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The Ultimate Guide to Modernize OBIEE and Oracle Analytics Cloud (OAC) With Tableau

Your Key Takeaway

Before starting, let’s take a brief look at your key takeaway from this guide!

In this guide, we’ll explore the top reasons for organizations to modernize OBIEE with Tableau, along with the various options available for the modernization.

Our objective is to help you achieve quick wins by choosing the most effective and cost-efficient path for modernizing OBIEE with Tableau..

1 Introduction

Data management and data visualization are both essential for any organization to succeed! One without the other leaves the business decisions in a mess.

Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE) and Oracle Analytics Cloud (OAC) are Oracle’s offerings for enterprise analytics needs. OBIEE was one of the most sought Enterprise BI platforms prior to the introduction of Self-service Analytics tools.

In the current scenario, OBIEE’s data visualization capabilities lag a lot behind most of the self-service Analytics platforms introduced in the recent years.

Despite OBIEE’s limitations in self-service and data visualization, it still holds the ground on the Data Management landscape. OBIEE’s ability to connect to different data sources, and handle complex schemas is a critical functionality that is yet to be mastered by the modern BI tools introduced in the recent years.

However, many organizations using OBIEE are considering switching to a modern visualization tool like Tableau either to replace OBIEE completely or to complement the limitations of OBIEE in a bimodal approach.

In this guide, we’ll see the top business drivers for organizations to modernize OBIEE with Tableau, along with the various options available to replace or complement OBIEE with Tableau.

Quick info

This guide will walk you through the main reasons for modernizing OBIEE with Tableau and explore the different options available to achieve it.

2 Key Reasons for Modernizing OBIEE

Key reasons for modernization

In this section we’ll discuss the four key reasons for organizations to consider modernizing OBIEE with Tableau:

    Sub-topics shortcut

  1. 2.1. OBIEE’s Limitations in Data Visualization
  2. 2.2. User affinity towards self-service
  3. 2.3. Enterprise-wide adoption to modern BI
  4. 2.4. ROI of OBIEE to Tableau Transition
  5. Back to all topics

We’ll now see each of these business drivers in detail.

2.1. OBIEE’s Limitations in Self-Service Data Visualization

limitation

In OBIEE, creating visualizations demand a tonne of technical know-hows, and require a longer turnaround time. From a user perspective, OBIEE’s self-service capabilities don’t meet the expectations.

Though OBIEE is far better than Tableau in its ability to handle complex schemas, joins, and aggregations, the end-users often don’t get to experience the ease of data management OBIEE provides, and are usually frustrated with OBIEE.

Quick info

One of the key reasons for modernizing OBIEE is its limitations in self-service data visualization.

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2.2. User affinity towards self-service

User affinity towards self-service

The business users know the ease of data visualization that modern BI tools like Tableau provides, and have developed an affinity towards it.

Nobody wants to get technical support for creating a visualization, when they can do it themselves in a few clicks. However, when using OBIEE for data visualization, despite knowing they can do it all easily in a different tool, the business users often feel their analytical wings are clipped.

Therefore, organizations are left with little or no choice other than choosing a modern BI tool like Tableau to meet the user expectations.

2.3. Enterprise-wide adoption to modern BI

Enterprise-wide adoption to modern BI

When organizations using OBIEE focus on modernizing the technology stack, OBIEE is one of the platforms getting a green signal. The use of modern BI tools for enterprise analytics and data visualization has become a new normal.

Tableau, known for its intuitive visualizations and connectivity to many critical data sources, makes its way into organizations quite easily.

When Tableau makes its way, organizations have the following two options to choose from:

  • 1. Replace OBIEE with Tableau completely
  • 2. Completement the limitations of OBIEE with Tableau

2.4. ROI of OBIEE to Tableau Transition

ROI of OBIEE to Tableau Transition

Return on Investment (ROI) is another key driver for organizations to consider replacing or complementing OBIEE with Tableau.

In OBIEE, ROI takes a hit due to the long waiting time users undergo for creating visualizations. In the case of Tableau, creating visualizations is like cake-walk for the users, and saves an enormous amount of time, which gets utilized for more critical tasks, and contributes to ROI.

