Monthly Archives: May 2013

Exalytics Implementation Considerations

May 30, 2013

Oracle is making a big push to grow the installed base of its new Exalytics in-memory appliance. To encourage sales, Oracle is offering tempting deals. As a result, some customers who weren’t seriously considering an Exalytics purchase are walking away with a new hardware appliance!

As exciting as the prospect of new hardware optimized to work with your Oracle business analytics environment is – you still need to answer the question of what to do with it once you have it. An important initial step is identifying an application where an Exalytics implementation will increase performance and/or reduce costs.

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Candidate applications should be scored using predefined criteria. At a minimum, the application selected should be stable, reliable, and measured according to existing performance metrics. This baseline will provide data that can be extrapolated to larger populations of applications.

Cost measures are equally important. Increasing the resources available to any application is likely to improve performance; however, there may be other less expensive options to achieve the same performance improvement.

Developing a full understanding of the benefits and cost of deploying Exalytics requires careful planning and ongoing measurement.

Author: Ron Woodlock, Performance Architects


© Performance Architects, Inc. and Performance Architects Blog, 2006 - present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog's author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Performance Architects, Inc. and Performance Architects Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Things to Like in Oracle Hyperion Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) 11.1.2.3: Hyperion Planning Outline Load Utility (OLU)

May 28, 2013

Continuing the series of posts that highlight the new and significant features in Oracle Hyperion Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) 11.1.2.3, today we talk about the Hyperion Planning Outline Load Utility (OLU). This tool is often used by developers to quickly make bulk updates to the dimensional information or outline of an Oracle Hyperion Planning application, and traditionally required access to the server machine where Hyperion Planning is installed. Since this type of access was not usually granted to folks who are not tech-savvy like the Finance team (who are the people who best understand the business logic behind most Hyperion Planning applications), the business team would have to rely on IT support personnel to allocate time to upload dimensional changes to the application. The case was the same if Planning dimensions needed to be extracted into flat files for consumption elsewhere.

Before 11.1.2.3, another option was to make changes to the outline over the Planning web interface, to one member (or node) at a time. As a result, adding a whole bunch of members – especially during the preparation stage for a books-closing – took a lot of time, effectively reducing productivity.

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With 11.1.2.3, OLU functionality is now available via the Planning web interface. Using the same outline build files that would have been supplied to the command line utility, Finance users who have been granted access can now upload (or download) dimensional information from their own terminals using just a web browser.

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This reduces dependence on IT support personnel, whose time is better spent building, running and monitoring increasingly complex virtual and physical systems. This functionality allows the business to update outlines not just for monthly tasks, but also allows more development responsibilities to stay within the business team.

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For security reasons, business users are usually on an internal network that does not have direct access to the servers. A business user needing this capability in the past required not just an understanding of command-line systems, like Oracle Linux servers, but had to go through virtual private networks (VPNs) or virtual desktop (VDI) gateways to get to the server. With the web interface, this is no longer needed, and the ability to make and test changes to a development application reduces turnaround time by hours, if not days. This also eliminates the need to set up and maintain the VPN and VDI systems, and to provide access and educate non-technical personnel on their use.

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The OLU web interface also provides the ability to export data to a flat file, and a Finance team member can do this without IT support.

The word “agile” comes to mind when we think of the capabilities that this adds to Hyperion Planning solutions. With development now in the hands of those who understand business needs best, solutions can be made better by more accurately meeting the business audience’s expectations. This reduces overhead due to mistakes made in the build, as well as reduces build time, since developers can now work more closely with the users on improving the solution.

Author: Andy Tauro, Performance Architects


© Performance Architects, Inc. and Performance Architects Blog, 2006 - present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog's author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Performance Architects, Inc. and Performance Architects Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Nine Ways to Improve Consulting Project Outcomes

May 24, 2013

In my recent post “The Five Reasons Consulting Projects Fail” I focused on five project characteristics that determine the success or failure of a project. Those characteristics include:

  1. Executive support
  2. User involvement
  3. Realistic expectations
  4. Proper planning
  5. Clear statement of business requirements

Understanding that each of these must be managed effectively to ensure a positive project outcome is great to know. However, effective and efficient management is where the real work is. I’ve put together a list of recommendations to make the task a little easier.

