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Posts Tagged ‘business intelligence’

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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MIPRO Consulting main website.

MIPRO on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Big Data and Business Intelligence

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Big data seems to be the hot topic of conversation lately as it pertains to business intelligence.  We get asked often about what organizations should be aware of as they explore this avenue.

The obvious perils of big data include performance concerns, such as the ability to process and analyze data quickly and efficiently enough to provide value. Non-performant data analysis and processing will render any big data notions DOA.

Ideally, the BI solution sitting on fast, powerful hardware is a robust enough avenue to allow for this expeditious analysis.  Often in implementations, instead of the doing what should  be the norm — writing a report or developing a dashboard and extending business intelligence to the masses seamlessly — we spend too much time trying to optimize the SQL/database and do endless tuning, tuning and more tuning simply to secure adequate performance.  This takes away from the core concept of putting BI in the hands of the end users.  But the brutal truth is that if it doesn’t perform quickly, end users will not adopt it, no matter what information you’re promising to give them.

Oracle has spent a lot of time and effort to solve the big data problem with their Exalytics solution.  Simply defined, it is optimizing hardware and BI software to work together to provide the ability to process enormous amounts of data quickly and efficiently.  I have not had the opportunity to work with this solution personally, but if it achieves the results that are being emphasized, it represents some real opportunity to deploy a BI and hardware solution that can put the power of BI back into the hands of the end user.  Less time tuning and more time letting the end users analyze, which is what decision-enablement is all about.

There is a lot of data about the Exalytics solution and overall Oracle big data solutions, both from Oracle itself as well as analysts that can be found here. Give it a look.

Of course, if you have questions, you know the drill: ask away.

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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.

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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.

About this blog.

Think You’re Not Being Data-Mined? Think Again.

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Say you’re a father of a teenage girl. One day, you get the mail and notice a Target coupon book addressed to your daughter, and it’s full of impending-baby supplies: supplements, lotion, diapers, cotton balls. You’re outraged. What is Target trying to do? Encourage another teenage pregnancy? You do what any father would do: you go to Target, ask for a manager, and give him a piece of your mind for sending out blatantly mist-targeted advertising like this. The manager, completely unsure of why in the world your daughter would get such a coupon book, apologizes profusely. Everyone chalks it up to a gaffe.

A few days later, you have a truly Orwellian moment: Target knew more about your daughter than you did. She’s pregnant. You didn’t know.

Sound like an impossible story? It’s not. In fact, it’s only one example of how companies are employing customer IDs, statisticians and data-mining to send you extremely targeted marketing. Here, ‘extremely targeted’ doesn’t mean advertising based on some known part of your shopping history or demographic; it means they are assigning you probability scores that something in your life is about to happen, and they want to get in on the ground floor to build customer loyalty.

Kashmir Hill, writing for Forbes, examines this exact story and illustrates how accurately companies can learn about you:

Every time you go shopping, you share intimate details about your consumption patterns with retailers. And many of those retailers are studying those details to figure out what you like, what you need, and which coupons are most likely to make you happy. Target, for example, has figured out how to data-mine its way into your womb, to figure out whether you have a baby on the way long before you need to start buying diapers.

Hill references the original NYTimes story that uncovered company secrets like this, which is entertaining to the point of fiction. Except it’s not.

You always hear about privacy issues when it comes to major gaffes by web companies: Facebook and Google, most predominantly. I know folks who refuse to use Facebook because of privacy concerns. I know others who refuse to use Google unless their browser is in some flavor of privacy mode. I always tell them they’re kidding themselves. Opting out of those two services might prevent data collection and targeted marketing from them (and their partners) to you, but everyone is doing it. Everyone. The ones we find out about are the ones who have made mistakes. The others? They’re running data on you right now, or maybe selling your data to another company, who will combine your data assets to paint an incredibly detailed picture of you.

We get outraged and freaked out when hear about a company violating or monetizing our privacy. We might cancel accounts and refuse to patronize the company again. But what about the companies that haven’t violated us yet?

