Friday Jan 10, 2014

The Deeper Realities of Implementing Shared Service Costing with Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management

You may have heard this one before, but it remains true. Many companies around the world are still fighting to understand what their true costs and profitability are – by region, by customer, by product etc. I caught up with Stuart Croucher, Senior Associate at Marsh & McLennan Companies, and Mike Killeen, Vice President of Technology with Edgewater Ranzal, an Oracle Platinum Consulting partner, to talk about Mercer, a Marsh McLennan Company and their understanding of cost and profitability. Until recently – they too were struggling with this business issue.

Marsh & McLennan Companies are the premier global professional services firms providing advice and solutions for risk management, strategy and human capital management.  They are comprised of four companies:

+ Marsh- a global leader in insurance brokering and risk management  
+ Guy Carpenter- a global leader in risk and reinsurance intermediary services  
+ Oliver Wyman- a global leader in management consulting and
+ Mercer - a global consulting leader in talent, health, retirement, and investments

Mercer helps clients around the world advance the health, wealth and performance of their most vital asset – their people.  Over the last several years, Marsh & McLennan Companies has seen transformational change with the establishment of a new shared service center to support the finance and information technology functions.  However that did not come easily.



Stuart shared with our listeners that two years ago, Mercer’s senior leadership changed overnight. In the new CEO’s  first town hall to the company, he spoke of the urgent need for Profit and Loss statements  by line of business and by country level.  He could not believe if he asked a business leader in Brazil what his profit was, that he didn’t know the answer.

How were they measuring cost? Previously, all Mercer measurements had been performed on a contribution margin basis; this simply meant that each LOB was judged on how much it contributed to Mercer’s central costs. Function costs were all held centrally and not allocated to the businesses. This was simply unacceptable to the new leadership team because it did not allow them to understand which businesses and countries were truly profitable.

As you might expect, under new management, finance was given the immediate task of implementing business/country level profit and loss statements, as the new CEO had made it one of his top priorities. This meant developing a rapid (like yesterday) solution using Excel. Eventually, with extraordinary effort, they were able to build and deliver a successful solution using many, extremely large MicroSoft Excel workbooks and MicroSoft Access - but they ran into all the usual Excel model based issues, after go live: 


+ It was very difficult to answer questions from the business -  in other words,  why did I get this allocation 
+ It was impossible to keep track of changes to the model 
+ It was difficult to re run the model for a different scenario --  for example,  running it for Budget and now wanting to run it for Prior Year Restated.

What Mercer wanted for the future was to deliver an allocation solution that combined the Oracle Hyperion Planning and Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management approach providing a platform for future growth and the ability to easily run multiple versions. Also key was low IT involvement when running the model -- they wanted Finance to completely own the day-to-day running of the model.

Mike further explained that Marsh & McLennan Companies needed to put together a new shared service center to support the controllership and Financial Planning & Administration within all of their operating companies. A key component of that shared service center was the selection and standardization of a performance management platform to create a consistent user experience for their users, and to lower the firm’s Total Cost of Ownership. For this reason, Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management was evaluated and selected as a tool that could meet the needs of this solution for the F-A-S-T requirements - specifically Flexibility, Audit and Control, Shared Methodology, and Transparency. For most of Mike’s clients, the F & T tend to be the most important.

The flexibility of Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management (HPCM) was critical to Mercer in the development process, because it allowed the business users to see the impact of an allocation methodology or attribution change. Mercer couldn’t have done that with a traditional “take the requirements and build it via a calc script” type approach. Additionally, the traceabilty maps in HPCM were helpful in getting sign off on the allocations, and additionally answering questions that came back from the Planners regarding where a charge came from. Finally, by moving the older model in Excel to an Oracle EPM packaged application, they were able to offer the audit and control needed to ensure confidence in the numbers, and additionally, provide an ability to run the models via shared methodologies for budgets, actuals, and forecast scenarios. Mercer took advantage of features that allowed them to run 2013 budget data through 2012 methodologies and 2013 methodologies, and seeing the impact of methodology change alone on results.

It became apparent quickly that there were deeper realities of implementing Shared Service costing with Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management. To hear more, click here to listen to the entire podcast.

To learn more about Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management, click here.

Wednesday Jan 08, 2014

Why Are My Numbers Different From Yours?

Happy New Year!

Organizations spend way too much time arguing about whose numbers are right, where they came from, and what they mean, rather than spending time discussing what to do about them.  I had the pleasure of interviewing book author and consultant Ron Dimon, Enterprise Performance Management Advisory Services Partner at CheckPoint Consulting – an Oracle Platinum Partner – during a Podcast, and he provided some interesting insights into this topic.




Ron and I have been involved in Performance Management in one way or another since about 1999 and it amazes me that organizations today still rely so much on spreadsheets to do their planning and forecasting, profitability analysis, and even to record and report their financial and operational results.  But, I am hopeful, as many companies and institutions now embrace the tools and processes of Enterprise Performance Management (EPM), that this will change, turning performance management into a discipline and a competitive advantage.To listen to the entire Podcast, click here.

