In March 2007, Oracle acquired enterprise performance management (EPM) vendor Hyperion with the goal of combining the performance management tools with its own BI solution set. For the last few years Oracle has diligently worked to integrate the BI tools. This month, Oracle has announced a new version of its BI software--one that perhaps shows the results of that hard integration work.
Oracle Business Intelligence 11g, says Paul Rodwick, vice president of Product Management for Oracle Business Intelligence, helps an organization gain alignment across all of its enterprise applications. Oracle BI 11g makes use of the vendor's Common Enterprise Information Model (CEIM) to serve as the de-facto reporting module for Oracle enterprise application users.
A new application, Oracle Scorecard and Strategy Management, is an integrated component of Oracle Business Intelligence 11g that helps individuals track metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with organizational strategy and goals. New integration with Oracle Secure Enterprise Search enables casual users to quickly and easily find relevant reports as well as views and metrics within reports, in line with access and security parameters defined within Oracle Business Intelligence 11g.
"One of the specific things that has been attractive for Siebel CRM and users of other packaged applications is on top of the core Oracle BI foundation, there's a rich suite of pre-built analytics called Oracle BI applications," Rodwick says. Such analytics include sales, service, price, and loyalty analytics and they then couple together with and integrate with other Oracle applications such as supply chain, procurement, and CRM.
Forrester Principal Analyst Boris Evelson remarks that many BI vendors talk about using open technology to connect intelligence across applications. Often, Evelson says, it still requires customization on the end user part, but "Oracle takes it to the next level."
"Oracle BI is definitely back," Evelson wrote in a Forrester blogpost about the release. "For the last couple of years, Oracle has been concentrating on integrating and consolidating products they've acquired," he says. "And now that the platform is established they are very well positioned to leap into the future and start putting in next generation BI."
In addition to sophisticated integration with applications and processes, 11g features what Rodwick calls "actionable BI." All based on the "Action Framework," the application prompts users to take actions based on insights on the BI dashboard. "In the history of all BI tools -- prior to Oracle BI 11g -- if someone looks at a dashboard and understands what action to take, they are stuck. The only thing to do is to pick up phone and call someone," Rodwick says, adding that in that instance users experience "loss of context."
"With BI 11g, the new Action Framework allows you to encode a set of business process actions that can be taken." He then explains that the Action Framework can be used at even the front-lines of business, at, for example, the customer service level. If an agent is on the phone with a customer who has a problem, they don't have time to turn away from the call center application to seek out a report. Oracle BI 11g, therefore, integrates into transactional applications like Siebel CRM, Rodwick says, so call center agents can get the intelligence from their native call center application screens. "This is putting fact-based insight in the hands of all the people in the organization who need it," Rodwick insists.
"Actionable BI is definitely is a trend," Evelson says, "But it's just on the cusp." Traditionally, Evelson notes, there have been people in the organization responsible for BI, and then people for business processes-the two haven't connect well.
Oracle BI 11g also works on mobile devices. Users can be alerted by actions and insights with proactive alerting. The solution also includes new visualization capabilities, such as geospatial mapping that is tightly integrated for the benefits of location analysis. Rodwick also raves about the product's new scorecard and strategy management features that enable users to define company strategies and map those down into a set of objectives set by specific key performance indicators. "It allows a company to have a consistent and real-time view of an organization and track where specific metrics are going off course," he says. Like other features, the scorecard capabilities bridge enterprise silos through integration with the rest of the BI suite.
Evelson says he's generally pleased with the 11g release and that the product will help Oracle improve its position in the BI field. Going forward, he notes, it would be reasonable to see Oracle focus on software-as-a-service (SaaS) BI. SAP already does SaaS BI fairly well, he says, which will put added pressure on Oracle. In-memory analytics may also be a fixture on Oracle's BI roadmap, Evelson says — a reflection that the technology is becoming, in the analyst's words, "a very important trend" — but the feature has yet to be released.
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