I have been lucky enough to present and attended several conferences in the last year – while I like presenting and attending presentations, what I find most important are the chance conversations with other users and industry experts.
One example during a recent conference, was a presentation on developing business intelligence for a US based city council – the speaker talked about how they were able to pull in many disparate sources to provide a single reporting platform that covered almost everything the city covered from water quality to fire response times to even prisoner data …
At the end, I was asked what I thought the dashboards and how they were presented – from the brief overview it seemed to provide the information the users were asked for. We chatted for a while discussion the various metrics and how they actually worked out how to determine when the fire engine response time was calculated, but finally we got to some more in depth questions:
So after reviewing the key charts and metrics, what did the user do next, where did they navigate to?
While they knew what the users had previously as reports and what they had requested, there was no way to know exactly how they used the system or after reviewing the data where they went next, if they looked at other information.
While users within an organization can use a report differently they tend to separate into two areas – executives and analysts. Execs are mainly interested in several key metrics, with which they measure the business, while analysts and business managers like to be able to drill to the details behind trends and outliers.
This made me think of how difficult it really is to understand how users interact with the systems even with users who are in a fairly close geographical area … I’m dealing with a similar issue at a current client in developing reporting for users but it’s more complicated as their users are located all over the globe in Asia, Europe as well as North and Latin Americas.
So how do you determine what they are actually doing?
– asking questions can help, but you need to also ask, after you have looked at the report WHAT do you do next, WHERE do you navigate and WHY?
At a previous engagement the process was documented by the users as a “standard P&L” they actually looked at the operating expenses & headcount data first, comparing budget vs actuals to see who was over spending – so they knew who to call first! We were able to replace this with an dashboard style report which highlighted these key metrics in colors, so they were spending more time connecting with their business managers rather than going from report to report.
This made me view the interactions that report consumers have with the reports in a new light – I’ve always been a fan of learning and previously relied on structured learning environments like classrooms or tutorials but I’m now on the outlook for chance encounters more often and what I can learn from them.
Just a quick note to say the schedule for Atlanta OAUG Connection Point EPM/BI conference has been released and I’m presenting in the Financial Consolidation & Reporting track 😉
Looking forward to catching up with industry experts, colleagues and friends.
After a full day on Wednesday, Thursday again had some tough choices for which presentations to attend at the Seattle OAUG Connection Point EPM/BI conference:
Hari Sankar, from Oracle, gave the keynote on the present state of Hyperion/EPM and the overall plan/roadmap going forward – well as much as anyone from Oracle does with their standard disclaimer that any feature mentioned in a future product may or may not happen. Of interest to me was the confirmation of Financial Reporting and Planning products being key products in the “Fusion release” of BI/EPM, whenever that happens – as I have a lot of experience in reporting and forecasting and don’t want that to go to waste 😉
Hari also covered off a few possible highlights in the next release of Hyperion: 184.108.40.206, scheduled for release in the first half of 2012. Nothing really killer from my perspective or previous clients that they would use, but making the Hyperion suite much more integrated and incorporating the best of breed from other products.
I then attended two customer implementation presentations, to get some different perspective from different industries than I have worked with.
After lunch there was a group chat with all attendees discussing the setup and format of the conference, from the very scientific ‘show of hand method’ there were some interesting results:
- 50% of attendees were from out-of-town
- most were users of Hyperion products, with Essbase and Planning being the main products used
- a small number of users had OBIEE actively installed, although given the Oracle product direction to consolidate Hyperion and OBIEE at some point, most were keen to seen the product and understand the features
- most people were happy with the format, although with five separate streams it meant, like me, they missed other conflicting presentations – which while the presentations go up on www.oaug.org for members, you don’t often get the full context or understanding
- a high proportion of the local users were keen to meet regularly and some had only heard about the event a week or so in advance, good news for the local Northwest Oracle Users Group
The afternoon was spent catching up on some work and attending some introductory and best practice sessions.
It was a very busy two days with lots of information to process and new faces to meet. I’d like to thank the organizers for all their hard work and the Hyatt Regency Bellevue staff for putting on fabulous food and nibbles. Thanks also goes to the other presenters and sponsors of the event, who helped make it an enjoyable and education two days.
While there are many example of online games and tools to waste time, there are a few that actually use people to harness either spare computing power or people power:
- Folding@home: a distributed computing effort run by Stanford University, whereby different parts of the program or data are processed simultaneously on two or more computers to study protein folding and misfolding. For anyone like me who didn’t study or remember much science, there’s more details here.
There are clients for linux, mac, playstation and windows available for download.
- Zooniverse: a citizen science base where people were first used to determine what shapes galaxy pictures captured from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey: either elliptical or spiral – as computers couldn’t interpret the pictures taken.
When Tufte defined ‘chartjunk’ back in 1983, he probably didn’t realize how easy computers and software would make it for people to add the “… graphic paraphernalia routinely added to every display that passes by: over-busy grid lines and excess ticks, redundant representations of the simplest data, the debris of computer plotting, and many of the devices generating design variation.”
Consider the above Hyperion Analyzer sales graphic, did you notice the important figures, or was your focus diverted by the colored circles and bright colors?