I asked Ron to give his point of view on why people are still uttering “Why are my numbers different from yours?” With all the technology and systems we have now, why is this still an issue for many organizations?  He told our audience that he believes much of the issue can be attributed to spreadsheets. “While great for some things, they were never meant to be collaborative, controlled, enterprise-wide consolidation and reporting engines or reporting systems.  We have grown to rely on them, because they are pervasive and so easy to set up.”  Ron explained that it is relatively easy to whip up a customer profitability spreadsheet, for example, in less than an hour. You just need to collect the sales and expense numbers, take a stab at indirect costs and voila!  The problem, he suggested, starts after the report is set up and we need to share it, compare actuals to forecast, or include some historical trend data.  Ron explained that, “When Finance gets a look at the spreadsheet, they have to reverse engineer it and will probably quickly find that my basis for allocating expenses is wrong, or I haven’t taken into account commission splits, or I’m not including a foreign subsidiary of the customer in the sales results…the list goes on and on.”

So how can this be corrected? Ron talked about a way of still using Excel to create easy, on-the-fly reports – but rather, using Excel directly connected to the central repository of data to ensure that everyone creating reports is starting from the same set of data. The Oracle solution he has used for this is called Oracle Hyperion SmartView for Office and is part of the Oracle EPM System.  Because the spreadsheet is essentially connected to the underlying central repository of the EPM system, there is less time spent arguing about why numbers are different.

So is Oracle Hyperion SmartView for Office the answer? Does it solve the data problem all by itself? Ron explained to our audience that SmartView is the window to all that data; it’s one way to access it. But how and when the data gets into the central repository, and how it’s organized and transformed once it gets there requires an Enterprise Performance Management System (EPM). Oracle’s EPM system is both a collection of tools and a group of processes that govern how your data, especially financial data, is recorded, reported and used. 

Ron explained that an EPM profitability application, like Oracle Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management (HPCM), is a much more disciplined way to truly determine customer profitability – unlike the spreadsheet example mentioned previously. Instead of the finance person making up formulas, allocations, and deciding what is included in that customer number or not, HPCM does it for you.  So now you CAN spend more time on what do to with that customer: pay more attention, adjust prices, offer new services (or even fire them!) – and much less time arguing about why my numbers are different than yours.

To listen to the entire Podcast, click here.
To learn more about Oracle’s Enterprise Performance Management solution click here, and to learn more about HPCM, click here.

Friday Dec 20, 2013

Déjà Vu? Oracle EPM in 2013


As the year winds down, I wanted to share some of the highlights from EPM in 2013 and give a sneak peak about where we’re going next year. 2013 was a busy year with new product developments, new research studies, as well as customer events like Oracle OpenWorld. Let’s look back at some of these happenings and their associated blog posts.


New Product Developments 

Early in 2013, we announced a new release of Oracle Enterprise Performance Management with new integrations and product capabilities and updates to user experience that help companies to Unlock Business Potential – by unlocking business potential, companies are able to drive to the desired business outcomes of Aligned Objectives, Accurate Forecasts, Confident Close and a more Accountable Enterprise.

We also released new product modules, including Oracle Hyperion Tax Provision to help with aligning tax information and financial reporting, and Oracle Data Relationship Governance for improving financial master data governance and managing change.  In addition, we certified Oracle Hyperion Planning and Oracle Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management on Oracle Exalytics In-Memory Machine to help organizations Plan at the Speed of Business.  

For the sixth consecutive year, Gartner recognized Oracle as a Market Leader in its 2013 Magic Quadrant for Corporate Performance Management Suites report.  In this year’s report, among the market leaders, Oracle is positioned with the highest ability to execute and the strongest in completeness of vision.

New  Research

We conducted several interesting research studies in 2013.  Over the past several years, as we have gone through and emerged from the Great Recession, the role of the CFO has transitioned to one of catalyst for change.  New technologies and shifts in skill sets are also contributing to this changing role.  To understand these issues more deeply, we partnered with Accenture and released new research about the CFO’s changing role from financial overseer to corporate strategist and change agent.

To learn more about how Oracle customers perform Business Analytics processes (which includes Enterprise Performance Management, Business Intelligence and more), we launched the Oracle Business Analytics Customer Value Index (CVI) program in 2011, through which we collect valuable business process information from our customers.  The EPM Blog featured some compelling results from the CVI around Enterprise Planning, Budgeting and Forecasting Processes.

Customer Events and Videos 

One of the highlights of the year was Oracle OpenWorld, and winning the America’s Cup during that week certainly added to the excitement!  The Business Analytics program this year was our strongest ever, with over 200 EPM, BI, Analytics, Big Data and Exalytics sessions delivered by Oracle, our customers and partners.   We had the opportunity to catch up with a number of these customers and partners after their sessions, and you can view the interviews here

In one of our blogs about Scorecards, we featured forward-looking DC Courts and their process for managing strategy and KPIs.  DC Courts are making some great strides in setting strategy and executing on it, and are really setting the bar for other US Courts. 
On the topic of Profitability and Cost Management, we interviewed Ida Quamina of Oracle about the great strides being made in mastering the cost of Higher Education, and how these institutions can now address the issues of low or no visibility into individual programs, degrees and course costs, or the cost per student.
Next up – Cloud and Mobile!

