Daiwa Capital Markets Europe has advised other Oracle users to make sure they invest in a strong and experienced implementation partner after going through a problematic rollout of Oracle business intelligence tools.
Daiwa, a Japanese investment bank based in London, began implementing Oracle Business Intelligence Application (OBIA) four years ago. It started with OBIA 10g with RPD [Rapid Process Development] 184.108.40.206 and upgraded to OBIA 11g (220.127.116.11.0) with RPD 18.104.22.168 about a year ago. It is currently testing OBIA version 22.214.171.124.1.
“Back in 2009 when we started doing the implementation, OBIA seemed pretty new. We suffered from that [the lack of experience in the field] and from making short-term, cost-based decisions,” Jo Bates, business systems analyst and project manager at Daiwa told the UK Oracle User Group’s Apps 13 conference in London.
While the 10g version of the application was working smoothly, Daiwa encountered implementation and technical problems when upgrading to 11g.
Bates believes that some of the implementation issues it has faced are due to faults with the configuration of the product, which took place before she joined the firm in 2011.
“I’m working on a business case for my CFO [Chief Financial Officer] for a more substantial health check to investigate if it is something wrong with our configuration,” she said.
However, “the fast and painful route”, that is, making the expensive upfront investment in the technology, would be “much better”, she suggested.
Bates added: “Our product issues have meant that usage and confidence levels have reduced, as has any inclination to invest any further into the technology.”
Daiwa has a total of 469 Oracle E-Business Suite users, mostly self-service users. There are around 30 users of the core financials and OBIA, all based in London.
Other implementation tips
The bank carried out a two-stage implementation of business intelligence tools upgrade. The first phase was to replace Oracle Discoverer reports with Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE).
The second stage involved improving the usage of OBIA in the business and getting key financial reporting tools from it, including period end close reports, management reporting and quarterly reports to be sent to Daiwa’s headquarters in Tokyo.
One of the main drivers for upgrading the BI applications was to move off the mainframe, which is due to be switched off at the beginning of next year. This is also where Daiwa learnt one of its main implementation lessons.
“Don't try to replicate mainframe reporting architecture in Oracle,” said Bates, admitting that this should seem obvious.
“We need to work out what we need to report on and get Oracle E-Business Suite to do it.”
Bates also recommended that key reporting users get early on-the-job training.
“For me it made a huge difference. Someone came and sat with me for two or three days, and it really helped me get my head around the different architecture,” she said.
Technical lessons learned
As well as the implementation lessons learnt, Daiwa had some technical hurdles to overcome.
One of the issues was that while downloading Excel files in OBIA 10g worked fine, the upgraded version of the software did not export native Excel files. Instead, it took a long time to download the data in a much larger file format.
Even with the trial of the latest version of the software (126.96.36.199.1), which does provide native Excel export, Daiwa has found that it takes one minute to export every 1000 rows. As the company regularly runs reports with 10,000 rows, this quickly multiplies, and 10 minutes to run one report is not considered satisfactory.
“It seems to be Internet Explorer-related, but I think it should work,” said Bates, who said that she cannot use Google Chrome because it is not certified on E-Business Suite.
“And I can't have two browsers [for my users],” she added.
Furthermore, Firefox is not the authorised desktop at Daiwa, which means that IE is the company's only option.
While one way to overcome this problem would be to get users to input data directly into the BI software, Bates said that a cultural shift was needed.
“Ninety-one percent of our users use spreadsheets. They want to export their spreadsheets. My mission in life is to sell to them the benefits of doing it in the BI tool they've invested in, but they want to see [the data] proven in what they know first,” she said.
Moreover, Daiwa is experiencing so many “nightmare” performance issues when updating or creating analysis views in BI Answers that staff don't even use it.
“We don't know why,” said Bates, who said that she had also had a lot of help from an expert Oracle consultant to try and resolve the problems. “We've looked at the database server, apps server, pulled the SQL out the back, and we can't find where the issue is.”
Bates was keen to stress that the issues Daiwa has come across are not necessarily the fault of Oracle.
"[OBIA] blows my mind. It's a very technical product," she said.
"[Our implementation was] not necessarily the right or the best way to do it. This is what we did, this the reality, not the optimum. I always strive for the ideal, but we also live in the real world."
However, Bates did add that the Excel problem was frustrating.
"There seems to be a lack of urgency within Oracle to address the Excel export issues. Like it or not, the reality is that Excel is a major tool used by finance organisations,” she said.
The problems Daiwa has come across means that it has only managed so far to use OBIA for one of the three planned reports – period end close reports.
With management reporting, to remove the link with the mainframe as quickly as possible, Daiwa simply upgraded its existing management reporting product and linked it into Oracle General Ledger.
“I'm still hopeful we'll move to an Oracle solution in the future,” said Bates, who also welcomed feedback from other Oracle users on how to overcome Daiwa's challenges.
For quarterly reporting to Tokyo, Daiwa only uses some of the OBIA.
“Right now, we just need to get it [the reporting] done, basically,” said Bates. “At least we're partially using OBI.”
Meanwhile, Forrester analyst Boris Evelson has suggested that if users have problems with implementing new BI tools, the product is not necessarily to blame, as Bates admitted herself.
"All modern BI software from leading vendors is generally considered stable, scalable, function rich etc," he said. "While all software has bugs, in my experience, most of the typical BI implementation issues are not due to software bugs, but rather due to a lack of proper governance, architecture, experience and so on."