Friday Apr 06, 2012
Friday Mar 30, 2012
By Bob Zurek on Mar 30, 2012
Normally we use this blog space for discussing our business intelligence and analytic efforts along with our views and perspective on this very fast growing marketplace. However, I can't resist mentioning that we are having a great webcast coming up next week, so please do join Oracle's Mark Hurd and Balaji Yelamanchili as they unveil the latest advances in Oracle's strategy for placing analytics into the hands of every one of your decision makers-so that they can see more, think smarter, and act faster. Register now at http://bit.ly/HpAOJk for the Webcast and Live Chat: Wednesday, April 4, 2012 at 9 a.m. PT, 12 p.m. ET, 10 a.m. GMT. You don't want to miss this event and thank you very much.
By Bob Zurek on Mar 30, 2012
Friday Mar 16, 2012
By Bob Zurek on Mar 16, 2012
Information Discovery, a core capability of Oracle Endeca Information Discovery, enables business users to rapidly search, discover and navigate through a wide variety of big data including structured, unstructured and semi-structured data. One of the key capabilities, among many, that differentiate our solution from others in the Information Discovery market is our deep support for search across this growing amount of varied big data. Our method and approach is very different than classic simple keyword search that is found in may information discovery solutions. In this first part of a series on the topic of search, I will walk you through many of the key capabilities that go beyond the simple search box that you might experience in products where search was clearly an afterthought or attempt to catch up to our core capabilities in this area. Lets explore.
The core data management solution of Oracle Endeca Information Discovery is the Endeca Server, a hybrid search-analytical database that his highly scalable and column-oriented in nature. We will talk in more technical detail about the capabilities of the Endeca Server in future blog posts as this post is intended to give you a feel for the deep search capabilities that are an integral part of the Endeca Server.
The Endeca Server provides best-of-breed search features aw well as a new class of features that are the first to be designed around the requirement to bridge structured, semi-structured and unstructured big data. Some of the key features of search include type a heads, automatic alphanumeric spell corrections, positional search, Booleans, wildcarding, natural language, and category search and query classification dialogs. This is just a subset of the advanced search capabilities found in Oracle Endeca Information Discovery.
Search is an important feature that makes it possible for business users to explore on the diverse data sets the Endeca Server can hold at any one time. The search capabilities in the Endeca server differ from other Information Discovery products with simple “search boxes” in the following ways:
The Endeca Server Supports Exploratory Search.
Enterprise data frequently requires the user to explore content through an ad hoc dialog, with guidance that helps them succeed. This has implications for how to design search features. Traditional search doesn’t assume a dialog, and so it uses relevance ranking to get its best guess to the top of the results list. It calculates many relevance factors for each query, like word frequency, distance, and meaning, and then reduces those many factors to a single score based on a proprietary “black box” formula. But how can a business users, searching, act on the information that the document is say only 38.1% relevant? In contrast, exploratory search gives users the opportunity to clarify what is relevant to them through refinements and summaries. This approach has received consumer endorsement through popular ecommerce sites where guided navigation across a broad range of products has helped consumers better discover choices that meet their, sometimes undetermined requirements. This same model exists in Oracle Endeca Information Discovery. In fact, the Endeca Server powers many of the most popular e-commerce sites in the world.
The Endeca Server Supports Cascading Relevance.
Traditional approaches of search reduce many relevance weights to a single score. This means that if a result with a good title match gets a similar score to one with an exact phrase match, they’ll appear next to each other in a list. But a user can’t deduce from their score why each got it’s ranking, even though that information could be valuable. Oracle Endeca Information Discovery takes a different approach. The Endeca Server stratifies results by a primary relevance strategy, and then breaks ties within a strata by ordering them with a secondary strategy, and so on. Application managers get the explicit means to compose these strategies based on their knowledge of their own domain. This approach gives both business users and managers a deterministic way to set and understand relevance.
Now that you have an understanding of two of the core search capabilities in Oracle Endeca Information Discovery, our next blog post on this topic will discuss more advanced features including set search, second-order relevance as well as an understanding of faceted search mechanisms that include queries and filters.
