Tuesday Feb 02, 2016

How can I build visual analytics expertise?

By Barry Mostert

When I think of a simple tool, I immediately think of a hammer – it’s a very intuitive, easy-to-use tool.  You pick it up and you can begin striking things with little input or guidance. By itself, striking things, however, doesn’t make you a carpenter, or an architect – other skills are needed.

Although they aren’t as simple as a hammer, visual analytics tools are designed to be much more intuitive than traditional BI tools, since mastering traditional BI tools often required extensive formal training. Is this the only skill that is needed to become a proficient data visualization analyst?

Let me ask, “Where we should look to find the best candidates to become today’s data visualization experts?” At first blush, there may be a temptation to choose IT experts since they are likely to quickly pick up the nuances of the tool. Comfort with the tool is certainly necessary but, like using a hammer to become a carpenter, something else is needed to become a proficient data analyst with visualization tools. That extra skill, not often found within IT, is an understanding of the data – its business meaning and the interrelationships.

Not understanding the data makes extracting information to provide meaningful insights very difficult, regardless the tool being used.  Often, this failure is blamed on the tool, itself, for “not figuring this out for me.” Although most tools have intelligence built in to provide some help, at the end of the day, it doesn’t “know” the data like an experienced business user “knows” the data. To gain insight or to make any meaningful interpretation really requires a solid understanding of these metrics, their dimensions and their relationships in context to the intelligence being sought. These skillsets, and the prime candidates for data visualization experts, are usually found within the business user community.

Of course, these business candidates must be willing, able, and, preferably, eager to learn the visual analytics tool. Is learning the tool too onerous for business users? I have seen that, with a little guidance from experienced users, the use of online videos, and the review of “tips ‘n tricks” documentation, a user can quickly become quite capable in the use of visual analytics tools. After this quick orientation, mastering the tool is best done by “playing with it.” It certainly does not require poring through bulky reference manuals, or costly formal training sessions.

The bottom line is that, for most organizations, when looking for the best candidates to become data visualization masters, look for those with a good understanding of their own data and an eagerness for learning new tools.

Tuesday Jan 19, 2016

What’s the Hype about Data Visualization? Seems like the Same Old Graphics to me.

By Barry Mostert

 “All I see are the same bar charts, pie charts and scatter plots that I’ve always had.” “I don’t see much difference from what’s in my current dashboards.”  “Where are the new, innovative, different types of charts?” 

When I talk to people about data visualization, initially they express disappointment that they’re not seeing “new ways” to present data. Actually, data visualization isn’t about replacing reliable forms of graphic expression; after all, a pie chart will always be pretty good at easily portraying a metric against a single dimension.  A visual’s intent is to present information that allows the viewer to quickly digest the meaning of the data and in a way that will help to lead them to new insights.  My experience has shown me that new ways of presenting and enhancing graphics are often poorly applied – and often for novelty effect. Adding effects like shadows, 3D, or making them spin doesn’t actually improve the information being represented. Sure, they may be “prettier” or “more fun” and so they’re great when doing a presentation, but these effects do little to support analysis of the underlying information – actually, they are more likely to create a distraction than to add value. 

Of course, with data visualization tools, brand new types of charts are available, and I will discuss new chart types and the use of the technology called D3 in a subsequent post. For now, keep in mind that this isn’t the major benefit of data visualization.

“So if data visualization tools aren’t to provide a broader array of graphics, why is there so much hype about them and why shouldn’t I just stick with my classic dashboard tool?”  The answer lies in the way that users interact with these two tools.  A classic dashboard is usually created an answer to a specific, predefined question whose answer changes over time (e.g., revenue to date, production throughput).  Classic dashboards are usually built to help users discover what has happened. Data visualization techniques, on the other hand, empower data exploration by supporting a guided conversation through the data. There is no predefined requirement and no predetermined end point - the conversation may lead anywhere.  Data visualization goes beyond what has happened to encourage the user to uncover why it is happening.

The difference between data visualization and a classic dashboard is not in the appearance, but in the type of question that initiates the conversation with the data, and how you employ the visuals to answer the question.

In subsequent posts, we will offer more thoughts and observations about data visualization – applications, techniques, considerations for people, and tools. 

Tuesday Sep 15, 2015

Treat Your HCM System like a B-52!

