Tuesday, 20 May 2014

OBIA 7964/ – E-Business UDA Vs DFF and OBIA Customization Best Practices – Part I (Introduction)

Oracle Business Intelligence Application does not provide Universal Defined Attributes (UDA) attributes and DFF (Descriptive Flex Field) for reporting in out of box reporting tables. UDA and DFF allow users of Oracle to define elements specific to their business. As these are important business information which customer would like to include in the reporting. So customization is needed to include UDA and DFF in standard reporting arena.  Though Oracle promotes no customization policy but I believe it is impossible to implement OBIA without any customization.  The bare minimum customization which I have seen is to get the DFF and UDA into reporting structures.
This series of blogs is an attempt to cover definitions of UDA/DFF, similarities, differences and OBIA best practices to deal with UDA and DFF customization.   This blog is dedicated to UDA and DFF introduction only. Most of the information which I have put together is extracted from a number of blog entries by E-Business experts. 

Descriptive Flex Fields (DFF)

Descriptive flex fields have been around since the release of the Oracle E-Business Suite. They were traditionally the only solution for the customer to track information specific to their business on standard Oracle Application records and tables.  The obvious constraint about DFF is the amount of attributes that can be tracked against each record. Descriptive flex fields typically offer from 15 to 30 attributes depending on the record/table. This is one of the ways to store and define elements specific to their business, which would be unique to customer E-Business implementations.

User Defined Attributes (UDA)

As I said in earlier section UDA allows users of Oracle to define elements specific to their business.  UDA architecture was build to support the need for a scalable solution to track unlimited amounts of attribute information mostly related to master data. This has been very prevalent in MDM applications such as PIM and Supplier Data Hub which is then extended to other applications in Oracle.
In 11.5.10 UDA was introduced to Oracle Projects and is now core functionality in tracking information specific to Projects and Tasks. With release 12.2 Oracle has now expanded UDA usage to Order Management, Procurement Contracts and Oracle Sales Contracts.

As mentioned in pervious section of this document descriptive flex fields (DFF) typically offer from 15 to 30 attributes depending on the record/table where the amount of UDA attributes that the user can define is unlimited. In addition to this some of the comparisons between DFF and UDA are as follows.
  • DFF’s information is stored on the same base table as the record vs. UDA information is stored in a related table.  Storing the information in related tables may limit the size of the base table to a reasonable size but it also complicates basic queries and reporting especially if UDA is implemented at a time after the original implementation of the module/record.
  • DFF’s reside directly on the record in the form whereas with UDA, the related form needs to be pulled up for entry and viewing of the information.  So UDA increases the time for data entry and also increases complexity around data extraction for reporting.
  • The toolset that comes with UDA is more robust then what is offered with DFF’s.  With UDA, you have attribute groups, the ability to create different pages, single vs. multi-row options and the ability to automatically generate database views.  DFF’s have some features such as context sensitive and dependent value sets/segments.
  • Both DFF’s and UDA offer support for interface tables. Although the DFF’s reside on the base interface tables whereas the UDA interface tables are additional. 
Many customers that have been constrained by the number of DFF attributes that can be configured on entities such as sales order header and lines, especially when these entities are interfaced from another source system i.e. Master Data Management etc. UDA usage is bound to increase in future implementations and more and more modules within E-Business will support the UDA architecture to overcome DFF’s attribute constraints.  In short there are DFF’s alongside UDA and there is a need to include both in reporting catalogue.

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