Examining the ongoing challenges of delivering high-quality, value-added ERP services in Higher Education.

Monday, August 26, 2013

It slices, it dices, it does mobile? (BI Publisher)

Quick BIMAD Dashboard
It's no secret (among those who have worked with me) that I'm a big fan of Oracle BI Publisher (still aka XML Publisher in some camps). I remember seeing it for the first time at Oracle OpenWorld 2005, when it was a new tool (and I was new to Oracle Apps). I rushed back to my project at that time (E-Business Suite in the Caribbean) and extolled the virtues of this tool -- "and the main development tool is Microsoft Word! How effin cool is that?" Images of functional users writing their own report layouts danced in my head.

I remain a huge evangelist today, although I have struggled at times to raise my teams' exuberance to match my own. There have been moments when product teams opted to propagate SQR, Hyperion Interactive Reporting, and even Oracle Reports instead. And I have encountered resistance from OBIEE gurus with a parochial predisposition toward Answers (in truth, when the integration of BIP into OBIEE limped along through 10g and early 11g releases, I can understand them to a point). 

Few will challenge BI Publisher's strengths -- high-volume pixel-perfect reporting uses cases such as customer invoices or purchase orders. The ease of integrating conditional logic within the template to toggle the letterhead or signature, embed data points within text paragraphs, multiple templates (especially localized) for a single SQL and XML definition...
Configuring Tile Layout in BI Mobile App Designer (aka BI Publisher)
As an online reporting tool, things have been a little murkier. While the integration of BI Publisher into the various Oracle Applications has maintained a focus on MS Word and Adobe as the primary authoring tools, OBIEE has been trying to build an online graphical user interface. On the data modeling side, they have done a fine job (despite my blog on the limits of using Answers as BI Publisher data source, which has since been remedied by providing direct query access from BIP). On the layout side, for a while I have given advice to skip the online editor and stick with Word. 

So imagine my surprise when I watched the slick YouTube video intro to Oracle BI Mobile Application Designer and thought -- is that BI Publisher under the hood? Yup, it sure is. 

The rough example above uses a simple Excel data source (in this case, tickets exported from Atlassian JIRA) to show the new tile capability (BIP's response to trellis charts in Answers, with a dash of performance tiles). It is remarkably easy to create a simple layout (though formatting a whole data table is still easier in MS Word...) and there are some snazzy built-in features such as sub-pages to drill with one tap from tile view to details. 

There are a lot of unanswered questions for me about BI Mobile strategy -- although the new designer starts to solve the iOS-only problem, it doesn't really... If you want to expose full-featured OBIEE Dashboards you are restricted to building specialized views that display nicely on iPhones and iPads. But at the same time, the options the App Designer opens up are quite interesting... I look forward to spending some more time dabbling in "BIMAD" (a great acronym, by the way, one of Oracle's best) in coming  months!


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