OBIEE 11G New Visualizations, Dashboard Controls and Interactions

As well as giving us hierarchical columns and a revamped user interface, OBIEE 11g comes with a number of improvements and enhancements to graphs and dashboards. In this posting, I’ll be taking a look at some of these new features, including:
  • An updated graphing engine, new graph formatting tools and the introduction of the slider control
  • Master-detail linking of visualizations
  • New dashboard prompts
There’s also a new, built-in mapping capability that I’ll cover in a later posting, together with a full scorecarding application that I will be looking at tomorrow. For now though, let’s create a new request and add a simple bar chart view to it.
Notice a few changes in the UI. There’s still the same set of graphs (so new graphs types, at least that I can see), but we’ve now got Map on the list, and all the graphs have little icons to show you how they will look. Views, a feature of Answers that a lot of first-timers find confusing, now have their own panel with clear buttons for creating, editing and deleting them. There’s alos a consistent set of buttons at the top of the screen for exporting to Excel, searching, creating groups, previewing in a dashboard and so on.
I create my bar chart and take a look at the controls for fine-tuning the view. Looking at the graph itself first of all, there’s a new (SVG?) rendering engine replacing the old Flash-based engine used in 10g, which means that in theory it should work on iPads and iPhones as well. Best of all, the same graphing engine is shared with Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g (so you can create your own apps with the same look and feel as OBIEE 11g), and with BI Publisher 11g, so there’s consistency between reports created with these two applications.
Under the graph is a collapsable area for setting the graph layout. Something I was impressed with is the consistency in this layout editor between all the various views, so that you can for, example, exclude columns from the view, or add sections or pages, across all views including simple tabular ones.
Notice the Display as Slider? checkbox in the Sections area? This is common across most of the view types and allows you to replace section breaks with a slider, which you can move manually or play, like a video control.
I’m sure Stephen Few will be metaphorically turning in his grave, but seeing as most OBIEE projects I’ve worked on seem to get judged on the amount of eye-candy on the screen, this’ll be an interesting novelty to use for a while, and it could be useful for time-series reports.
Another new feature is Master-Detail linking. This allows you to set up views within an analysis that respond to values being clicked on in other views. To take an example, I want to create an analysis that lists out the product categories that we sell, and when you click on a category it shows a graph that displays profit margin for each product within the category.
I start by creating a new analysis, and select the Product Category and Product Name attribute columns, along with the Profit Margin measure. Then, in order to turn on master-detail linking, I select Column Properties for the Product Category column from the criteria view.
Then, using the Interactions tab in the Column Properties dialog, I set the Primary Interaction for this column to Send Master-Detail Events, and type in an arbitrary value for the Specify Channel setting. This is so that individual views can choose which master-detail events to respond to.
I then save this view, and create the bar chart graph. Then, I edit the properties for the graph and tell it to respond to these events.
Now, when I show both views in the compound layout, clicking on a product category filters the graph by this value.
Now there’s a lot of new features around visualization in this release that I’ll have to wait until GA to go into in more detail, but one other nice addition is an enhanced set of dashboard prompt controls. In the 10g release we could use drop-down menus, text boxes, date pickers and multi-select controls to pass parameters to dashboard requests, but in 11g this has been expanded to include radio buttons and list boxes (reminding me of QlikView):
together with drop-downs with checkboxes, and checkboxes on their own.
So there you have it. Tomorrow, to round the week off, we’ll finish by taking a look at KPIs and the new Oracle Scorecard and Strategy Management application.

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