Business Intelligence and the Kung Fu Dragons of Wudang

I recently watched an interesting program on TV about the Kung Fu Dragons in Wudang, China. The students join from a very young age and basically study 16 hours a day to become a Kung Fu Dragon Master over many, many years. The training is difficult, filled with risks of failure and many give up before ever coming close to becoming a Kung Fu Dragon master. Indeed the truth is most simply don’t have the skills, time or patience to reach the heights of a true Kung Fu Dragon Master. Very few will ever become a Kung Fu Dragon Master.

Now you look at data warehouses and Business Intelligence and ERP. It’s extremely difficult, filled with risks of failure and many give up (after spending a fortune) before they even get close after many, many years of trying. The truth is most simply don’t have the skills, time or patience to reach the heights of a true Kung Fu Dragon Master in Business Intelligence and ERP. The parallels and similarities are indeed striking.

Now the Art of Zen Patching article talked about patience and a non-aggressive approach. Not so this article. This article is really designed to allow you to become a true Kung Fu Dragon Master in Business Intelligence in 9-12 weeks (in vanilla implementation) and stresses a highly aggressive approach to Business Intelligence and ERP. (This article doesn’t ask for any money to be sent for some dodgy DVD and a certificate I printed in my bedroom. This is free, it’s not marketing hype – this is the real deal).

A cautionary tale before I start.

I’ve seen the two sides of data warehousing with Oracle ERP. One European company I know bought a bunch of expensive, state of the art tools almost a decade ago. Almost a decade on, with a lot of tears and pain  (sounds like a Kung Fu Dragon training course…..???), 2 million bucks and a change in system architecture that will require massive re-work, users simply not adopting because what has been achieved is small, fragmented and ad-hoc, and performs like a three legged dog (indeed in the user manual it instructs the person to submit the report and then get a coffee for 20 minutes before coming back or lunch if it’s a larger report) – the dreams of being a Kung Fu Dragon Master in ERP Data Warehousing lie in shattered pieces, a ruin of what should have been a shining example of 21st Century technology. This isn’t a one off – according to independent research a huge percentage of projects fail in the custom approach. Indeed it is the minority of ERP Data Warehouse projects that succeed.

Sure they bought the most expensive software, they put in piles of money, but they never sought a Kung Fu Dragon master to train them properly, preferring naively to think that they could learn the art of the Kung Fu Dragon Business Intelligence off a DVD in front of the bedroom mirror whilst their parents wondered what the weird shouts and snake hissing sounds were from upstairs………Instead of being a Kung Fu Dragon Master of Business Intelligence, they ended up as more like something of a joke reminiscent from the movie Kung Fu Panda……….Trust me if you’re a Kung Fu Business Intelligence Panda, people are laughing at you, not with you…….

 

(By the way, if you haven’t got the DVD for Kung Fu Panda movie, it’s highly recommended). As well as Oracle Fusion Apps being released in 2011, Kung Fu Panda 2 will also be out…..

Here’s the other side. I’ve seen Oracle come in with the prebuilt ERP Analytics, install the database, ETL tools, dashboards, KPI’s and reports and do all the data orchestration, extracts and imports in……..seven hours………Now I’m an utter skeptic when it comes to Oracle marketing and consultancy, but yes, I watched as one single Kung Fu Dragon Master in Business Intelligence and Pre-Built ERP Analytics achieved in 7 hours what could not be achieved in 7 years by an army of untrained people in another European company. Now this was only a demo (done for free as a demonstration of what could be achieved), but it took all our historical R12 Oracle ERP Accounts Payable data for 7 years and transformed it in a fully defined, fully functional data warehouse with dashboards in 7 hours. This guy was an Indian Kung Fu Dragon Master in Business Intelligence from Oracle Singapore. I was in utter awe of what could be achieved so easily and so quickly by one talented individual.

Have a look at Haemonetics Corporation story at Oracle Open World on Demand (Oracle On Demand Access Required) and then the results when they moved to Oracle’s prebuilt BI Applications approach.