Now that we have seen the primary business drivers for organizations to modernize OBIEE with Tableau, let’s see the different options to get the modernization done.


3 Options For Modernizing OBIEE With Tableau

When modernizing OBIEE with Tableau, the following three options are available for organizations:

    Sub-topics shortcut

  1. 3.1. Migration from OBIEE to Tableau
  2. 3.2. Manual export/import from OBIEE to Tableau via Excel
  3. 3.3. Connecting Tableau to OBIEE
  4. Back to all topics

The first option is the only option for replacing OBIEE with Tableau, while the other two are for complementing OBIEE’s limitations with Tableau.

Let’s explore each option in detail below.

3.1. Migration From OBIEE To Tableau

bi migration

Currently, there are no tools to automate the migration of OBIEE reports and subject areas to Tableau. The migration from OBIEE to Tableau is therefore a manual process and has its own complexities down the road.

Though migration is preferred by many organizations as it eliminates duplicate BI/Analytics environments, there are many obstacles to reaping the benefits of the migration.

3.1.1. Steps involved in OBIEE to Tableau Migration

step by step

From a bird-eye view, the migration project involves 3 steps:

1. Re-building connectivity from Tableau to different data sources – When migrating from OBIEE to Tableau, the primary step is to rebuild the connectivity from Tableau to all the data sources involved.

As organizations using OBIEE are using it for over a decade, the number of data sources involved is usually too high. Organizations that rely primarily on Oracle’s line of applications would find this step even more difficult, as Tableau may not provide the same ease that OBIEE provided in connecting to Oracle-based data sources.

Hence, the step of rebuilding the connectivity in Tableau is cumbersome and often cost-prohibitive.

2. Redeveloping joins and measures in Tableau – The second step is the redevelopment of relationships and measures in Tableau, which is another duplicated effort.

Since Tableau is not as good as OBIEE in handling complex data relationships, this step requires even more additional time and efforts to get things sorted out to perfection.

3. Replicating OBIEE Security Framework in Tableau – Implementing Data Governance in Tableau is another important aspect of the OBIEE to Tableau migration. You must determine the admins and users, and provide the right set of privileges for each stakeholder involved.

Upon the successful execution of the above steps, you can redevelop the existing reports in OBIEE. It is also important to provide the users with a brief hands-on session on Tableau.

Based on the need, the organizations can prioritize the data sources and execute the steps in a phased implementation approach.

3.1.2. Is migration from Tableau to OBIEE feasible?

The migration project’s feasibility heavily depends on the number of data sources, the connector costs (if any) for each data source, the complexity of the security framework, and the redevelopment efforts.

To get a clear picture of the migration project, you’ll first need to list down the data sources, and categorize them into the following buckets, based on their connectivity to Tableau:

  1. Tableau’s inbuilt connectors
  2. Off-the-shelf connectors
    • Certified
    • Uncertified
  3. Unique data sources that require inhouse custom connectors

Pro tip

Start with a project risk assessment if you’re choosing to migrate from OBIEE to Tableau, due to the high project cost and long turnaround time.

The path of migration from OBIEE to Tableau has many challenges down the road. Let’s see them in the next section.

3.1.3. Potential Challenges

Potential Challenges

The major challenge to deal with in the migration project is the time and cost constraints.

BI Migration projects are sinkholes when it comes to the total cost and the time frame involved for the project. The projects usually overwhelm the IT and business teams for several years, cost millions of dollars, and in the end, leave both the business users and IT teams in the dust with frustration and failure.

Quick info

The migration of 1 Subject Area costs $250,000 approximately, and takes a turnaround time of about 6 months.

The migration of 1 subject area from OBIEE to Tableau would cost $250,000 approximately, and could take up to 6 months.

BI migration projects are complex beasts and the corporate IT landscape is littered with more failures than success. So if you’re looking for creating quick wins or dealing with a stringent IT budget, migration is definitely not the right choice.

Pro tip

Don’t take the migration path if you’re looking to create quick wins, as OBIEE to Tableau migration is a long-term project spanning several years.

If your organization can handle the costs and time frame involved, migration could still be the right choice.

