When Oracle released the Oracle Scorecard and Strategy Management (OSSM) component of the Oracle BI Foundation Suite there were few questions and even less answers about the product offering than I think most Oracle BI aficionados would have expected. OSSM actually seems like it has taken a back seat, or was always in the shadows of OBIEE, since its initial release in Oracle BI 184.108.40.206 to other more publicized components such as its core Oracle BI platform, Exalytics, Essbase, and even now Smart View with the 220.127.116.11 release. I noticed Kevin McGinley of Real Time BI fame wrote an OSSM article on OTN a while back hyping some OSSM’s functionality but his is one of the few to even broach the subject. I’ve been demonstrating the power of OSSM to clients over the last year or so and I believe that customers of the Oracle BI Foundation Suite can really find value in OSSM directly or as a derivative of OSSM’s powerful functionality. So, I’m aiming to enlighten you with some of my reasons for this belief with this blog post and hopefully a few others in the next several months.
Working with customers over the last year, speaking to OSSM’s value, and addressing client concerns for implementing the product, I though about five rationale reasons I believe are most relevant to the audience (business users) who would leverage OSSM and the development team responsible for implementing OSSM internally once getting buy-in from their internal customers. I know that’s a large gap to bridge but hopefully I’ve done a fair job without getting too long winded.
Here are 5 good reasons to begin using OSSM:
1. Hyperion Scorecard is Dead (kinda)
If you are not from the Hyperion world or are unfamiliar with legacy Hyperion products such as Hyperion Performance Scorecard, IR, BRIO, etc. you wouldn’t know this fact this Hyperion Scorecard is dead (technically it still exists in the latest 11.1.x releases but the product is reborn as OSSM) and is reaching, if it hasn’t already, end-of-life support from Oracle. Users of Hyperion Scorecard are due for an upgrade. OSSM is the answer. In comparison, OSSM can do basically everything that Hyperion Scorecard could do but better; Plus, it can do a whole lot more. Data input is similar in concept but now users have an RPD from which data is read and (potentially) written through. So, one extra layer of abstraction is in place but by providing users with an Excel interface (I know, I know) or some other form of input such as an APEX form or other custom application, the segue for a business user reliant on Hyperion Scorecard to OSSM just become a smooth transition. Yes, in Hyperion Performance Scorecard, users could actually input and update targets, actuals, and other metrics directly in the scorecarding interface. But I think users would quickly exchange this feature for the stability of a comprehensive information model in the OBIEE suite once they understand the long-term benefits of OSSM. The long and short of this one is that OSSM replaces Hyperion Scorecard, it’s a powerful change up for the users of the legacy software, and they can reap all of the other power features of OBIEE such as delivers and actions from the Action Framework. It’s a shame that Oracle doesn’t lead with this fact when marketing the Oracle BI Foundation Suite ( OBFS ) but perhaps they’re are just waiting for the full Hyperion Workspace, Essbase, OBIEE doctrine to be written before they jump into hyperdrive with all of the BI/EPM solutions they will be able to seamlessly offer at that point. I choose not to speculate or wait for that though.
2. You Don’t Know Jack about Scorecarding…You Simply Dashboard
Most developers of Oracle Business Intelligence Suite know absolutely nada about what a scorecard is or what it means to a corporation’s overall business strategy. I would say this is true for most end-users of Oracle BI 11g as well. Based on discussions I’ve had with customers of Oracle BI both from the business users and development teams the idea of a scorecard is either something foreign to them or they refer to it in the sense of a tabular dashboard. I’ve worked with organizations who have passed-off a bunch of metrics in a table as a “Scorecard” and that can be effective in some situations. However, there is a large definition difference that must be sought after when speaking about OSSM and that the difference between a “Scorecard” and a “Balanced Scorecard”. Once you begin talking about a Balanced Scorecard you begin speaking a language that is not longer about simple tabular data on a spreadsheet but an overall vision and objective based focus for achieving an organization’s goals. A Balanced Scorecard is strategic, hence the Strategy Management piece in OSSM. By building an organization’s vision and strategy with OSSM you are modeling their perspectives and initiatives into something of a metadata model inside of the presentation layer of OBIEE, an Oracle BI Scorecard. And it is from that Oracle BI Scorecard that you can then deliver a more strategic set of metrics known as KPIs with what have become industry standards for Balanced Scorecard reporting and sustainability. Along with that you capitalize on key visualizations such as Cause and Effect mapping, strategy maps, and strategy contribution wheels.
