cognos also makes it a more attractive option for advanced users.

    Winner: Power BI

    While both technical and non-technical end users prefer both visualization tools, Power BI has the competitive advantage given its accessible drag-and-drop features.

  4. Power BI vs IBM Cognos: Cloud and On-Premises operation

    Microsoft Power BI:
    Power BI has a functional SaaS version operating in the Azure cloud. But their strength is also one of their weakness as you have to convert to the Azure cloud system to use the SaaS version. The on-premise version operates via the Power BI Reports Server.

    The cloud version offers multiple other features like streaming analytics, live customizable dashboards, and automated alert systems. You have to download the Desktop version on your systems for a free version to do data discovery and complex analyses with multiple sources. To make an effective decision for the same, you can learn about the difference between the Power BI cloud and on-premises solution.

    IBM Cognos Analytics:
    IBM offers Cognos in both cloud and on-premise variants. However, most of their advanced functionalities are available only on the on-premise version. Consequently, it cannot compete with the cloud offering of Microsoft Power BI.

    Winner: Tie

    Power BI takes the point for its numerous cloud features, and Cognos gets the thumbs-up for its on-premise features. It’s a tie between both business analytics tools.

  5. Power BI vs IBM Cognos: Integration Options

    Microsoft Power BI:
    Power BI has deeply embedded in the Windows and Azure cloud ecosystems, thanks to its parent company. It faces no issues when integrated with Office 365, Microsoft Office, and other Windows Applications. R and SQL integration are also easily possible with Power BI. However, there are some errors while connecting to other data sources. Power BI is continuously working to solve its integration issues by updating it with connectors and APIs. So, you can make good Power BI reports using third-party integrations as well.

    IBM Cognos Analytics:
    In the same way, Cognos is well-connected with the business tools from the IBM portfolio. IBM Cognos connects to several data sources, including spreadsheets, R, and SQL. However, their mobile device integration capaBIlities are somewhat weaker.

    Winner: Power BI

    Both have their strengths and weaknesses. But, Power BI’s moBIle integration capabilities make it the winner in this category.

  6. Power BI vs Cognos: CRM Support

    Microsoft Power BI:
    BI and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) always go hand-in-hand. Naturally, Microsoft ensures that Power BI works seamlessly with their Dynamics CRM.

    IBM Cognos Analytics:
    Meanwhile, Cognos is not designed to benefit from CRM data. Although, as users and analysts, you can integrate the visualization tool with other CRM platforms by using connectors.

    Winner: Power BI

    In Microsoft Power BI vs Cognos, Power BI wins here. Power BI’s built-in features make it more suitable for CRM integration.

  7. Power BI vs Cognos: Training modules

    Microsoft Power BI:
    Power BI offers countless videos, walkthroughs, and live dashboard-building exercises to help you get used to the fundamentals of the tool. All the customizable dashboards, templates, and sample Ad Hoc report come with detailed documentation and explanation videos. You also get access to sample reports to understand the design architect better. Those who purchase Power BI get free access to a four-week introductory course on edX. Moreover, you can also discover how much it takes to learn Power BI.

    IBM Cognos Analytics:
    Cognos offers you (new users) interactive content and multiple demos and report-building exercises. IBM also offers multiple online courses to train recruits and users. They also offer Introduction to Authoring (v11.0) to help you get certified training for the software.

    Winner: Power BI

    Power BI becomes the winner, no doubt as both the tools provide multiple types of video courses and resources. But, Power BI also provides a four-week course on the edX platform. So, it becomes easy to check to learn the Power BI tool with proper strategy and flow.

Got more questions? Here are the answers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Cognos the same tool as Power BI?

While not the exactly same tool, both BI tools are quite similar. Microsoft owns Power BI, and IBM operates Cognos. But, both of them are BI tools designed to analyze data and create reports.

Is Cognos easy to learn?

Cognos is easy to learn if you have a focused and curious mindset. IBM provides you with a host of modules, demos, and pixel-perfect reports building exercises to help you understand the features.

Which language does Cognos use?

By default, IBM Cognos uses Cognos SQL to function. Naturally, it adheres to all the usual SQL standards regarding dataset relationships and tabular data sources.

What is Power BI good for?

Power BI is suitable for many things. To begin with, Microsoft Power BI can collect data from up to 70 sources at once and turn it into visually immersive reports. It can also offer interactive insights and visualize these using aesthetically pleasing charts, graphs, and Ad Hoc reporting.

What is Cognos suitable for?

Cognos’ web-based interface enables you to perform queries, process, and monitor analytical data. You can also utilize Cognos to visualize the said data.


That was all about Microsoft Power BI vs Cognos. Even though IBM Cognos has a lower market share, it can go toe-to-toe with Power BI on most functionalities. IBM is constantly upgrading it to match the higher standards of business intelligence tools like Tableau and Power BI.

Cognos only visibly lacks in the cloud offering departments. Here, Power BI’s business solutions make it the best performing BI tool available. However, Cognos can provide similar functionality for its on-premise business intelligence software. Therefore, you can choose between these two business intelligence software, depending on your preference, budget and business needs.

Gaurang Bhatt

Written by

Gaurang Bhatt

Gaurang has 15+ years of experience solving complex business problems and enabling businesses with data-driven decisions using data analysis and predictive modeling tools like Tableau, Power BI, Looker, and Google Data Studio. His expertise lies in data visualization, reporting, and creating ETL pipelines. In addition, he is passionate about exploring different technologies like machine learning and AI. He shares his knowledge and learnings on the LabsMedia platform.