Saturday Feb 25, 2012
By Tobin Gilman on Feb 25, 2012
Digital data volumes are increasing tenfold every five years, yet more than 31% of executives say they are not getting the information they need to make important decisions, and 36% say their business units and functional operations are making decisions based on inconsistent information. The resulting “analysis paralysis” is costing the US economy alone over $900 billion per year according to one recent study. Many organizations are turning these challenges into competitive advantage. What are the issues and how can analytics help provide a competitive edge, and drive continuous performance improvement?
Challenges in Managing Business Performance
There are a number of fault lines that interrupt the continuous flow of business processes in the enterprise. The primary focus of ERP, HCM and CRM systems has been to simplify and standardize operational processes. These systems have been very successful over the years but in parallel, analytic systems have been developed to enable you to analyze past performance in areas such as marketing effectiveness, workforce dynamics and customer profitability. Since transaction and analytic systems were created separately, your ability to connect the dots between operational variances and root causes has been elusive.
Furthermore, planning processes have been detached from both operations and analysis. This discontinuity makes it difficult, even impossible for you to achieve a dynamic planning environment where strategic plans cascade to operational plans and forecasts in manufacturing, human resources, finance, sales and marketing. The disconnects between planning, operations and analysis are one of the main challenges of analytic systems, but they also represent one of the biggest opportunities.
While analytics has emerged as a top priority because of its ability to provide deeper insight into business performance, there are obstacles that prevent its full potential from being realized. The proliferation of analytic tools across the organization and the corresponding data silos that exist make it difficult for you to leverage best practices, collaborate across functions and confidently see one version of the truth. People need to have a single, simple way of defining KPI’s so they can quickly align around complete, accurate and timely information and spend their time solving problems instead of gathering and correlating data.
In today’s volatile economic and market environment, analytic requirements change frequently, often exceeding 50% per year. To operate as a competitive organization you must have the capability to adapt to changing business requirements. Static, inflexible systems are a drag on agile business management. You need the ability to quickly visualize the status of performance that’s relevant to your role regardless of location – at your desk, in the factory or on the road – and have the confidence of knowing that you’re seeing current, accurate information.
Evolving from Efficiency to Effectiveness to Transformation
Given these daunting challenges, how do you get started and what's the best strategy for building an analytic roadmap for your company? Oracle believes that there are three major stages in deploying analytics. First, focus on improving operational efficiency by making insights pervasive and consistent across the organization while lowering total cost of ownership. Second, analytic initiatives should aim to increase the operational effectiveness of decision makers. Beyond gaining insight, operational effectiveness is about cascading strategy into operations, and creating more dynamic financial and operational plans that react and respond to a changing environment.
Third and most important, when deployed strategically analytics can be transformative for your company. When linking insights to action, decisions can be optimized and advantage can be created. By combining unstructured data with data warehouse, new insights and patterns can found. And through engineered systems new analytic applications can be created with extreme performance advantages.
Efficiency – Doing the Current Things Right
BI Platform Standardization. To create greater operational efficiency you need to standardize on an enterprise platform that can meet the diverse and continuously changing needs of your organization. The Oracle BI Foundation integrates the capabilities of multiple BI tools into a single, unified technology platform that supports the full spectrum of analytic requirements, including reports, dashboards, scorecards, scenario analysis, and ad-hoc query and analysis.
A unique Common Enterprise Information Model centralizes all metrics, calculations and assumptions which provide your users with confidence in the data, because the definitions are consistent regardless of where or how the information is accessed. Your users are insulated from the complexities of traditional BI tools enabling “self-service BI” which minimizes their reliance on IT to generate reports.
Workforces are increasingly mobile and the demand for access ‘on the go’ is exploding due the popularity of the Apple iPad and other tablet devices. In a recent report, Gartner estimates that over the next several years more than 33% of BI information will be consumed on mobile devices. Oracle identified this trend long ago and includes mobile capability in the Oracle BI Foundation. Unlike pure-play mobile BI vendors, Oracle’s solution shares common metadata, common definitions, and common infrastructure across web and mobile devices, meaning that you can see exactly the same information regardless of where you want to go.