  1. Don’t underestimate the effort required. Every project is different and presents unique challenges. Identifying challenges early and establishing the appropriate risk mitigation strategy will ensure that key stakeholders are on the same page throughout the project lifecycle. Anticipating challenges is an attribute of effective planning and can go a long way toward ensuring ongoing executive support.
  2. Tie back to the project’s objectives. Project best practices include the development and approval of a project charter document that is endorsed and approved by the project’s leadership. The charter should include sections detailing objectives, success criteria and scope. The project team should be reminded of these guidelines periodically. Project leaders should ensure that measures are put in place to track progress toward stated goals.
  3. Don’t re-invent the wheel. It is true that every project is unique; however, the project process and documentation can be standardized. Reusing documentation either as templates or as examples can save a lot of hours as well as improving the quality of the product.
  4. Use Business Analysts. “Business Analyst” (or “BA”) can be an ambiguous role. Wikipedia defines a Business Analyst as “someone who analyzes the existing or ideal organization and design of systems, including businesses, departments, and organizations. BAs also assess business models and their integration with technology.” A best practice for organizations that don’t have dedicated BAs is to identify individuals with the appropriate background and skills for temporary assignments on projects. These individuals get special training in this role and support from management. Having resources dedicated to performing the BA role will greatly reduce the risk of collecting poor business requirements.
  5. Involve all stakeholders. Before all stakeholders can be involved they need to be identified. There are many theories and tools that can be applied by the project team to identify stakeholders. Once identified, key stakeholders need to be actively engaged at the appropriate level within the project management structure. Reluctant stakeholders are the real challenge. Everyone is busy with their regular work so gaining commitment to participate is critical. Early escalation of lack of active participation by key stakeholders – as painful as it might be – could be the difference between the success and failure of a project.
  6. Systematically collect requirements. As discussed in item #2 above – having individuals play the BA role on the project goes a long way toward collecting solid business requirements. Adding a systematic approach to business requirements documentation is even better; stages we often use here at Performance Architects include: collection; revision; acceptance; development and testing. Low level details are best captured using a Requirements Traceability Matrix (RTM), generally in an MS Word format. For more information, see some of my other posts on building and using an RTM.
  7. Don’t lock down requirements prematurely. Most project plans provide for business requirements to be captured during the first quarter of the overall project timeline. Since this task is early in the project, there is a strong desire to stay on schedule and close out the process. Project leaders need to challenge the team to demonstrate that requirements have been accurately captured and vetted with the business stakeholders. Studies show that error in this phase of the project will have a multiplying effect later in the project.
  8. Validate requirements. Requirements validation sometimes requires some misdirection. Requirements gathering processes will usually focus on a particular point-of-view. An example might be the current process with a focus on pain points. The project team should review the results of the initial sessions with an eye toward finding flaws in the logic. Alternatively, during subsequent meetings, discuss alternative approaches to eliminating pain-points in the current process. The bottom line is: don’t be satisfied with one requirements session vetted with the business; you will need to iterate to develop comprehensive business requirements.
  9. Trace requirements through build and test. Building on earlier statements, capturing business requirements is just the first step. Leveraging the RTM during the build and test phases will help to ensure successful outcomes.

Author: Ron Woodlock, Performance Architects


© Performance Architects, Inc. and Performance Architects Blog, 2006 - present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog's author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Performance Architects, Inc. and Performance Architects Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Things to Like in Oracle Hyperion Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) 11.1.2.3: Shared Services Console and Life Cycle Management (LCM)

May 20, 2013

In the previous post about new features in Oracle EPM (Hyperion) 11.1.2.3, we looked at some of the new features in EPM Workspace 11.1.2.3. This post focuses on a few more features worth getting excited about! Some of these features are directly a result of Oracle’s attempt to make this toolset a native cloud resident.

