Category Archives: BI Theory and Best Practices

Build Your Own Time Hierarchy

Every single BI system has a time/date/period/calendar hierarchy in it. If you use the BI Apps, it actually comes with 2 different tables for this purpose alone, along with a ton of OOB capability. However, when you are faced with a pure custom system from scratch, how do you build one? What does it look like? What sort of data should it have in it?

I’m going to lay out what a decent Time Hierarchy looks like from an OBI and data model perspective. From there I’ll then demonstrate how to actually build one yourself instead of relying on complex code. Along the way we’ll mix in some best practices and theory as well.

Your mileage may vary depending on the specifics of your system, but my goal is to make the design and building of your hierarchy take only 3 hours and last the lifetime of your project (or career). Read the rest of this entry

Bad BI Form

If you read Stephen Few’s work on BI Dashboards and visualization, you’ll recall that he says charts that rely on people to compare areas are not well suited to humans as we have trouble making the comparison.  Circles are especially bad, and forget about fancy donut (circles with a hole) shaped charts.

BI charts bad

This image is a perfect example of that.  Can you really compare the big circle with the others, or even the others to each other?  See how easy it is in the vertical bar comparison?  Keep this in mind when dealing with comparisons using area based visuals.

 

 

 

HR Analytics at Wells Fargo – Project that won KPI Partners the Specialized Partner of the Year Award for BI and EPM

I’m very pleased to announce that the project I bled and sweated over for nearly a whole year has won KPI Partners the coveted Oracle Excellence Award for North American Specialized Partner of the Year in BI & EPM (formerly know as the Titan Award).

OEA_13_Web-Badge_SPOTY_NA_321

I led the KPI Partners team implementing HR Analytics from a PeopleSoft system for Wells Fargo, the worlds largest bank by Market Capitalization, with 300,000 employees and contractors.  This is the largest footprint of HR Analytics in the world to date, both in terms of data volume and their ultimate # users planned- all 40,000 managers in the company!

Although the project was a difficult challenge, we were able to implement a BI solution the way I believe it should be implemented.  A few key highlights below.  For more information, please see the presentation HR Analytics at Wells Fargo from this year’s Oracle Open World, or KPI’s own page on the award.

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The Single Most Important Thing to Know About the OBI RPD

Over my OBI career I’ve had to review dozens of customer and consultant developed RPDs as part of either a formalized health check engagement or simply a developer code review.  Frequently the customer has some problems that they can’t solve, or that they have solved with a work-around of some sorts.  In some cases this is simply due to not fully understanding the concepts and what you can do with those concepts, but sometimes there is something far worse at play: bad advice from supposed experts.

Twice this year I have come across customers who have been told by other “experts” that Dimensional Hierarchies aren’t that important or they should leave the Content tab empty.  One of these so called experts was even an actual Oracle employee!  This is disastrous advice as I will demonstrate in this post.

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BI Apps / Performance Layer Preso

This is my presentation from last week’s Rittman-Mead BI Forum in Atlanta.  Incidentally it happens to be the same topic (similar slides) to the KPI Partners webinar from April and what I gave in Denver at Collaborate also in April.  The webinar has been recorded, so you can hear my commentary and the QA session afterwards.  If you get the chance, I’ll be doing the same preso at Kscope in New Orelans next month.  Enjoy!

2013_24_04_PerformanceTuningOraclesBIApplications

Testing Presentation from the 2013 BIWA Summit

I thought I’d post my presentation on QA (testing) that I delivered this week at the BIWA Summit near Oracle HQ in California. The preso is based off of the recent QA posts I did, with a bit more silly graphics on top of it.  The one take away from the preso is that some people prefer the term testing as opposed to QA.  Good to know.  Anyway, enjoy!

KPI Run Your QA Cycles More Effectively

BTW, the event focused heavily on the future of BI and Data Warehousing.  Essentially, whatever we are doing now is going to radically change to include many new types of data from different places and sources, plus what kinds of analysis we do will also be greatly enhanced.  OBI is layering on top of a whole plethora of Oracle’s Analytical technologies, including: Essbase, EPM, HCM, OLAP, RTD,  Endeca and R.  The OBI server or UI will have hooks into just about everything you can think of, making some advanced capabilities available to dashboard users.  We’ll see how it actually plays out, but in the future some pretty heavy stuff will be available in the dashboard.

Next up is a presentation on Performance Tuning the BI Apps which I’ll be delivering at KScope in June in New Orleans and Collaborate in April in Denver.

 

QA for OBI (Part 2 – The Tests)

In the last post I discussed some general, overall topics to prepare you for a better QA cycle.  In this post I’d like to get into the details a bit more to discuss some of the actual tests you can perform across both ETL and OBI layers.  In particular I’m going to focus on data testing for ETL and OBI.

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QA for OBI (Part 1 – Planning)

It seems that every client and every project (I think I’m in the 40’s now) has a different way of QA’ing their OBI system.  This holds true for whether you are doing a BI Apps deployment or simply a new deployment of a custom solution.  This post will set the foundation for the discussion of what needs to be QA’d and how to break the multi-layered solution into more manageable units.

I get the feeling sometimes that my customers are expecting QA to be something perfectly pre-canned that I can simply show up with, fill in the cells in a spreadsheet, and off we go.  The reality is that each project by nature is different, starting from a different place, executed in a different manner, and with different people involved.  It follows that some of the specifics of the QA cycle will therefore be different as well.

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Degenerate Dimensions and Aggregates

An interesting topic came up recently on my latest project that I think is quite informative on how OBI works under the hood.  It involves how to model degenerate dimensional fields into OBI when there are aggregates present.  Individually each of these two topics are relatively well know with solutions for how to handle them, but when combined they can get pretty tricky.  This is especially true when you are using the BI Apps, which to a large degree still rely on the old method of manually mapping Time Series (Ago & ToDate) metrics (as opposed to the OBI 10.x + technique of Time Series functions) which require an explosion of Logical Table Sources (LTSs).

The core of this post concerns what do you do when some of your aggregates don’t have all of the degenerate fields that your base fact has?  What do you need to do to model them properly?  In the explanation I will shed a bit more light on how OBI “thinks” so that you too can model things properly the first time.

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Prototyping with OBI

I’ve always felt that traditional approaches to developing BI content left much to be desired.  Going through a traditional requirements approach with users to determine what reports should do, then spending a significant amount of time documenting them, only to finally show them to users after development and find out they aren’t happy with the result is something that I suspect most of you have encountered.  I believe a better way to come to a solution that makes users happy is by starting right away with a Prototype.  In this article I’ll discuss the generals of prototyping, and specifically how OBI is well suited to this approach.

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