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Posts Tagged ‘bi’

User Group Report: Hot Topics Among PeopleSoft Users

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I recently attended the Midwest Regional User Group (MW RUG) meeting in Chicago. There were a number of PeopleSoft customers/users in attendance and breakout meetings were held to discuss current hot topics. Below is a collection of things I noticed — a pulse of the conversations, at it were.

Needless to say, everyone is interested in Fusion as a potential future option in some of their application areas.  However, by and large, the reality for most of organizations is that they are still focusing on taking advantage of their current systems investments.  With PeopleSoft v9.2 slated for availability the end of this month, a breakout group I attended shared their company’s view and plan relative to upgrading.

The fact is that the customer base is varied relative to the version of products that they are running.  Some are planning on upgrading as soon as v9.2 is available.  Some are still considering upgrading to a previous version (9.1).  Some will wait and see and plan on upgrading later in 2013.

My observation is that the PeopleSoft customer base is hungry for information and is being pushed and pulled in different directions.  Some say move to Fusion, some say upgrade your current (stable) platform, some say upgrade and expand that stable platform with add-on solutions, Business Intelligence (analytics) and Mobility solutions.  And naturally, competitors to PeopleSoft/Oracle say “come to our solution.”

While there is no one right answer for everyone, the vast majority seem to be leaning toward protecting and expanding their investments in their current PeopleSoft solutions.  It is stable, it is supported and it makes financial sense.

This is where a lot of folks stand right now. What will the landscape look like in 2014? 2015?

Counterpoint: Reasons to Like PeopleTools-based Dashboards

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ZD Net contributor Joe McKendrick wrote a great blog about three reasons to hate BI dashboards.  His opinion is certainly one that I share, and many of the blogs I have written here in the past try to focus on how to avoid these pitfalls.  McKendrick’s post can be found here.

Essentially his three reasons are:

  1. Dashboards haven’t gotten much smarter in the last 20 years.
  2. Dashboards don’t prioritize information.
  3. They don’t help individuals take action on the information they receive.

I can’t say I disagree, but I don’t on a wholesale level. I agree that those are prevalent problems with enterprise BI solutions that are used for every data source.  As many of our readers know, MIPRO is focused on everything PeopleSoft, from the application to the toolset.  Our approach to building dashboards within the PeopleSoft product itself addresses and resolves many of the issues McKendrick raises.

Previous blogs (here, here, here and here) outline the thought process around making these dashboards embedded into the business process, prioritizing information and helping individuals take action.  In these examples, the dashboards are made up of dynamic queries that are refreshed every time the user goes to the home page within PeopleSoft. This will happen many, many times throughout the day, which keeps the data fresh and always prioritized.  The dashboards are designed to prioritize the information such as the top five or top 10 or most urgent items as they relate to what is most important from a business user’s perspective.  All of this is controlled by the query and ordering the data based upon defined critical content.  Each dashboard, with drillable URLs, takes the end user straight to the transaction page which is directly linked to the content within the dashboard.

So not only do we have the ability to drill down into data, but it’s not just more data: it’s the actual source of the business information so action can be immediately taken.  These dashboards can not only be on a homepage dashboard, but they can be embedded anywhere within the PeopleSoft application furthering their value by truly embedding them into the business decision process.

McKendrick is right: many BI dashboards aren’t valuable. But if you understand the business problem that’s trying to be solved — along with per-role requirements so users see what they need — you can build some amazing useful tools that literally change a person’s workflow for the better and help a business unit perform far better than it ever has.

A huge factor in whether or not a BI dashboard is effective lives in the requirements gathering, planning and design stage. If this part isn’t done properly, the end result could be quite a bit less than valuable. Garbage in, garbage out.

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Flash DEMO: OBIEE Exalytics for Retail

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Previously, we have discussed the real power of BI — making business decisions out of the oodles (that’s a technical term for a lot) of data within organizations), embedding BI into the business process and processing that data extremely quickly and efficiently.

So, while we have talked about it and tried to explain the concepts and value, there is nothing like seeing it in action.  To that end, Oracle has put together a very nice flash demo of OBIEE Exalytics in a retail environment.  The example is easy to understand and shows the power of BI and using it to properly “manage” the business (remember our adage, ERP allows you to “run” your business, but BI allows you to “manage” it).  It is clear to see how BI can positively influence inventory levels, then sales, then the profit potential of this company.