3.1.4. ROI of OBIEE to Tableau Migration

Let’s assume your organization has built 10 subject areas.

So the total estimated cost of the project is $2,500,000, at a turnaround time of half-a-decade.

In the best case, the organization can start reaping the benefits of the migration, at least 5 years from the start of the project.

ROI of OBIEE to Tableau Migration

Figure 1: Cost-benefit analysis of the migration project

As inferred from figure 1, the migration from OBIEE to Tableau is a high risk project, due to the cost and time frame involved.

Even if your organization is ready to take this huge risk, the biggest drawback of the migration approach is its inability to achieve quick results.

3.2. Manual Export/Import From OBIEE To Tableau In Excel

Manual Export/Import From OBIEE To Tableau In Excel

If your organization is manually exporting/importing data from OBIEE to Tableau through spreadsheets for visualizing data, you’d definitely like to consider other options as the excel export and import is highly error-prone and inefficient.

The other drawback of this approach is the users are dissatisfied due to the painstaking manual efforts that go into it, affecting their productivity.

Let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of this approach.

    Sub-topics shortcut

  1. 3.2.1. Pros and Cons of Manual Export/Import
  2. 3.2.2. Cost-Benefit Analysis of Manual Export/Import
  3. Back to all topics

3.2.1. Pros and Cons of Manual Export/Import

The only advantage of this manual export/import approach is it is a low-risk approach, as no additional setup is required for analyzing OBIEE data.

However, the cons are multifold. The manual process is ineffective and cumbersome, and affects the users’ productivity.

A user typically spends about 4 to 5 hours per week in the manual process of extracting data from OBIEE to Tableau via excel, and blending the extracted data with other data sources. These hours when monetized roughly contributes to productivity loss of $10,000 per user per year.

Quick info

The approximate time spent in manual import/export is 4 to 5 hours/week/user, and adds to a productivity loss of $10,000/user/year.

Further, the disadvantages include:

  • Inability to visualize real-time data.
  • Limitations in the number of rows available for analysis due to spreadsheet-based constraints.
  • User frustration due to manual efforts.

3.2.2. Cost-Benefit Analysis of Manual Export/Import

Assuming 10 users analyze OBIEE data in your organization, the productivity loss is $100,000/year for the organization.

Cost-Benefit Analysis of Manual Export/Import

Figure 2: Cost-benefit analysis of a spreadsheet-based approach

As inferred from figure 2, the negligible benefits are far outweighed by the costs. Hence, avoiding the manual approach is good for your organization.

Pro tip

Avoid the Excel extract approach as it is cumbersome and ineffective.

3.3 Connect Tableau to OBIEE – Bimodal Way

Connect Tableau to OBIEE - Bimodal Way

Due to the challenges involved in migration and manual export/import of data, connecting Tableau to OBIEE in an automated way is the most efficient solution to create quick wins. Let’s now take a detailed view of this approach.

    Sub-topics shortcut

  1. 3.3.1. Top Reasons for the Integration
  2. 3.3.2. Advantages of Bimodal Approach
  3. 3.3.3. Handy Checklist for Connecting Tableau to OBIEE
  4. 3.3.4. Reference Architecture for Connecting Tableau to OBIEE
  5. 3.3.5. Options for Connecting Tableau to OBIEE
  6. Back to all topics

3.3.1. Top Reasons for the Integration

The top 4 reasons for connecting Tableau to OBIEE are:

  1. Reusing the existing assets in OBIEE – When connecting Tableau to OBIEE, the organizations can successfully leverage the existing assets in OBIEE created by their IT teams. It is also easy to satisfy the business users by enabling them to visualize the OBIEE data in Tableau.
  2. Mashing up OBIEE with other data sources – By connecting Tableau to OBIEE, the users also get the instant ability to mash up OBIEE data with other data sources that aren’t integrated with OBIEE yet.
  3. Cost savings – The duplicated efforts required for rebuilding connectivity from Tableau to each of the data sources in OBIEE is successfully eliminated by connecting Tableau to OBIEE. This results in huge cost and time savings.
  4. Avoiding spreadsheet inefficiencies – The need to export/import data from OBIEE to Tableau manually through spreadsheets will be successfully avoided. Hence, the productivity loss of users will also be eliminated.

