Ease   of   Use     
          One click, not twelve!  




Learning Curve


OBIEE has a long learning curve. The comparatively poor design throughout results in a lot of overlapping functionality, functionality that is poorly organised and far from intuitive, functionality that is slow to access. These failings were present, in part, in the product that Oracle inherited with its acquisition of Siebel, but following Oracle’s attempt to enhance the product with the 11g release, ease of use has diminished further (think of how quickly the server processes could be brought up and down in 10g compared to 11g).


Pentaho is a great deal simpler to use compared to OBIEE. Ease of use varies between the different BI stack components: some, such as the User Console and the ETL design tool, could certainly be classified as excellent (in particular, for their use of hints and their intuitive user interfaces); others, such as the Metadata Modeller are less so, look a little tired, and would benefit from a revamped interface.



Direct versus Indirect Editing


There is an older GUI design style that works on the principle of “indirect editing”: if you want to change some feature of an object that appears on a reporting canvas, then it’s necessary to locate that feature within some external object hierarchy, edit it, save it, and then return to the reporting canvas to see if the change you’ve made is what you intended. The newer GUI design style works on the principal of “direct editing”: if you want to change some feature of an object, then all that’s necessary is to click on that feature and make the change directly, in place, without leaving the canvas.


OBIEE, and the other Big-4 vendors, started out with products that made use of indirect editing, and over the years have only made some modest moves towards implementing the more succinct alternative. Pentaho, on the other hand, makes a much wider use of direct editing, and this emphasis contributes dramatically towards its ease of use.


To illustrate the impact of direct and indirect editing, let’s take the very simple example of a report title. Here’s how it might look in Pentaho:



If we want to change the title text, all that’s necessary is to click on the title and edit the text directly – fast and intuitive.


Here’s how a report title looks in OBIEE:



Now suppose we want to change the title text. Instead of clicking on the title and editing the text directly, we have to:


*  Click on the “Catalog” menu item

*  Locate the name of report within a list of objects

*  Click on the “Edit” menu item

*  Locate the “Title” view

*  Click on the “Edit” icon

*  Click on the “Title” field

*  Change the title text

*  Click on the “Done” button

*  Click on the “Save” icon

*  Click on the “Dashboards” drop-down menu item

*  Select the “My Dashboard” menu item

*  Select the tab of the relevant dashboard page


and finally we are back on the reporting canvas and can see the change that we have made in context.


This example illustrates the differences in ease of use that are characteristic of the two products. A developer new to Pentaho could guess how to perform many tasks; a developer new to OBIEE would almost certainly need instruction.


The example also readily illustrates why in our tests Pentaho productivity turned out to be 3-15 times greater than that of OBIEE. Even when a developer knows exactly what to do in OBIEE, 90% of the development effort can be spent in unnecessary menu item selections and button clicks.