OBIBB – Interviews (Venkatakrishnan Janakiraman)

 Next in line is Venkatakrishnan Janakiraman. He probably has the most impressive name in the Oracle BI Community, so to make my life easier, I will call him Venkat from now on. Venkat doesn’t need any introduction because any well respected OBIEE consultant must have read any of his blogposts once. Let’s see what Venkat has to tell us.

1. You are a well respected member of the Oracle BI community. Where could we know you from? 

>: Primarily through my blog at and now at . I also present at some Oracle BI related conferences like Oracle Open World, Rittman Mead BI Forum, AIOUG, ODTUG etc. I have been conferred Oracle ACE award recently. So, I would be part of any Oracle ACE related events in some of the conferences.

2. As John said, you’re the grandfather of all Oracle BI EE bloggers. Why did you start blogging?

>: John has been kind, I would say. Yes, when I started out blogging there were only a couple of people who were blogging on BI EE (Mark Rittman and Adrian Ward). But it is really heartening to see so many blogs now on BI EE, which basically goes to show the widespread adoption of BI EE as an enterprise BI tool.

I started out blogging immediately after the acquisition of Hyperion by Oracle. The primary motive behind starting the blog was the documentation state of BI EE in general. Though the docs are good, they still have quite a few errors/bugs, which haven’t been corrected in a while.  Initially the blog was a means for myself to document how the tool actually worked especially capturing those features that were either not documented or were wrong.

3. What’s your favorite topic, you write about?

>: There are 2 topics that I like writing and talking about. My most favorite one is the Metadata Modeling or Repository Modeling. And my second favorite topic is the integration of the BI EE in general as a tool with external applications. For example, calling Hyperion Financial Reports from BI EE, Web Service calls to update report metadata, Go URL etc.

4. I know for a fact that blogging takes a lot of time, next to other day-to-day activities. How do you manage?

>: When I started, it used to take a couple of hours to do the research and then create a blog post for it. I started out doing this after my work hours. But there were times when I did one or two blog posts a day, everyday for a month or two. I know this might sound crazy but on such occasions, I used to even write a blog post while driving especially while waiting for a traffic signal to change (Bangalore is notorious for its traffic jams). When I look back the thing that I think stands out is, the only way to achieve any sort of tool related mastery is by constantly working with the tool (everyday) and then of course by trying to answer the questions that people have (like OTN Forums that I used to frequent a lot before).

5. What part of the Oracle BI stack could get more attention form the Oracle BI Community?

>: Honestly, there are quite a few. Some of them are Hyperion DRM, Hyperion EPMA, Hyperion Planning and Financial Management. Hyperion Essbase has a good community adoption. But the other Hyperion tools still do not get a lot of coverage in the Oracle BI community in general.

6. You and RittmanMead have joined forces. What made you leave Oracle?

>: I was with Oracle for almost 6 years. I would say Oracle is probably one of the best places out there to work for. But as with any big firm, you get embroiled in lots of other non-technology related things that you do not want to.  It came to a point wherein I thought I was doing something that I wasn’t enjoying anymore.  I had been following Mark’s blog right from my non-Oracle BI related days. At that time I was working on Cognos BI but I used to follow what was happening in the Oracle BI area. Mark and Jon are also the most respected people in the Oracle BI community. So when the opportunity came up for us to join hands, I immediately took that up.

7. Is there really a difference between BI in Asia and BI in the Western world?

>: I would say there is not much difference apart from the extent of BI adoption in general. In Europe/US, as a consultant when we do an implementation of Oracle BI, we would generally stick to project plans with client driving the requirements in most cases. In majority of the cases, the client would be well aware of what BI in general can do for them. The decision to buy Oracle BI or any BI tool in general would have been made after some rounds of technical analysis/discussions/evaluations.

But here, a consultant will not only have to lead the implementation but also will have to work towards making users understand what BI in general can do for them. The purchasing decisions generally come from executives. People who might be driving the requirements might not be aware of what the tool can do for them. So, an implementation generally requires an initial phase of evaluation and then identifying gaps. Also since users are new to such technologies, significant training effort is required as well.

8. I know one of your passions is Oracle BI EE. What are your other passions, if any?

>: Well, though I blog more about Oracle BI EE, my passion is generally on OLAP tools like Essbase, Cognos Powerplay in general. I also like exploring other tools like QlikView, Cognos, Business Objects etc.

Outside of BI technology, I was a national Table Tennis player. I used to play Violin in local orchestras (long time back). But my wife says, I produce more sound than Music in my violin these days.

9. Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

>: Change is the only constant as far as Oracle BI is concerned. What we write today in our blogs might become outdated or outright wrong one or 2 years down the line. I would recommend everyone to use blogs as a source of information. Always test everything in your instance before recommending any solution.

10. Who would you like to be next in this series and why? What would you like to ask him/her? 

>: I would like the next person in this series to be Mark Rittman. Mark is probably the only one person who has seen Oracle BI evolving right from Discoverer 4i days. My question to him will be “How much of technology innovation have you seen in Oracle BI stack over the years? Which feature/technology in your opinion was the most ground breaking one?”

Thanks to Venkat for sharing his thoughts. One of his motivations is that these interviews will bring more sense of community to “Oracle BI”. I hope he is right. With a little bit of luck, I am able to present Mark Rittman in the next episode.

To be continued.

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