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I am very happy to note that the Shared Services Console now opens up as a tab within the EPM Workspace itself! This used to open as a separate window previously. Trying to access Shared Services through the old direct link will not work – it simply redirects to Workspace. This is good, because in a cloud environment, multiple windows tend to make things messier and difficult to coordinate.

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This is a feature that may take some getting used to.

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Life Cycle Management (LCM) also made huge strides. Previously, in order to import files into the environment, the files needed to be transferred to the server file system. This usually involved folder-mapping, or FTP tools. In other words, direct access to the file system of the server was just another security headache.

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Now you can upload the files via the Web interface itself. That’s right…right-click on the “File System” node and you get an “Upload” option that lets you specify a zip file from your client machine that will be uploaded to the server.

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Uploaded this way, the import is as good as it was in prior versions, if not better.

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Another interesting feature is the “Artifact Change Report.” When auditing is set up, this tool allows for the tracking of the objects that were imported via LCM and have since changed.

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The “Configure Auditing” feature isn’t new to this version, but the use of it this way is a plus and an incentive for using it.

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One scenario that comes to mind for using this is if it is needed to restore one or more applications to a prior state, this will provide with a report showing what exactly was changed. It can then be deleted and re-imported.

Stay tuned as we explore this version, digging into every feature and testing its limits. We will be bringing you some of our findings that make this version worth moving to, and hopefully along the way some best practices and keep-in-minds. See you soon.

Author: Andy Tauro, Performance Architects


© Performance Architects, Inc. and Performance Architects Blog, 2006 - present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog's author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Performance Architects, Inc. and Performance Architects Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Oracle EPM (Hyperion) 11.1.2.3 and OBIEE 11.1.1.7 Integration Actually Works: Best in Class, Even Better Together

May 15, 2013

Ever since Oracle acquired industry standard-bearing products for EPM and BI, folks have wanted to merge the tools present in Hyperion Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) together with Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE) and to create a single end-to-end solution that will be tough to beat. And to a large extent, many of us (including the Performance Architects team!) have managed to slap them together with a lot of spit and glue, and the occasional prayer.

So when Oracle recently launched EPM 11.1.2.3 and OBIEE 11.1.1.7, we lit the midnight oil and experimented to see how well they work well together. Well, not only do they work well together, but the integration has become better than ever. The screen shots below are from our experiments using code from the Oracle EPM (Hyperion) Planning Vision Demo application and the Oracle OBIEE Sample Lite application.

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The now-familiar navigation interface in EPM Workspace extends to include access to the primary areas of Oracle BI, like BI Home, Catalog and Dashboards, right alongside the existing features.

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The BI home screen looks right at “home” in the EPM Workspace look-and-feel, with nothing lost in translation…

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…not even the access to the “BI Presentation Services” administration menu options, to the user with the correct access:

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All the options and features that would be available with the native logon to OBIEE are now available with this interface.

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And they work just as they would when accessed through the native interface.

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This in no way hampers the ability to access EPM applications. All of the provisioned applications that are present in the environment are just as accessible as without the integration.

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Working in either the EPM or BI tools is just a matter of switching tabs within the same workspace, and no longer calls for separate browser windows or tools.

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Providing access to the OBIEE menu options is now a matter of a quick trip to the Shared Services Console. OBIEE-specific access roles can now be found in the regular interface for granting provisioning roles in Shared Services.

It is hard to imagine all this will not lead to increased productivity and consolidation of solutions. Seamless access to OBI dashboards and reporting solutions alongside EPM application tools Hyperion Planning (Planning), Hyperion Financial Management (HFM) and Essbase multi-dimensional databases is now possible within the same EPM Workspace. The accesses granted in the toolsets flow so well that you will forget that these are different toolsets. From the perspective of the Performance Architects team, this is the answer to what many of our clients have been looking for. We look forward to exploring this integration in more depth.

