Oracle Value Chain and Procurement Transformation Edition
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Endeca: Powerful New Analytics for Procurement and Supply Chain Management

Late last year, Oracle completed its acquisition of Endeca, whose portfolio includes Oracle Endeca Information Discovery, a platform for rapidly developing custom analytic applications that combine data from unstructured and structured sources, such as Oracle Business Intelligence Applications.

Oracle also offers Oracle Procurement and Spend Analytics, a business intelligence application that helps organizations optimize supply side performance by integrating data from across the enterprise value chain. Organizations using Oracle Procurement and Spend Analytics benefit from increased visibility into corporate spend as well as the complete procure-to-pay process, with comprehensive analyses of procurement performance, supplier performance, supplier payable trends, and employee expenses.

Christopher Linskey, senior director, sales engineering for Endeca, explains how Oracle Endeca Information Discovery will help both value chain managers and procurement professionals better assess supplier risk profiles, warranty claims, spend management, and other areas.

Q. What is unique about Oracle Endeca Information Discovery? 
At a fundamental level, Oracle Endeca Information Discovery is different because it provides users with the means to rapidly and easily explore complex data sets in order to find answers to open ended questions. In principle, this may sound simple. But in practice, it means users are provided with a friendly environment for exploring vast data sets that include a wide variety of structured, semistructured, and unstructured information. To address the challenge, Oracle Endeca Information Discovery relies on a portfolio of technologies including analytics, search, indexing, and user interface. Together, these give end users the ability to get answers to open-ended queries from noisy, complex, heterogeneous data sets.

Q. How is this different from traditional analytics?
Traditional approaches to analytics typically begin with the assumption that an end user understands what information they are looking for. So, for example, in procurement there are analytics tools that try to answer a question such as “How much am I spending on paper clips?” Traditional BI also tends to focus on information captured during transactions. But Oracle Endeca Information Discovery is different. It was created to help users explore all kinds of data in order to discover which questions and information are most relevant to their business problem. 

Q: How does this work?
A: Like traditional analytics, Oracle Endeca Information Discovery relies on structured data that is defined in star schemas and held in column-store databases. So in that sense, it builds on the efforts of traditional data warehousing. But unlike traditional analytics, it goes further by incorporating unstructured information such as free form text. The secret to making them all work together is the use of nontraditional technologies, including advanced search indexing technologies with a Web user interface. These tools help Oracle Endeca Information Discovery create a very different user experience. It enables users to get answers to open-ended questions that go well beyond what is stored in the typical data warehouse.

Q. Can you give us an example of how a company would take advantage of this?
A. We worked with an automaker that had some early stage quality problems, so they used the solution to analyze a variety of different types of information from twelve different data sources, including claims, vehicle ID numbers, part numbers, and supplier databases.

Q. Did this particular example also integrate unstructured data?
A. Yes, the process of filing a claim creates both structured and unstructured data. One of the most important unstructured data might be the verbatim customer comments captured in free-form notes by dealer staff at service counters.

Q. How does this all come together?
A. If I’m a product manager at the auto company and I start to get calls from dealers saying there’s a problem with the batteries, I can use both Oracle Procurement and Spend Analytics and an Oracle Endeca Information Discovery-based custom analytic application to diagnose the problem.

I can start exploring with a keyword search, for example, “battery.” I type that word in and see every attribute in the data set with battery. This includes a claims dimension, which, for example, may show thousands of claims in the field. But this is just structured data. If I go back to the search box I can look for “battery” in any field of any record. That may return thousands of additional results from the unstructured data.

After I cast a wide net, I then drill in. Maybe I view vehicles driven less than 12,000 miles and discover a spike in claims. I click on the claims analysis, which takes me into the business intelligence world of supplier charts. It turns out that the vast majority of the battery claims is coming from one supplier, and when I drill down I see it’s all from one part. I now understand the problem in my supply chain and take steps to fix it.

Learn more about Oracle Endeca Information Discovery.

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