Joseph Thamas ( view the original post on LinkedIn)

My father was a B-52 Navigator during the Vietnam War. At that point, he was only 9 years older than the plane he was guiding. The US Air Force has plans to utilize the B-52 as a strategic asset until 2044, a nearly 100 year lifespan! Over that time, new engines, avionics (my father used a sliderule and a sextant to navigate 20 hour round trip flights) and armaments have been added but the core airframe flown by pilots today was last produced in 1962. Most B-52 aircrews are in a plane older than their parents (or even grandparents!)

I thought about my dad and the B-52 when I read one of the results of the Bersin by Deloitte Investments in Human Capital Management Systems survey(available here). In the survey, it stated that the #1 reason respondents listed why they would replace their HCM system was “Improved Analytics and Reporting”. If your current HCM system can’t do the job, sure, replace it. In fact, I even have a suggestion of a vendor to check out for an excellent cloud-based HCM system. But for many of you, your core HCM “airframe” is fine, you just need some updated analytics/avionics and maybe some fancy new armaments/talent management. Leveraging cloud-based analytics or talent management with your existing HCM system has never been easier technically, and probably a lot easier to justify with your CFO. I can’t guarantee a 100 year lifespan but there probably are a couple more years left in your HCM system, once you add some modern components. Ping me for more info.

Tuesday Sep 08, 2015

Big Data and the Window to Innovation

Jake Krakauer
Senior Director, Global Market Development, Cloud Analytics

How can Big Data fuel the process of innovation? Structured analysis helps us answer known questions, but sometimes those questions don’t lead us to new opportunity or root cause. That’s where Big Data Analytics comes in – it opens the window to innovation. Answers to new questions and clues to new business opportunities probably exist somewhere in the massive amount of information that’s being generated. What’s needed is an engine to help the new explorers – business people – to intuitively engage with data and conduct discovery, working in the way that they think. We are on the cusp of these new solutions now – the window is open.

Friday Aug 07, 2015

Insight for HCM is more than Reporting

Joe Thomas – Sr. Director, Global Business Analytics Product Group

In a recent survey, 86% of companies stated that they had no formal analytics function in their HCM department. I found this both frightening and stunning. Compensation and benefits are a sizable operating expense for any company, but for a services based organization, it might be the highest single expense. No CFO would allow individual cost-center managers to make cash flow or treasury decisions, yet these same managers regularly make critical compensation, recruitment and retention decisions without a strategic analytical framework.

HCM is the “Supply Chain” of all service-based organizations, and a critical component of any organization. The same rigor that is placed on the finance department in terms of cash flow or investments, or on operations for product defect rates or product profitability must be brought into and delivered by the HCM function. Simple reporting on headcount or turnover is not enough. Analysis of the entire HCM “supply chain” of “Hire to Retire” is critical in today’s competitive environment. Stop focusing on headcount reports in Excel, and start thinking about how to optimize “revenue by employee by product and geography over time”. It needs to start with you.

Friday Mar 27, 2015

Information Cycle: The Times They Are A-Changin

Release of Oracle Business Intelligence Applications OBIA @AlexAnvari www.linkedin.com/in/alexanvari

There is an enterprise analogy to nature’s cycle where every molecule of water passes through a cloud. Your information also flows like water and it will end up in a cloud at some point in a cycle. Information too is everywhere and it can gather into glaciers (long range mega storage data-warehouse), as a river overflowing the banks (and budgets or capacity to consume) and on premises (in a water tower) for near term requirements.

Information naturally will cycle through both cloud and on premise sources and uses. Experts say every piece of enterprise information will pass through a cloud (outsourced computing environment) at some point because of superior economics, security, agility and innovation. You may process (HR, Financial, Supply Chain, Production, Sales, Procurement) transactions in-house or in the cloud or, even more likely, in a hybrid ever-changing fashion. For sure, just like water, transactions will be communicated, transported, stored, analyzed, reported or consumed with some cloud involved somewhere in the cycle.

[Read More]

Tuesday Mar 17, 2015

What’s New in Oracle BI Applications

Oracle Business Intelligence (BI) Applications is now available on the Oracle Software Delivery Cloud, and on the Oracle BI Applications OTN page. This release is certified with the latest version of Oracle BI Foundation This new release of Oracle Business Intelligence Applications adds:

1. New support for Oracle Cloud Application Sources to enable Hybrid Analytics from on-premise and cloud Applications

2. Expanded functional content coverage across existing Oracle BI Applications

New Oracle Cloud Application Sources for Hybrid Analytics

· With the continued move to the Cloud, Oracle BI Applications has introduced support for the following Oracle Application Cloud sources: Oracle Sales Cloud, Oracle HCM Cloud, Oracle Financial Cloud, Oracle Procurement Cloud, and Oracle Project Cloud.

