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

Monday, July 30, 2012

The New OBIEE Sample App

I love these sample application images for Oracle Business Intelligence. Although the cynical side of me sees Oracle’s every move as a sales tactic, I don’t think the typical individual running VirtualBox and experimenting with Oracle R Enterprise integration with OBIEE makes purchasing decisions… So I am going to choose to look at these images as awesome showcases for features and capabilities – it must be a fun job to configure these samples!

The new one for OBIEE BP1 was released last week to the Oracle Technology Network and I just started monkeying around with it. Just take a look at this screenshot from the "What’s New" document:

Before talking about all that red text – the added features since the last image – just consider how much content is here: an illustration, complete with textual guidance, for every use case a BI developer could possibly think of (within reason). And plenty of examples some of us never would have imagined.

There is a lot here – I would literally need two weeks off to decipher and understand every bell and whistle. (To think I was proud of myself for modeling Essbase into the RPD last week!) But I am glad to have the option to try... The advanced visualizations are far from what my organization is ready for; I can’t let some people around here see these or they might get scared off! In some ways, these displays of might stand in contrast to Oracle BI’s selling points of simplicity and ease.

But I’m definitely going to have to try and replicate the JavaScript WordCloud visualization! That is just too damn cool...

The VirtualBox Image can be downloaded here.

(Just make sure you have a solid connection and plenty of hard drive space; the files are very large...)

Will be back soon with some more specific illustrations; I have a treasure trove of OBIEE content to publish but have not been on my blog game!

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Marching Slowly Forward with ITIL

The adoption of industry standards is not easy. Even if it were, Higher Education does not tend to join the vanguard for information technology (with the recent exception of BYOD, for which many industry leaders looked toward the successful model in higher ed). So we, like many peer organizations, are only now starting to implement IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) practices for IT service management (ITSM). 

During the first year of our journey (July 2011-June 2012), we focused was on education and awareness; through a combination of online training (via Element K  - now SkillSoft) and classroom training we have achieved 75% training and certification despite also completing four major ERP upgrades and a half-dozen other projects in that time frame! 

But with awareness come many questions, including the obvious: "what next?" Indeed. Before one can decide where to go from here, it is wise to think about current state challenges across the dimensions of People, Process, and Technology.


  • How receptive are people to change?
  • Do we have the skills necessary for ITIL adoption?
  • How will existing job descriptions or organization structures change?
  • Do people understand "the why" for adopting ITIL?


  • Our existing processes are already wrapped in red tape; can we seriously be considering the layering on of more rules?
  • Which aspects of our work are actually "IT Services?"
  • Which of our existing processes best fit with ITIL? (low-hanging fruit)
  • Which of our existing processes least fit with ITIL?
  • How does ITIL relate to other "new" processes such as Agile/Scrum?


  • Do we have the tools to track / measure our services?
  • Do we have the tools for customers to request our services?
In my organization, we realized quickly that the top priority had to be Service Catalog and Service Portfolio Management; scary as it may seem, no one individual in my department had a complete picture of all the services we provide. Given our segmentation into logical silos based on line-of-business and/or vendor product (Oracle EBS, PeopleSoft Enterprise, Hyperion Planning, Grants Management, etc.) this was not particularly surprising to me; what was surprising was the size of the list once it was collated!

The development of a Service Catalog has proven no easy feat. It has taken several months to create initial drafts of service definitions and load them in our internal Atlassian Confluence portal. Internal reviews have been difficult to wedge in between other commitments (sounds like we need to move on Capacity Management, huh?) We are hoping to go live by the end of the summer!

My personal journey to adopt Service Strategy best practices has already begun. In addition to shoring up my understanding of the processes in this volume via ITIL Intermediate training and certification (halfway through The Art of Service online module), I am actively thinking about how to more formally implement Business Relationship Management and Service Portfolio Management over the next twelve months.

Within my organization, the natural follow-on activity to publishing a Service Catalog (to be properly ITIL I guess I should say “catalogue?) is to formalize service levels and implement the necessary controls for Service Level Management. But the major focus for us in the new fiscal year will be Request Fulfillment and Knowledge Management.

I expect it to be an interesting year and will be back soon with more observations and thoughts as we travel down the road.

