Getting Started With BI In Fusion Applications

Introduction

Customizing reports, charts, tables, and dashboards is a common requirement for an enterprise application, as everyone expects to be able to see just what they want - and this goes way beyond mere personalization. Examples are reports with newly added fields (flexfields, custom fields/objects), reports that include company-specific calculations, or just simply reports that remove unimportant data for a particular task.

Fusion BI Architecture

For simplicity let's consider there to be only two types of BI output used in Fusion Applications. The first is a Report, often generated to record past activity, usually in tabular format, and is commonly stored and shared with other teams or managers. An example might be a monthly expenses report. The second type of BI output is known as an Analysis and is usually embedded in a page and visually displays information that can be used to make immediate business decisions, such as a line chart showing a sales decline. Whilst analyses can be printed they usually facilitate direct action, such as drilling-down into the actual data in the application and performing a task. These two terms - Report and Analysis - are often used interchangeably, however the creation of each is distinct, using separate tools and as shown in the screenshot two process flows.


Next let's define a few acronyms to explain the technology components that make up the overall BI capabilities in Fusion Applications. This is a very short description just to give you a feel of the use-cases for each tool.

  • OBIEE - Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition. This is the parent product from-which or within-which the other components derive. This can be seen as the BI Server(s), and is installed either on a standalone host that's integrated with the Fusion Application instance, or (more commonly) installed as part of the Fusion Applications middleware suite. The tool has components originating from Seibel analytics solution, and was also previously known as BI Answers. OBIEE is most commonly associated with creating Analysis output.
  • BIP - Business Intelligence Publisher (or BI Publisher). It originated from Oracle E-Business Suite's move away from Oracle Reports to a new modern meta-data driven tool for generating pixel-perfect Report output used for printing and archiving. In Fusion Applications, BIP is actually fully integrated as a component inside the OBIEE server(s).
  • OTBI - Oracle Transactional Business Intelligence. This capability was expressly development for Fusion Applications, providing raw data from the live transactional tables for use with complex analysis tools previously dependent on a OLAP/Warehouse data store (i.e. time-lagged by an ETL process). This again is seamlessly integrated in Fusion Applications, with the only clue to it's use being the suffix of 'real time' in the subject areas shown when creating reports and analyses.
  • OBIA - Oracle Business Intelligence Analytics. Many organizations with to go beyond the standard Oracle Application reports and analysis shipped with the product, and as such there is an advanced suite of analysis-based solutions that can be implemented. For Fusion Applications these are already included and deployed as standard in the BI Catalog.

Although not covered here products such as Fusion Financials and CRM also leverage use data warehouse components to provide multidimensional analysis to support predictive functional capabilities.

The BI Catalog

The following screenshots illustrate the difference between Reports and Analysis at run-time. The first is a simple Analysis that is embedded in purchasing pages, and here run from the BI Catalog. You'll notice its visual style and its type is clearly labeled.

The next screenshot shows a BI Publisher report, also run directly from the catalog. This launches in a new window and shows a PDF document created with the output based on the values supplied.


When you browse the BI Catalog you'll notice that there are two top level folders: /My Folders/ and /Shared Folders/. These are significant because all the content saved into My Folders is private available to your user only, whereas all the seeded content is in the Shared Folders. Also in the Shared Folders is the /custom/ folder which is where new analysis and reports you have created should be stored so that upon patching or upgrade your reports are preserved. As with all customizations, it is recommended to copy seeded BI reports and analysis, and to change and implement the new copies.

Development UI Access and BI Administration

If you create a new BI output from Fusion Applications, as shown in the first screenshot, you'll be taken into one of two BI composer wizards. For creating an analysis you'll be in BI Analytics Composer which gives you a simple UI for designing and developing visual output. For reports you'll be placed in BI Publisher which also has a wizard-like guided flow. Should your requirement be beyond the simplified capabilities of these composers however, both BI Publisher and BI Analytics offer a more powerful development interface that permits advanced features such as creating calculated values, adding custom formulas, and more custom layouts. Indeed if you wish to start from this advanced BI development tool, and not in a composer, then you can login to your BI Server using the http://[BIServerDomain]/analytics and from here you will see the screen below which provides all catalog administrative and development features.