Quick info

The key reason for connecting Tableau to OBIEE is to complement the data visualization limitations of OBIEE with Tableau.

3.3.2. Advantages of Bimodal Approach

Connecting Tableau to OBIEE provides the opportunity to make the best of both worlds – Tableau and OBIEE in a bimodal approach.

OBIEE is strong on the Data Management part, while Tableau successfully complements OBIEE limitations in the Self-service and Data visualization aspects.

With this approach, it’s easy to satisfy the stakeholders as well. The business users are happy to use Tableau for visualization, while the IT teams can still continue to maintain OBIEE as the single source of truth.

Quick info

With Tableau and OBIEE in your Analytics stack, it is easy to satisfy both business users and IT Teams.

In the bimodal approach, the limitations of one platform are successfully complemented by the other, thus providing organizations using OBIEE with the perfect launchpad to quickly implement enterprise-wide self-service analytics.

3.3.3. Handy Checklist for Connecting Tableau to OBIEE

checklist

Connecting Tableau to OBIEE is the most reliable option for experiencing self-service analytics of OBIEE data. Here’s a handy requirements checklist for the connector:

  1. Tableau and OBIEE versions compatibility
  2. Ability to connect to both OBIEE Subject Areas and Reports from Tableau
  3. Retain the existing data relationships and aggregations in OBIEE
  4. Ability to connect to union reports in OBIEE, and reports with complex subqueries
  5. Flexible Tableau Data Connectivity modes – Extract and Live
  6. Connect and visualize within the frameworks of Tableau without requiring any additional pre-query setup
  7. Works seamlessly with Tableau Desktop and Server Editions
  8. Possible to set up scheduled refresh
  9. Plug and play setup for quick self-service

Quick info

This checklist will help you foresee the scenarios you may face down the road when connecting Tableau to OBIEE.

With this checklist, you will be able to determine the list of must-haves and good-to-haves based on user needs.

3.3.4. Reference Architecture for Connecting Tableau to OBIEE

The best option to connect Tableau to OBIEE is via the ODBC Driver. Below is a brief of the reference architecture used by BI Connector, a purpose-built ODBC driver for connecting Tableau to OBIEE.

BI Connector is technically an ODBC driver used for connecting modern data visualization tools to OBIEE/OAC data sources. It is available in both Desktop and Server editions to meet the needs of both Tableau creators and explorers. The users can set up user DSN or System DSN based on their sharing and collaboration needs.

When connecting Tableau to OBIEE using BI Connector, the users’ OBIEE credentials get authenticated in the DSN setup stage. From OBIEE’s view, this authentication is similar to the authentication process in a web browser using a Secure Socket Layer(SSL) enabled HTTPS or HTTP URL. The user can also manage the list of Subject Areas or Reports they want to analyze in Tableau.

The OBIEE authentication will happen in Tableau as well when the user attempts to connect to an OBIEE DSN (configured using the BI Connector driver) through the other databases connector. BI Connector supports both Extract and Live modes.

Quick info

The reports can be published to Tableau Server. BI Connector supports Scheduled Refresh as well.

The reports can be published to Tableau Server. BI Connector supports Scheduled Refresh as well.

A detailed article on how BI Connector connects securely from Tableau to OBIEE can be accessed here.

3.3.5. Options for Connecting Tableau to OBIEE

different ways

The 3 options available for integrating Tableau to OBIEE are:

  1. Oracle BI Server ODBC Driver
  2. BI Connector
  3. Web Data Connectors

Let’s take a quick look at the connectors available for integrating Tableau with OBIEE.

3.3.5.1 Oracle BI Server ODBC Driver

The Oracle BI Server is an ODBC driver provided by Oracle for setting up DSNs of OBIEE data. Let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of the driver.

3.3.5.1.1 Pros and Cons of Oracle BI Server ODBC Driver

The pros of using Oracle BI Server ODBC driver are few – It enables direct connectivity to OBIEE data and helps uncover insights out of OBIEE data using Tableau visuals.