New Content Enhancements: Additional content improves existing Oracle BI Applications including:

· Oracle Financial Analytics provides a new Essbase GL Balances model for improved EBS Financial Service Generator (FSG) Reporting and Hierarchy navigation, including support of ragged hierarchies for GL segment dimensions.

· Oracle Project Analytics expands project-based insight with new Construction in Process (CIP) support, providing visibility for Project Stakeholders into in-progress costs, expensed costs since project inception and across organizations.

· Oracle Procurement and Spend Analytics delivers new capabilities for Fusion Procurement, including Supply Chain Financial orchestration, negotiation and award approvals, and Buyer assignment controls.

· Oracle Supply Chain & Order Management Analytics introduces new Inventory module support for PeopleSoft, including visibility into inventory balances, aging, transactions and valuation.

· Oracle Student Information Analytics provides new subject area coverage for Student Financials Billing Summary and Transactions, with visibility to billing and transaction information by student or external organization.

· Oracle Human Resources Analytics expands analysis on HR programs and workforce performance for Fusion HCM with support of Talent Management Analysis.

· Oracle Sales Analytics introduces new subject areas for Activity Analytics, with support for Activity contact, resource and sales subject areas from Fusion Sales

Monday Jan 26, 2015

Register Now for the Cloud Platform Online Forum! January 28th, 2015 10:00am PST/1:00pm

Join Oracle and IDC as they kick off the Cloud Platform Online Forum on January 28 at 10:00am PT with a keynote led by IDC analyst Robert Mahowald. Also, hear product experts talk about Oracle PaaS solutions including Oracle BI Cloud Service.Attendees will learn how to rapidly build, deploy, manage, and secure rich applications while using an integrated cloud platform built on the industry’s #1 Database and Application Server.

Don't miss the opportunity to take advantage of 20+ sessions including the Oracle BI Cloud Service session below, as well as a handful of demos and 100+ tips and techniques for planning your PaaS adoption effectively. 

Unlocking the Power of Business Analytics in Oracle Cloud

Gaining access to enterprise-ready business intelligence just got easier. With Oracle Business Intelligence Cloud Service, departments are just a few clicks away from self-service reports and dashboards. Understand how Oracle BI Cloud Service fosters a new partnership between IT and business users to ensure that both parties are getting what they need from their business intelligence platform – from security and reliability, to simplicity and managing your own insights. Come to this session to learn more about this exciting new Oracle offering.

Register now 

Tuesday Jan 20, 2015

Year in Review – Oracle Business Analytics in 2014

2014 was a busy year for Oracle Business Analytics. Here is a look at Oracle Business Analytics top 10 moments in 2014 (in no particular order):

10. Oracle Lays out the Top 10 Big Data and Analytics Trends in 2014: Oracle surveyed hundreds of IT decision makers to learn about their big data and analytics plans for 2014—both within the Oracle customer base and the industry at large. Respondents provided specific feedback on mobile BI, cloud, Hadoop, data discovery, predictive analytics, and decision optimization technologies and practices. From this extensive data set we compiled the following trends: click here.

9. Why 2015 Will Be Year of Big Data: Oracle's Seven Predictions: Neil Mendelson, Oracle's vice president of Big Data and Advanced Analytics, is immersed in this sector each day at his office in Redwood Shores, Calif. In a conversation with eWEEK, he offered readers some insight into what the company is thinking—and how big data trends will be evolving—as we all move into 2015. click here

8. The Intelligence Guy Video Series Makes its Debut: In this series we explore important business issues that can be addressed using Big Data and Analytics. click here

7. Customers Talk About the Benefits of Oracle BI Solutions at Collaborate 2014: Hear InterRel, Ameren, Hess Corp, Acadia Healthcare, University of California Berkeley, The City of Atlanta, ADP, and others talk about how they have achieved real business results with Oracle Business Analytics solutions. click here

6. Oracle BI Applications Deliver Greater Insight Into Talent and Procurement: To empower organizations to achieve greater visibility into their business performance and to execute with greater agility, Oracle has announced the latest release of Oracle Business Intelligence (BI) Applications. With new ways to seamlessly analyze procurement data and a new module for analyzing talent, Oracle continues to extend the opportunity for organizations to gain insight from a range of data sources and applications. click here