So far we have considered only Reports and Analyses based on the seeded underlying data model, known as the Subject Areas, and although what is delivered out of the box is very comprehensive there may be a requirement to change or extend this base. This requires full BI Administration access, wherein you can edit the Oracle BI Repository metadata layer, known as the RPD. Detail on this is outside this getting started article, however it is most commonly done using the client ‘BI Admin Tool’ and is explained more in the Fusion Applications Developers Guide (and the generic BI documentation). 

Security

Obviously accessing the above Composer or Development tools requires security grants, as not every use should be allowed to create and customize reports and analyses. There are two main privileges to look out for:

  • To access both of the Composer tools there is a privilege entitled "Access to BI Composer".
  • To edit Analyses there is a privilege entitled "Access to Analysis”.

Both of these are granted to the “BI Platform Author” Job Role which also provides full control permissions for the /Custom. folder. This role quickly enables you to edit, copy, and create analysis and reports, and to copy and edit BI dashboards. In addition, many other seeded job roles inherit the privileges above within their related Duty Roles. Look out for these with the name “[functionality] Analysis Duty” in the Fusion Applications Security Reference Manual.

Obviously all new analysis and reports need security, and this is simply done by selecting the Permissions menu option available under the More link for each report or analysis. From here you can add application (duty) roles from the existing security definition and select what they can do (read, edit etc).

Customization Notes

You may be noticed that not all Fusion Application pages permit the adding of BI Catalog content into them. If you use Page Composer but the BI Catalog shows as empty, then its the intended page design that's preventing it's use. Whilst some pages permit you to add a custom tab or a new region to add BI content, generally speaking the dashboard and landing pages support embedding charts and analytics.

For those cases where it's not a custom UI that your interested in, but in getting a new report run and delivered to a particular set of users, there is a easy-to-use report scheduling features inside Oracle BI. This is done through the use of a feature known as BI Delivers, and leverages BI Agents which are setup to run reports automatically and deliver the result. Information on where this is setup is shown in this simple video on our YouTube channel.

In addition, we've seen cases where customers want to launch a Fusion Applications report or analysis from an integrated system, commonly returning the output for use by that integrated system. Fortunately Oracle BI has two sets of Web Services for doing this - one for BI Publisher reports and another for BI Analytics. Both are demonstrated on our BI playlist on our YouTube channel.

If you are using Oracle Sales Cloud or Fusion CRM to extend your data model through Application Composer, adding custom fields and objects, then you'll have to use the corresponding feature to build a custom subject area so those fields are available to BI. This is detailed in the CRM Extensibility Guide. Similarly if you enable a flexfield there are some BI setup steps to be done before it's included in reports and analytics. See the Extensibility Guide for more details on this.

Further Reading

  • Chapter 7 of the Fusion Applications Extensibility Guide covers customizing reports and analytics.
  • For Sales Cloud see the new Oracle Sales Cloud Reports Guide (My Oracle Support Doc ID 1489288.1)
  • There are lots of great BI content in Oracle Learning Library, including some for Fusion Applications common requirements.
  • Another great getting started resource is the Fusion Applications Reporting and Analytics Learning Center (My Oracle Support Doc ID 1576427.1)   
  • Oracle Support maintain a dedicated Information Center on Oracle Fusion Application BI and Reporting (My Oracle Support Doc ID 1519893.2)
  • For short BI demos see our Developer Relations YouTube Channel
  • Oracle Enterprise Repository (OER) has more detail on the seeded reports delivered in Fusion Applications.

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This blog offers news, tips and information for developers building extensions, customizations and integrations for Oracle Fusion Applications.

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