As we head into 2014, there are many exciting developments in store, and you can expect to see us talk a lot about Cloud and Mobile technologies next year. Our blog called, “Taking your Business Scorecard Golfing” is just a preview.  

Wishing you a very Happy Holiday and New Year!




Wednesday Nov 20, 2013

Alignment of Ever Shrinking Budgets in Federal, State and Local Government

According to Josh Kahn, the Federal, State and Local government agencies are facing austerity, uncertainty and the need for accountability and transparency now more than ever. Josh Kahn, a Solution Specialist  Director at Oracle, and James Antisdel, Manager at KPMG (formerly with Deloitte Consulting), joined me for a podcast to discuss using Oracle Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management to align the ever shrinking budgets in government. Both James and Josh have a deep knowledge of and practical experience with the US Public Sector, particularly in government agencies.

We started off talking about the issues that government agencies are currently facing. Josh indicated that the agencies are facing many similar issues as the private sector in that transparency and efficiency are needed to help combat uncertainty and austerity. He felt that creating and using shared service centers enables organizations to provide a common product or service to a number of other organizations, thus increases efficiency and reducing effort. But without robust cost models to capture, analyze, and report on costs, it is difficult to measure and account for the new efficiencies, and equally difficult to explain the shared service charges.

So, I asked Josh what the barriers or limitations were to accomplishing this challenge. Josh explained that there are really three categories of limitations:

1) Legacy cost models are generally spreadsheet based. They rely on highly manual processes, lack transparency, lack a robust reporting solution and generally make analysis very difficult.
2) Data governance and quality. Many solutions rely on data that is sourced from disparate systems and commonly rely on data requests that require labor intensive processes and error prone manual transformation.
3) Cost models are generally kept simple.  Simple models limit analysis such as transaction level costing and commonly require a delay in producing results -- reducing the usefulness of data because it is likely old and irrelevant due to the delay

According to Josh, a good enterprise-level costing system like Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management can address all three of these limitations.

Next, James and I discussed how he had seen Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management used by his Federal, State and Local government customers. He told our listeners that he had seen it used for:

+ Cost allocations
+ Customer bill calculation/generation
+ Service center performance management
+ Assisting with planning and budgeting
+ Financial and operational analysis
+ Decision making

I was very impressed with the versatility of this application.

Digging deeper into a costing model for government, I asked James to tell us what an agency could hope to gain from implementing a costing system. James told our audience  that “development and management of the cost model can provide greater insight into the full cost of services provided to an agency’s customers, and can enable more informed decisions aimed at optimizing resources, increasing value, improving performance, gaining efficiencies, and reducing costs."  Furthermore he explained that Deloitte’s customers, armed with this new information, can begin taking next steps to improve business processes and work to refine their model to gain more insight into particular areas that offer opportunities for savings and improvements.  As a result, an agency will have the capability to accurately identify current and projected costs, formulate and justify budgets, and support operational process improvement and managerial decision making.

James emphasized that an enterprise costing solution can enable an agency to more readily pinpoint cost variances at a detailed-level and be far more responsive to requests for information from customers and other stakeholders.  It is a powerful analytical tool that can be used to support an agency in becoming transparent, efficient, and a Shared Services Center of Excellence.

So it seems that a powerful, versatile,  enterprise-level costing system can go a long way in helping to align the ever shrinking budgets in Federal, State and Local Government.

To listen to the entire podcast, click here
To learn more about Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management solution, click here

Monday Oct 28, 2013

Taking Your Business Scorecard Golfing

Our workplace world is definitely changing. Not only are we taking work home, but we are working during odd hours in some very strange places.  I had the pleasure of interviewing Jacques Vigeant, Product Strategy Manager for Oracle Business Intelligence and Enterprise Performance Management, on a Podcast, and he enlightened me about how our mobile devices and business scorecards are enabling us to be more accountable and keep a watchful eye on business – even while on the golf course.

Business scorecards have been around for many years - so I asked Jacques if he felt they had changed significantly due to technology. His answer was, “Yes, and no.”  Jacques agreed that scorecard enthusiasts are still passionate about executing the company strategy and monitoring Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), but scorecards and Business Intelligence (BI) as a whole have changed.  He explained that five to six years ago, people did BI work at the office and, for the most part, disconnected from their computer and workplace when they went home – with the exception of checking email and making a phone call or two. But now, that is no longer the case. People are virtually always connected with work and, more importantly, expect their BI and scorecards to be ‘always on,’ regardless of whether they are at their desk or somewhere else.

Basically, the BI paradigm has changed from a 'pull' model, where employees are at their desks querying or pulling information from the system, to a 'push' model where employees expect their BI and scorecard systems to reach out (or push information) to them when there is something of note to learn or something on which they need to take action.