Is it any mystery why after you, say, buy an Infiniti, you get deluged by mailers and emails from BMW boasting about how the 3-series recently bested Infiniti in so-and-so tests?  I’ve had this happen and have even thought, “Huh, that’s smart marketing” — right up until you realize how they’re doing it. And wonder what else they’re doing. And what other companies are doing.

You probably can’t drop off the grid, but this is worth thinking about. Even stuff that’s totally legal has the ability to make you very uncomfortable.

These are our times.

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More links:

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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More links:

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.

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Are You Running or Managing Your Business?

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Recently, I was traveling to Kansas City to give a presentation on using PeopleTools 8.5 to improve business intelligence.  Little did I know that my travel would offer me a good opening example to support the presentation.

If you are a reader of this blog then you are likely familiar with the statement “ERP systems allow you to ‘run’ your business and business intelligence allows you to ‘manage’ your business”.  Coincidentally, this is also the opening line I used to support and give context to this particular presentation.

Here is the real-world scenario that helped drive my point home.  I rented a car from a rental car company that shall remain nameless but know that it is not Joe’s Awesome Auto Rental Hut but rather a mainstream rental organization focused on business travelers.  This rental company took my reservation online and had a car waiting for me upon my arrival.

So there they are, running their core business of taking reservations and providing vehicles for use.  However, if they used some business intelligence from the data that is available to them either in my profile and other data sources, they probably would have done a better job of “managing” their business and providing a vehicle that results in higher customer satisfaction.  Specifically, using minimal data, they would have known I was a business traveler who did not need:  1)  A convertible in Missouri in the middle of October,  2)  A sports car with two seats with a trunk barely large enough to stow a pair of shoes let alone enough space to support two business travelers, and 3)  A back seat that was no longer a back seat but replaced by a “speaker”, a substantial sub woofer the size of my head. (Ed.  note: Jokes about the size of Larry’s head are anticipated and encouraged. Email them here.)

What’s the moral here? Nothing, except that it’s a fine example of running a business versus managing a business and using available data to do so.

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MIPRO Consulting main website.

MIPRO on Twitter and Facebook.

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Using PeopleTools 8.51+ to Improve Business Intelligence

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The live demonstration below will discuss and demonstrate how to take advantage of native PeopleTools 8.51 and higher to improve business intelligence in your organization.

In this video, we show you how to expand business intelligence into PeopleSoft utilizing delivered tools to “configure,” not “customize” your solution and improve the business process with embedded business intelligence.  PeopleSoft provides the ability to “run” your business and business intelligence allows you to “manage” your business.  Today, with PeopleTools 8.51 you can do both!  This presentation will be valuable for both technical and functional users as we demonstrate the business value of extending the tools solution and how to accomplish it using real world examples.

Questions or comments? Please get in touch.

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More links:

MIPRO Consulting main website.

MIPRO on Twitter and Facebook.

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Oracle Enters Enterprise Search & Data Management Market

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So the news is this: Oracle bought Endeca, a search and data management company. Smart move. Enterprise search has long been lacking, especially when it comes to searching unstructured data, and now Oracle will have a very compelling differentiator for its business intelligence and analytics platforms.

Here’s TechCrunch on the deal:

Endeca’s core technology enables companies to correlate and analyze unstructured data and provides enterprise search for large companies including Borders, Boeing, the Census Bureau, the EPA, Ford, Hallmark, IBM, and Toshiba. The company specializes in guided search, and auto-categorizing results based on the keywords someone enters. Endeca charges from $100,000 to more than $10 million per installation.

Endeca’s InFront offering allows businesses with tools for advanced merchandising and content targeting for e-commerce. And Endeca Latitude enables businesses to rapidly develop analytic applications that draw information and data from unstructured and structured sources together.

An aside: I wonder what this means for Oracle’s Secure Enterprise Search product?

Also, there is some speculation that the sound we all just heard was Oracle entering the search space, but I don’t this move is that broad. They’re going to nail enterprise search like nobody else has before. Watch.

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More links:

MIPRO Consulting main website.

MIPRO on Twitter and Facebook.

About this blog.