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Top 10 Tips and Tricks for Oracle Business Intelligence

Patrick Callahan
AST Corporation
Sometimes you just want to cut to the chase, side-step all of the new product jargon and find out what works best
and hear tips and tricks from the experts this paper is exactly that, for Oracles Business Intelligence Enterprise
Edition (OBIEE) 11g. This paper will provide our favorite tips and tricks around implementing OBIEE 11g; for
each, well provide context, highlight the value around the related 11g product features and capabilities, and then
quickly dive into examples.

Tip #1 Dig into Whats New in 11g

Whenever Im asked whats new in OBIEE 11g, I often respond what isnt new? I truly believe thats the case.
OBIEE 11g was a substantial release and each dot release even further tweaks the capabilities and quietly offers new
features. I think the new look and feel is great, but the enhanced interactions and animations on top of the new
features really turned out quite well. I recommend jumping in and using the basic Sample App offered as part of the
installation or grabbing the expanded one. Youll quickly realize the high-fidelity charting across the powerful user
interfaces with interactive analytics that include animated transitions and master-detail linkingmore to come on
those fronts.
Moreover, BI Publisher has a brand new online layout builder which finally brings development into the OBIEE
environment. BI Publisher is a strategic solution for Oracle and will continue to get enhanced. The new editor is
page-oriented, interactive with instant preview capabilities all well-received features of the editor.
Another new component is Oracle Scorecard and Strategy Management (OSSM), Oracle new strategic solution for
performance scorecarding (replacing Hyperion Performance Scorecard). Its integration into OBIEE is a big plus,
with all of your BI metadata (metrics, etc.) available to feed into and enrich your scorecards. The standard
methodologies are supported (Balanced, Six Sigma, Baldridge). Overall, the solution offers strategy visualization


Copyright 2015 by Patrick Callahan, AST Corporation

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with strategy maps and trees, cause and effects, watchlists and annotations. Also exciting is that write-back and
mobile support are coming soon for OSSM.

Tip #2 Learn the Architecture and Terminology

Not to be overlooked is the fact that much of the OBIEE 11g architecture has changed and with that comes new
terminology that must be understood. A key differentiation is the fact that OBIEE now resides or is deployed within
WebLogic (WLS) as a WLS domain.
The following terms are important to understand how the BI system within 11g functions and are managed in
general, they apply to Oracles architecture schematic that follows.
Oracle BI Domain - the overall Oracle BI EE system
WebLogic Domain - set of WebLogic instances servicing one or more J2EE applications
Admin Server (WebLogic) - provides management of both the WebLogic and BI Domain; Only one (1) per
WebLogic Domain
Managed Server (WebLogic) - contains deployed J2EE BI application
Node Manager (WebLogic) - daemon process that provides remote server start, stop and restart capabilities
in addition to monitoring
Oracle BI System Components this includes the BI Server, Presentation Server, Scheduler, Cluster
Controller and Java host
Oracle BI J2EE Components this includes BI Publisher, BI Office, Action Framework Service, BI SAW
Bridge Plug-in, Security, Web Services for SOA

The above architecture applied to the installation. No longer just an option, repositories must be created before
installation using the Repository Creation Utility (RCU); minimally, the MDS and BIPLATFORM schemas are
needed. From there, you have a few installation options that I wanted to explain:
Simple For development machines/laptops only; this installation option combines Admin and Managed
Servers so it cannot be scaled out
Enterprise - Includes configuration steps; generally used when doing primary server installs
Software Only - Configuration is separate; generally used when scaling out or adding component
If you are simply trying OBIEE 11g out, go with the simple install. For recommendations on sizing and capacity
planning, I suggest referring to Doc ID 1323646.1 available online from Oracle.