Effectiveness – Doing the Right Things
Enterprise Performance Management. Core to improving operational effectiveness is linking strategy with execution. Leading companies have turned to Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) solutions to achieve this objective. Oracle leads this market with the most complete suite of EPM applications that span strategic, financial and operational planning areas.
Customers in all industries use EPM applications to drive agility and alignment into their enterprise planning processes. Annual financial plans are informed by strategic assumptions. These include product, customer, and business unit profitability models that can be created using Oracle’s cost management and profitability application. Through direct integration with ERP systems, baseline plans, forecasts and monthly updates can be informed by up to the minute actual information from the general ledger. Top down and bottoms up approaches can be reconciled and rolling forecasts provide more meaning to variance analysis. Additionally, Oracle has extended our enterprise planning solution to address the specific needs of workforce planning, capital asset planning and project planning. These modular solutions directly integrate with Oracle’s financial planning application to ensure that plans are connected and aligned to support the ongoing operational needs of your company.
Packaged Analytic Applications. Another key attribute of improving operational effectiveness is to challenge conventional wisdom and not build data warehouses from scratch. Although every company has unique reporting and analysis requirements, many can be addressed through packaged analytic applications.
The basic analytic requirements of your finance, HR, sales and procurement teams typically do not vary widely among different companies or industries. For example, finance departments in nearly all private and public sectors need to continuously monitor trends and variances of general ledger accounts, receivables, fixed assets and payable. Oracle is the only vendor that offers a comprehensive family of more than 80 packaged analytic applications for every major business function.
By using Oracle BI Applications, finance professionals have visibility into operating expenses, account balances and purchasing patterns. HR professionals can gain insights into global headcount status, attrition rates and the effectiveness of learning programs. Procurement and Operations professionals can track supplier performance and inventory trends, trade discounts and warranty return costs. In marketing, your managers can monitor the efficacy of promotions and campaigns and make adjustments to maximize success rates. Your sales managers can more effectively forecast revenues and transactions, manage pipeline and track key opportunities. Service teams can optimize call center and depot staffing levels, identify problem areas that need attention, and respond more effectively to customer service call volumes.
All of Oracle’s BI Applications are built on the Oracle BI Foundation, and are pre-integrated with Oracle ERP and CRM applications. Each application features dashboards, metrics, KPI’s and derived calculations based on industry best practices from over 3,000 deployments. Each application can be deployed individually or together, as each module conforms to a common enterprise data model.
Transformation – Doing New Things
Intelligent Business Process. To reach a transformative level you will need to consider a way of linking your planning and analytic systems with the operational systems that run the business on a daily basis. Oracle’s analytic strategy enables you to create an Intelligent Business Process that is connected and continuous. It supports all three aspects of performance management including shaping strategy through financial and operational planning, taking action to execute the strategy across the business operations and measuring the results to enable fact-based decisions and continuous improvement.
Delivering on the promise of the
Intelligent Business Process requires that analytics be tightly integrated with
operational processes. IDC coined the term “Closed Loop Analytics”, describing this
type of integration but until recently, the promise has not been
fulfilled. Conventional BI platforms can
deliver insight in the form of dashboards and reports, but in order to take
action based on that insight, you typically need to leave the BI environment
and enter some other system. Oracle has
introduced an innovative new capability the Oracle BI Foundation that breaks
down the traditional walls between analysis and execution by allowing you to
initiate actions, such as workflows and notifications, directly from your reports
and dashboards. This direct connection of insight with action has also been
built into Oracle’s Fusion Applications as a core capability. The compelling
result is that your business process is now continuous – you can discover
variances, drill to root cause, assess alternatives and initiate action all
within the same system – and confidently move forward with the right action at
the right time.
Visualization. Linking cause and effect, identifying patterns buried in massive databases has been the purview of statisticians and business analysts. Visualization tools have provided partial solutions but are constrained by data capacity or memory. To overcome these challenges, Oracle developed the industry’s first engineered system which combines analytic software, an in-memory database and hardware platform all built, tested and optimized together. Unlike stand-alone data discovery tools, Oracle Exalytics provided extreme performance and unconstrained visualization allowing users to navigate and explore information at the speed of thought.
