Thursday, 10 May 2012

Implement Oracle Business Intelligence (Volume 1)

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Book's Overview (This site is best viewed in Firefox)

The first volume of OBIEE implementation series, Implement Oracle Business Intelligence – Volume I, starts Business Intelligence exploration journey by refreshing concepts about data and information. Treading on its route towards practical implementation, the book presents concise but concrete definitions about a range of Oracle BIEE components. 

Besides concept presentation, the essence of this book is a practical scenario which initiates with the setup of BI environment and guides its audience in detail the use of various OBEEE tools to answer typical business questions put up by procurement department of an organization in an effort to implement organization’s strategy to reduce cost, evaluate processes, establish vigilance, and take informed timely decisions. 

The book’s theme can be summarized as under:

•    Business Intelligence and related concepts presentation
•    Acquaintance with and utilization of various Oracle BIEE tools and features
•    Practical Implementation in a department of a fictitious organization
•    Provide scattered information in one place to preserve audience time

Each chapter in the book focuses on some particular OBIEE components, provides key concepts about them and describes how they can be used to resolve business problems. For example, the Performance Management chapter is designed to present the following information:

Utilized BI component and related concepts
What is Scorecard?
What is Key Performance Indicator (KPI)?
Strategy Tree, a visual strategy presentation tool

Problem Scenario
What is the average unit price of a particular product, procured through multiple suppliers?
How much time is taken by a clearing agent to clear shipments (performance monitoring)?
How long does it take finance department to make duty payments (avoid demurrage cost)?

Hands On
Create KPIs to provide the required information.
Create strategies and objectives using Scorecard tool to monitor performance.
Create a strategy tree to visually present organization’s strategy and performance

Provides a summary of what the audience learned in the chapter.

This book deals with the issues of a particular department (procurement) and provides solutions to cope with them using Oracle BIEE. I’ve plans to write few more books like this one for other departments (Finance, Export etc.) to address their particular problems.

Intended Audience
Implement Oracle Business Intelligence (Volume 1) is intended for anyone willing to learn how to dig intelligence from the data mine using Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition. This book is beneficial for people responsible to organize and present data for making critical and timely business decisions such as top management, managers, business analysts, programmers, report specialist and information consumers. It follows a case study of Import (procurement) department in a fictitious organization where several key issues of this department are resolved proactively using this robust Oracle technology. The book is designed in such a manner that it first presents the components and features of OBIEE, then the problem scenario faced by the department, and finally the hands-on exercises to resolve the issues using the described components and features.

Case Study
There is nothing more than a good hands-on book to evaluate a technology. This book, Implement Oracle Business Intelligence (Volume 1), follows an intuitive approach and provides unique practical examples to explore Oracle BIEE. In this book, I've specifically focused on problems faced by Imports (procurement) department of an organization. But, the techniques applied here are generic and can be utilized for other situations as well. Let's take a look at the case study presented in this book.

The Import department of ABC Corporation is using an Imports Management and Information Software, The Import Manager, to manage its imports proceedings. The software produces several key reports to provide insight into the imports process, but
individually. The Imports department head, Mr. Frank, wants to see all the information at a glance. In addition, he needs some specific reports and vigilant information that the existing software cannot deliver proactively. He discussed the problem with the IT head and put-up the following questions:

1. What are my future payments due to banks?
2. What is the status of in-transit shipments?
3. What is the import volume of each category?
4. What is the comparative imports volume?
5. What is the import volume of individual products?

In reply to the above queries, the IT department suggested a dashboard that would display all the information on a single screen.

ABC Corporation is using Oracle 11g database on the back-end. So, the development team has decided to take advantage of the most robust tool, Oracle Business Intelligence, to prepare a professional looking dashboard for Mr. Frank. The team initiates the project by conducting an analysis on the existing application and corresponding database objects.

Besides the above five questions (answered graphically on the main dashboard page), there are many more discussed in this book to answer business questions of Imports department and to evaluate performance of internal departments and external business partners.See Table of Content

Note: This book is available in color and b/w formats on Amazon.


Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Chapter 1

Introduction to Oracle Business Intelligence (excerpts from the book)

The first volume of Implement Oracle Business Intelligence series, takes you off by introducing the world of business intelligence. This chapter discusses the following basic information before the practical hands-on implementation of OBIEE:

  • Data and Information
  • SQL and its Limitation
  • What is Business Intelligence?
  • Why Use Business Intelligence?
  • What are the Benefits?
  • Oracle Business Intelligence
  • Oracle BI Repository and BI Server
  • Measures, Dimensions and BI Repository Layers
  • Logical Fact Tables
  • Logical Dimension Tables
  • Identifying Dimensions
  • Physical Layer
  • Business Model and Mapping Layer
  • Presentation Layer
  • The Expression Builder
  • Oracle BI Interface
  • Oracle BI Presentation Catalog
  • Oracle BI Components
  • Analyses in OBIEE
  • What are Subject Areas?
  • Views used in Oracle Business Intelligence
  • Dashboards in OBIEE
  • Agents concept in Oracle Business Intelligence
  • Alerts
  • Conditions
  • Actions
  • Key Performance Indications (KPI)
  • KPI Watchlist
  • Scorecard and Strategy Management
  • Oracle BI Publisher

Data and Information

The words data and information are very frequently used in our daily lives and are often used interchangeably. However, there are many differences between the meanings and use of these two words.

