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Posts Tagged ‘business intelligence’

Business Intelligence Requirements Gathering: Ask the Right Questions!

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We have discussed these things before: business intelligence requirements gathering, maintenance management, and even business intelligence for maintenance management. The following example dialog is intended as an easy way to understand how asking the right questions can lead to getting the right answers for your business when it comes to business intelligence requirements gathering. This is a key stage, and that’s where the right information needs to be collected.

For the purpose of this mock discussion, let’s assume the following:

MM Lead:  Leader in the maintenance area who has a requirement to give to the BI team

BI Lead:  Business intelligence leader trying to understand requirements

Example Conversation

MM Lead:  I need a report that tells me how many service requests have not been turned into work orders. That’s all I need, just a report.

BI Lead:  Ok, help me understand a little bit more.  What about this report is important to your business?

MM Lead:  It is an indicator of whether service requests are left open and work possibly being missed.

BI Lead:  Is part of the reason you are asking for this report because you are finding a high number of service requests left open?

MM Lead:  Not a high number, but occasionally I get calls asking about a service request that was entered but no work has started. It takes a lot of my time to investigate.

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VIDEO: Drilling URLs in BI Publisher (Hint: Easier and Cooler Than It Sounds)

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We have created multiple videos in the past on drilling URLs in PeopleSoft query as well as a few on BI Publisher (XML publisher).  Now, in this video we will demonstrate how easy it is to put that URL on the BI publisher report.

Essentially, whether a BI publisher report is run ad hoc or scheduled, users can click on the URL hyperlink in the BI publisher report and be taken directly to the source page right within PeopleSoft.  Again, this is another way to have a “pencils down” approach to PeopleSoft.  No longer do users have to take the information in their reports, log into PeopleSoft, navigate to the correct menu and then type in the information from the report.  It is a great way to improve efficiency, accuracy and save time. Customers love this, but not many know about it. Hopefully the video below changes some of that.

The Four Degrees of Understanding

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If people are connected by six degrees of separation, then I contend that raw data and true IT wisdom are connected by four degrees of understanding.  Let me explain. (And this won’t involve Kevin Bacon at all. Promise.)

For the past 25 years I have implemented ERP systems that essentially are a historical picture of what transpired.  For most of that time, I have challenged people to make your accounting data predictive, not historical.  I recognize that you must always look back to report your results, but using “data” to predict what is about to happen, and then knowing how to react is a whole new ballgame.  Some would say that is the role of BI.  Maybe it is. At some point, data should do you the favor of becoming information.

So, I explain four degrees of understanding this way:

  1. If you have a set of numbers, but you don’t know what they represent, you have data.  For example 23,000 and 25,000.  They are meaningless until you know what they represent.  Your systems have tons of data, but how do you use it?

  2. The second degree is called information.  If I tell you what those numbers mean, then you have some understanding of what you are looking at.  For example, if I tell you that they are Daily Sales, then you can start to analyze that data to make some judgements.  Sales went up? Maybe.

  3. The third degree of information is knowledge.  Knowing what the data is and knowing what to do with it gives you knowledge.  In this scenario you may ascertain that sales went up, and that might provide meaningful insight.  For example, the “buy one get one free” incentive raised sales for the day is something you might ascertain from that information.  With that knowledge you can make judgments about how effective the program was.

  4. The fourth degree of information is wisdom.  Being able to take that knowledge and predict in a meaningful way how you should react to certain situations is the wisdom that makes many men (and women) respected leaders.  Does it make you visionary?  Maybe.  Does it make you a genius? Sometimes.  Does it earn you the respect of your peers? Usually.

There are thousands of examples every day of how people use the wisdom they have accumulated after years in business to make educated decisions.  Not all of these are accurate decisions, but most are not done “by the seat of your pants.”

I try every day to lead customers to understand how accounting “data” can be used to generate wisdom.  It is never easy, and it usually leads to more questions than answers, but understanding the roadmap to move data to create wisdom is a great place to start.  Having the ability to act on that wisdom and see the results is empowering.  What is holding you back?