Data. It’s estimated that 95% of the worlds’ data is
unstructured, which is driving the need to store, combine, access and analyze
this “big data”. Whether it’s social
media activity, web logs, warranty claims, call center activity, movement of
assets with RFID tags or sensor data, the need to gain insight on these new
sources is growing. Oracle offers the
broadest portfolio of solutions to help you acquire, organize analyze this
diverse data alongside your existing enterprise to find new insights and
capitalize on hidden relationships. The
Oracle Big Data Appliance is the first engineered system optimized for
acquiring, organizing and loading unstructured data into Oracle Database
11g. Oracle R Enterprise allows you to
run existing R applications directly against data stored in Oracle Database
How Oracle Can Help
To address the complex challenges associated with driving improvement in business performance, Oracle’s analytic strategy enables you to progress from operational efficiency to operational effectiveness to business transformation. This strategy incorporates a powerful and flexible BI Foundation which supports an extensive range of analytic needs, packaged analytic applications based on business best practices, and EPM solutions that link strategy with execution. It lets you access data from all types of sources, consume information when and where you choose, and expand or customize your analytic environment based on business requirements rather than on technology restrictions.
What does it mean? By establishing a
reliable and open foundation, you can get information when you want it,
visualize results and trends in the right context, and have the confidence of
knowing that there is one source of truth. By creating an Intelligent Business
Process, you will connect strategy with operations and analysis, and move
towards fact-based decisions. This approach is the basis for continuous
improvement and for increasing the competitiveness of your organization in a
rapidly changing world.
Monday Feb 13, 2012
By Bob Zurek on Feb 13, 2012
My goals with my blog posts are to share with you observations, perspectives and insight on the Data Discovery market and technology as well as our product and its capabilities. My style is to have a dialogue, tell a story, dig down into technical topics, use cases and bring you additional insight on the importance of Data Discovery. I hope you will enjoy reading these blog posts as well as others who are contributing to this blog.
If this is your first exposure to Oracle Endeca Information Discovery, you will find the various features and benefits of our product at this landing page on oracle.com You will also find a data sheet that will walk you thru some of the core elements of our platform. This is a good starting point for getting oriented to our product line.
For my next post, I'll discuss some of the core use cases for Oracle Endeca Information Discovery. In the meantime, thanks again for visiting the blog.
Tuesday Feb 07, 2012
By Manan Goel on Feb 07, 2012
Big Data Defined
Enterprise systems have long been designed around capturing, managing and analyzing business transactions e.g. marketing, sales, support activities etc. However, lately with the evolution of automation and Web 2.0 technologies like blogs, status updates, tweets etc. there has been an explosive growth in the arena of machine and consumer generated data. Defined as “Big Data”, this data is characterized by attributes like volume, variety, velocity and complexity and essentially represents machine and consumer interactions.
Case for Big Data Analysis
Machine and consumer interaction data is forward looking in nature. This data available from sensors, web logs, chats, status updates, tweets etc. is a leading indicator of system and consumer behavior. Therefore this data is the best indicator of consumer’s decision process, intent, sentiments and system performance. Transactions on the other hand are lagging indicators of system or consumer behavior. By definition leading indicators are more speculative and less reliable compared to lagging indicators; however, to predict the future with any confidence a combination of both leading and lagging indicators is required. That’s where the value of big data analysis comes in, by combining system and consumer interactions and transactions, organizations can better predict the consumer decision process, intent sentiments and future system performance leading to revenue growth, lower costs, better profitability and better designed systems.
So, which business areas will benefit via big data analysis? Think of areas where decision-making under uncertainty is required. Areas like new product introduction, risk assessment, fraud detection, advertising and promotional campaigns, demand forecasting, inventory management and capital investments will particularly benefit by having a better read on the future.
Big Data Analytics Lifecycle
The big data analytics lifecycle includes steps like acquire, organize and analyze. Big data or machine/consumer interaction data is characterized by attributes like volume, velocity and variety and common sources of such data include sensors, web logs, status updates and tweets etc. The analytics process starts with data acquisition. The structure and content of big data can’t be known upfront and is subject to change in-flight so the data acquisition systems have to be designed for flexibility and variability; no predefined data structures, dynamic structures are a norm. The organization step entails moving the data in well defined structures so relationships can be established and the data across sources can be combined to get a complete picture. Finally the analysis step completes the lifecycle by providing rich business insights for revenue growth, lower costs and better profitability. Flexibility being the norm, the analysis systems should be discovery-oriented and explorative as opposed to prescriptive.