However, the cons are many. The users may face hiccups as they’ll require complex technical knowledge to get this driver work. Further, the performance of the driver is poor and getting it to work consistently is difficult.

Pro tip

Ignore the Oracle BI Server ODBC Driver if you can’t expose the key fields in OBIEE RPD in business and presentation layers for each folder/table analyzed in Tableau.

The other major disadvantage is the need for re-engineering in OBIEE. The key fields must be exposed in OBIEE RPD in business and presentation layers for each folder/table that is to be analyzed in Tableau.

cost benefit analysis oracle

Figure 3: Cost-benefit analysis when using Oracle BI Server ODBC Driver

3.3.5.2. BI Connector

BI Connector, as mentioned earlier, is an ODBC driver used for connecting modern viz. Tools to OBIEE data sources. The BI Connector is an ODBC-based connector.

bi connector power bi obiee

Figure 4: Plug-and-play connectivity from Tableau to OBIEE using BI Connector

When connecting Tableau to OBIEE through BI Connector, the connector transforms the queries from Tableau into OBIEE queries and fetches the data back to Tableau.

Let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of BI Connector.

3.3.5.2.1. Pros and Cons of BI Connector

The pros of BI Connector are multifold. You can experience the best of both worlds – Tableau and OBIEE, and successfully implement a bimodal approach through BI Connector.

The users can easily retain the existing OBIEE joins and aggregations using BI Connector. The users get the ability to visualize OBIEE data through both Live and Extract queries. BI Connector also supports Tableau Desktop and Server editions.

The other major advantages include:

  1. No Tableau/OBIEE version incompatibility issues
  2. Provides the ability to mash-up OBIEE with other data sources
  3. Possible to set up the scheduled refresh of OBIEE data sources
  4. Connects to Union reports in OBIEE, and reports with subqueries
  5. Creates quick wins without expensive reengineering
  6. 30-day fully-featured free trial

Quick info

BI Connector is trusted by several companies such as McDonalds, Oliver Wyman, McAfee, and more.

The only con of BI Connector is it has a license fee. The Desktop Edition costs $360 per year per user, while the Server Edition license cost depends on the number of explorers.

Pro tip

Integrate Tableau and OBIEE using BI Connector if your need is to create quick wins without expensive re-engineering.

Here’s a simple cost-benefit analysis chart for BI Connector:

cost benefit chart connecting power bi obiee using bi connector

Figure 5: Cost-benefit analysis for connecting Tableau to OBIEE using BI Connector

The figure 5 shows that BI Connector provides the maximum benefits at a minimal cost.

3.3.5.3. Web Data Connectors such as Unify

Web Data Connectors are usually an HTML file with JavaScript code for connecting two platforms. Let’s now take a brief look at the pros and cons of web data connectors for connecting Tableau to OBIEE.

3.3.5.3.1. Pros and Cons of Web Data Connectors

The pros of web data connectors are:

  • Connects to predefined queries of OBIEE data via web
  • Retains the joins and aggregations only for the preconfigured data
  • Retains OBIEE security framework

Pro tip

Avoid Web Data Connectors if you want to connect to OBIEE via Live mode.

The cons of web data connectors are:

  • Live queries to OBIEE data are not supported.
  • Prone to Tableau and OBIEE version incompatibility issues. Unlike ODBC APIs, the web data connector interface is not a well-defined interface and the connector often stops working when a new version of Tableau is released.
  • Unable to handle union reports or complex reports with subqueries.
  • Web data connectors performance is not at the level of C++ based ODBC connectors.

cost benefit chart web data connectors

Figure 6: Cost-benefit analysis of Web Data Connectors

4 Conclusion

cost benefit chart web data connectors

When modernizing OBIEE with Tableau, the best option is to connect Tableau to OBIEE, rather than replacing OBIEE with Tableau through a high-risk migration project.

If you’re choosing to connect Tableau to OBIEE, it is vital to check if the connector works in all possible scenarios mentioned in the Handy Requirements Checklist section. It’s good to choose a cost-efficient connector that meets your organization’s needs.

If your choice is to connect Tableau and OBIEE using BI Connector, here’re the quick links to help you start now!

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