By themselves these tools are great. Put together, the sky is the limit. Stay tuned and we hope to share our additional findings on this in our posts to come. Until then, keep on EPM-OBIEE-ing!!

Author: Andy Tauro, Performance Architects


© Performance Architects, Inc. and Performance Architects Blog, 2006 - present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog's author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Performance Architects, Inc. and Performance Architects Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Public-Facing BI Using OBIEE: Risks and Solutions

May 15, 2013

Do you want to launch a public-facing business intelligence (BI) presence? If so, you will face the challenge of how to secure your data and your BI environment. The good news is that in the Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE) solution, the answer is less complex than you would imagine.

The Oracle-recommended architecture for hosting data external to your company is to place a web server in your DMZ that routes external requests to OBIEE on a secure port. In this way, if the web server is compromised there very little the perpetrator can do in the DMZ to harm the OBIEE environment.

The most typical configuration of the above scenario would involve a dual firewall system, where the web server would reside in the DMZ just behind the external firewall, but in front of the internal firewall.

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The web server would employ a method known as Reverse Proxy to forward requests from external users on their behalf to OBIEE. This is the most secure way to secure access to OBIEE from an external network, in combination with packet filtering by the firewall. This also gives the illusion to those on the outside that the web server is the actual OBIEE host.

This design also lends itself well to implementing a common single sign-on (SSO) portal for login with applications such as Oracle Access Manager (OAM), where the OAM WebGate intercepts requests coming into the web server and challenges users for a response before allowing the request to be forwarded on to OBIEE.

I would highly recommend implementing an SSO solution at the same time you are architecting a web server host to reside in the DMZ, so that only authenticated user requests can be routed to OBIEE.

Lastly, please be sure to enable SSL by purchasing real certificates and enabling SSL on your web server of choice. This will protect the information traveling over the network at all times, which will reduce the likelihood (in combination with the security methods mentioned above) of your data being compromised.

Author: John McGale, Performance Architects

 


© Performance Architects, Inc. and Performance Architects Blog, 2006 - present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog's author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Performance Architects, Inc. and Performance Architects Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Things to Like in Oracle Hyperion Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) 11.1.2.3

May 7, 2013

Excited about the new version of Oracle Hyperion Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) that just got released? Wondering whether this is the version that you have been waiting for, and the version that you can be comfortable switching to? In this post, we highlight some of the new, and explore some of the not-so-new, features of EPM 11.1.2.3 that make this one of the best releases of EPM since 9.3.1.

Right off the bat, the installation process seems and feels more integrated and way less complicated than versions of Christmases past. But that’s not what you care about. The installation is (maybe) a one-time thing. What you want to know is if this version is easy to live with. Will your users like, or even love it?

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Continuing a trend that truly started with EPM 11.1.2.0, a lot of the system settings that used to have to be performed via command-line utilities have been moved to EPM Workspace. They are now accessible via a web browser, without the need to login to the server, like the option to “Configure Interface Data Source” for EPM Architect which lets you set up an external relational source for dimensional information. Another option is the screen to set system properties for reporting and analysis.

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The Installer menu now provides the facility to download the server version of many more client tools. Making their appearance are tools like Predictive Planning, also known as Crystal Ball, the HFM clients, and the Planning Admin Extension for Microsoft Excel. We will cover this feature in another post soon.

Tagged onto the Tools menu is the menu to “Launch Financial Reporting Studio.” Once you have downloaded and installed the Financial Reporting Studio client from the “Install” menu, clicking on this menu item automatically launches the client tool and logs you into the Financial Reporting Server registered with the environment that you are connected to. No more needing to remember URLs or server names or port numbers. And no separate login either! This reduces the need to type in your increasingly complicated password many times. Of course, Financial Reporting Studio tool can still be used outside of this feature.