Oracle offers the broadest and most integrated portfolio of products to help you acquire and organize these diverse data sources and analyzes them alongside your existing data to find new insights and capitalize on hidden relationships. Learn how Oracle helps you acquire, organize, and analyze your big data by clicking here.
Thursday Nov 17, 2011
By Manan Goel on Nov 17, 2011
Analytics is all
about gaining insights from the data for better decision making. The business
press is abuzz with examples of leading organizations across the world using
data-driven insights for strategic, financial and operational excellence. A
recent study on “data-driven decision making” conducted by researchers at MIT
and Wharton provides empirical evidence that “firms that adopt data-driven
decision making have output and productivity that is 5-6% higher than the
competition”. The potential payoff for firms can range from higher shareholder
value to a market leadership position.
However, the vision
of delivering fast, interactive, insightful analytics has remained elusive for
most organizations. Most enterprise IT organizations continue to struggle to
deliver actionable analytics due to time-sensitive, sprawling requirements and
ever tightening budgets. The issue is further exasperated by the fact that most
enterprise analytics solutions require dealing with a number of hardware,
software, storage and networking vendors and precious resources are wasted
integrating the hardware and software components to deliver a complete
In-Memory Machine is the world’s first engineered system specifically designed
to deliver high performance analysis, modeling and planning. Built using
industry-standard hardware, market-leading business intelligence software and
in-memory database technology, Oracle Exalytics is an optimized system that
delivers answers to all your business questions with unmatched speed,
intelligence, simplicity and manageability.
unmatched speed, visualizations and scalability delivers extreme performance
for existing analytical and enterprise performance management applications and
enables a new class of intelligent applications like Yield Management, Revenue
Management, Demand Forecasting, Inventory Management, Pricing Optimization,
Profitability Management, Rolling Forecast and Virtual Close etc.
application redesign, Oracle Exalytics can be deployed in existing IT
environments by itself or in conjunction with Oracle Exadata and/or Oracle
Exalogic to enable extreme performance and best in class user experience. Based
on proven hardware, software and in-memory technology, Oracle Exalytics lowers
the total cost of ownership, reduces operational risk and provides
unprecedented analytical capability for workgroup, departmental and enterprise
Click here to learn more about Oracle Exalytics.
Tuesday Jul 26, 2011
Friday Jul 22, 2011
By Tobin Gilman on Jul 22, 2011
I flew up to the OAUG Connection Point BI & EPM event in Seattle this week to deliver a keynote presentation, and was lucky enough to catch Edgewater/Ranzal consultant Iain Curtain’s awesome presentation on data visualization. The topic has been on my mind lately for several reasons. Now that Oracle is delivering BI capabilities on the iPad, I’m finding that my favorite dashboards are those that spotlight the visuals, and are lighter on the numeric tables. The bright, crisp resolution of the iPad, combined with its’ smaller than a laptop display area, make charts, maps, and pictures especially important for mobile dashboards. Those killer new visualizations that are in the Oracle BI 11g release look fantastic on the iPad! Iain shared some best practice design principles for data visualization, informed by his years of field experience and a few healthy doses of Edward Tufte and Stephen Few.
If you missed the OAUG Connection Point event in Seattle this week, odds are good that you’ll get another chance to catch Iain at the OAUG BI SIG Meeting at Oracle Open World on Sunday, October 1st, or at the next OAUG Connection Point event in November in Atlanta. And if you just can’t wait until fall, Iain has written a short blog on the topic.
Speaking data visualization, Louis Columbus, a longtime
friend, industry colleague, and maniacal
blogger about all things related to business and tech, tipped me off to comScore Data Mine, a web site that
is chock full of visualizations that render a million fascinating factoids
about global adoption of technology and other trends. I highly recommend giving it a quick
look. You’ll probably end up bookmarking
Thursday Jul 14, 2011
By Rich Clayton on Jul 14, 2011
Business Intelligence has become a core part of the enterprise IT environment. Most companies and public agencies either have BI, or they are trying to implement it. Selecting and deploying BI tools and applications represent only part of the overall formula for success. The Business Intelligence Competency Center (BICC) draws together the software, people, communication, processes and governance. It can create leverage and increase the ROI of the entire BI program.