Data are facts that people collect through their observations and experiences while information are interpreted facts based on the gathered data. Data refers to the lowest abstract or a raw input which when processed or arranged generates information. Information is obtained through analysis, communication, or investigation. As an example, if you have a list on the top ten travel sites, that is data; if you have a book
giving details about each site, it is information.

Any kind of understanding or knowledge that can be exchanged with people is information. It can be about facts, things, concepts, or anything relevant to the topic concerned.

Data can be in the form of numbers, characters, symbols, or even pictures. When it exists in this raw form, the data has no significance. It gains importance when it is arranged into something meaningful. A collection of these data which conveys some meaningful idea is information. It may provide answers to questions like who, which, when, why, what, and how.

SQL Limitations

Structured Query Language (SQL), is a specialized language for managing data in relational database management systems (RDBMS).

You can use simple SQL queries to extract information from the data source. In complicated situations where data is stored in different sources and in different formats, you need to issue complex analytical SQL queries to extort the information.

This primary tool has been the main source for extracting information from data for decades. But when it comes to answer business analysis questions, SQL comes up with the following drawbacks:

  • Writing SQL statements is too hard to review business processes
  • It is not designed to access unstructured or semi‐structured data.

Business Intelligence tools emerged on the market due to the above mentioned SQL limitations. These tools enable better decision‐making by simplifying the process of business analysis and data publishing stored in any source and in any format. There is further practical explanation in the book to demonstrate the drawbacks of using SQL mentioned above.

What is Business Intelligence?

Business intelligence can simply be defined as transformation of data into information and then into intelligence. It provides you the power to get significant data in time, and in an efficient manner. The main objective of business intelligence is to allow you to make high quality decisions to achieve more opportunities. Many factors, such as internal business processes, economic environment, customers, business partners and competitors help in making such decisions. These major assessments, not only
directs a company towards the success milestone but also helps a lot in improving its performance. It is business intelligence that will provide you a competitive edge over your competitors and will allow you get an insight into your company’s processes to evaluate whether it needs improvements. This topic further explains why businesses use BI tools and what are the common business intelligence functions.

Why use Business Intelligence?

This topic provides a list of factors that form the basis to use business intelligence such as, verifying the organization’s health by checking its strength and weaknesses.

What are the benefits of using Business Intelligence?

  • Get instant information through high performance queries
  • Obtain interactive analysis over large volumes of data
  • Drill down on your information
  • Fetch information from multiple data sources
  • No need to be a reporting guru
  • No impact on the performance of live applications

What is Oracle Business Intelligence?

Oracle Business Intelligence is a comprehensive set of enterprise business intelligence tools and infrastructure, including a scalable and efficient query and analysis server, an ad‐hoc query and analysis tool, interactive dashboards, proactive intelligence and alerts, real‐time predictive intelligence, and an enterprise reporting engine. Oracle Business Intelligence is designed to bring greater business visibility and insight to a wide variety of users. It provides a full range of business intelligence capabilities that allow you to:
  • Collect up‐to‐date data from your organization
  • Present the data in easy‐to‐understand formats (such as tables and graphs)
  • Deliver data in a timely fashion to the employees in your organization
These capabilities enable your organization to make better decisions, take informed actions, and implement more‐efficient business processes.

Oracle BI Repository and Oracle BI Server

After installation of required software (chapter 2 explains how to download and install Oracle Database, Oracle Business Intelligence, and RCU-Repository Creation Utility), the initial step is to plan and design your metadata repository. This process includes working with the physical contents, planning your business model, and preparing the presentation layer for end users. You will use BI Administration Tool to create and edit your Oracle BI repository.

The Oracle BI Server is an Oracle Business Intelligence component that processes user requests and queries underlying data sources. Combined together, the architecture of the Oracle BI repository and the Oracle BI Server provides a layer that enables users send simple Logical SQL queries against complex data sources.

The topic elaborates what the Oracle BI Server maintains, types of data sources it can connect, how it connects to the underlying data sources, and how it uses the metadata in the Oracle BI repository.

Measures, Dimensions, and Oracle BI Repository Layers

There are three layers in an Oracle BI repository; Physical, Business Model and Mapping, and Presentation. You must first prepare a high‐level design of your Business Model that exposes the analytic requirements of your end users. To determine what content to include in your business model, you must first identify the logical columns on which users need to query. Then, to establish the role played by each column, identify whether it is a measure column or a dimensional attribute.

You're provided in-depth details about Logical Fact Tables, Logical Dimension Tables, Identifying Dimensions, Physical Layer, Business Model & Mapping Layer, and Presentation Layer.

The Expression Builder

Expression Builder is used in the Administration Tool to create constraints, aggregations, and other definitions within a repository. These expressions are similar to expressions created with SQL. Using Expression Builder interface, you perform some operations and functions on your back-end data. For instance, create a derived character type column from an existing numeric column using the Cast conversion function. Here, you'll acquaint yourself with different sections of the Expression Builder.