And, then of course because you’ve built your Scorecard in Oracle BI you can then render your OSSM Scorecard and its visualizations in an Oracle BI Dashboard.
This reason really sets the stage for the remaining three reasons why you should use OSSM.
3. KPIs are Amazing
An Oracle BI developer struggles often enough to pull a fact metric value from a data source, create a logical definition or calculated metric in the logical layer of the Oracle BI repository for that metric and then provide adequate business information such as a description about said “fact”. But, What if there was a way to later take a fact/metric, calculated or otherwise, and then from a front-end web-based tool add a description, a target value to contrast against, trending functionality, a status threshold, and supporting documentation all for that one element? Well, there is, and in Oracle BI it’s called a KPI.
KPI’s are at the root of the OSSM in the way that without a KPI you really don’t have the ability to measure any objectives or progress for initiatives leading towards your overall business strategy. Creating one or more KPI’s that define how it is your business should strategically operate in order to reach its highest potential. These needle on these strategic metrics can move forward or backwards based on the drivers of the metrics underlying the KPI’s. KPI’s can be watched by users in watch lists. KPI’s even have an accountability factor as each KPI can be assigned an owner who is then responsible for maintaining the KPI or answering questions regarding the KPI’s performance or compilation. When creating a KPI you can leverage the standard OBIEE dynamic variable functions such as Session or Repository variables so setting a dynamic variable for a driver such as “Sales Target” can be leveraged across many KPIs dynamically. Lastly, once a KPI is created it leverages the functionality of OBIEE, which then provides it with a set of criteria columns ready to be leveraged in any other report or dashboard; Presto! instant variance and trend calculations.
4. Cause and Effect
If you’ve taken my #2 reason above to heart then you’ve already begun researching Balanced Scorecards and Strategy Maps. If not yet, you should. But let me tell you that the ability to create a cause and effect relationship is an invaluable tool available to the OSSM component of OBIFS. It’s not too common in standard Balance Scorecards due to the complexity of the logic behind the process but it is really amazing when you think about it. The ability to calculate and visualize how one perspective or area of your company can impact or have a positive or negative contribution to another company perspective and thus the overall corporate strategy is truly profound. This is amazing no matter if you are looking at the corporate strategy from a top-down or bottom-up point of view. If several objectives such as customer retention, customer satisfaction, employee training, and lowering product costs, make up a portion of the overall corporate strategy then there could be a very tight correlation between these four seemingly disparate areas or departments within the company that oversee these objectives. Without a way to view the correlation of the entire corporate strategy, it would be difficult to surface one department’s drain or positive influence of another. Go explain that to the CFO and see what she says.
5. Shiny Spoons and Custom Views
It’s easy to ask about extensive functionality in a tool like Oracle BI. In OSSM one of the neat features of the scorecard is that you can create a Custom View. I might have already mentioned that all graphical visualizations in OSSM are referred to as “Documents”, even the Strategy Map and Contribution Wheel, but there is one “view” which holds truer to the OBIEE Analysis concept, called a Custom View. Once you understand how it works, a custom view is nice arrow to have in your OBIEE quiver (In some ways I would relate it to an OBIEE expert knowing when to use a BIPublisher report over an OBI Analysis Request.).
After you’ve created your KPIs and perhaps one or more documents, such as a Strategy Map, to handle basic Balanced Scorecarding delivery, you may have some more specialized needs to visualize KPIs for a particular point-of-view that matches your organization’s business or particularly how a department in your organization may view their progress towards set goals. If we take a look at the image below, we can see an OSSM Custom View as found in the Oracle BI V305 Sample App. The PowerPoint-like organization hierarchy graphic is a simple background image. Each of the components such as the green or red status flags and values are based on specific KPIs that a developer would select and manually move (drag and drop) into place using the Custom View editor. The editor is quite friendly with its basic functionality and the result can be as simple or as complex as your background image and KPIs would like to make it.
For futher listening here is a decent podcast with Toby Hatch on OSSM, https://blogs.oracle.com/epm/entry/enrich_your_scorecard_with_metadata