MIPRO’s Presentation Session Voted Best of Show at Reconnect 2012

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Larry Zagata, our VP of Solution Delivery, received this card in the mail recently. It’s a handwritten congratulations card from the folks at Quest/Reconnect 2012 telling him that his session (called Utilizing Native PeopleTools for Improved Business Intelligence) was the highest-ranked session of the entire show. That’s exciting, especially considering the very high caliber of session presentations at Reconnect and the fact that it’s a strongly PeopleSoft-centric show.

Great job, Larry!

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If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know Larry is a top contributor. If you’re wishing you could learn more about this topic, Larry has written two posts that may be of interest:

(Editor’s note: We’re coming up on the Thanksgiving holiday here in the U.S., so posting will be light for the remainder of the week. We’d like to take a quick second to say thanks to everyone for reading this blog. Without our readership — which has ballooned past anyone’s reasonable expectations — this blog is nothing. Thanks again. Happy Thanksgiving!)

How to Get a Free Trial Version of Oracle BI Publisher

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I believe a big part of the value of our blogs is sharing information in a community that sometimes doesn’t always have a great venue for the sharing.  Sometimes we demo or share our opinions, but we try to always share real information.

In fact, there is so much information out there about PeopleSoft and business intelligence, that unless you live it and breathe it and use it to solve daily problems, it is impossible to know all of the content that’s available.  To that end, I want to share where you can get a free demo version of Oracle BI Publisher for trial purposes. You can download the content and it comes pre-delivered with data models, reports, dashboard and a fully functional version of BI publisher.  You can even upload your own data content to practice creating reports and dashboard with your own data which has value and means something specifically to you.

The download is quite simple — go here (you’ll need your Oracle user name and password).  Read and accept the license agreement (read and accept with your company’s permission of course),  and select the appropriate version to download.  From there, once downloaded, simply follow the instructions.  Everything is pre-configured and ready for use.  You do not have to figure out web servers, etc. in order to make this fully functional.  There are of course install guides and quick start guides and tutorials for your reference.

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Once installed you will have icons on your desktop, like this:

Simply double-click Start BI Publisher, let the window open and the processes start up and once they are started, double-click the Sign Into BI Publisher icon and it will launch your web browser for sign-on.  Simply launch Stop BI Publisher when you are finished.  Once within the application, you will be able to run existing reports/dashboards, modify existing reports/dashboards and create new.  Soon you will understand the capabilities of Oracle BI Publisher. This is a great way to get a feel for the application without jumping in with both feet. I recommend it highly.

Enjoy!

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More links:
MIPRO Consulting main website.
MIPRO on Twitter and LinkedIn.
About this blog.

Looking Ahead: What to Be Excited About in PeopleTools 8.53

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Being a combination business intelligence and PeopleSoft guy, I am always looking for enhancements to improve the end user experience and capability of embedding business intelligence into the business process. Here are some of the favorite enhancements I am most looking forward to evaluating in PeopleTools 8.53.

Related Actions/Related Content

Enhancement: The Related Actions Framework is a feature originally delivered with PeopleTools 8.52; it presents a mini menu of actions or options that are contextually appropriate to the user’s role and particular data presented on the application screen. PeopleTools 8.53 brings Related Actions to Pivot Grids, allowing users to take actions directly on data displayed in a pivot grid.

Comment: I’m looking forward to understanding what capabilities around “taking actions” directly on the data are introduced. I’m hoping for true ability to take action and navigate to source pages much like drilling URLs allows the end user. Combining this with grid reporting can be of real value.

Work Centers and Dashboards

Enhancement: Operational dashboards are designed to provide vital decision support information based on role. WorkCenters are used to streamline process execution, and they provide easier and faster navigation as well as other information that is needed for the transactions at hand. This release improves the way WorkCenters and Dashboards can be designed and used. Application developers and designers can deploy dashboard-like pagelets within WorkCenters to provide better decision support for WorkCenter transactions. This capability combines some of the features and benefits of Dashboards with WorkCenters. In addition, applications can now consume remote pagelets in WorkCenters, Homepages, and Dashboards.

Comment: This should prove to be a nice enhancement and improve the overall decision-making process by embedding more relevant business intelligence into the work centers. This is similar to what we have been helping our clients with related to homepage dashboards but focused on the workcenter.