I found this very interesting. However mobile devices do have their limitations with respect to screen sizes – does it really make sense to look at your strategy/scorecard on tiny devices? What kind of scorecard activities can you really expect to be able to do? Jacques’ answer was very logical. “When you think of a scorecard, it is really comprised of an organization of KPIs that are aligned with the strategic objectives of your company. KPIs are the heart of how you will execute your strategy. So, if you decompose that a little more, each KPI is well defined with the thresholds that you should keep an eye on and who is responsible for them. When we talk about scorecarding on a phone, we aren’t talking about surfing the strategy and exploring the strategy map like we do on the desktop. In a scorecarding context, we use the phone more as an alerting mechanism or simple monitoring device for your KPIs.”

Jacques gave a great example of an inventory manager who took part of an afternoon off to go golfing before winter finally hit, and while on the front nine holes, his phone vibrated. His scorecard was alerting him that the inventory levels for one of the products was below some threshold that he had set.  From his phone, he had set up three options within Oracle Scorecard and Strategy Management (OSSM) for this type of situation:

  1. Contact the warehouse manager directly by phone and work it out (standard phone function)
  2. Tap/hold the KPI and add an annotation to the KPI in OSSM using the dictation capabilities of the phone and deal with it more fully when he gets back to the office
  3. Tap/hold the KPI and invoke a business process from OSSM to transfer product from another warehouse with higher stock levels to the one that needs it 



Being on a phone should still give you options to quickly deal with situations as needed, but mobile phones are not designed for nor should try to replicate the full desktop experience.

We covered other interesting subjects in the interview, including how Oracle is keeping pace with mobile innovation and new devices such as Google Glasses, Galaxy Gear, Pebble Watches and more, and how Oracle is handling mobile security– which is great news for our mobile workforce.

To listen to the entire Podcast, click here.
To learn more about Oracle Scorecard and Strategy Management, click here.



Thursday Oct 03, 2013

Practical Uses of Business Scorecards, from Company-Wide to Process Specific

Scorecards for business have been around for many years, but implementing them successfully and extracting big benefits from them is still elusive for many organizations. Recently, Greg Rippstein, Senior Director of Product Management for Oracle Business Intelligence Applications, gave me some insight on practical approaches to business scorecards during a podcast interview.

With all the scorecard consultants and scorecard vendors that exist today, why are so many companies still having such mixed results with their implementations?  Greg shared his opinion on this question saying,  “When it comes to Scorecarding, I think companies tend to focus on the theoretical and not the practical. They read books like “The Balanced Scorecard” by Kaplan and Norton and then try to implement the exact framework.”  Greg explained that one single approach simply will not work for ALL organizations everywhere – especially given the diverse nature of them all. He felt that organizations need to focus on pain points and organize their scorecards around KPIs that measure the pain so they can set achievable targets to reduce the pain. He further explained that it’s not that the Balanced Scorecard approach is a bad approach, it’s just an approach that most companies need to evolve into or strive towards rather than begin with.

His advice was to start off small and grow your knowledge.  Create “practical scorecards” that help a department or process in your company improve and show success. “Success breeds success, so when you show the organization that one area is experiencing success, the other areas will pay attention,” Greg said. Others will seek out the knowledge that was gained and then use that to duplicate their own success.

Some of the “practical scorecards” that Greg has seen implemented include:

+ Company-wide scorecards – These are scorecards that incorporate all the major functions of a company and are driven by the corporate strategy
+ Industry scorecards – These usually focus on KPIs that are industry specific (like Healthcare, Consumer Goods, or Retail) and typically incorporate industry benchmarks like hospital bed turnover or store sales per square foot (for a retailer).
+ Functional Scorecards – These are scorecards that focus on a specific business function or department within a company such as purchasing or shipping.
+ Process Scorecards – These are focused on critical processes within a company, like production in a manufacturing facility or, more broadly, a company’s supply chain.

Greg gave the podcast audience a good example of a process scorecard – in this case, a supply chain scorecard.  A  supply chain process might include a company ordering parts from a supplier, the supplier shipping the parts, the customer receiving the parts, consuming and selling the parts, and in some cases returning the parts.  This process is also sometimes referred to as “Source, Make, Deliver and Return.”  An industry standard representation of a supply chain model called SCOR (supply chain operations reference model) has been established by the Supply Chain Council. The SCOR model includes a series of KPIs that make up a supply chain scorecard. The KPIs are grouped into five major groups: Reliability, Responsiveness, Flexibility, Costs and Management. Reliability, for example, contains the KPI “Perfect Order Fulfillment,” which measures the percentage of time that a customer’s order can be delivered with no changes, no backlog, and no returns, while Responsiveness uses “Order Fulfillment Cycle Time” to measure how quickly the supply chain can deliver the goods. 

A company would set up a supply chain scorecard with these KPIs and set targets against each. The targets might be internally set or based on industry benchmarks. The entire scorecard allows the company to monitor and improve key aspects of their supply chain.

