An informative session I attended at OpenWorld was the roadmap for Oracle Business Intelligence Applications (OBIA).  I was only able to comment briefly on it in the October 22 posting.  This posting will expand on what I learned. 

OBIA is the unpronounceable acronym Oracle has chosen for a family of products that it first inherited when Siebel was acquired.  They each consist of a set of display screens and printed reports.  Each one summarizes, analyzes and presents data from one facet of an organizations operation such as the sales function.  The data being analyzed originates within an ERP or CRM application and is then transformed and connected to the analysis tool called Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition Plus or OBIEE+. 

OBIA originally was called Siebel Analytics and included individual applications for five CRM functions: Sales, Marketing, Loyalty, Price, and Service and Contact center.  The OBIA family is continuously being expanded.  In the ERP space it also includes Financials, Procurement and Spend, Supply Chain and Order Management, Projects, and Human Resources.  

OBI Applications take data extracted from ERP, CRM and other sources and help to make sense out of it by organizing and summarizing the data in useful and creative ways.  Much of this is done through the development of analytics – insightful numbers that are derived from data extracted from the source applications.  Analytics are often ratios such as Inventory Turns, Days Sales Outstanding or Revenue per Employee.  The presentation of results is highly graphical and often includes dashboards. 

At Collaborate in May Oracle announced the availability of connectors for E1 financial applications making it possible for those on release 8.12 or 9.0 to obtain the OBIA Financial application.  At OpenWorld a connector for World 9.0 financial modules was announced.  Connectors that will enable JDE customers to obtain the other OBIA applications will be emerge over time, but no schedule was offered. 

According to one of the executives I spoke to, no E1 customers have yet installed the OBIA Financial application.  We believe this is more due to current limitations in the offering than its potential usefulness.  The relatively high cost of the OBIA/OBIEE+ combination also appears to have limited sales opportunities in a tough market. 

At the moment, it is also necessary to obtain a limited use license for the Informatica ETL tool to use OBIA.  Support for Oracle’s own Data Integrator (ODI) ETL tool will eventually come but no schedule has been announced. 

OBIA also currently requires periodic refreshing of the data warehouse that serves it meaning that the data being analyzed is not always current.  Oracle recently acquired Golden Gate Software as a means of eventually adding a real-time updating capability to its BI product line.  Realistically, it will likely be 2011 before the resulting real-time updating capability is integrated within OBIA and OBIEE+. 

Oracle’s BI experts also admitted that the OBI applications usually represent a starting point.  Major customization of them is normally done before they are fully utilized.  Once complete, BI applications can become an important tool for interpreting the meaning of operational data and using the results to make better decisions. 

Some of the conclusions drawn from what I learned at OpenWorld were: 

  • OBIA is an important component of Oracle’s BI strategy.
  • The number and sophistication of OBIA applications will grow over time.
  • One of the OBIA applications is now being offered to JDE customers on newer releases but none have yet installed it. Other applications will come over time.
  • Oracle will add real time updating over time along with support for the ODI tool.
  • In the near term, high overall cost will inhibit sales in our community.
  • The functionality of OBIA will be built into Fusion.  Some customers may wait a few years to decide if switching to Fusion is the better path to full BI capability. 

There is much more of the Oracle BI story to cover.  Future postings will deal with its many other facets.  Over time, I hope to put all the pieces together coherently.  I ask those that follow this blog to be patient since assembling and presenting this complex story takes time.