Activity Guides

Enhancement: Activity Guides allow application designers to define processes that guide users through a series of predefined actions. Activity Guides are often used for infrequent self-service events, such as benefits enrollment, and also can be used for managing process-specific tasks, such as period-end-close in Financials Management. In 8.53, the Activity Guide enables application developers to define a list of action items tied to transactional, collaborative, or manual tasks. The action item represents a task that can be tracked for assignment and completion, and is secured by roles and user lists. Activity Guides also enable a hierarchical list of action items.

A new Activity Guide WorkCenter template is available for use with building and configuring Activity Guides. This template provides a frame with the navigation controls used to traverse an Activity Guide.

The WorkCenter template also provides the following features:

  • A status bar to indicate the progress of the Activity Guide, and the Active Action item is
    highlighted.

Comment: We have utilized navigation collections to mimick a process but this new functionality will take everything to the next level by assigning tasks and really creating a “guide” for a business transaction. I envision this as project oriented tasks associated with work centers and transactional business oriented duties. Thinking beyond just the use associated with the product, this may be expanded for user training and designing the activities as step by step processes. This could again, really change the end user experience.

  • Ability to do pre-processing and post-processing for an action item.
  • Pre-processing: Perform business logic before transferring the user to the appropriate
    transaction.
  • Post processing: Perform business logic when a save is performed on the transaction
    associated with the action item.
  • Ability to assign an action item to a role or a user.
  • Ability to create dependency rules for action items.

Hopefully, this overview makes you as excited for PeopleTools 8.53 as I am. We are asked constantly about the roadmap for PeopleTools, and this blog post represents the best of our understanding based on public information as well as personal projection and opinion. If you have questions or want to chat to sort this out a bit, I am always available. Drop me an email.

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More links:
MIPRO Consulting main website.
MIPRO on Twitter and LinkedIn.
About this blog.

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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More links:
MIPRO Consulting main website.
MIPRO on Twitter and LinkedIn.
About this blog.

The Power of PeopleTools: An Example of a Buyer Work Center

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In prior posts, we have generically discussed utilizing PeopleTools 8.5x to improve business intelligence within PeopleSoft.  Our message is definitely resonating with our customers as they are now looking for unique ways to take advantage of these powerful enhancements.

For example, we worked with a customer to create a buyer homepage dashboard.  This dashboard is extremely powerful, taking advantage of query, embeddable pagelets with links to the application components to create a work center designed to provide the buyers the key information and navigation they need to efficiently complete their daily tasks.

These work center pagelets include:

  • Comparing the requisition to the purchase order for validation: Allows PO approvers to quickly identify purchase orders that need further research before approving them.
  • List purchase orders that have no receipts: Assists buyers with monitoring their shipments against open PO’s and averting match exceptions.
  • Identifying past due purchase orders: Assists buyers with monitoring their shipments against open PO’s and expediting, if necessary.

The last two pagelets provide links to allow the buyer to open purchase order for research and maintenance:

  • List open requisitions which have not been turned into purchase orders: Creates an automated to-do list to help buyers manage their work schedule. Allows the buyer to track the progress of requisitions through the sourcing and approval steps.
  • New items which have been entered but not yet activated:  Helps ensure new item entry is completed and the items are available for use. The pagelet includes a link to item add/update page.
  • Outlining match exceptions: This pagelet creates an automated to-do list to help buyers manage their work and minimize navigation. Allows the buyer to track match exceptions for their POs and link to the Matching Workbench to see the exceptions,  the PO Activity Summary page research the problem and the PO update page to correct the problem.
  • Identifying blanket POs by buyer: The Blanket PO Pagelet shows open blanket purchase orders by buyer. The page lists the buyer’s blanket PO and shows the remaining balance of the orders. It also provides a link to the PO.

As you can see, this setup allows a buyer to log into PeopleSoft and have their priorities waiting for them right on their homepage.  No longer do you have to run queries, print queries or write information down, navigate to multiple pages to investigate.  With these homepage dashboards and drillable links, buyers can link directly to the page and record requiring investigation.  In short, this is a very powerful tool that saves time and increases the usability of PeopleSoft — all done by virtue of PeopleTools 8.5x.

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More links:
MIPRO Consulting main website.
MIPRO on Twitter and LinkedIn.
About this blog.

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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More links:

MIPRO Consulting main website.

MIPRO on Twitter and LinkedIn.

About this blog.

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