OBIEE

Outliers, Self-Importance, and Shared Understanding

I recently attended another overview of machine learning and analytics, but this time it was at my business school’s reunion and delivered by one of the most prominent thought leaders in the world of analytics. Nothing he said was wrong and I agreed with much of the sage advice he had to offer. Also, there is only so much that can be communicated in a 45 minutes session, but I was somewhat disappointed. This session was designed for executive level business leaders not working directly in the field of analytics. Here were the two big pieces of advice:  

  • Don’t lose the outliers and engage in too much aggregation. That’s where all the good stuff is (with the outliers). 

  • Place analytics within the heart of the business of the organization. It’s the most important thing. 

Fine and good. It’d be hard for me to argue against the potential usefulness of true outliers. However, I do think that the usefulness of outliers is highly dependent on the situation. It’s midway down my “most important” list. You might say it’s a bit of an outlier when too much aggregation rubs out the most meaningful insights.  

I also agree with placing analytics at the center of the business. However, I freely recognize that this is what every functional business discipline advises; finance professors recommend that financial analysis be placed at the center of all business decisions and practices, human resource professors advise that there is nothing more important than world-class personnel practices, business operations professors argue that more money flows through operations than any other part of the business and that operational effectiveness largely determines the strength and future of the corporation, etc. It’s not wrong to advise that analytics be placed at the center of everything, it’s just a teeny bit myopic.  

Here’s a seldom heard perspective I’d love to hear from an analytics thought leader addressing executives. In fact, I’d likely put this at the top of my personal “most important” list.  

The hardest work of analytics is fostering a shared understanding of organizational position, performance, and priorities.  

It’s a group thing, not an individual thing. Designing analytic dashboards is more like putting together a great restaurant with a brilliant kitchen combined with a strong staff and fantastic atmosphere than it is like writing a novel or painting a picture. Restaurants need a team of people working together and are enjoyed most always by people dining in groups, not alone. Great restaurants are about shared experiences, not solitary impressions. When executives share an understanding of evidence, coherent decision making can take place. At that point, the analytics system is supporting the organization, not driving differences in perspective. But great dashboards don’t happen by accident and they don’t arise naturally from a single great artist working alone. It’s a shared thing, not an individual thing.  

Tip on using New Waterfall Viz in DVD 3.0

In preparing for my presentation on What's New in DVD 3.0 Webinar (tomorrow!), I found that the new waterfall visualization was geared towards balance measures (like a checking account balance) instead of a flow or performance measure such as profit.  One of the key differences is that for a flow measurement the value can easily be negative.  In any business, you may lose money in a given period, but you hope to make up for it in prior or future periods.  In addition, flow analysis can be great for showing sources of gains and losses.  A waterfall graph typically shows this very nicely.

But the waterfall graph in DVD 3.0 is designed for balance information.

In order to use the waterfall graph, you can convert from the flow measure (such as profit) to a balance by using the RSUM function in OBIEE.  Put simply, RSUM(profit) gives you the running sum of profit for the year, adding up each month.  It accumulates the profit which is exactly what you need in order to use the waterfall graph.

So, on the left you can see a waterfall graph of an inventory balance.  No special formulas needed.  On the right, you can see a waterfall graph of profit.  In this case, we actually use the cumulative profit measure so we can properly visualize the periods where we lost money.  We can easily see that we ended the year with a total of $9346.

Controlling permissions in OBIEE and DV

I was asked recently about permissions of uploaded data in OBIEE and Data Visualization.  (New) in version 12.2.1.1 I am able control who gets to see the data I upload via the Permissions tab of the Data Sources dialog box.  I can control via individual Users (good for quick collaboration between users) or via Roles (good for controlling access for corporate and departmental initiatives).  See the below screenshot.

Here I prodney has granted permission to abell to access the Accounts data set.  Similiarly, you can control who has access to the data that you upload. This has huge implications on how OBIEE users share data across an organization.  As more and more users use the data mashup capabilties (including the new ones I shared in my webcast on new OBIEE 12.2.1.1 features), it will become more important how users control access to spreadsheets and raw tables in Oracle (and other) data sources.  Let me know what best practices you are developing with this capability.

Embedding Data Visualizations from VA in OBIEE Dashboards

As previously mentioned, we had a huge turnout for my presentation on What's New in OBIEE 12.2.1.1.

Two questions that came up are:

  1. How do I integrate VA content into an OBIEE dashboard?
  2. Can I specify in a URL that I want VA content in presentation mode?

Philippe Lions from Oracle answered both questions in a video he made and posted in his blog entry.

Thanks, Philippe!

Oracle BI SampleApp v607 and Resources Webinar, August 16, 2016, Noon Central

Join Dan Vlamis, Oracle ACE Director, as he demonstrates Oracle Business Intelligence using the latest release V607 from the Oracle BI SampleApp team. SampleApp is known in the Oracle BI consulting community as THE go to platform for showcasing what Oracle BI is capable of. Release V607 of SampleApp runs on version 12.2.1.1 (first 12c patch release) of Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition. Expect a fast-paced presentation with a live demo using a brand new SampleApp image. 

The webcast will also include other demonstration and learning platforms Oracle is rolling out to users. This platform is geared towards Oracle BI (and Data Visualization Desktop) users, allowing them to learn new techniques, and even to download additional visualizations into the Oracle BI platform.

Register now for this popular webinar! Tuesday, August 16, 2016 at noon Central