Check out the demo here, and as always, email me if this is something of interest to you.

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MIPRO Consulting main website.

MIPRO on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Converting Your Reporting to Oracle BI Publisher

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We’re seeing this more and more: as Oracle’s OBIEE platform gains steam, many organizations are making the move to convert existing reports from Crystal, Actuate or Oracle Reports to BI Publisher. Report conversion can be a daunting task, not necessarily from the technology move, but moreso from simply understanding, cataloging and consolidating the current collection of reports.  Over time, many reports are modified, added, and personalized, and it is very easy to lose track of what you have — and more importantly, what is valuable.

Oracle has a very good white paper which provides all sorts of great information regarding the conversion process.  Probably not unlike you, when I need to know something that I don’t necessarily have experience with, I often look to white papers and red papers to give me that initial push — and often I am disappointed.  I need to know a strategy, I need to know what type of skills I need and how much effort it will take. In so many cases, this information is what is most obviously missing.  Well, this white paper outlines a strategy, outlines key considerations, provides several company examples and outlines the resources that are required for success. I highly recommend it to all of my clients. Entitled Planning to Covert to BI Publisher, you can check it out here (PDF link; you’ll need your Oracle login and password).

Here are few of the key elements I took away from the white paper:

  1.  Prior to any report conversion activity, you must evaluate your current catalog of reports.  Determine what reports are being used, what reports are important and what reports should be carried over.  Don’t forget to evaluate the new technology and capabilities of Oracle BI Publisher.  Old technologies may propagate the need for multiple reports because of only slight variations in requirements.  There is an opportunity to reduce the overall number of reports simply based upon the capabilities of BI Publisher.  Also, challenge the end users on the needs of the reports.  If a report has not been run in a long time, is it really necessary?  Remember, end users can also create their own reports which may impact how many reports must be converted.
  2. You can categorize reports:
      • By data
      • By complexity
      • By size
  3. Understand that there are conversion tools to help with the move to BI publisher.  Certainly manual conversion is an option, but if any time can be saved with the conversion tools, that option should be explored.  I have not used these conversion tools so I do not have direct experience as to how well they work if they convert 100% or 50%. I would recommend you take a sample of low, medium and high complexity reports and evaluate the success rate of the conversion tools when determining your approach. If you do this, I’d be interested in your results. Drop me an email.
  4. The white paper provides some customer examples and general rules of thumb on the level of effort.  From the white paper: “A general thumb rule would be 3 man days for manually converting a simple to medium complex report and 5 man days for converting a highly complex report. The time taken will reduce over a period of time with experience in conversion. Using the Conversion Tools, the conversion time would be reduced tremendously and may require few hours to 1 man day for converting a simple to medium complex report. For converting a medium to highly complex report, the effort may vary between 2 – 3 days. The time taken will reduce over a period of time with experience in conversion.”
Report conversion is often a daunting task that prevents organizations from moving to a more integrated/streamlined reporting option from what they are using now. That doesn’t have to be the case. If you want to explore this option more — or even just pick my brain about it — I’m always happy to chat. Let me know.

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More links:

MIPRO Consulting main website.

MIPRO on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Piloting the Power of Business Intelligence

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In several of our previous blogs we have discussed the proper way to build a business intelligence enterprise solution.  Many of you have responded in agreement with much of the content and the steps required to truly unlock the potential of BI.  However, there are a number of readers who have reached out and asked for ways to promote BI within an organization that does not have a deep understanding or appreciation of what business intelligence can do. In other words, those that still view BI as mere reports.

Promoting BI certainly is a challenge if the organization has a lack of appreciation for what business intelligence truly represents.  However, there are still proven methods to promote BI within the organization.  The key way to do this is to find one area of the business that has acute pain, secure an executive sponsor who needs that pain resolved, and pilot the power of business intelligence.  Done correctly, the executive and business unit will become BI evangelists, spreading the word internally and driving the desire for business intelligence organization-wide.