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Pitch Anything in 15 Seconds...

The other morning I was carrying on as usual, reading Twitter on my iPhone while walking down the street and trying not to run into any street signs (I'm an early riser, so no real risk of encountering other humans on the sidewalk at that hour...) A headline caught my eye: "How to Pitch Anything in 15 Seconds" -- here is the link: http://www.forbes.com/sites/carminegallo/2012/07/17/how-to-pitch-anything-in-15-seconds/ and below is the YouTube video.

As I said on my own Twitter feed, this short video (4:35) was exactly what the doctor ordered. Although I have surely read about something similar before, I was struck by the simplicity of Carmine Gallo's "message map" approach.

The most pressing "sales" challenge in my day job is business intelligence, and more specifically a project to replace our aging reporting platform with Oracle BI. My struggle has been to explain the program quickly to various stakeholders from across my organization in a way that excites them rather than glazes their eyes. In part, this is the problem of IT people trying do marketing... and it also reflects a disconnect between priorities; the reasons end users want a modern platform may not be the same as the reasons IT wants it.

Within about an hour of watching the video, I drafted a new slide. I thought it was pretty good. Certainly better than any other one-pager we have assembled. The tool's call for brevity -- <140 characters for the tagline, 3 reinforcing points, 3-5 sub-reinforcements -- is wise, but tricky. At first I thought about the old writers' joke "why use one word when X can do?" But that can get dangerous if it leads you to using consulting words and jargon: synergy, robust, ad hoc, real-time, integrated, seamless. Not that there is anything wrong with those words... But they are hollow.

I have a lot more work to do before this message map is ready for prime time... Nevertheless, I'll share the first draft:

Tagline: "[BI Program Name] will simplify and expand your capability to answer important questions"
  • Self-Service for Everyone
  • Adapting with the Business
  • Robust, But Friendly

Like I said, it needs another round or two (or ten) of revisions. But what do you think?

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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Irrelevant But Beautiful

This image has absolutely nothing to do with this blog (except its relationship to the blog I posted a few minutes ago) but I can't resist posting one picture of the Lavaux wine region (UNESCO World Heritage site) on the shores of Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) in Switzerland. Since only 2% of Swiss wine is exported, most of you will respond "Swiss wine?" Yes, and what lovely wine it is!
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Sometimes the Small Stuff Matters

There is a whole cottage industry built around not sweating “the small stuff” but while the stress-relieving spirit is admirable, I am here to make a case for how the small stuff can bite you when it comes to project management and vacations.

Earlier this year, my wife and I enjoyed an amazing eleven-night vacation in Europe (sans little one, who stayed with his grandparents!) The trip involved multiple airplanes and trains, four hotels, three currencies, two foreign languages, and one surprise visit to the ballet. To mute the complexity, I planned (and budgeted, at least in theory) the trip meticulously: confirmation numbers, maps, tickets, passes, menus, train timetables, and tentative daily itineraries organized into a slim binder. Thanks to (or in spite of) the planning, our trip proved a refreshing romp through London, Switzerland, and Paris. We captured nearly 1,500 photographs and videos – and therein lay one crucial missed detail...

You see, we used four devices to capture our memories: an iPhone (for real-time upload to Facebook), a Canon Elph (my wife’s primary tool), a Canon DSLR (big, bulky, and powerful), and a Flip Video camcorder. The problem: the iPhone tagged every photo with the precise local time; the DSLR still thought it was in Cambridge; and the Elph had failed to adjust for daylight savings time. Sounds like nothing, but what a nightmare for editing and scrubbing!

Our trip ended more than two months ago and I finally found time to process the pictures this weekend; this delayed task has sent ripples through the entire network diagram, putting me behind schedule on paying it forward with reviews on TripAdvisor, preventing my wife from beginning her scrapbook, and keeping me from mounting an 8x10 image of Alpine splendor on my office wall. Such a simple thing—how many TV shows and movies did I watch in my youth that contained a line about “let’s synchronize our watches?”

Lesson learned: “synchronize digital clocks” will definitely be in the project schedule for our next vacation. And I am sure there must be a bigger lesson here for all the other projects in my life!