Finally, Greg talked about the need for good software to make it all work. Greg told our audience that Oracle Scorecard and Strategy Management is an application that gives Oracle customers a wide range of options and flexibility to implement any type of scorecard.

To listen to the entire podcast, click here.

To learn more about Oracle Scorecard and Strategy Management, click here.


Tuesday Sep 10, 2013

Mastering the Cost of Higher Education with Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management


There is a perfect storm going on in the world of Higher Education right now. Over the last few years, the cost of higher education has been outpacing the consumer price index. To learn more about this important and disturbing phenomenon, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ida Quamina, Principal Solutions Consultant for EPM products at Oracle for our AppCast Series. She has a deep knowledge of and practical experience with Oracle’s Education and Research customers.

Parents are starting to ask how and why this perfect storm is happening. Well, both US college endowments and state appropriations are decreasing, while university expenses and enrollments are increasing. Yet universities are being forced to keep tuition costs flat. Ida also told us that Federal and State Governments are now starting to take a look at costs at institutions. President Obama, during his State of the Union address in February 2013, asked Congress to include affordability and value as a factor in determining which colleges receive federal aid. States are starting to require cost containment measures as part of their performance based funding models.

So how can Higher Education intuitions better understand and manage these issues? Ida told our listeners that Higher Education institutions already have good visibility into total operational costs and total revenue collected, but little or no visibility into individual program, degree and course costs, or the cost per student. Currently, colleges and universities have not implemented activity-based costing which is used in many commercial enterprises. Activity-based costing goes beyond the traditional allocation of overhead and provides institutions with better insight into information needed to make strategic decisions about cost containment and allocation of resources. With governing and regulatory bodies currently recommending (and likely soon requiring) this type of analysis and reporting, it is becoming critical for higher education institutions to have this type of insight for both long term and short term planning and reporting.

So which institutional processes benefit the most from understanding costs more? Ida explained that budget and spending decisions need to be based on data and not assumptions. Financial ERP systems and the current structure of institutions’ charts of accounts are not set up to support the type of analysis needed. Using activity-based cost and revenue modeling enables academic institutions to answer crucial questions and, more importantly, analyze many business scenarios to determine their best courses of action.

Ida further explained that for this type of process to be successful, collaboration between the academic and administrative teams in institutions is foundational and critical. These two groups need to start the discussion about how, and to what level, costs and revenues are to be allocated and which drivers are going to be used. This is the starting point to begin a good model. It is an iterative process and institutions will build upon this and create additional model scenarios as economic and academic conditions change.

So how can Oracle help? Ida told us that to survive, Higher Education institutions need to either make programs financial sustainable, or ensure there are other programs that have enough surplus to make up for the deficit of programs. Oracle can help with:

+ Transparency that enables institutions to ensure resources are aligned correctly based on actual measurable information
+ Understanding the true cost to implement new programs and the ability to make pricing decisions based on those costs
+ A thorough understanding of costs at a more granular level and the root cause of the costs. This information enables institutions to make informed decisions
+ Creating accountability that enables departments to understand the resources they consume as it relates to the revenue that they generating
+  Addressing concerns and questions from various stakeholders, e.g. CFO, Provost, Board of Trustees, State and other governing boards and accreditation bodies.

To stave off this perfect storm, it is imperative that our institutions now master the cost of Higher Education.

To listen to the entire interview, click here
To learn more about Oracle Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management in Higher Education click here
To learn more about Oracle Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management, click here


Tuesday Sep 03, 2013

Align Cost with Revenue for Profitable Growth in Diversified Industries

Historically, growing revenue typically equated to increased profitability for most organizations, but in this economy this statement is no longer true. On this subject, I was very fortunate to interview Ralph Canter, Managing Director, and part of KPMG’s Diversified Industries Practice (an Oracle Platinum Partner) and Bart Stoehr, Senior Director of Product Management for Oracle in an Oracle AppCast podcast. 

According to Ralph, diversified industries – which includes global manufacturing – has had a roller coaster ride in terms of profitability over the last 20 years. Post 2008, many experienced slowed, stalled or even reversed growth so much so that companies had to focus on how to stop the bleeding and reduce/control costs rather than focusing on increasing revenue. Growth for growth’s sake was no longer sustainable so companies had to adopt what KPMG calls ‘profitable growth’. This is growth with a lens or focus on serving many market segments and many demands on product, supply chain, and customer satisfaction.

I asked Ralph to tell us about the biggest hurdles to profitable growth and being able to measure it. He told us, “The biggest hurdle has been that the game has kind of changed. Systems have been developed over time to support the measurement of how growth used to be – which was more regional and stable and long term – and you had a timeframe in which to build the system to address a certain growth period. Today, in a global environment, the global view is segmented by customer, by product, by channel, by region, by market, by sales channel – all kinds of dimensions. And what’s happened since 2008 is that the revenue picture has become a very, very sophisticated analysis that is very aligned to tell you where you’re growing. What’s been left behind is the cost view of that growth. So while I have really good aligned OLAP cubes analyzing my revenue growth, I do not have an associated, detailed cost model that can align with that revenue to create a profitability analysis of the revenue growth view. What we see is a limitation in the maturity of cost to keep up with the maturity of how you are analyzing your revenue and your profitable growth.”