5. Oracle Extends Big Data Portfolio with Oracle Big Data SQL: To address organizations' need for comprehensive big data solutions, Oracle introduced Oracle Big Data SQL, an essential part of a big data management system. Breaking down data silos to simplify information access and discovery, the offering allows customers to run one SQL query across Hadoop, NoSQL, and Oracle Database, minimizing data movement while increasing performance and virtually eliminating data silos. click here

4. Oracle Announces Exalytics In-Memory Machine X4-4: The latest refresh of Oracle Exalytics In-Memory Machine, an engineered system for business analytics, includes Intel Xeon processors customized for Oracle business analytics workloads, supporting 50 percent faster clock speed, 50 percent more processing cores and 50 percent more memory compared to the previous generation. click here

3. Oracle Repeats as BI and Analytics Leader in Gartner MQ: For the 8th consecutive year, Oracle is a Leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platform. Gartner declares that “the BI and analytics platform market is in the middle of an accelerated transformation from Business Intelligence (BI) systems used primarily for measurement and reporting to those that also support analysis, prediction, forecasting and optimization.” click here

2. Oracle Introduces Oracle Analytics Cloud: Oracle announced Oracle Analytics Cloud, a comprehensive portfolio of analytics offerings built for the cloud; deployed in the cloud; and enabling data analysis for cloud, on-premises, traditional, and big data sources. click here

1.  Oracle Delivers Big Data Analytics in the Cloud: Oracle has introduced Oracle Business Intelligence Cloud Service (Oracle BI Cloud Service), a part of Oracle Analytics Cloud, which offers the most comprehensive analytics cloud suite on the planet. With built-in mobile capabilities. click here

Friday Sep 12, 2014

What's Happening in Business Analytics at OpenWorld 2014?

Oracle OpenWorld 2014 is about to roll out the red carpets on September 28th when we take over the city of San Francisco for five days.  Business Analytics has a fantastic showing this year with over 130 EPM, BI, Analytics and Big Data sessions delivered by Oracle, our customers and partners.  We’ll also have 7 Hands-On Labs, 28+ demo pods dedicated to Business Analytics products, and 30+ partners exhibiting their solutions.  

So what’s hot in the Business Analytics program at OpenWorld?  Here are some of the “must see” sessions at this year’s conference:

Monday, September 29th, be sure to catch the Oracle Business Analytics Executive Briefing led by SVP of Product Development, Balaji Yelamanchili.  Find out what’s new and where we are heading with EPM, BI, Big Data and Analytics. Balaji is also leading Oracle’s Big Data Strategy—Unified Data Management and Analytics on Wednesday, October 1st, presenting all the exciting and innovative capabilities available today and coming soon. 

For a deeper dive into Big Data, on Monday, September 29, Neil Mendelson and Paul Sonderegger will lead Oracle Big Data: Strategy and Roadmap to get us up to speed on the rapid advances in big data. Also, Chris Lynskey, Ryan Stark, and Omri Traub of Oracle will lead the presentation New Innovations in Big Data Analytics the same day. 

What’s new in BI and Cloud? Judging by the lineup of presentations available – PLENTY. Don’t miss Matt Bedin, Alan Lee, and Raghuram Venkatasubramanian of Oracle present Oracle BI Cloud Service Overview and Roadmap on Monday, September 29, and  catch Jack Berkowitz as he presents What’s Next for Oracle Business Intelligence Applications? A Sneak Peek at the Roadmap on Tuesday, September 30th. 

The EPM and Cloud presentation lineup is also impressive. Watch for the General Session: Executive Briefing on Oracle’s EPM Strategy and Roadmap by Balaji Yelamanchili on Monday, September 29th to find out what’s going on and what’s coming soon. If you have more questions, be sure to attend the Product Development Panel Q&A: Oracle Hyperion EPM Applications and get them answered by our experts on Wednesday, October 1st. 

To learn more about Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service, join the panel of customers including CTDI, Vertex Business Services, and Manhattan Beachwear for the presentation Customer Success: Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service on Wednesday, October 1 where they will highlight some amazing and recent implementations, and answer questions. 

To meet the big Business Analytics/EPM innovation award winners this year, be sure to attend the session Oracle Fusion Middleware: Meet This Year’s Most Impressive Innovators honoring organizations from around the globe that are using Oracle products to achieve significant business value.