The reason this utterly amazing complete data warehouse could be achieved is due to the pre-built Analytics packs that Oracle now provides (for of course, an additional license fee), together with of course an incredibly talented Indian Kung Fu Dragon Master.

So what’s the deal with Oracle BI and Pre-built Analytics?

Oracle is moving heavily into the BI market, taking the overall lead in terms of BI according to Gartner, much to the surprise of many.

In parallel Oracle is moving to create an unprecedented amount of pre-built content for Oracle ERP (including R11, R12, Peoplesoft, Siebel, JD Edwards with SAP in the works in 7.9.7…..) moving the task of creating a data warehouse from a vast army over many years (with a horrific failure rate) to a guy with an installation disk. Or that’s the single great hope and prophecy of Oracle Corporation. OK, we’ll never get to an installation disk, but if the guy with the installation disk can get us to 70% I won’t be complaining……..

Finally Oracle is now heading towards, probably in R12.1.4 to embedding the BI content directly into Oracle ERP screens. (The technology to do this by embedding into Java screens – not hanging a BIEE screen of an ERP menu by the way – was released as part of 12.1.2). If you also look at the new Fusion Apps, embedded dashboards are now an integral part of each module. According to Oracle at Open World 2010, there will be “hundreds of pre-built embedded analytics in (Fusion V1) or as they put it another way “Analytics are always available in Fusion Apps”.

 

 

Whatever BI tool or preference, you have to admit Oracle’s strategy and growth is certainly very impressive. With the recent release of Oracle BIEE 11G it just gets even better. The presentation layer is truly fantastic.

 

So many are probably asking, what’s the pre-built content for Oracle ERP?

Oracle has effectively written for you the following components:

  • Data Extraction from Oracle ERP (and many other ERP’s)
  • Data Orchestration (pulling dependent tables as needed with full synchronization)
  • Data Import to Data Warehouse with full management and restart capabilities
  • Data Model Design of Warehouse
  • Standard Dashboards
  • Standard KPI’s
  • Standard Reports
  • Security Models
  • Integration both to and from Oracle ERP
  • and a whole lot more

Now all of the above have been done not by a single Kung Fu Dragon Master in Business Intelligence, but by an army of Kung Fu Dragon Masters in Business Intelligence and ERP at Oracle Corporation.

These guys are experts in Business.

These guys are experts in Data Warehouse modeling.

These guys are experts in BI.

These guys are experts integrating BI to ERP.

These guys are experts at extracting data reliably from ERP to a data-warehouse.

The product line has come from a huge amount of hours collaborating with top businesses around the globe to find out what an ERP Data Warehouse should be

They have created something that no matter how much money and how deep your pockets, you will never be able to match, because Oracle Corporation is in the software business and can use economies of scale. Your company isn’t, despite the best intentions of your IT department.

The Pre-Built Analytics module list for Oracle ERP is equally impressive and is growing substantially on a consistent basis. This now covers:

Now it’s almost definite that this list will continue rapidly expanding, so that not only is there prebuilt content on ERP, but you’ll find it integrated directly into ERP (R12, Fusion, etc) and I bet into all of the other tools that Oracle has in the coming years including their database and other management tools. Basically if you are running Oracle ERP now, you WILL be running Oracle BIEE in the years to come.

Not only does Oracle Pre-Built Analytics create entire date warehouse content, they also add to it on a frequent basis. So when Pre-Built Analytics 7.9.6 was released it had a whole raft of brand new areas of HR addressed including Talent Management, Learning and iRecruitment.

So if you are still considering building using a custom approach to Oracle ERP Data warehousing, think about this foolish Kung Fu Panda……

Imagine that Oracle ERP has some 14,000 tables – do you really want to build a data warehouse from this (and will it actually perform…….????)

Imagine having to write extracts from the key tables which although much smaller is still huge. Imagine writing all the complex logic on something like Order Management for the extracts.

Imagine having to define a complex data warehouse model (and no, ERP and standard database design don’t work for data warehouses – it’s a completely different approach from a relational database model so your skills won’t work here……).

Imagine having to write processes to manage the extraction and import of data.

Imagine having to do the Security models.

Imagine having to do all the integration to and from your ERP.