So what became clear was, in this economy, profitability is no longer as simple as subtracting cost from revenue!


Once we were clear on the issues, I asked Ralph to tell us more about how Oracle Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management and KPMG can help organizations with profitable growth.  Ralph told our listeners, “Our point of view starts with revenue and not cost. We help customers understand how they want to measure their growth and then help them design their cost information ‘content’ to make sure we can answer the profitable growth question. In most cases this means reconstructing a cost view that matches up to the profitable growth questions. This is where the functionality of Hyperion Profitability and Cost management is leveraged to not only support the reconstruction, but also keep cost and revenue aligned and reportable”.

I asked Bart if he could talk about some Oracle Customers that are practicing profitable growth and he specifically mentioned Leggett and Platt (invented the bed spring in 1885) who are now quantifying the cost of delivering special services to their customers, assessing the value of those services, improving product portfolio management, attacking cost reduction opportunities and streamlining operations (to mention a few objectives). Bart told our listeners that Leggett and Platt are using a combination of Oracle Hyperion Planning and Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management to push GL costs to align them with revenues by pooling the costs, moving them to activities where they are consumed by the various products, customers and customer segments, and then driving them down based on product consumption characteristics. Leggett and Platt are using some of the costs derived by Oracle Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management to perform driver based planning in Hyperion  Planning - the power of the two working together are simply unmatched.

To help the listeners understand how Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management specifically helps with profitable growth, Bart and Ralph emphasized some key features used for this purpose. There are many of them, but their favorites are:

+ Any costing method or combination of methods that represent an organization well can be used. Nothing is prescribed but practicality is recommended
+The traceability map enables you to understand where costs come from, how they are consumed and where they go. This is important to help all members of the value chain understand what is going on
+The pre-configured ability to deal with excess capacity (Provides fully loaded view and incremental views of cost to help support current and future decision making)

There is much more to the interview, but it was certainly clear that many kinds of diversified and product-focused industries can benefit from using this method of growing profitably, and Ralph and Bart provided very interesting insight into the practicalities of growing profitably by aligning cost with revenue.

To listen to the entire podcast, click here.

For more information about Oracle Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management, click here.


Wednesday Aug 28, 2013

What’s Happening in Business Analytics at Oracle OpenWorld 2013

Oracle OpenWorld 2013 is rapidly approaching on September 22nd when we take over the city of San Francisco for five days.  The Business Analytics program this year is our strongest ever, with over 200 EPM, BI, Analytics, Big Data and Exalytics sessions delivered by Oracle, our customers and partners.  We'll also have Hands-on Labs, Theater sessions, 23 demo pods dedicated to Business Analytics products, and more than 30 partners exhibiting their solutions.

So what's hot in Business Analytics at OpenWorld 2013?  Here are some of the "can't miss" sessions at this year's conference:

+ Monday Keynote:  Transforming Business with Big Data and Analytics,
led by Oracle President Mark Hurd, will discuss how to harness the value of big data.  You will hear about crafting an IT strategy and leveraging big data to make decisions about business operations and products and services for transforming your business.


+ The EPM and BI General Sessions
, led by SVP of Product Development, Balaji Yelamanchili, will highlight the latest innovations and product directions for Oracle EPM, BI and Analytics.  Both sessions are scheduled on Monday, September 23.

+ Customer Success:  EPM on Oracle Exalytics.  In this session, customers present case studies of how they have deployed Oracle Hyperion EPM applications on Oracle Exalytics and the benefits they have achieved, including extreme performance and scalability, all at a lower total cost of ownership than traditional systems.

+ New:  Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service.  Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service is the first of Oracle's EPM applications to be offered as a public cloud service and makes it much easier for businesses of any size to deploy a world-class planning and budgeting solution in a matter of weeks.  Learn about this new offering and hear about early customer experiences.

+ What's New with Oracle Exalytics In-Memory Machine?  Attend this session to learn about the latest and greatest in the hardware and software evolution of Oracle Exalytics In-Memory Machine.  Also learn how customers have obtained value from Oracle Exalytics and listen to a customer case study.

+ Oracle Endeca Information Discovery:  Customer Panel.  This session features a panel of customers that have adopted Oracle Endeca Information Discovery and achieved exciting results.  The customers' stories span various industries and demonstrate the broad applicability of data discovery tools and the competitive advantages customers can realize with Oracle Endeca Information Discovery.

Customer Panel:  Real-World Value with Oracle Business Intelligence Applications.  This session features a panel discussion that presents customer perspectives and best practices for implementing Oracle Business Intelligence Applications with Oracle E-Business Suite; Oracle Fusion; Oracle's PeopleSoft, Siebel and JD Edwards EnterpriseOne product families; SAP; and other application environments.