For more details on these and many other Business Analytics sessions at OpenWorld, access the “Focus On” Business Analytics program guide link

See you in San Francisco!

Follow us on Twitter (https://twitter.com/oracleanalytics) for live coverage of the key product announcements, general sessions, and much more at #OOW14. 

Tuesday Jul 22, 2014

HR and Finance Agree? – Has The World Come To An End?

By guest bloggers Alex Anvari and Mike Bollinger

HR and finance executives agree on many people and performance-related issues according to a survey of HR and finance executives by Towers Watson and Forbes Insight. 

The top areas of joint activity, according to the survey were, setting annual budgets for reward programs (cited by 46 percent of finance and 62 percent of HR), determining changes to reward programs (43 percent finance and 42 percent HR), and setting reward strategy (39 percent finance and 41 percent HR).  Other important areas like overall workforce strategy (35 percent finance and 23 percent HR) or talent management (32 percent finance and 20 percent HR) saw considerably less collaboration, however.  That last set seems low to us and an opportunity for further improvement.

[Read More]

Wednesday Jul 09, 2014

BI Mobile: The Data Access Dilemma – the Gray Space

What is the mobile data access dilemma? Currently, to maintain tight security requirements (to prevent hacking) you have to trade off usability (enter security credentials multiple times to get access to data multiple times). What if BI was so pervasive that you look at it as often as email? How can we remain safe and still make it easy to use?

[Read More]

Monday May 12, 2014

A closer look at Oracle BI Applications release

Oracle Business Intelligence (BI) Applications is now available on the Oracle Software Delivery Cloud (eDelivery), and on the Oracle BI Applications OTN page. This is the second major release on the 11g code line leveraging the power of ODI, and certified with the latest version of Oracle BI Foundation

What’s New

This new release of Oracle Business Intelligence Applications 11g adds:

1. Prebuilt Connector for Oracle Procurement and Spend Analytics with Oracle JD Edwards

2. Expanded functional content coverage across existing Oracle BI Applications

3. New utilities and enhancements to increase productivity and further drive down Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

New Prebuilt Connector for BI Applications

  • Oracle Procurement and Spend Analytics introduces a new adapter that provides out-of-box integration between Oracle Procurement and Spend Analytics and Oracle’s JD Edwards EnterpriseOne, enabling purchasing and sourcing organizations quickly identify savings opportunities and improve operational performance through decision-ready, best practice analytics.

New Content Enhancements: Significant expansion of content improves existing Oracle BI Applications

  • Oracle Human Resources Analytics expands analysis on HR programs and workforce performance with the introduction of Talent Management Analysis, to help HR and business managers assess talent strengths and build potential leaders by delivering greater insight into job profiles. Improvements to Absence Management, new support for Workforce Frozen Snapshots and Workforce Flex Fields are also available.
  • Oracle Financial Analytics improves company Financial Performance with the new Subledger Accounting Module, providing complete account balance analysis, including supporting reference balances and drill down to accounting transactions. Aging Snapshot restoration for Receivables and Payables, drilldown from Payables to Purchase Orders, and Fixed Assets support for GL Posting Status are features also included in the release.
  • Oracle Project Analytics expands insight into project-based data with new Earned Value Management Analysis, providing visibility for Project Stakeholders into Planned Value, Earned Value, and Actual Cost. Analysis of variances and indices, derived from Cost and Schedule Variance, CPI, TCPI, SPI and TSPI, is also available.
  • Oracle Supply Chain & Order Management Analytics introduces Costing and Inventory Turn support for Oracle JDE EnterpriseOne. In addition, the ability to save and restore the Inventory Snapshot when executing a full load is now supported.
  • Oracle Student Information Analytics introduces new Financial Aid Analysis, containing term-based detail information associated with a student award such as amount, status, disbursement, and aid type.
  • Oracle Manufacturing Analytics and Enterprise Asset Management Analytics have been re-introduced into the BI Applications data model. Although new with ODI, both modules provide now the same broad functionality available with BI Applications
  • Unstructured Data for Information DiscoveryThe BI Applications Data Model has been extended to include unstructured CRM and ERP text fields. Sample Information Discovery templates – including ODI interfaces and runtime security definitions –provide the ability to quickly create sample Information Discovery Applications from combined structured and unstructured data.