It’s very difficult to indeed see that the south and central regions aren’t performing as well as the east and west – although both still over budget.
Nor can you easily compare the colors on the maps for east in blue, with the chart for east in purple.
In fact if you measure the screen it seems that the actual data (and I’ll be generous here and include the map) is less than 40% (or 15% without).
While Hyperion and Oracle have previously been enablers in adding headers, panels and other junk it’s refreshing to see the latest version of OBIEE present a cleaner surface – which users can still mess up, but it’s more difficult 😉
Here’s a sample dashboard from OBIEE, notice how the headers and panes take up less room, enabling the designer to cram six sections onto the space. While it’s a step in the right direction, it’s still up to report designers and system architects to present data that is clear and enables the user to quickly see the important data and trends – so they can take action.
Just a quick wrap up from day 1 at the Seattle OAUG Connection Point EPM/BI conference:
Today started with an overview of BI/EPM from Tobin Gilman, VP EPM & BI Marketing @ Oracle. He highlighted some of the progress Oracle has made progressing their vision to consolidate and integrate the Hyperion and BI applications as well as showing how to take BI to the next level by enabling actions based on exceptions. He also gave a shout out for my visualization presentation after lunch, so I guess I owe him a share of the gate 😉
Again as for most Oracle events there was a great choice of topics, which meant some hard decisions had to be made over which sessions to attend. I ended up attending two planning presentations, to catch up on the latest tips and tricks.
After lunch I gave my presentation on data visualization, which covered the full process from understanding the customers requirements, to designing and crafting reporting, while visiting some of the science and psychology behind how we perceive and interpret graphs and charts.
I also showed some examples of chart/dashboard designs and how to be smarter in building them, using the science and psychology above – to make them easier to interpret and see the trends and key messages. I’ll post a summary of the main points later this week.
The afternoon was closed off by Tom Spitz, who leads the Oracle Unified Method (pdf) – which is a standard based methodology for implementing IT projects, with several views, templates and guidelines which can be used depending on the project.
It was great to catch up with a few people I haven’t seen in a while and meet some new faces. Overall a busy day, with lots to take in – looking forward to tomorrow sessions.
Following on from last post on educational conferences, is news of a webinar on Hyperion Strategic Finance focusing on the Utilities Industry and titled: Utilities Industry – Driving Shareholder Value through Long-Term Planning and Scenario Modeling
This one is presented by Edgewater Ranzal, with Ricardo Rasche showing how corporate finance teams can leverage Hyperion Strategic Finance to run simulations and pressure-test key drivers across integrated P&L, Balance Sheet and Cash Flow statements. Ricardo demonstrates key functionality specific to companies in the Utilities industry, including What-if Analysis on Key Value Drivers, Rate Case Strategy, Funding and Liquidity, and Commodity Prices.
In order to meet the global audience, two sessions have been set up on Wednesday, June 29th 2011:
Edgewater Ranzal is an Oracle Certified Platinum Partner providing consulting services for the entire suite of solutions available on the Enterprise Performance Management platform. With a national presence, we are considered one of the largest Oracle/Hyperion EPM services partners.
Thanks to Nate, for the heads up!
Bootnote: The following day is another presentation, this time aimed at Reporting and Analysis for Healthcare Providers, again there are 2 presentation times. Also click the link above for previous webinars available via replay.
The UK folks have the OUG EPM & Hyperion conference this week, with a full packed agenda covering a range of Hyperion topics as well as OBIEE for those wondering where the future lies. This will be my first year since 2006, when I’ll miss the conference, now that I’m based in the US.
So me highlights for me include AMOSCA’s session on “Unravelling the EPM spaghetti” and Edward Roske – always a great speaker with lot of tips and tricks to share crammed into his sessions.
But there’s plenty of action stateside happening too, thanks to the OAUG:
OAUG Connection Point – R12.1, July 12-13, Chicago.
OAUG Connection Point – EPM/BI, July 20-21, Seattle.
OAUG Connection Point – EPM/BI Nov 15-16, Atlanta.
For me the Seattle conference, presented by OAUG, Northwest Oracle User Group, OAUG Hyperion SIG and OAUG BI SIG, has added significance since it’ll be my first presentation in the US:
- “Why Data Visualization is Important in Delivering Actionable Insight”
Helping business users gain insight and enabling them to do their jobs better has always been a key component in my work ethic, I look forward to sharing and learning from the other participant and speakers.
So take advantage of these great opportunities and I hope to see some of you soon.
Ever thought that it would be nice once in a while that you could actually reach out to the folks that make products to really tell them how you use their products?
Well, the Oracle Business Intelligence User Experience (BIUX) Team are doing just that, wanting to know what and how you use various Business Intelligence to do reporting. They ask several questions about what you use and how you use it and also cover the topic of mobile reporting.
Click this link to have your say.
It’s listed as being able to complete in 10 minutes, although you should be able to do it in 5, I reckon 😉
The survey remains open until May 31, 2011. So get cracking.
The ability to check your bills and make payments online is great, although sometimes the information is completely wrong 😉
PS: I’m sure the computer isn’t wrong, just the human who created the program (my laptop told me so …)