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Working as an E-Business analyst, I had my fair share of building reports using many different packages. Some were excellent and others not so much.

One thing that I have noticed over the years is that the HR department seems to be the last department to get attention when it comes to reporting needs. We have all heard the noise coming from the HR department when someone asks them for a report… it’s a dull moan. But there is good reason for it. Using the Oracle standard reports is painful, and much like the other functions in EBS, it can be very time-consuming. In fact it often requires a user to pull a clunky old text format file and spend hours filtering and formatting to get the required data. But why does it seem so much more difficult for HR? Two reasons:

  1. Security in EBS HR is complicated

    But let be honest, it’s kind of an essential feature. Oracle R12 introduced dynamic security within HR that is generated when the user logs in. This can be very difficult to replicate in a data warehouse tool—usually meaning HR is put to the back of IT’s list.
  2. Data protection in HR is important

    Organizations are required to protect the data of their employees—like personal information, salary, medical history, etc. But this can restrict IT’s access to certain tables, making it difficult to create reports.  This means when HR needs a quick one-off report made, they often aren’t able to ask IT for help doing it—leaving them few options.

So what is HR to do?

  1. Customize the seeded reports using a consultant to make use of the BI Publisher functionality

    • This can be a costly process.
    • It can take a lot of time to think about what might be required to cover all the reporting requirements - including everything you might need in the future. Since time is a scarce resource, this usually means the HR analyst never gets around to defining what they require.
    • Business is a dynamic beast and requirements will change, this process will likely need to be repeated.
    • The IT process of change management can be a lengthy one; this is justified to ensure changes are correct and to ensure nothing is lost in translation between the HR specialist and the IT specialist. However, the downside is you can be waiting months for a change.
  2. Train HR to use Discoverer

    • Maintenance of an end user layer and table structures can be difficult to understand. Unless you are working on this regularly, the skills are easily lost.
    • Data structures and field names are not intuitive. This makes it frustrating and time-consuming to build even basic reports.
    • Oracle has announced that Discoverer is no longer in development and that it’s in the process of being de-supported. They recommend all users to be off it by June 2015.
  3. Buy a third-party product

    • As mentioned before, you should evaluate the importance of security in your organization. If you intend to have security then I would suggest a data warehouse is out. This also includes any other tools that cannot inherit the security automatically. Rebuilding it will only lead to pain and issues.
    • Think about the user. Often a reporting solution is designed around a few reports, but what happens when the organization changes? Will you need to get IT or a developer to be able to make a change or add new fields? How long will this take you?
    • Drill down. This is always an important feature because users want to see what led to a number in a report. But remember drilling can be more than down. It’s good to find a solution that can expand into different areas to help answer the questions you didn’t even know you were going to have.
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