New Utilities and Enhancements to increase productivity and drive down TCO

  • New Data Lineage Tool allows customers and implementers to track lineage from source to target – improving information transparency across their enterprise
  • Configuration Management expands System Setup and Load Plan definition capabilities, including the registration of multiple instances for the same Product Line Version, UI enhancements to support DW connection configuration and Load Plan definition, and Load Plan definition migration. 
  • Fact Partitioning IKMs and Parallel Index Builds are key performance Innovations introduced with this release. The former enables a feature that tags partitions so that only the indexes that need to be re-built during incremental loads are executed. The latter uses ODI parallel process so that Indexes can be built using multiple session (faster than and in addition to DB parallel).

Friday May 02, 2014

Data Relationship Governance – Workflow in a Bottle!

As organizations grow through acquisition and the development of new products and services, the task of keeping master data synchronized across multiple systems is often met using Oracle Data Relationship Management. However, managing the process of requesting, approving and documenting changes to this master data requires something more – Oracle Data Relationship Governance. Paul Ritner, a Principal Solutions Architect with Advanced EPM joined me for a podcast to discuss what data relationship governance is, and why people want and need it. 

So what is data relationship governance? Paul indicated that to understand data relationship governance, you first need to understand data relationship management. 

Data relationship management is a solution used to manage the structure and alignment of master data such as, account numbers, department codes, product codes, and any other similar values or reference data across multiple systems. The real value of data relationship management is that organizations can build their business rules and other complex business logic into the repository to ensure only valid values get created and are correctly positioned in the multiplicity of hierarchical structures organizations require for both aggregations and reporting.  Oracle’s solution, Oracle Data Relationship Management (or DRM), is just such a management solution that is highly configurable and is agnostic when it comes to connecting to align data in multiple systems.

Data relationship governance is the solution that helps to monitor and manage workflow activities related to data relationship management. Oracle’s solution, Oracle Data Relationship Governance (or DRG) is fully integrated with DRM.  DRG handles all the workflow activities, and relies on existing Oracle DRM configured rules and property formulas. It is also a natural extension to Oracle’s DRM solution.

Paul said that prior to Oracle introducing their DRG solution, discussions about workflow in relation to data relationship management was usually met with a rolling of the eyes due to the complexity of typical data governance processes. At the time, it was a difficult conversation as it required significant customer development. With DRG it turns into a simple configuration exercise.

So why do people now want Oracle’s DRG solution?

Paul said that there were several reasons, including:

• Oracle DRG is an easily configurable workflow tool that is fully integrated with, Oracle Data Relationship Management.
• Oracle DRG enables you to easily build web-based workflows to manage requests for new values & changes, which ultimately end up in your existing data relationship management repository.
• Oracle DRG includes task lists and email alerts!
• All the key configurations that organizations already have in their Oracle DRM repository can be readily leveraged by Oracle DRG workflows.  Configurations such as:
• Linking workflows with hierarchies
• Linking existing data relationship management validations (or Business Rules) with particular data relationship governance workflow steps
• As well as including any of your derived property values, which can contain some very complex logic

Basically, all the hard work that went into an organization’s DRM application can be readily included in their DRG workflow, and that’s a huge value! Paul provided a great 4 step workflow example, however he indicated that workflows can have as many steps as needed by an organization. He also talked about the fact that a single workflow request could be made for multiple accounts.

So who, exactly, would initiate a workflow request? A financial analyst? Paul indicated that it could be one of several people.   However, in general,  it is often an analyst or accountant. A request could be made by other business people as well and, if the workflow was for a Department Code or Cost Center, requests could come from all over a company.

Paul covered several more aspects of Oracle’s Data Relationship Governance in the podcast, including sad alternatives (like email or spreadsheets) to a robust solution and convinced me that DRG really is “workflow in a bottle”.

To listen to the entire podcast, click here.

To learn more about Oracle Data Relationship Management or Oracle Data Relationship Governance, click here.

Wednesday Apr 30, 2014

The TOFU (Top of Funnel Users) Approach to Business Intelligence

An interesting article in Forbes.com entitled, “Why Top Of The Funnel BI Will Drive The Next Wave Of Adoption”, written by Dan Woods, sparked some great conversations about bottom of the funnel users (20-30% wanting specific business information), and Top of Funnel Users (or TOFU) that want to interact with information in a personalized way and express their interests. I was fortunate to have Matt Milella, Director of Product Development for Oracle Business Intelligence Mobile Apps, and Jacques Vigeant, Product Strategy Director for Oracle Business Intelligence & Enterprise Performance Management, join me for a podcast to discuss their opinions about “The TOFU approach to business intelligence (BI)”.

