OBIEE: Good Investment or Overkill Solution? Four Important Questions to Ask.
Many organizations are getting pressure to examine Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE). OBIEE, however, is a highly complex tool, meaning that some organizations who adopt it may find themselves dissatisfied because the software was overkill—and costly—for their particular business and reporting needs. In this blog, we’ll answer four questions any business should ask when analyzing OBIEE as a transactional reporting tool or as a replacement for Oracle Discoverer, which Oracle no longer supports.
1. Have you considered the support impact of maintaining a separate security model for OBIEE?
OBIEE, even though an Oracle product, uses a separate security model. This can come as a surprise to many, as Discoverer had a mode that would keep it in sync with Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) security.
The separate security model means that system administrators will need to query user responsibilities in EBS and make sure they are replicated in the subject areas of OBIEE, which will increase support costs. Another result is that audit costs may increase, as data access can fall under Sarbanes-Oxley rules.
2. How are you implementing OBIEE? Is it with a data warehouse or with real-time reporting?
OBIEE can be installed to access data from a data warehouse that is refreshed with new data at set intervals, or it can be installed for real-time reporting from the actual EBS transactional tables. Most of OBIEE’s benefit lies in its ability to consolidate data into a data warehouse, so many organizations choose this type of installation and use another tool for real-time reporting. However, OBIEE’s advanced features can be overkill for customers who just want it for transactional reporting.
3. Have you considered the training costs and lost productivity incurred while bringing your staff up to speed with OBIEE
In numerous situations, companies underestimate the investment they will have to make in OBIEE so that it’s a successful project. Many times, there is no budget for the change management and training that’s necessary—for users and system administrators alike—due to OBIEE’s complexity and differences from Discoverer. This can result in unexpected costs from outside consulting or could place a heavy burden on IT resources.
4. Have you compared common functions, such as creating a pivot table and graph, between Excel and the OBIEE Answers reporting tool?
Oracle Answers is the reporting tool that comes with OBIEE, and it’s the part of the tool users interact with most. So, it’s important to understand how basic tasks like charts and pivot tables are performed, as they aren’t as straightforward as in the more mature and intuitive Microsoft Excel. For example, building a pivot table with Oracle Answers requires you to create a measure column, add the column to the report and then insert the pivot function as compared to a simple click in Excel that launches the pivot wizard. This complexity translates to more training—and more steps and time—for users.
Before selecting any reporting tool, it’s important to identify the features that you most commonly use, such as pivot tables, graphs, charts, calculations, and additional formatting and then explore how these are performed in the tool you’re assessing. Due to the number of steps required to do some of these tasks in Answers, for example, users many times resort to building out their required data sets in Answers and then exporting them to Excel for formatting. So, you end up dealing with ongoing Answers training when users are just going to put the data in Excel anyway.
While Excel is a great presentation tool, you may unintentionally create dangerous islands of static data and spreadsheet risks that can introduce errors. One way to avoid this is with an Excel add-in that pulls data directly from Oracle into its spreadsheet interface for easy formatting. This real-time reporting option can often accomplish the everyday operational reporting that many organizations require—without the need for the lengthy implementation and ongoing training of OBIEE.
Overall, your company should first and foremost carefully analyze your business requirements to make sure OBIEE meets them and doesn’t exceed what you truly need in terms of reporting. By doing so, you can avoid an expensive tool that really doesn’t meet your expectations.