Imagine trying to keep your custom built data warehouse in synch with Oracle patches, upgrades, etc

Imagine designing and building 100’s of dashboards with no idea of the proper principles of dashboard design and usability

Still fancy your chances of building a BI Apps comparable product Kung Fu Panda? Have a look at the summary data warehouse of BI Apps…….I guess you would be a whole lot less confident if it was your own money at stake on your custom build rather than your company’s……

 

The above represents years of work by an army of highly skilled, highly paid people, where the company must wait for a very significant time to get the results if you choose to custom build. Where you don’t get these highly trained people (as too many companies don’t), the consequence is simple – utter failure and massive cost.

And of course, even if you build it, what happens when you add another 2,000 users? Is it scalable or will you find major flaws in the design that are incredibly costly to fix? With Oracle Pre-Built Analytics scalability has already been designed in by the experts.

Still not convinced? Well let me give you the stats on Oracle’s prebuilt analytics:

350 Fact Tables

550 Dimension Tables

5,200 Pre-Built Metrics

15,000 Data Elements

And Kung Fu Panda, do you really think that the quality and performance and design can match that of the Kung Fu Dragon Masters from Oracle Corporation that do nothing but BI Applications? If so put down that Vodka bottle (or whatever else you are smoking) and get a reality check.

 

Or how about this Dashboard, with all the extracts, imports, data model behind it? For info this is Oracle Projects, one of the hardest niche modules in the entire ERP Suite, with links to EVERYTHING…….

 

In BI Apps just for HRMS there are 9 dashboards with a whopping 47 pages, 230 reports and 330+ metrics. And that’s just ONE MODULE OF BI APPS !

By the time you build that using a custom build approach (that’s so 1990’s in terms of approach – are you also still using Computer Punch Cards?) you’ll be retired or fired before you see it go-live……..

Today Oracle has the capability to deploy in 9-12 weeks (in vanilla implementation). Marketing slogans and nothing else? Absolutely not. We watched Oracle install everything (from database, to tools, to dashboards and migrate 7 years of data) and bring up Accounts Payable in 7 hours as a proof of concept. I can be pretty skeptical and hard on vendors, but believe me, this was truly amazing the ease with which this product could be brought up.

Now true there are some serious challenges around also, even with the Pre-built Analytics. Anyone thinking they can buy this and that’s it, well that unfortunately is naïve. I wish life was that simple……

The fit of the BI Analytics needs to be checked in terms of dashboards. What we found was that a lot of dashboards fitted very well onto the Business Requirements. Please bear in mind that dashboards are very easy to build (and BIEE is very easy to learn), especially when the Kung Fu Dragon Masters at Oracle Corporation have done the hardest part of building the entire data model and all the data extractions for you. Even if you find no use for the pre-built dashboards, simply having the data model and extracts will save you a huge amount of time. Now looking at Infosys they reckon a 70-80% fit in terms of BI Apps. I’d tend to agree that would be a ballpark figure when we assessed this against our ERP.  (And remember a fit means data extraction, import, data models, dashboards and all the other components).

If you do have custom modules, then you will need to build the extracts, data model, etc. However don’t be fooled by naïve arguments that if you’ve customized your ERP, BI Apps will not work. I’ve rarely seen a company modify base tables in ERP (add new custom tables yes) as they would be extremely foolish to do so. Therefore BI Apps will have just about every key table from the core ERP model you could possibly need. That’s a huge chunk of work already done.

You will need to define further dashboards and reports. That is a given. BI Apps will get you very far down the line, but it won’t be a silver bullet.

You will need to design data models and extracts for any custom modules you have. That can be a difficult task, but your ERP will already have all the data models, extracts provided by BI Apps. Custom modules are almost always a whole lot simpler than Oracle ERP Data models.

One of the biggest tasks that not even pre-built analytics will address is Training and user adoption. Moving from reports and Excel to Analytics is a major business change exercise and should be treated accordingly. The project can still fail even with great pre-built content, because users are not trained appropriately and there is a lack of vision in how this can really change the way the user community work.