The key to this approach is to deliver results in a very quick fashion.  Contrary to what has been preached previously on the holistic approach to BI, this will require an iterative development process, so you still need to be careful to treat this as a pilot and make sure the pilot does not become the foundation of the organizational BI structure and unknowingly paint yourself into corners that will later result in much rework.

In summary the steps to this approach include:

  • Find pain in the organization.
  • Secure an executive sponsor that requires a solution to that pain.
  • Take an iterative approach to development.  The first delivery may not be perfect, but show speed of response. (Also don’t worry about getting every BI requirement correct the first time.  Let the process develop the requirements. )
  • Demo the solution — perhaps start with a simple dashboard (see our earlier blog on how to build a proper BI dashboard) as this will help displace the myth of BI as a simple report.
  • Tweak the solution based upon feedback.
  • Once tweaked, let the business begin to utilize the BI solution, appreciate it and evangelize. Once it realizes BI truly helps enable more mature decision-making, that’s when buy-in occurs.

Hopefully, done well, there will be an influx of requests for increased business intelligence analytics across the organization.  Once that need is established, you can take the proper steps to build out your enterprise BI program.

Questions about this? I hear them all the time. If you have any, don’t be afraid to reach out.

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More links:

MIPRO Consulting main website.

MIPRO on Twitter and LinkedIn.

About this blog.

 

How Strategic Is Your BI Solution?

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In the late 90’s all of the buzz talk was around ERP, and understandably so.  A lot of the buzz I hear today is about Business Intelligence (BI).

There are probably a variety of reasons for this.

Chief among them, in my experience, is the notion that ERP was pervasive in the 90’s because of the need to replace antiquated accounting systems to solve an imminent Y2K problem.  BI, on the other hand, is pervasive because everyone now has an ERP type solution and they want more.  But what does “more” mean?

One of the great differences that I have talked about in the past is the need to take an ERP transaction-based system that reports historical information and turn that into useful, quantifiable information so you can plan the future and make real-world decisions.  For the first time, I have found an article that clear puts a correlation to the two views.

In his article entitled 6 Habits of True Strategic Thinkers author Paul J.H. Schoemaker describes characteristics and traits of executives who would like to spend more time focused on strategic thinking rather than then day-to-day activities of their organization.  Interestingly enough, these characteristics are the very same traits that separate an accounting solution that reports history from a solid BI solution that allows you to make perceptive decisions about your business.  These traits include:

  • Anticipate
  • Think Critically
  • Interpret
  • Decide
  • Align
  • Learn

You can read the full article over at Inc. online.

I encourage you to do so at the behest of two questions you should aks yourself:

  1. Are you a strategic leader?
  2. Do your systems provide the information (not merely data) and knowledge that allow you to be a strategic leader?

If the answer to either of these is no, it may be time for a change.

If you’re interested in BI fundamentals and how we look at BI implementations and their value, don’t miss our whitepaper, MIPRO’s Business Intelligence Manifesto: Six Requirements for an Effective BI Deployment. And naturally, if you have questions, want to tell me I’m wrong, or just go over what you’ve been kicking around in terms of BI lately, don’t be afraid to drop me an email.

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More links:

MIPRO Consulting main website.

MIPRO on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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More Thinking About Oracle, Endeca, Unstructured Text and Social Media

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On October 18, 2011, Oracle announced it had entered into an agreement to acquire Endeca, a leading provider of unstructured data management, web commerce and business intelligence solutions (see our original blog post here). The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to close before the end of t his year.  Here’s the original press release.

Our Thoughts

Most everyone is familiar with structured data consisting of data that is well organized and comes from ERP systems, custom solutions etc. and generally is organized in a manner which allows that data to be analyzed and reported from.  Lesser known, but of increasing importance, is unstructured data.  Unstructured data consists of social media information from platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs etc. where users or consumers can post commentary using freeform text.  Comments are not necessarily organized.  This unstructured text can extend to consumer commentary on product websites, blogs or emails.   The rise of social media and the real-time web is making unstructured text more and more critical for companies to be able to analyze.

