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Interested in better finance management reporting, without time-sucking manual steps? Part 2

If you read my initial blog post you’ll remember that Bolthouse Farms implemented, or is in the process of implementing, two cloud projects (so far):

  1. The company simplified and automated its monthly business review management reporting process with data from its JD Edwards ERP system into Oracle Essbase, with Smart View and the Oracle Analytics Cloud for dashboards and reporting, all on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.
  2. It is now extending analytics into manufacturing and sales with the Autonomous Data Warehouse and Oracle Analytics Cloud, pulling data again from ERP, plus data from a half-dozen other sources.

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In this blog, we’ll focus on the management reporting project with a blueprint that shows how you can replicate that success. We’ll cover the big steps of what you would do, enough that you’ll understand the context and the level of effort, then you can decide if you want to go further, with links at the end on who to contact. OK, let’s dive in.
First, is this a good fit for you? If you match some or all of these criteria, replicating this project should give you measurable benefits:

  1. You have at least one manual step to get financial data ready for management reports: querying the source system, moving it, copying it, preparing it, blending it, pivoting it, etc.
  2. You have at least one person spending a non-negligible chunk of time getting the data ready before it can be analyzed and reported.
  3. Your process to calculate aggregations or do allocations is manual.
  4. If a new question needs an answer, you have to reiterate through some or all of your data wrangling process and redo your calculations.
  5. Your current management reporting is mostly out of Excel, and you want to keep that because your analysts and your executives are at ease with Excel and they would push back on too much change.
  6.  You skillfully use a lot of pivot tables to cover all the reporting requirements. 
  7. There’s not a single source of truth. Ensuring data accuracy and consistency requires a lot of manual checks between your spreadsheets and source systems. Different reports can have different definitions of accounts or products.
  8. You can only provide self-service access to a small circle of trusted individuals; everyone else gets screenshots or summaries.
  9. Your executives regularly ask for different reports or different views of the data.
  10. You get requests for providing different types of reports or different visualizations.

How many did you check off? By the way, once you’ve done this project, you can come back to check that it’s given you the results you want, based on these criteria. Meaning you’ve removed the problems while keeping the good stuff.

In a nutshell, what you’ll do with this project is take the manual, complex, time-consuming, and tedious middle steps out, while keeping the front end you like, and adding some reporting benefits. And you’re going to do this with services on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, so there’s no hardware to buy, it’s super secure, and if you don’t like it (but I’m betting you will), you just turn it off.

Here’s what you’ll do. First, you’ll sign up for Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. Then from the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure console, you’ll provision two services: Oracle Essbase and Oracle Analytics Cloud. Finally, you’ll download and install Smart View for a better user experience in Excel.
Your simple architecture will look something like this:


 
The heart of this will be the Oracle Essbase application you create to support all of your management reporting needs. This step will remove the need for you to manually load data, calculate your aggregations, do your allocations, validate your business rules, match up your account definitions, cross-link all your spreadsheets, and do all those preset spreadsheet pivots. It will also enable you to drill back to the source. All that information will now always be up to date, correctly calculated, securely stored and accessed, and refreshed at the click of a button.

You’ll still get to use Excel to analyze your data, with Smart View securely connecting your desktop Excel to Oracle Essbase. This is what that end-user experience will look like. Then you’ll also set up some dashboards and reports in the Oracle Analytics Cloud to go beyond the tabular pivot formats in Excel and give your executives the dashboards they want. Here’s a short video of what that could look like.

In addition to the cloud services listed above, you’ll of course need access to your source data from your ERP application, and whatever additional data you want to include in the reports. You’ll also want your latest management reports, as well as your desired KPIs and metrics, so you can set up your Oracle Essbase application, recreate your current reports in Excel, and then go beyond that with your new analytics dashboard. 

Next, you’ll want to consider who will access or use the reports: CFO, controller, financial analysts, and so on. Think about who should have access to what; what sort of access they should have (read-only, read-write); and how they will want to access the reports (via Excel, in dashboards, or a mobile experience). Consider typical usage (monitoring only, forecasting, scenario analysis, discovery analytics), frequency, and what actions do they normally want to take.

If you’re starting to think in terms of a project plan to scope this out, or talk it through with your management, print out this diagram as a starting point:
 
You’re also no doubt wondering how much to budget. I can’t really answer that, as I don’t know what your data, business modeling, or analytics requirements are. We’ll need to scope that out together. But you’ll know that with Oracle Cloud Infrastructure and our cloud services, you don’t have to buy hardware. We do the IT tasks so it’s easy and hassle-free, and very secure. It’s also scalable and will grow with your business when you need it to. You only invest in the services you need and not a penny more.

From an implementation perspective, an experienced partner like Peloton Consulting Group, who did the Bolthouse Farms project, could do this well and swiftly. Again, I can’t give you an exact number without knowing what you need, but it’s on the smaller side. So the ROI you’ll want to calculate is the investment in cloud services plus consulting to do the project, versus the ongoing monthly/daily/weekly challenges of your manual management reporting process, plus the additional benefits of using your data in new ways. 

If this seems like something about which you want to learn more, start here.
Or give my friends at Peloton Consulting Group a ring. They did a fabulous job with Bolthouse Farms and would love to help you.
Be warned though—once you see what your data can do for you, you’ll want more. And we’ll be there for you, every step of the way.

To learn how you can benefit from Oracle Analytics, visit Oracle.com/analytics, and follow us on twitter@OracleAnalytics.

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