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Another key element of the architecture and installation is the resulting Oracle
BI directory structure I want to quickly share how it will look and explain the
major components. The screenshot to the right show the resulting structure and
here are some highlights:
Middleware Home - FMW_Home
o Top level location for installation
BI Oracle Home - FMW_Home\Oracle_BI1
o Contains core Oracle BI components and template files used
by the configuration phase of the install process
Common Oracle Home - FMW_Home\oracle_Common
o Contains general Oracle files
WebLogic Server - FMW_Home\wlserver_10.3
o Contains the Oracle WebLogic Server binaries
Related to installation, I have a couple of additional configuration tidbits to
offer to you. First, a separate web server (Oracle HTTP Server, etc.) is
recommended for HTTP compression & caching. WebLogics embedded web
server is not optimal; installing and configuring OHS 11.1.1.X is an option and you can enable compression /
caching by editing the httpd.conf file.
Oracle did provide an Upgrade Assistant (UA) in 11g to help users migrate from 10g. This upgrades the
repository (RPD) and presentation catalog and actually deploys everything, so you need a working BI 11g
environment for this to work. This is necessary because the UA ports users from the RPD into WebLogic, as users
are no longer in the RPD. As a result, whenever migrating environments, one must migrate the Identity Store,
Credential Store and Policy Store.

Tip #3 Dont Ignore Your Data Warehouse Design

Yes, OBIEE 11g is a great BI solution offering robust features, even including federated data sources. I consider
federated configurations as early stage solutions since sophisticated analytics solutions often require data quality
applications and well architected models at the physical layer to produce the desired results. To that end, I generally
architect a data mart (warehouse) underlying OBIEE to support my analytics requirements.
Going into this activity, I try to follow the some core data warehousing and BI modeling principles gleamed from
experts by Kimball and Inmon:
1. Target a business process or subject area
2. Solidify the level of detail or grain. By default, capture lowest level of detail which promotes drill-down
capabilities and makes BI operational. Summarized for special cases only instead, utilize aggregates
3. Identify the dimensions by which data needs to be analyzed. Essentially, how to slice and dice the data?
4. Identify the metrics to be included for analysis. Essentially, what numbers and calculations are desired?
For the basis of modeling, I always target snowflake (dimensions in multiple tables) and star (dimensions in single
table) schemas since such models are well-supported by every BI solution (not just Oracle) and eventually translate
well into multi-dimensional implementations within Essbase or otherwise. When you are modeling, also adhere to
data modeling standards. If you dont currently have defined data modeling standards, the Oracle Business
Analytics Warehouse Data Model Reference (Version 7.9.6) is a good start.
Finally, the physical implementation of a data warehouse model is important as every RDBMS has many options to
choose from. First and foremost, all dimension tables need primary keys and, with few exceptions, these ought to be
surrogate keys. Natural keys must still exist as attributes and be used by ETL and a dummy
(blank/zero/placeholder) record is recommended for each dimension. All fact tables must have foreign keys to
dimensions and these ought to have indexes. In Oracle, choose from standard, bitmap or bitmap-join indexes (stores
rowid for primary key as well uses more storage). If bitmap or bitmap-join indexes are implemented and
STAR_TRANSFORMATION_ENABLED=TRUE, the Oracle database will force sub-queries against the
dimensions before the fact. Partitioning will almost always help in a BI environment and materialized views are
often a good choice for generating aggregates. For larger implementations, one might consider Oracle Exalytics for
its optimized BI connectivity, advanced data visualization capabilities and its plug-and-play architecture.


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Tip #4 Allocate Enough Time for Oracle BI Repository Design

With very little change from 10g, the OBIEE repository is the nuts and bolts of an Oracle BI implementation. The
connections to data sources, analytics modeling, definition of presentation subject areas, and all related metadata are
managed here. Ive summarized these areas in the schematic below:

Moving from right-to-left, the Physical Models define components for physical queries, aligning with data source
structures, and encapsulating source dependencies for portability and federation purposes. The most important
aspect of the BI repository is the Business Model in the center. Here, analytic behavior is defined, abstraction of
sources occurs, mappings for each logical column (decision rules, etc) are implemented, and where dimensions and
their related hierarchies are confirmed. Finally, the Presentation Catalog offers a structured view of the
dimensional business model and general organization of objects, with desired names and descriptive overrides.
Within Oracles BI Administration tool, the facility
where the RPD is created and modified, there are some
very helpful utilities, as seen in the window shown to the
right. For the bulk work associated with building and
maintaining models and subject areas, the Replace
Columns or Table in Logical Table Sources, Rename
Wizard, Update Physical Layer and Remove Unused
Physical Objects options are great. In particular, the
Rename Wizard is great for initial model cleanup of
names such as making them more discernible for
business users and less like physical database names.
For metadata documentation, the Repository Documentation (delimited output) and Generate Metadata
Dictionary (will need to configure online access) options are great. For deploying change, the Generate
Deployment File option works well.
Not necessarily a RPD utility, but a new option in 11g is the Creating Subject Areas for Logical Stars, Snowflakes
facility thats available when you select a business model and right mouse-click to get pop-up menu. With this, the
facility simply creates a subject area for every fact in the selected business model, including all necessary metrics
and dimensions. This is a create way to quickly kick off design and POC development efforts.
Finally, you may want to further look into the externalizing metadata objects for localization requirements and the
use of new lookup tables in 11g for translations of dimensional.

Tip #5 - Take Full Advantage of User Experience Enhancements


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Just a couple of recommendations here. First, weve seen our users fully embrace the use of sliders in lieu of
standard prompts. Honestly, slider-types of dashboard and page prompts are less attractive here, Im talking more
about sliders used within analysis objects (charts). Within the layout editor of the Results tab for an analysis
definition, go ahead and move a report element into the section area, below the graph prompts also ensure the
Display as slider checkbox is checked. Its that easy to do and surely to be well-received by your users.
Another neat, new feature of 11g is Chart Zooming. This is simple enhancement to the UI that some users may
benefit from. First, on the graph properties page (on the Canvas tab), one can selectively enable Zoom and Scroll
for the vertical and horizontal axes. With that set, the zip option (seen as a magnifying glass icon), is available
along the lower left side of the chart. When selected, the zooming occurs in-line and the scrolling window can be
adjusted by sizing the bar within the scrolling widget itself. Occasionally, we encounter some flaky behavior with
this feature, but all in all its a nice facility to have available.

Tip #6 Make BI Interactive

Im a big proponent of the interactive features of OBIEE 11g, the wow factor is often has on users, and the overall
role it has in making BI actionable. The key component of this in OBIEE is what is referred to as the Action
Framework which include agents and actions. In many respects, agents are the new generation of iBots from 10g
and earlier; they enable business process and provide event-driven alerting, scheduled content publishing, and
conditional event-driven actions. Agents have various subscription and recipient options, plus complex layered
triggering requirements can be implemented. Moreover, alerts (via agents) can be delivered to: (1) the alerts
section of Home page, (2) the first page of My Dashboard, (3) on any dashboard page, (4) within the dialog
displayed from the Alerts! button in the global header, and (5) specified delivery devices (phones, etc.). Finally,
actions allow for enabling navigation or invoking of services or other requests.
Another interactive feature of OBIEE 11g is Master-Detail Linking which is the interaction between separate
analyses (charts, reports). This capability is real helpful in making a dashboard page come alive and effectively
react to the actions of the user. For example, selecting a year or department or product in one chart flows down to
linked charts or tables across the dashboard the effect is great. At a high-level, this interaction is done by an
event being initiated by a driving analysis with other analyses listening for the specified event. First, pick a driving
column (report element) on the Master to initiate the event, also specifying a channel name. Second, have the
Detail analyses listening; its possible to list multiple even channels. In the end, it is quite easy to setup and
implement for key dashboards in your OBIEE 11g deployment. This same linking capability can applied to maps.

