TECHNOLOGY: Business Intelligence
Take the Next StepBy Mark Rittman
Use Action Framework to start business processes from report information.
Tools such as Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition 11g can provide many important insights, but the real value of those insights comes when users act on them. Historically, business intelligence tools have been developed separately from line-of-business applications, requiring users to switch from one application to another when acting on their insights. Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition 11g closes this analysis loop through the introduction of the Action Framework.
The Oracle Business Intelligence 11g Action Framework makes it possible to set up navigation paths to critical information that can be displayed on analyses right next to users’ data. These paths—or “action links”—can bring up related reports or Websites, or they can enable users to complete business processes by performing actions that access separate applications. Action links are displayed as contextual menus and can contain either mandatory or optional items, depending on conditions you have defined. For example, you can provide action links to search Google or Twitter for news on a customer listed in an analysis or call a workflow process to initiate a marketing campaign for an underperforming product.
This article goes over the Action Framework, using data and the sample Web service that comes with the Oracle Business Intelligence 11g SampleApp sample application. This application is downloadable from oracle.com/technetwork/middleware/bi-foundation/obiee-samples-167534.html. Follow the instructions to install the core components of this sample application as well as the optional Actions components that come with the download. These steps will install a sample Web service, register it with Oracle Business Intelligence 11g, and set up security credentials to make it accessible by an Oracle Business Intelligence 11g analysis. For full details on this configuration process, check out the SampleApp deployment instructions (available on the sample application download page) and section 4.3 of Oracle Fusion Middleware Integrator’s Guide for Oracle Business Intelligence Edition 11g Release 1 (11.1.1).
A Requirement for Action
In this example, we will create a new Oracle Business Intelligence 11g analysis that displays the status of recent orders, enables the user to search the Web for information on a company, and uses order criteria to optionally initiate a credit hold on a customer. The credit hold will be performed by a Web service, and both the credit hold and the Web search actions will be invokable via a contextual menu in the analysis.
To create the analysis, log in to Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition 11g. From the menu in the common header area of the home page, select New -> Analysis. When prompted for a subject area, select A – Sample Sales.
Oracle Business Intelligence Answers will open. From the Criteria tab, select the following columns to include in the analysis:
Orders.”R0 Order Number”
Navigate to the Filters panel at the bottom right of the screen, and use the Filters button to add the following filters to the analysis criteria:
Orders.”R1 Order Status” is equal to/is in 4-Billed “Base Facts”.”1 – Revenue” is in top 10
Now switch to the Results tab and edit the Table view so that the columns are displayed in the following order:
Your analysis should show 10 rows of data, with values in the R28 Bill to Cash Days column ranging from 13 at the lowest to 65 at the highest.
Save your analysis to the Web catalog, calling it Customer Invoices.
Creating Your Actions
The next step is to create the actions to associate with the analysis. We will make two: the Initiate Credit Hold action, which will be shown only for orders that are overdue for payment, and a customer search action that will be shown for all orders. We will implement the Initiate Credit Hold action as a Web service.To create the Initiate Credit Hold action, select New -> Action from the Oracle Business Intelligence 11g home page. When the Navigate dialog box appears, select Invoke a Web Service, as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: You can create a new action that invokes a Web service.
When the Select Web Operation dialog box appears, navigate to the Sample Web Services -> Order Service -> OrderProcessService -> OrderProcessPort folder and select the processOrder method. Click OK to proceed.
The New Action dialog box will then appear. It enables you to configure prompt text and other settings that map to the Web service parameters. In the Define Parameters section of this dialog box, enter the values shown in Table 1.
Table 1: Define these parameters for the Initiate Credit Hold action.
Once you are done, click Save Action to save the action to the Web catalog. When saving the action, create a new folder in the catalog under Shared Folders; call it Oracle Mag Actions; and save the action, using the name Initiate Credit Hold.
The customer search action will take the customer name and perform a Web search on it, passing the name of the customer to the search engine as a parameter. To create this action, return to the Oracle Business Intelligence 11g home page and select New -> Action. When prompted, select Navigate to a Web Page as the action type. When the New Action dialog box appears, enter
for URL. Click the Define Parameters button to the right of the URL text box, and then click the Add Parameter button to add a single parameter to the list. In this parameter list, enter the following values:
Parameter Name: 1
Click the Save Action button, save the action to the same Shared Folders -> Oracle Mag Actions folder, and name the action Navigate to Google.
Associating Actions with Analysis
With the two actions created, the next step is to associate them with the analysis criteria. From the Open menu on the Oracle Business Intelligence 11g home page, open the Customer Invoices analysis you created earlier and ensure that the Criteria tab is selected in Oracle Business Intelligence Answers.
Within the Selected Columns panel at the top right of the Oracle Business Intelligence Answers screen, go to the menu that appears over the R0 Order Number column to select Column Properties. When the Column Properties dialog box appears, select the Interaction tab. Change the Value Primary Interaction selection from Default (Drill) to Action Links.
To add the conditional Initiate Credit Hold action to this column, click the Add Action Link button above the Action Links table and enter Initiate Credit Hold for Link Text. Click the Select Existing Action button, and navigate to the Shared Folders/Oracle Mag Actions folder to select the Initiate Credit Hold action. Click OK to select the action, and select the parameter settings as shown below:
Customer Name: Change the menu selection for the Value column to Column Value, and then use the column list menu to choose Offices.”D4 – Company”. Check the Fixed checkbox next to this parameter, and then click OK to save the parameter mapping. Finally, select Conditionally as the Show Link setting and click the Filter button to create the condition R28 – Bill to Cash Days is greater than 60.
Now click the Add Action Link button again to add the Navigate to Google action. In this case, enter Search Google for this company as the link text and map Offices.”D4 – Company” to the action parameter. This time, however, leave the Show Link setting as Always, so that the action is available for all orders (not just those that are overdue).
Once this step is complete, click OK to save the column properties and then click the Results tab in Oracle Business Intelligence Answers to test the action.
Using the Actions
For each row in the Customer Invoices analysis, click the R0 Order Number column to test the action. For orders that are not more than 60 days overdue, the only action available will be to perform a Google company search. For orders that are more than 60 days overdue, the Initiate Credit Hold action will also be displayed, as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2: Both actions appear in the contextual menu for an overdue order.
When you select the Initiate Credit Hold action, the Invoke Action dialog box will appear. This dialog box enables you to modify the customer number and the comment in the Comment field before clicking Execute to invoke the Web service method. When the action has successfully completed, a confirmation message will appear.
Using the Oracle Business Intelligence 11g Action Framework, you can define best-practice navigation paths between your reports, guiding users to other analyses or Web-based information. In situations in which existing applications can be used to enable users to act on an insight or address an issue, the Action Framework makes it easy to connect to these applications, pass on relevant information, and enable users to take immediate action at the point of discovery.
Mark Rittman is an Oracle ACE Director and has worked with Oracle business intelligence and data warehousing tools for 14 years. He is the cofounder of Rittman Mead Consulting and writes regularly at rittmanmead.com/blog.
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