The differences between IBM Planning Analytics Workspace and Canvas

The world has changed, user experience is now the most decisive factor in the success of any business application that is built for people, and TM1-based applications are no exception. Despite inferior modelling capability and performance, other (non-TM1) software solutions have become popular almost solely on the fact that they meet modern user expectations for user experience.


In other words, companies are choosing their budgeting and reporting solutions based on look and feel and not based on whether it gets the job done - and done well.

To address this, at the end of last year IBM released Planning Analytics Workspace (PAW). PAW is a completely new, modern, web-based self-service user interface for TM1.

With Cubewise Code’s Canvas for TM1 and IBM’s Planning Analytics Workspace, TM1 customers thankfully now have two options to offer users to give them a modern TM1 user experience.

But there has been some confusion about where customers should best use PAW and where best to use Canvas. Let’s dig into that.


Canvas and Planning Analytics Workspace are both designed to build web applications natively on TM1 using the TM1 REST API. This means that both are very fast and require no other data layer (no “connector”, no flat file interface, etc.) to access TM1. They both are focused on TM1-specific functionality which means they feature the rich, high-performance write-back capabilities that underpin business planning applications.


SELF SERVICE vs Curated Apps

PAW has been designed as a powerful ad-hoc self-service data discovery tool with which business users can easily build and share their own reports and dashboards. The main advantage of such drag-and-drop tools is that any user with minimal to no training can create a report or dashboard quickly. The disadvantage is that the user is inherently limited to whatever the software allows them to drag and drop and corresponding “right click” options. If you want to do something you have been able to do in Excel or have seen in another application and it is not “in the box”, the best you can do is request the new feature from IBM and hope they prioritise it.

Canvas is not a drag-and-drop tool. Canvas was designed to finally bring the freedom and power of modern web application development to TM1 developers. The core benefit of Canvas is that for the very first time, a TM1 Developer can produce a modern web-based application and match the modern user experience “wow factor” expectations of end users.
Some people have shied away from Canvas because they do not know HTML. But Canvas has been designed with this in mind – we have seen that any TM1 Developer that can write rules and TI is able to easily learn enough HTML to be able to build rich, modern web applications for TM1 with Canvas. In short, it allows TM1 developers to embed DBR and SUBNM functions (among many other familiar TM1 pieces) into their web applications in a way they are already familiar with in Excel.


PAW and Canvas are built on fundamentally different concepts in regards to how a report is built

PAW is a view-based application. It allows a user to easily drag and drop a TM1 cube view onto a workspace and then display it as a range of charts. So whatever a user wants to have in the chart, they must have in the view – which may lead to design decisions regarding what you put in a cube in order to display it in PAW.

Canvas, on the other hand has adopted a cell-based approach to application building similar to Excel, and TM1 Perspectives.  This means each cell in Canvas has its own DBR formula to retrieve data and to update TM1, which is exactly how TM1 Developers are used to working with TM1. So with Canvas, you can easily combine data from two different cubes into one table or chart as you can in Excel and TM1 Perspectives.


As it turns out it is not Canvas versus PAW - Canvas and PAW are complementary products. PAW is much better suited for ad-hoc TM1 reporting while Canvas is definitely the product of choice for those who want to build a sophisticated custom TM1 application for planning or reporting.