Tip #7 Improve the Presentation

One of the first things users and customers ask is how do we make this look like ours? Essentially, the branding
of the BI solution is important to many organizations and user communities. Colors, images and wording can all be
adjusted; even replacing the Oracle logo, the Business Intelligence title and the base message text can all be done.
Top do this, you have to adjust and deploy new skins, styles and message content the default locations are:
Skins - FMW_Home\Oracle_BI1\bifoundation\web\app\res\sk_blafp
Styles - FMW_Home\Oracle_BI1\bifoundation\web\app\res\s_blafp
Messages - FMW_Home\Oracle_BI1\bifoundation\web\msgdb


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First, you must copy these directories and the WEB-INF directory (FMW_Home\instances\instance1\bifound
ation\OracleBIPresentationServer\coreapplication_obi ps1\analyticsRes) to a new location to modify and youll need
to deploy a new application from WLS console. Additional configurations are needed before deploying; do not
modify in default locations since they will be overwritten with upgrades. A great Oracle white paper on this is
Customizing Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition 11g.
Another good way to improve upon the manageability of your BI presentation layer is to take advantage of the new
inheritance options within 11g across pages and dashboards. When adding a report (analysis) to a dashboard page,
ensure the Inherit Page Settings radio button is selected; then, do the same thing for the page properties. These
settings then point to those specified within the overall dashboard properties, available in the Dashboard Report
Links option. These selections are shown below:

Tip #8 Consider All of Your Users

I think most people that implement technical solutions realize that you have to be prepared for and offer solutions to
users of all types and skill levels. That is no different with analytics solutions, even though they are supposed to be
inherently straight-forward. With its core report building and ad hoc capabilities, OBIEE 11g in fact is quite easy
for most users.
For those users that could benefit from a wizard-driven approach, you could enable BI Composer, a little known
component of OBIEE 11g. There is some configuration required (it doesnt work out-of-the-box) and the steps are
easily accessible online.
To turn BI Composer on, one needs to go to their account settings while logged into OBIEE and turn Accessibility
Mode on. Im not sure the origination of this naming convention here, but Wizard Mode is more applicable.
Regardless, once this mode is enabled, youll notice that your options change in OBIEE and Analysis now means
something different.
Creating a new analysis now takes you to the BI Composer wizard as shown here:


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This whole approach does not seem well thought out and Im uncertain as to whether or not this functionality will
survive in future releases. It would have been nice to have the option to use the wizard or not without enabling a
mode that changes the process. Go ahead and give it a try it may be just what some of your users are looking for.

Tip #9 Utilize Metrics for System Performance

The move to WebLogic has additional benefits, as Enterprise Manager (EM) now offers a ton of information for you
to assess and investigate the performance of your OBIEE 11g environments and applications. By logging into EM,
navigating to the AdminServer area and selecting Performance Summary from the drop down menu at the top,
youll quickly gain access to a ton of available performance metrics. These include many variations around resource
usage and performance areas, plus the timeframe to be analyzed can easily be targeted with the on-screen options.
The metric palette on the right-hand side organizes the available metrics as shown here:

Tip #10 Finally, Be Iterative!

BI is a truly a process and an evolution for any organization. Depending on where you are starting from, goals can
be either conservative or aggressive, but its important to be iterative and make progress each time, offering new,
actionable content with every release.
I have found the following online documentation areas and
examples quite helpful in starting with 11g go ahead and
have a look yourself:
OBIEE Documentation:
o http://download.oracle.com/docs/cd/E21764
11g Examples:
o http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/middle
11g SampleApp107:
o http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/middle
o VirtualBox image also available here


Gather Data

Take Action


Copyright 2015 by Patrick Callahan, AST Corporation


Analyze and
Report Insights

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In summary, OBIEE 11g has a lot to offer - digging in and getting your hands dirty is the way to go. Weve
highlighted some the key areas to focus on and hope that they will benefit your BI endeavors. Our Must Know tips
for OBIEE 11g are:
Tip #1 Dig into Whats New in 11g
Tip #2 Learn the Architecture and Terminology
Tip #3 Dont Ignore Your Data Warehouse Design
Tip #4 Allocate Enough Time for Oracle BI Repository Design
Tip #5 - Take Full Advantage of User Experience Enhancements
Tip #6 Make BI Interactive
Tip #7 Improve the Presentation
Tip #8 Consider All of Your Users
Tip #9 Utilize Metrics for System Performance
Tip #10 Finally, Be Iterative!
Best wishes and good luck with your OBIEE 11g implementations!


Copyright 2015 by Patrick Callahan, AST Corporation

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