+ Oracle Fusion Middleware:  Meet This Year's Most Impressive Innovators.  In its seventh year, the Oracle Excellence Awards for Oracle Fusion Middleware Innovation honors organizations from around the globe that are using Oracle Fusion Middleware to achieve significant business value.  Attend this session to learn how leading-edge Oracle customers are successfully transforming their organizations with Oracle Fusion Middleware technology, including Business Analytics.


For more details on these and other Business Analytics sessions at OpenWorld, download the Focus On Business Analytics program guide at: 
https://oracleus.activeevents.com/2013/connect/focusOnDoc.do?focusID=22725

We look forward to seeing you in San Francisco!




Wednesday Aug 07, 2013

Forward Looking DC Courts Improves Processes and Sets the Bar in Managing Strategy and KPIs

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Peter Smolianski, Chief Technology Officer for the District of Columbia Courts (DC Courts) about their five year strategic plan that they are successfully communicating and monitoring through the use of scorecards and dashboards. They are making fantastic progress in supporting their constituents and openly reporting progress on their plan. Following are some of the interesting points covered in our interview about DC Courts’ vision and how they are using Oracle Scorecard and Strategy Management to attain that vision.

Peter began by giving our listeners a brief overview of DC Courts and why they are so unique. In summary, they are a federally funded organization whose judicial officers are confirmed by the President of the United States. They are a fully unified judiciary, which means that they have municipal, county, and state level courts all managed together. They handle probation, mediation, and marriage services within the courts - unlike many other U.S. court systems where such services are all completely separate. DC Courts has 1,500 employees, 150 judges, and processes about 150,000 new filings each year comprised of civil litigations, landlord and tenant cases, small claims, criminal, family, probate, tax cases, domestic violence, and more.

DC Courts is one of the very few courts that has implemented scorecards and has a publicly published 5 year strategic plan. Why is this so unique? “There is no legal requirement to publish a strategic plan,” said Peter. He then told us about the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), an organization that helps to define standards and measures for Trial Court and Appellate courts, including recommended performance management standards, best practices, and Key Performance Indicators. “Courts are not mandated or required to institute these standards,” he said. 




So why are they doing it? DC Courts Executive Office established the Office of Strategic Management to help them set, administer and monitor their strategic plan and related activities. The purpose of each 5 year plan is to improve court proceedings and processes. By reporting this to their constituents, they are demonstrating responsibility to constituents and also providing themselves with a structured way to improve, complete with accountability built in.
As publishing a five year plan and scorecard is unique in this field, I asked Peter to describe what parties were involved from DC Courts and where the data comes from?

Peter told us the following. “Research and Development is the group responsible for developing the measures and for conducting surveys [to get data]. The office of Strategic Management develops the strategic plan. It is responsible to provide the data and deliver reporting – in this case personalized dashboards with scorecard results included. And recipients of the results are responsible to enter data that is not available through other court or IT systems.” Peter also told us that an unexpected benefit was the ability to show scorecard performance on personalized dashboards for each of the executives. “This is a really welcome benefit to help each of the executives analyze and monitor performance of interest to them,” said Peter.

There is so much more to the interview, but my final question to Peter was about what he felt the #1 lesson learned was by DC Courts when they implemented Oracle Scorecard and Strategy Management. His reply was very insightful. “Scorecards are a tool to implement what you have already built with respect to strategy and KPIs. You need to know what you have now and what you want to do in the future. The tool does not help you if you don’t have a strategy. Oracle Scorecard and Strategy Management enables you to automate your approach. Either select the Norton and Kaplan Balanced scorecard framework or another approach, but you need to follow an approach to effectively execute your strategy.”

Great advice! DC Courts are making some great strides in setting strategy and executing on it, and are really setting the bar for other US Courts.

To listen to the entire podcast, click here.

To learn more about Oracle Scorecard and Strategy Management (OSSM), click here.

Friday Aug 02, 2013

Report from OpenWorld Shanghai

Oracle OpenWorld Shanghai 2013 was held July 22nd – 25th at the International Expo Center in Shanghai, China. The conference drew over 19,000 attendees from 44 countries. In addition, 580 CxOs attended the Executive Edge program, and 430+ partners attended the Oracle Partner Network Exchange. The conference included a number of sessions on Big Data, Business Analytics, Business Intelligence and Enterprise Performance Management delivered by Oracle, our partners and customers. 


Shanghai Skyline
I had the pleasure to attend the conference and delivered three sessions focused on Oracle’s Hyperion Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) applications. Each of my sessions was well-attended, and in a few cases was standing room only, so there is clearly a lot of interest in the China market in EPM. The EPM and BI demo pods in the DemoGrounds at the conference also received a lot of traffic. In addition to the conference sessions I delivered, I had several meetings with customers and partners in Shanghai.

These sessions and meetings I attended made clear the interest that customers in China have in improving their planning, management reporting, financial reporting, and profitability management processes. In fact, with the China Ministry of Finance now standardizing on XBRL for annual reporting across multiple agencies in China, there is a great opportunity here for our disclosure management application. One interesting finding is that the China market may not be ready for cloud-based applications as many companies are state-owned and have security concerns, so on-premise applications are likely to see continued demand.  

