Friday, August 17, 2007

BI Publisher Discoverer integration

I shall talk a bit about the benefits of the integration between BI Publisher and Discoverer in the release, and how that shall be of interest to people who want to create reports with more adhoc layouts than are possible with Discoverer, among other benefits.

The first: Discoverer
Discoverer is a BI tool used for adhoc querying, analysis, and reporting of data. It can report against relational as well as Oracle OLAP data sources. It has tens of thousands of customers, and it’s a fine product thank you. You can read more about Discoverer on this blog as well as on OTN.
To begin to cut to the chase, there are two primary enhancements that Discoverer customers have been asking for some time (there are more, but I am picking these two):
1. The limited flexibility when it comes to laying out your Discoverer worksheets. You get a title view, a text area view (basically a title view but at the bottom), a graph, and one table or one pivot table (crosstab). And you can position the graph above, below, to the left, or to the right of the table component.




Now, for adhoc analysis and for many other purposes these layouts are adequate. But sometimes people have felt the need to lay out these views in a more flexible manner.

2. You can schedule a Discoverer worksheet (or worksheets). You can view the results of these scheduled worksheets. You can export a scheduled worksheet. You can email a scheduled worksheet (using Discoverer Viewer). What you cannot do is do all of this in a non-interactive manner. i.e. you cannot tell Discoverer to run a worksheet at a specified date and time, export the results into PDF or XLS, etc..., and then email these results via email to designated people.

The Discoverer Scheduling Manager.

My scheduled Discoverer worksheet in Discoverer Viewer.

This is the scheduled Discoverer worksheet in Viewer.

And this is the email page that I can use to email the scheduled Discoverer worksheet to multiple users, as an attachment (XLS, PDF, HTML, etc...)

The second: BI Publisher (formerly known as XML Publisher) BI Publisher is the enterprise reporting and document creation product from Oracle, and now also part of BI EE. Apart from the millions of uses of BI Publisher, the ones that are pertinent to this post are the ability of BI Publisher to let users create highly formatted reports, schedule them, and have them delivered to a variety of destinations, including email, printer, FTP, WebDAV, etc...

The third: Better Together - what happens when you bring Discoverer and BI Publisher together? No... not a third product, but syncretism! In BI EE BI Publisher was enhanced to let it access Answers based data sources to allow users to create pixel-perfect reports. In BI Publisher this functionality has been logically extended to allow Discoverer data sources – specifically worksheets – to act as data sources to BI Publisher. For this purpose, there were enhancements in both Discoverer and BI Publisher. SOAP web services have been added to Discoverer, for the first time, to expose some functionality of Discoverer that can then be called by programs using these web services. BI Publisher was enhanced to let it recognize and handle Discoverer as a data source.

Therefore, now you can take Discoverer worksheets like this:

And build nice looking reports like this:

- all using the wonder of BI Publisher.
These reports can also be scheduled to run and have the content distributed to users via email (other supported destinations include FTP, WebDAV, Printer, etc...).

And you can use the BI Publisher Template Builder for Microsoft Word to format and layout these reports:

That's the real quick introduction to Discoverer and BI Publisher integration.

As an aside, I always find it a bit curious and sort-of-interesting when I see a press release or news story describing a new release as having ‘radically improved functionality’, ‘path-breaking’, and simply so great that you have to upgrade. Of course, every release represents improvement over the previous one, or at least it should (otherwise the engineers, product managers, and QA engineers failed to do their jobs and should be fired -sometimes they get promoted, but that’s another story), so in that sense it is reasonable to expect and reasonable to state that the new release is better than the previous one.
What you really don't want to do is end up in this sort of a situation:

This post attempts to articulate via textual and digital visual aids (aka screenshots) some of the benefits of the loosely coupled integration between BI Publisher and Discoverer that may accrue to users who have a requirement to develop reports with a degree of positional flexibility as it relates to the layout of components usually and typically used for rendering aggregated data in a manner so as to enable and facilitate distribution of the said data thus visualized such that it may be construed to confer functionality greater than that provided by Oracle Discoverer, albeit in a specific context.

Yes – I did that without even using the 'bullshit generator'!

Update: deleted a sentence, and moved the first paragraph from the original post to the bottom.