August 11th, 2014 by Daniel Adams
One of the main things I get asked to do here at Rittman Mead, is deliver the OBIEE front-end training course (TRN 202). This a great course that has served both us, and our clients well over the years. It has always been in high demand and always delivered with great feedback from those in attendance. However, as with all things in life and business, there is going to be room for improvement and opportunities to provide even more value to our clients. Of all the feedback I receive from delivering the course, my favorite is that we do an incredible job delivering both the content and providing real business scenarios on how we have used this tool in the consulting field. Attendees will ask me how a feature works, and how I have used it with current and former clients, 100% of the time.
This year at KSCope ’14 in Seattle, we were asked to deliver a 2 hour front-end training course. Our normal front-end course runs a span of two days and covers just about every feature you can use all the way from Answers and Dashboards, to BI Publisher. Before the invitation to KScope ’14, we had bee tooling with the idea to deliver a course that not only teaches attendees on how to navigate OBIEE and use it’s features, but also emphasizes the business value behind why those features exist in the first place. We felt that too often users are given a quick overview of what the tool includes, but left figure out on their own how to extract the most value. It is one thing to create a graph in Answers, and another to know what the best graph to use might be. So in preparation for the KScope session, we decided to build the content around not only how to develop in OBIEE, but also why, as a business user, you would choose one layout/graph/feature over another. As you would expect, the turn out for the session was fantastic, we had over 70 plus pre-register, with another 10 on the waiting list. This was proof that there is an impending need to pull as much business value out of the tool as there is to simply learn how to use it. We were so encouraged by the attendance and feedback from this event, that we spent the next several weeks developing what is called the “Business Enablement Bootcamp”. It is a 3 day course that will cover Answers, Dashboards, Action Framework, BI Publisher, and the new Mobile App Designer. This is an exciting time for us in that we not only get show people how to use all of the great features that are built into the tool, but to also incorporate years of consulting experience and hundreds of client engagements right into the content. Below I have listed a breakdown of the material and the value it will provide.
Whenever we deliver our OBIEE 5-day bootcamp, which covers everything from infrastructure to the front end, Answers is one of the key components that we teach. Answers is the building block for analysis in OBIEE. While this portion of the tool is relatively intuitive to get started with, there are so many valuable nuances and settings that can get over looked without proper instruction. In order to get the most out of the tool, a business user needs be able to not only create basic analyses, but be able to use many of the advanced features such as hierarchical columns, master-detail, and selection steps. Knowing how and why to use these features is a key component to gaining valuable insight for your business users.
This one in particular is dear to my heart. To create an analysis and share it on a dashboard is one thing, but to tell a particular story with a series of visualizations strategically placed on a dashboard is something entirely different. Like anything else business intelligence, optimal visualization and best practices are learned skills that take time and practice. Valuable skills like making the most of your white space, choosing the correct visualizations, and formatting will be covered. When you provide your user base with the knowledge and skills to tell the best story, there will be no time wasted with clumsy iterations and guesswork as to what is the best way to present your data. This training will provide some simple parameters to work within, so that users can quickly gather requirements and develop dashboards that more polish and relevance than ever before.
Whenever I deliver any form of front end training, I always feel like this piece of OBIEE is either overlooked, undervalued, or both. This is because most users are either unaware of it’s use, or really don’t have a clear idea of its value and functionality. It’s as if it is viewed as an add-on in the sense that is just simply a nice feature. The action framework is something that when properly taught how to navigate, or given demonstration of its value, it will indeed become an invaluable piece of the stack. In order to get the most out of your catalog, users need to be shown how to strategically place action links to give the ability to drill across to analyses and add more context for discovery. These are just a few capabilities within the action framework that when shown how and when to use it, can add valuable insight (not to mention convenience) to an organization.
Bi Publisher/Mobile App Designer
Along with the action framework, this particular piece of the tool has the tendency to get overlooked, or simply give users cold feet about implementing it to complement answers. I actually would have agreed with these feelings before the release of 18.104.22.168. Before this release, a user would need to have a pretty advanced knowledge of data modeling. However, users can now simply pick any subject area, and use the report creation wizard to be off and running creating pixel perfect reports in no time. Also, the new Mobile App Designer on top of the publisher platform is another welcomed addition to this tool. Being the visual person that I am, I think that this is where this pixel perfect tool really shines. Objects just look a lot more polished right out of the box, without having to spend a lot of time formatting the same way you would have to in answers. During training, attendees will be exposed the many of the new features within BIP and MAD, as well as how to use them to complement answers and dashboards.
Third Party Visualizations
While having the ability to implement third party visualizations like D3 and Flot into OBIEE is more of an advanced skill, the market and need seems to be growing for this. While Oracle has done some good things in past releases with new visualizations like performance tiles and waterfall charts, we all know that business requirements can be demanding at times and may require going elsewhere to appease the masses. You can visit https://github.com/mbostock/d3/wiki/Gallery to see some of the other available visualizations beyond what is available in OBIEE. During training, attendees will learn the value of when and why external visualizations might be useful, as well as a high level view of how they can be implemented.
Users often make the mistake of viewing each piece of the front end stack as separate entities, and without proper training this is very understandable. Even though they are separate pieces of the product, they are all meant to work together and enhance the “Business Intelligence” of an organization. Without training the business to complement one piece to another, it will always be viewed as just another frustrating tool that they don’t have enough time to learn on their own. This tool is meant to empower your organization to have everything they need to make the most informed and timely decisions, let us use our experience to enable your business.