The cost of prebuilt analytics is still a major problem I think. There are alternates out there that are much, much cheaper but then you have to consider upgrades, risk of building, integration and a whole host of other problems. I love the Oracle BIEE and the Pre-Built analytics but the cost is still pretty high. Of course compare the cost of that to the cost of building all this yourself and there is just no comparison between the two, like for like. Playing hardball with Oracle Corporation (ideally at their year end when the best deals can be achieved) can pay dividends in terms of price, although I’m not going to give away how cheaply we got offered the prebuilt analytics……There are still alternates to Oracle in many areas, solution wise and Oracle should be reminded that you can go elsewhere…..

Pre-Built analytics for ERP can get you there fast. But a big bang approach is not recommended. A fast initial deployment to a small community followed by consistent wins over a period of time, slowly building up the user base and expanding across the lines of the business is the way to go, bringing in and training champions each and every step of the journey. Then you’ll succeed where so many others fail. When everyone can see frequent wins (and with BI Apps it can be every few months), it becomes an unstoppable train that everyone wants to get on. BI Apps is beautiful eye candy that users seem to love. (Or is it that they finally can get their own answers in seconds without waiting 12 weeks for the IT Department…..)

You can buy the software, but you need to sell the vision, otherwise you fail. IT Alignment to Business Alignment and support from Business is the key to any successful project.

I’d still recommend having a BI Expert around who you can gain the knowledge from. Again Pre-Built Analytics is not a silver bullet and your staff will need to be properly trained by an expert.

I think all companies running ERP should be looking seriously at BI Apps, even those with the approach of building everything. In the 90’s companies realized the value of letting Oracle, SAP and the rest build their ERP applications. That’s now a generally accepted principal by most companies around the globe.

Over 2,500 companies have already adopted the BI Applications. If it was cheaper (a message to Oracle Corporation and Larry Ellison) the uptake I am sure would be massive.

In the coming months, I’ll write a few more articles on deep-dive into some of the core areas of BI Applications – HRMS, Financials and Procurement, time permitting.

I think in the 21st century, that same principal will gain general acceptance on the value of pre-built analytics for ERP. Put quite simply, in the cut-throat economy companies can’t wait ten years to become a Kung Fu Dragon Master of Business Intelligence with Oracle ERP.

Companies need to achieve that in 9-12 weeks (vanilla implementation) and the only way to do that is to rely on the Kung Fu Dragon Masters from Oracle Corporation that have already done this for you…………before your competitors beat you to it……..

Related Articles

Below are a number of articles. Some are your average Oracle Sales pitches, but all the same very informative overall. Others are written by generous authors whom I acknowledge and extend my thanks to for writing very interesting and useful articles, which were used as background research during writing this article. (I particularly enjoyed the articles by Jeff McQuigg and Mark Rittman, both renowned experts in their field and excellent authors. Their articles are highly recommended reading).

 For those lucky enough to have been to the Oracle Open World 2010 show (hope you enjoyed the Black Eyed Peas !!! Turn down the volume before you click that link……), the following can be accessed from Oracle Open World On Demand.

(Note there were many more sessions, but many do not yet have the content uploaded at the time of writing – 2nd October 2010. I have chosen to hyperlink only a few of my favorite session links. Others are available in Oracle Open World On Demand).

  • End-to-End Oracle Business Intelligence: From Warehouse to Advanced Analytics
  • Enterprise Sales Analytics with Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition
  • Oracle BI Applications Roadmap, Including Support for Oracle Fusion Applications
  • Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition Integration at Comcast
  • Oracle Human Resources/Oracle Financial Analytics for ResCare Decision-Making
  • What’s New in Oracle Business Intelligence Suite, Enterprise Edition Plus 11g
  • Gain the Insight You Need with Oracle Business Intelligence Applications
  • Implementation Experiences with Oracle Business Intelligence Applications
  • Implementation Experiences with Oracle BI Applications
  • Oracle Transactional Business Intelligence (OTBI)
  • Haemonetics Corporation: Better Decisions with Oracle Human Resources Analytics
  • Get Real-Time and Actionable Information with New Reporting and Analytics
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