Ranzal was recently invited to participate in a number of chalk talks for the Healthcare Industry User Group (HIUG) in San Antonio, TX. One of these chalk talks covered how an organization should prepare for and execute an upgrade to Oracle Business Intelligence (OBI) 12c. Since the technical steps are already covered in numerous blog posts as well as Oracle documentation, our conversation focused on a strategic approach to the upgrade. Our conversation essentially came down to four topics:
- An overview of the simplicity of the upgrade from 11g to 12c
- Organizational mindset while preparing for the upgrade
- The new technical infrastructure and the implications for the organization
- How to introduce users to the new features and how this might impact governance
We wanted to formally document this lively and fast-paced discussion to help other organizations as well as the HIUG chalk talk participants who were furiously scribbling notes and may not have had the opportunity to take it all in.
We started our discussion with how relatively easy Oracle has made this upgrade. For those of you who experienced the difficult and buggy process of upgrading from OBI 10g to 11g and may be dreading the upgrade to 12c, we have some advice: relax. First, the upgrade to 12c is an “in place upgrade” which means your 11g environment remains intact while the metadata and configuration gets “lifted and shifted” into 12c. Speaking of “lift and shift,” 12c comes with a tool that extracts the metadata and much of the configuration from 11g into one tidy package that is then pushed into 12c. There is a small amount of manual configuration that has to occur; however, this will only slow down customers with highly customized environments. Once this lift and shift has occurred, an Oracle validation tool checks that your Dashboards and Analysis are working and alerts you to potential issues. While there are bugs with 12c (what new or old software does not have bugs?), we have not found any major issues that will cause a full stop for an organization.
So how does an organization prepare for this upgrade? First, we encourage clients to view this upgrade as an opportunity to “clean house,” especially for customers that have been building OBI assets for years. Used properly, analytic tools lend themselves to experimentation and evolution. Experimentation can result in partially formed or broken logical objects such as presentation columns and facts, Analysis, or entire Dashboards. The developers of these objects have the best intention of coming back to either fix or complete development on these objects or, at the very least, delete them. Developers are busy people though, and eventually the existence of these objects is forgotten. Evolution of both the tool and the focus on analytics results in objects becoming stale and/or obsolete. Take this opportunity to clean house on your OBI environment. Run the consistency check in the BI Administration tool and resolve those lingering issues. Evaluate your usage statistics and determine if unused Analysis and Dashboards are still needed. Fix or discard broken Analysis and Dashboards. As with any technology tool, have a process in place to document, communicate, archive, backup, and restore, if necessary.
The most substantial change to come with OBI 12c is the underlying technical architecture. Fusion Middleware and Enterprise Management has a new look and feel. Additionally, some actions are no longer performed within these tools. For instance, deploying the RPD is no longer done through Enterprise Manager (in fact, the RPD is now the BAR file). The directory has significantly changed which is a bit unfortunate for those of us who like to go directly to the log files in the directory rather than relying on Enterprise Manager and Session Manager. Finally, many of the RPD . . . that is . . . BAR functions, such as deploying and copying, are done through a new command line interface. So, while most of your users will be able to log into 12c and quickly adapt to the new look and feel, your OBI support team will have some learning to do. Again, the goal of this post is to provide an overarching upgrade strategy, so we will not delve any deeper into these changes. There is plenty of quality content online regarding these changes and you should always review Oracle documentation before performing implementation or upgrades.
End users will initially feel that, with the exception of a new look and feel, nothing much has changed. However, with new graphing options, statistical analytics capabilities based on R, as well as Visual Analyzer, users have an opportunity to expand their analytical capacity. The organizational challenge is to go back to the change management playbook that was used when OBI was initially introduced, re-evaluate, and update so that end users can get the most out of this upgrade. Evaluate how to train users on where to properly use the new graphs and charts. Determine (or re-determine) who your power users are who need or want the new statistical capabilities. Review existing Dashboards and Analysis and make appropriate upgrades.
Potentially the biggest challenge will be evaluating and understanding the capabilities of the new Visual Analyzer tool which, among other features, allows you to perform data mashups. This new tool will require that your organization determines some use cases and user groups as well as some additional training. While users uploading data into the OBI system and combining it with existing data models opens up entirely new possibilities for insight, it also creates a governance challenge. How do you separate and maintain the organizational “one version of the truth” while encouraging and properly promoting new analytic insight? How will security be handled and users trained to adhere to this model? How will you handle the archiving and deletion of potentially huge numbers of Excel spreadsheets uploaded onto the OBI server? While this all sounds intimidating, keep in mind that your organization has already been through these exercises once during the original OBI implementation. Adapt your existing knowledge.
Thus far, Ranzal has had a positive experience with the 12c upgrade. The underlying technical architecture has resulted in some real gains in performance, especially when leveraging EPM as a data source. The upgrade is well thought out and simple, especially if you go through a system checkup and resolve issues. While your technical BI support team will have some homework and learning to do to continue to fill that role, your users will be able to jump right into using 12c. Despite this ease of user adoption, be sure to have a change management plan in place and take advantage of the new features and capabilities of 12c.
If you are thinking of doing an upgrade and have questions, feel free to reach out to us. Also, keep an eye out for an upcoming webcast on upgrading to 12c with an interactive question and answer session.