Jacques explained that the article is basically about how BI has historically focused on what we refer to as the ‘business analyst’ or the ‘power user’. That’s the person in a company that has the unenviable task of analyzing data, finding trends, and synthesizing data into dashboards that he/she then shares with management.  The common thinking, in BI companies, is that roughly 20% of the users prepare data that the ‘rest of us’ consume. There are many practical and technical reasons why BI started using this model 30 years ago, but the world of technology has come a long way since then.  Today, the  average user can do much more with much less help from IT.

The problem, that Matt and Jacques have witnessed over the last decade, is that BI companies (including Oracle) have mostly catered to the data preparation people (or power users)by adding more and more wiz/bang features and super sophisticated visualizations that are not useful to the average employee (who is not a Power User) or lower level line manager.

So, how has the situation changed? Jacques explained that he and Matt are constantly amazed at the sophistication and elegance of apps that are now out there for public consumption, and they are seeing BI surface in those consumer apps. “There are products like Google Now and even native features on my new phone that blow me away at how they blend Information about “ME” with what I’m doing,” said Jacques.  He told us that his new phone actually knows when he is watching TV and automatically shows him information about the show that is currently on - without the need for even starting an app.  This, of course begs the question --Why can’t our “BI” do this for everyone providing a little insight throughout the day to help them make better informed decisions?  In fact, Jacques thinks we can.

How are Top of Funnel Users different? They often use mobile technology to get current information exactly when they need it. Traditionally, these users did not directly consume BI content.  However , top of funnel users are now accustomed to an experience on the mobile device where they get simple information in a timely fashion.  Matt gave a personal example to emphasize the point.  “ I am a fitness nut and I have a device called a Fit Bit. With this device I can tell how many steps or stairs I took and how it compares to days past.  And with Google now, I know if there will be heavy traffic on the way home from work.”  This kind of information is in line with what Top of Funnel Users want from BI.  Here are more examples. On the way to a warehouse, a plant manager wants to know about shortages that may impact the production line.  A marketing exec wants to know how their brand is trending (up or down) on social media.  These users are not analysts or data scientists, yet they crave the information!

How is Oracle enabling the TOFU experience ? According to Matt, most people understand search, voice activated commands and data retrieval, notification and a simplified experience already, so why should they consume BI any differently?  Jacques gave a great example. “We want to help you relate your corporate data to your work life. So for example , on your mobile device you have email and your calendar. If I’m a sales rep, and I’m in Dallas, and I have a meeting with Verizon in 30 minutes, why isn’t my device giving me sales metrics about Verizon, the number of open support calls, and Verizon’s order status.   The mobile device, especially the phone, is key to understanding the user’s personal context – and, at the end of the day,  Matt and I are trying to make BI that personal !”

Matt and Jacques both feel that focusing on mobile delivery of information is how to satisfy the 80% or the TOFU. Gartner and other analysts agree.  Mobile expands the user base and this will likely be the dominant channel for BI in just a few years.  

So why is the desktop taking a back seat for Top of Funnel Users? Jacques told us that the desktop is not going anywhere, but on the mobile side there are unique capabilities that are simply not available on the desktop. For example,

• A desktop is often shared between users, a phone is not.
• A phone is pretty much ALWAYS on and with you … a desktop is not 
• A mobile device provides precise information about where you are physically, even when you are moving around
• A mobile device’s  Calendar, Email and Contact information is accessible via standard APIs.  This is incredibly useful information when you are trying to understand who and what your target user might be interested in. This information is simply not available in the same way on the desktop.

To summarize, Jacques and Matt emphasized three main things:

• There is a team at Oracle that is not focused on the technical 20% of the users that create the BI data (bottom of the funnel), but the 80% of those that browse and consume BI data in new exciting ways (top of the funnel). The 20% will still continue to receive their due attention, but mobile is now becoming important too.
• Mobile capabilities provide a few things really well for BI that will satisfy a large audience – the 80%
• Mobile, regardless of features provided, is the future. Mobile will become the dominant channel to BI.

To listen to the entire podcast, click here,
To learn more about Business Intelligence and mobile Business Intelligence, click here.

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