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This version comes with the smoothest deployment of Financial Data Quality Management (FDM) ever. Though it is now technically called FDMEE (EE for Enterprise Edition). Built on the ERPi (ERP Integrator) tool, FDMEE has the same features that FDM classic had, but minus the need for the installation of additional tools like FDM Workbench, or the extra installation steps performed on the server. In addition, Oracle Data Integrator (ODI) gets deployed automatically, with the agent integrated into the same web application. At the same time, it brings the processing ability of a 64-bit architecture. In previous versions we have seen the tool reach the limits of its processing abilities due to its 32-bit architecture. Oh, and the best part: since this is now Java-based, it does not need a Windows-based server machine to run on.

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Another much awaited feature is the addition of ASO plan types to Planning applications. Though the idea isn’t completely new to this EPM, this is the first version that makes it friendly to use. We will cover this in more detail in the next post.

What has been mentioned here is a brief look into the features of EPM 11.1.2.3, mainly focusing on what the user or administrator first sees when they touch the tool set. We will dive deeper into the feature set, with promises of more wonders, and more importantly, we will identify the features that will make you fall in love with Oracle Hyperion EPM 11.1.2.3. Stay tuned.

Author: Andy Tauro, Performance Architects


© Performance Architects, Inc. and Performance Architects Blog, 2006 - present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog's author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Performance Architects, Inc. and Performance Architects Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Five Reasons Consulting Projects Fail

May 6, 2013

Five characteristics seem to have the greatest impact on the success of a project.  The table below summarizes the results of the 2012 Standish Group “CHAOS Report” representing each of the five characteristics as continuum moving from successful outcomes on the left to failed outcomes on the right.

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The results of this study might seem obvious; however each of these characteristics presents unique challenges.

  1. Garner Executive Support. Project teams have difficulty getting time with executives, and – more importantly – making good use of this time.  The gap between executives and project teams can be enormous.   Enlisting the help of project sponsors can help to bridge this divide.  The key is tailoring the message to the executive’s point of view (easier said than done). 
  2. Promote User Involvement. Identify the key stakeholders (end users are definitely one of these groups!), and ensure their active involvement throughout the project.  Engaged stakeholders are key to success.  Unengaged stakeholders are more likely to undermine the project.
  3. Set Realistic Expectations. Setting proper expectations is done early in the project lifecycle by the project’s leadership.  Disconnects at this stage will come back to haunt the effort.
  4. Establish Proper Planning. Project planning can be expensive and at times too regimented.  The key to the right amount of planning is figuring out what is most likely to challenge the project and make plans to overcome it.  As Dwight D. Eisenhower so famously said, “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.”
  5. Define a Clear Statement of Requirements. From a strategic point of view, linking the detailed requirements to the project’s charter ensures that what is delivered is what was asked for.  It is easy to get off track if the team doesn’t make sure that each requirement accepted is working toward the ultimate project objectives.

Author: Ron Woodlock, Performance Architects


© Performance Architects, Inc. and Performance Architects Blog, 2006 - present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog's author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Performance Architects, Inc. and Performance Architects Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Requirements Traceability Matrix Definition: Part 3 of 3

May 1, 2013

In parts one and two, we discussed the first two process steps associated with the Requirements Traceability Matrix (RTM).  This post reviews the final two process steps in the RTM methodology.

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Solution Design. In the RTM spreadsheet, for each item that has been accepted an evaluation a determination of whether the requirement can be satisfied within the native application functionality.  In these cases, we identify the line item as a “Fit” and describe how the native functionality will be employed to satisfy the requirement.  All others are considered “Gaps” that will need some level of customization to satisfy the requirement.

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In some cases, it may be appropriate to include some estimates for both Fit and Gap items.  This may facilitate additional prioritization.

Testing Method. The final step in the process is a reference to the testing that will be performed for each business requirement.  Generally, this can be documented in a single column that identifies the actual test script or test case to be performed.  Many of the values in the RTM should be standardized to ensure overall integrity of the information.  An easy way to manage this is by using named ranges in data validation in a column.

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Author: Ron Woodlock, Performance Architects


© Performance Architects, Inc. and Performance Architects Blog, 2006 - present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog's author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Performance Architects, Inc. and Performance Architects Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.