For example, through the various social media mechanisms mentioned, using powerful unstructured text BI tools such as Endeca, companies can quickly evaluate the unstructured text and begin to make business decisions or combine the unstructured text with structured data and have actionable information.  A quick example: if customers comment on a website regarding their experience with a particular product, it normally would take an employee or employees to read the responses and evaluate the consumer sentiment.  It may take a significant amount of time to evaluate the sentiment negating the potential value of that data.  In today’s ever changing, quick-paced social media environment, it’s more important than ever to stay on top and have the ability to react quickly to fixing a negative experience or promoting a positive one.  Understanding whether a consumer had a positive or negative experience proves invaluable for marketing, sales and corrective actions to be made in a very short timeframe.

Take all of this a step farther, when Oracle can combine unstructured data and structured data under the OBIEE platform, companies will have exceptional tools to help make truly informed business decisions based upon quickly changing data.

Fantasy? So far, maybe a bit. In the short term, smart companies will be investing in ways to do exactly this.

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More links:

MIPRO Consulting main website.

MIPRO on Twitter and Facebook.

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MIPRO VIDEO: How to Create XML Reports Within PeopleSoft

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In previous blog posts I wrote about the value of XML Publisher, and I’ve outlined instructions on how to create an XML report.

In the video blog below we take it a step further and show you how to create a simple XML report with a chart and table.  We take you from the creation of a query, downloading the XML data, and creating an XML template to defining our XML report within PeopleSoft and making it available for scheduling.   This how-to video you should leave you with enough information to start creating simple XML reports.  As always, we are happy to help and if you are in need of XML experts to supplement your report developers, please drop us a line.

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MIPRO Consulting main website.

MIPRO on Twitter and Facebook.

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SCREENCAST: Using PeopleTools to Improve Business Intelligence, Pt. 2

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In our previous video blog, we demonstrated the concepts of how to use PeopleTools 8.5 for improved business intelligence. We showed how to apply navigation collection, embeddable pagelets, XML publisher and related content to your business practices.  In this follow up screencast, we demo how to actually use PeopleTools to create an embeddable pagelet and related content.  This video will complete the story and give you some basic concepts to get you started.

If you need more than this demonstration to help your organization move forward, we do offer a one week quick start package to get you up and running around a subject of your choosing.  In this one week offering, we will help you define key requirements, translate those into business intelligence (read: help you uncover the questions you should be asking), create a navigation collection as well as a series of embeddable pagelets and related content.  Our quick start service is designed to get you moving forward to improve your business intelligence as quickly as possible, and it’s very effective.  I would be happy to discuss this service further should you have any questions. Please tell me what’s on your mind.

Here’s our second screencast on this topic. Grab some coffee and enjoy!


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MIPRO Consulting main website.

MIPRO on Twitter and Facebook.

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Oracle CFO Central

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Are you familiar with Oracle CFO Central?  This is a site designed by Oracle with a focus on the CFO.  The website contains white papers, podcasts, testimonials, case studies, solutions, articles, executive interviews. It’s new, and an excellent resource.

If you are a CFO, VP of finance, or controller, CFO Central has a great amount of information for you.

I want to draw your attention to two specific items:

  1. Video of an interview with the Hackett Group that outlines the characteristics around EPM and top performing companies.
  2. An independent market research report funded by Oracle that outlines some key issues with many organizations and their EPM business intelligence capabilities.

Taken from the market research report, I want to take a quick second to draw some interesting statistics to your attention:

  • Spreadsheet Spaghetti: Managers typically spend over a third (36%) of their week number crunching in spreadsheets. This figure rises with seniority, with C-level executives spending 40% of their time managing the company through simple spreadsheets.”
  • “Vintage Data: Handling data this way means it becomes outdated quickly: on average, data used to make decisions is more than four months old; worse still is that 28% of managers do not even know the age of the data they use.”
  • “Silo Mentality: 87% of businesses criticise inter-departmental data sharing and communication with 71% describing the links between strategic goals, operational plans and budgets as “fragmented.”

These statistics certainly support some of our previous blogs around:

  1. Why Excel is not a BI solution
  2. Aligning metrics across the various organizations within a business
  3. Strong data quality

In any event, take a look at the Oracle CFO site, sign up, and enjoy the reading.  There is some valuable content here.  As always, I’m happy to answer any questions or provide any direction.

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More links:

MIPRO Consulting main website.

MIPRO on Twitter and Facebook.

About this blog.

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