People: CXO sponsorship and leadership, and detailed project management are key to driving the visibility and impact of a BICC. People representing stakeholder groups must be fully or partially dedicated to a BICC organization, with their compensation tied to specific outcomes.
Processes: standardizing toolsets and processes will help ensure consistency, lower cost, lower risk and faster implementations. This may mean, for example, that SLA’s are negotiated with constituent groups, that BI Applications are initially deployed with 90% pre-built content, or that LOB’s become responsible for their own reporting and analysis.
Communication: establishing a Competency Center means zeroing in on practices and competencies that everyone can use. It may also mean that some processes and some job content may have to change. Continuous communication about the rationale and the benefits is necessary to get, and to keep everyone informed, aligned and motivated.
Governance: silos of information and software, different and competing interests, friction between business and IT – these are all a part of life in large organizations. Among the roles of the BICC are assessing differing points of view, establishing standards for data format and quality, technology and processes, and enforcing policies and guidelines for user adoption. Governance must have teeth and be backed by management, or people will default back to inefficient silos.
Oracle provides a technology approach to Business Intelligence that supports and enables the concept of a BICC. The Oracle Business Intelligence Foundation is a single platform supporting all types of source systems, applications, analyses and use profiles. Our single enterprise information model is a cross-functional data model that enables people to agree on a single set of metrics. Oracle BI is tightly integrated with Oracle Middleware and Oracle Applications, simplifying deployment and management of the stack.
For some organizations, the hard part about creating a BICC can be defining a centralized structure and bringing about sustainable organization and cultural change that’s needed to support it. The upside is faster deployments, increased collaboration and alignment, lower TCO and risk, and higher ROI across the business. The BICC is a concept whose time has come.
I’d love to hear your experience, successes and challenges in establishing a BICC in your company.
Monday May 16, 2011
By Rich Clayton on May 16, 2011
Business processes are the threads that make up the fabric of an organization. Improving the efficiency of business processes, and the effectiveness of their intersections, is the ultimate goal. BI systems allow people to monitor process through performance metrics. They can also identify variances, direct people to relevant dashboards and reports, and enable them to drill around to understand triggers and root cause. In instances where location is a key factor, extending the data from reports and tables into maps and pictures can help to accelerate insight. Finding the problem is now the easy part; deciding what to do about it and taking confident action can materially affect outcomes, but they are harder to do.
What’s needed is a single software environment that begins with an understanding of the problem, let’s people experiment with different courses of action, and then rapidly executes the desired actions. A decision involves making a selection from a set of alternative choices that may take into account multiple simultaneous factors such as cost, time, supply, demand, competition, discount, etc. To enable business people to evaluate alternatives, they need a powerful analysis tool that’s easy to use, keeps data in context, and allows them to quickly collaborate across functions. Today most people use Excel for analysis and Outlook for collaboration. Together these solutions are inadequate for reaching a clear enterprise decision.
Once the right decision is made, the question then is – how to put it into action? Closing the remaining gap between observation and intervention requires that analytic systems be tightly integrated with transaction systems, so that they operate seamlessly when required. People want to move beyond the state where enterprise software constrains business procedures, towards an environment where systems support their way of operating and enabling an effective execution of business strategy. It means that there must be a logical, consistent connection between the decision that they’ve made, and the action that they take as a result.
If the question is – how can people decide on the best action and then execute, within a timeframe that’s short enough to influence quarterly business results – the answer is that they need an Intelligent Business Process. If the question is – where can they get it? The answer is – the Action Framework, which links analytics with core business applications. Action Framework is one of the key distinguishing capabilities of the Oracle Business Intelligence Foundation.
Monday May 09, 2011
By Manan Goel on May 09, 2011
Friday Mar 25, 2011
We're taking the pulse of the Business Intelligence and Analytics market based on our insights and our experiences with colleagues, customers,and partners.
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