Mitch Campbell, the long-standing Director of Analytics for Oracle has written a very good blog explaining why businesses should consider Oracle Analytics Cloud. (I’ll include the link at the footer of this post). So, we won’t spend time discussing that during this article. What we do want to focus on is the items that should be considered when moving to Oracle Analytics Cloud.
There has to be an amount of time allowed for Report writing and report configuration. It appears that a lot of companies expect their employees to pick up report writing immediately and the expectation is that it’s easy and reports zing off the production floor almost at the click of a finger.
In reality a report can take between 5 days for a very simple report to 3 weeks for a complicated report. So the expectation to produce 300 reports for example (split for arguments sake into 100 easy, 100 medium and 100 hard reports a total of 300+1000+1500 days with easy = 5d, medium =10d, hard = 15d), a team of 10 report writers would take at least 280 days to create these.
The good news is that for Oracle Cloud ERP and HCM there is a large number of pre-built reports on offer, however, these will still need to be tailored to the company’s requirements.
The teams we have worked with are either understaffed or are expected to perform their day to day work alongside project based report writing. The reality is that the amount of work to replace for example E-Business or Apex reports to Reports in the Cloud is not a simple drag and drop exercise as the database is different and requires a large amount of work to make them work.
To mitigate this, the team really must be given the time to focus purely on reporting, with day-to-day activities back filled with temporary resources or seconded colleagues. This would ensure a high level of focus and therefore quality.
Timing for Training to Embed the required skills
Training is essential to give the team the skills to understand the differences in the Cloud tools to deliver reports. Companies are too quick to allow Reporting teams to pick BI publisher to deliver reports because the team’s skill set is SQL orientated.
The use of OTBI (Oracle Transactional Business Intelligence), FRS (Financial Reporting Studio) simplifies the report processes and with the correct skills are a lot easier to build and maintain. Also this takes the report writing ownership away from the IT department and out to the reporting teams (e.g. Finance & HR). The fact that Report SQL needs to be rewritten to work with Cloud tables makes the mythical drag and drop from other Oracle systems more apparent.
Our customers have found that advanced training would be more beneficial after there is data in the system. Preferably just before UAT testing of reports. However the basics would be good beforehand to allow the understanding of the tools that are available to allow for definition of reports required.
Resources – are the correct resources being identified for the training, will they have time to implement the training and allow the business to gain the required outputs?
It is important to understand if the identified team has had any exposure to the current reporting tools as well as a previous background in reporting?
If the team is a dedicated reporting resource they should have reasonable SQL skills but, do they have exposure to FRS and/or OTBI?
If the team has previously used Oracle E-Business Suite they are likely to have exposure to OBIEE or OBIA and BIP (Business Intelligence Publisher).
If they are from the Finance or HR department for example, have they had any reporting exposure or are they recipients of reports?
Determining the level of exposure will give dependencies on the start level of training.
Analysing standard reports to understand which custom reports are needed and why, etc.?
The Standard OTBI reports only work if data is migrated exactly to the correct columns in Tables, with minor changes they cover a large percentage of the company’s requirements. So it is recommended to get these to work and any requirements not met would need to be extended or built.
Standard BI Publisher reports appear in the Scheduled processes. These are mainly Financial and number 200+ reports. Understanding these and extending them will give a better view of the gap between current report requirements and what Fusion can deliver out-of-the-box.
When is Data Migration planned and in how many phases, will targets be understood by the trainees for the new data and how this is used for Reporting, how do they interrogate this?
It is best practice to deliver Reporting Training once the meaningful data exists within the training environment. Therefore, it is important that training is planned and scheduled for when the Data Migration is complete.
It may be more beneficial to schedule certain aspects of the training when the system is live to allow for more meaningful outputs, rather than delivering training in its entirety ahead of go-live. More flexibility can lead to more effective training by staggering the training delivery to accommodate the data input.
What challenges have users come across in our experience?
There are a lot of out-of-the-box reports and it is difficult to understand what Fusion provides as standard before embarking on report building. We recommend a full appraisal of these reports is undertaken and analysis of the “to be” requirements is understood before report writing begins.
Users have found it difficult to understand what is in the OTBI Subject Areas and where all the columns are. Alongside this, to understand and find the correct columns and Tables for BIP reports.
There is also a lack of ability in Fusion to query the database directly.
Lessons Learned from our customers:
“Reports do not work without data, therefore the scheduling of the training alongside our data migration plans is really important.”
“Knowing that FRS reports can be downloaded into Excel made a big difference to a number of our users.”
“Using the Timestamp capability in OTBI gives historical report capability.”
“If somebody from Oracle had introduced me to Customer Connect instead of hiding it in the front end, life would have been easier in selecting OTBI for HCM.”
“Lookups – where they are, what they are called, that they exist, for example HR_Lookups, FND_LOOKUP_VALUES. I seem to remember spending a lot of time trying to find the descriptions for codes in tables and upon finding these, life was a lot easier.”
“Security – Still learning. In hindsight maybe this should have been requested as part of the training.”
“Keeping a library – Keeping a library of all Select * queries to look at table contents.”
“Archiving – Should have paid more attention to this. Now learnt by bitter experience that if you don’t archive your reports you will/may lose them!”
“Documentation – A bit frustrated by the lack of Oracle documentation in general. Not the training materials, the fact that if you need to google something it’s very difficult to find and things are not where you expect them to be. It’s also incredibly frustrating searching for tables on the oracle website.”
What is the output of training – the business case, gains & reasons.
Training gives the following:
- Ability to define which AS-IS reports are needed and which can be accumulated into single reports in Oracle Cloud (Fusion).
- Ability to pigeon hole certain reports into the best possible reporting tool.
- Understanding the different reporting capabilities between OTBI and BIP. Will your organisation be reporting in Real Time or is there a need to include Effective Start End Dates. I.E. OTBI or BIP – which solutions work best for your organisational requirements.
- Explanation of the limitations, differences and capabilities of Smartview and FRS.
- Report production whilst in training, rather than dummy report building, on a vision instance with fake data. Your team will use the company system and therefore the training supports the production of meaningful reports with the support of a BI Expert.
In summary, involving an Oracle Cloud Analytics training partner to support the upskilling of report writers and users ideally before UAT (User Acceptance Testing) will give your organisation a deep understanding of the tools available, more effective data interrogation and report building capabilities pre and post implementation.