Big Ideas

Intelligence Design: Q&A with Oracle's Tobin Gilman

By David Baum

February 2011

Tobin Gilman, Oracle’s vice president of product marketing for business intelligence (BI) and performance management, spoke with Profit about innovations in the BI marketplace and advancements to the Oracle product portfolio.

Profit: What distinguishes Oracle’s performance management technology in the rapidly evolving BI marketplace?

Gilman: Oracle brings together the Hyperion performance management applications with its mature Oracle BI solutions to enable a holistic view of the business. Every company needs to formulate plans, monitor how they are performing against those plans, and report internally and externally on performance so they can use metrics to drive their business. The Oracle Hyperion suite stands out not only for its best-in-class performance management capabilities but also for its deep integration with the Oracle BI foundation. As General Dynamics has demonstrated, this integration enables customers to track and manage KPIs [key performance indicators] and tie their insight back to plans and strategies, using a common set of assumptions, definitions, and metrics.

Profit: How does Oracle blend real-time analysis with historical reporting?

Gilman: Oracle offers lots of options for analyzing data in real time. For example, you can run queries and reports directly against transactional systems to view up-to-the-minute information and even integrate this real-time data with historical information in a data warehouse. Oracle GoldenGate is another part of Oracle’s real-time analytics solution. It allows you to capture incremental changes to transaction systems and trickle-feed them into an operational data store for reporting. That allows real-time analysis without impacting transactional performance.

Profit: What is the next horizon for BI, and how do you see the technology changing in the years ahead?

Gilman: One of the great advancements to the Oracle BI product suite is embedded intelligence, which lets you insert analytics and decision-making right into your business processes. The idea is to make BI more actionable and more part of daily operations. To that end, Oracle’s open BI technology lets you embed BI directly into transactional applications or industry-standard portals. Oracle also has been pioneering the industry’s only true packaged BI applications, which are tightly integrated with its ERP [enterprise resource planning] and CRM [customer relationship management] systems such as Oracle E-Business Suite and Oracle’s PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, and Siebel applications, as well as with SAP. We have defined metrics, definitions, and reports for financial analytics, sales analytics, HR analytics, marketing analytics, and many other domains.

Another advancement is the Action Framework feature in Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition 11g, which allows you to take action directly from a dashboard or set in motion an additional workflow, such as routing an approval, ordering supplies, initiating a credit hold, or simply navigating to some additional analytic content. This can all be done from within the BI environment and fully automated using conditional logic. For example, “If this variance exceeds a certain threshold, then take this action.”

Profit: How does Oracle BI improve collaboration within a workgroup?

Gilman: We’ve made it easier for people using our BI technology to share information in real time, have threaded discussions, document how decisions are made, and so forth. For example, if a finance professional notices that expenses were above plan for a particular period, he can initiate a chat session with the business owner, share an annotated report, and document the discussion, all from within the BI environment.

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