Category Archives: Productivity

The Age of Big Data – Kscope14 Keynote Address by Jake Porway

Jake Porway, data scientist and founder of DataKind™, challenges us to use big data to change—and maybe even save—the world. Don’t miss his presentation at Kscope14’s Keynote Session on Monday, June 23, where he will explain what big data is, how it’s being used around the world—and why we should care.

I’m looking forward to attending and presenting on “Delivering Actionable Insight” as part of the EPM Business Content track.

My presentation will look at how reporting analysts often spend more time creating reports, rather than analyzing the data.

We’ll look at how data is presented, which with the correct use of visualization and perception techniques can aid users understanding.

And finally I’ll share techniques to create reporting which delivers actionable insight faster to users.

Register for Kscope14 here.

become rich and famous, well kind of famous, next year

Stephen Few, over at Perceptual Edge, last month launched their 2012 Dashboard Design Competition and you need to hurry up and get cracking as the closing date is Sept 21, 2012!

The basic idea is to present student performance data in a dashboard so that a teacher can rapidly and effectively monitor the performance of students to help them improve their math skills.

Links to the data are provided on the blog post here and contain behavior, aptitude, and achievement information for students in a single high school mathematics class.

I wish I had some spare time to devote to this exercise.

The winner of the competition will get their dashboard included in Stephen’s Second Edition of Information Dashboard Design, due out in 2013.

Bootnote:  Stephen has also just released the Second Edition of his first book:  Show Me the Numbers, available now.

why connecting matters

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.

kscope12 is less than one month away

June is just around the corner and the Kscope12 conference is coming up fast.

Check out the agenda, presentations and presenters for the 250 sessions.

For those of you unsure whether it’s worthwhile, how you can convince your manager and what attending can give you, the great folks at ODTUG have prepared some justification letters for different participants:

Get your request in today, the Advance rate ends on June 9th!  Hope to see some of you there!

The BI/EPM letter is as follows:

Memo: Request for Approval to Attend ODTUG Kscope12, June 24-28, 2012,San Antonio,TX

To: (Manager’s Name)

Submitted By: (Your Name)

Date:                                                   

It’s hard to find a conference that’s big enough to attract world renowned speakers and small enough to get the chance to share knowledge. ODTUG Kscope12 is that conference.

This is my opportunity to learn from the best technical minds in the business and bring back knowledge that will enhance our organization. No other conference in the Oracle world features this kind of development-specific training and content including lessons learned by other companies facing similar challenges and hundreds of opportunities to learn money-saving techniques.

Below are the reasons why my attendance at this conference is of value to our organization:

  • 100+ technical sessions focused on BI/EPM
  • 3 days of Hands-on Training – No extra charge
  • An all day BI/EPM symposium – No extra charge
  • Great networking opportunities including: Lunch-and-learn sessions with Oracle ACE Directors, meet the Oracle experts, Vendor showcase, and special events

The technical sessions are based on tools and techniques we utilize in our work on a daily basis.

  • Business Intelligence
  • Essbase
  • Hyperion Applications
  • EPM Business Content
  • Essbase Beginner

ODTUG Kscope12 is very reasonably priced compared to other conferences in our industry, and it is the most specific one for developers—with its wealth of learning and networking opportunities, it’s definitely worth the investment.

The Full Conference Registration, Advance rate is $1,800 for ODTUG members and $1,950 for non-members. In order to take advantage of the Advance registration discount, I would greatly appreciate a response by
June 1, 2012.

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Visit www.kscope12.com to find out more.
Sincerely,

Name

chartjunk – oracle helping reduce the urge to clutter

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.

hyperion strategic finance webinar: 29th June 2011

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:

Register: 10:00 AM EST (03:00-GMT)
Register: 3:00 PM EST (08:00-GMT) 

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.

another step forward in computing mobility

Last year I participated in an Oracle internal project to look at the future of computing in 2020 now it seems that has taken a step forward with the Sun Labs demo of a virtual client running on an iPad.

Although this is not an actual product today, nor does it mean there will be one according to the disclaimer, it does show how devices can connect to a users desktop remotely.  This is an extension of the current SunRay software, which allows virtual user desktops which are centrally managed and served to clients.

Not really sure why they show all those pinches and zooms in the demo, seems rather distracting to me 😉

good design is simple, bad design shows chairs

When presenting reporting designs to clients it’s important to focus on the clarify and impact of the reports or charts.  There are many examples of excessive decoration or chrome and others also seek simplicity.

While some clients have requests for fancy dashboards – flashing colors, traffic lights or other ‘sexy’ paraphernalia, I can most often turn them down by focusing on the reader and how their understanding is helped by clarity with a focus on letting the numbers or data points tell the story.

I’ve had some spare time lately, so put it to use with some Oracle presentations – the last one was on Weblogic. Given that Weblogic is now an integral part of the Hyperion stack in 11.1.2, it made sense to review the new member of the family.

The Virtual Developer Day, was a mocked up conference room and auditorium with carpet and chairs, which navigating to the topics was easy enough it was all a wrapper for youtube content. Which, while it looked impressive (kind of), it didn’t help with delivering the messages* – there were many comments on the chats about what items to click on and where the actual content was.

Here’s a couple of screenshots of the main auditorium and conference rooms – for me this was overkill, developers don’t care as much about presentation they care about the details and information.

Before you go ahead and add decoration to reports, please think again and ask yourself if it adds any value or is just distracting.  Hopefully together we can make the world a cleaner and more beautiful planet 😉






* Don’t get me started on the presentations – they were fairly dull and the quality was poor – monotone presenters who didn’t seem to have read or rehearsed the material before it was recorded.  And I’m not really any wiser about Weblogic.

openoffice 3.3 released

After a long 7 months the OpenOffice.org team have released the latest version of OpenOffice: 3.3 – this follows a couple of weeks after the release of Oracle OpenOffice 3.3.

Updates for StarOffice can be found on the Oracle site: https://sspatch.oracle.com/ (login required – does not require a service plan/agreement, just developer account)

Over 620 bugs were fixed in this feature release, with the release notes here and new feature list here.

Some interesting ones are: the embedding of standard pdf fonts, colored tabs (like excel), inserting objects in charts and improved slide layouts in impress.

Best of all the price is right, free!

You can download from the main site, I had issues initially with a slow download speed, so I selected the torrent option, which was much faster.