For more information about the Oracle OpenWorld China 2013 conference, please check the web  site: 

http://www.oracle.com/events/apac/cn/en/openworld/index.html

And don’t forget, Oracle OpenWorld San Francisco 2013 is just around the corner in September of 2013. Please check the web site for registration and content information: 

http://www.oracle.com/openworld/index.html


Shanghai Demo Grounds

Thursday Jul 11, 2013

The CFO as Catalyst for Change - Part 3

Over the past few months, we’ve taken a microscope to the role of the CFO. The changing economic environment is creating new demands and opportunities for CFOs around the world. At Oracle, we are committed to helping CFOs navigate and succeed, and recently partnered with Accenture on a global research study, “The CFO as Catalyst for Change.”

As the Wall Street Journal’s CFO Journal summarized, the study highlights the evolution of the CFO’s role from financial overseer to corporate strategist and change agent. I discussed the main findings in a previous blog post, but wanted to share some great insights on the study from industry influencers.

InformationWeek’s Doug Henschen discussed the increasing role CFOs are playing in the technology department, highlighting the similarity between what has also been happening with CMOs. I think the CFO’s role in technology decisions can have a bigger impact and is worth noting.

Without a doubt, CFOs are taking technology seriously! CFO Magazine highlighted the skills perspective in their article on the study, pointing out that when asked about where CFOs could improve their skills and capabilities, technology knowledge was ranked second only to industry knowledge. Now, that’s saying something!

But they are not just focusing on ways to enhance their knowledge base -- CFOs also understand the importance of new technology. A Wall Street & Technology article on the study stressed how CFOs are increasingly citing disruptive technology as critical for success. In fact, 79 percent of respondents viewed access to information as a key driver of organizational agility, while 57 percent viewed investments in big data and analytics as a key source of competitive advantage.

The study shows that the role of the CFO has dramatically changed and it continues to evolve at a rapid pace. Now, CFOs must be catalysts for change and help their organizations transform and thrive in today’s global economy. 



Oracle’s Business Analytics Customer Value Index Program – Part 1

To learn more about how Oracle customers perform Business Analytics processes (which includes Enterprise Performance Management, Business Intelligence and more), we launched the Oracle Business Analytics Customer Value Index (CVI) program in 2011, through which we collect valuable business process information from our customers, and share the results with them. This article will be the first in a series to share with you some of the results from each subject area.


Enterprise Planning, Budgeting and Forecasting


The first subject area being studied is Enterprise Planning, Budgeting and Forecasting. Our interim results, presented here, reflect the first 130 completed surveys of which approximately half use Oracle Hyperion Planning. Here is what we found out. Of the total population of members (those with and without Oracle Enterprise Planning solutions):

+
63% perform monthly forecasting
+
40% perform rolling forecasts
+
63% perform quarterly forecasts
+
33% perform event-based forecasting (or re-forecasting)
+
59% perform driver-based planning and/or forecasting

The use of rolling forecasts has been steadily increasing each year and driver-based planning is also up significantly from previous years. Both of these processes have been shown to improve accuracy in forecasting and planning. One reason for the increase in organizations using rolling forecasts might be attributable to having efficient software to enable the process. For example, of the companies that now use Oracle Hyperion Planning, 79% of them did NOT perform rolling forecasts prior to implementing Oracle Hyperion Planning. It is a complex process made easier by capable software.

There was also a notable drop (31% fewer FTEs)  in the amount of administrative time needed for the budgeting and planning process for those members that adopted Oracle Hyperion Planning.  In addition, organizations with Oracle Hyperion Planning spent 38% less time per month in manual processes supporting monthly forecasts than they did prior to adopting the solution. Again, having capable software helped create a more efficient process.

In our survey, although Oracle Hyperion Planning is the solution of choice for budgeting (59%), forecasting (50%) and rolling forecasts (46%), spreadsheets still play a part for some companies for forecasting (18%) and rolling forecasts (25%). While the choice of using spreadsheets for these important processes may be acceptable for small companies, it can prove troublesome or even detrimental for medium, large and very large companies. Large and complex spreadsheets, broken links, dependency on the creator of the spreadsheet, and errors due to manual data entry and formula changes all contribute to the potential challenges faced from using them for these purposes. These results are not shocking as spreadsheets have been around for a long time, but they do confirm that organizations are slow to move away from spreadsheet technology for these important processes.

According to our survey, spreadsheets are also being used often for workforce planning (38%) labor costing (43%) and operational planning (39%). Although these numbers are reasonably low, they show that there are still a significant number of companies using them for very important processes that contribute significantly to accuracy in planning, budgeting and forecasting. This is troubling as disconnected spreadsheets can lead to more fragmentation in the planning process. Another significant change our customers experienced after implementing Oracle Hyperion Planning was that of the percent of time they spent in gathering data to analyze versus time spent actually analyzing the data.



Figure 1: Time to Gather and Analyze Data


From the graph it is apparent that, on average, our customers experienced a 23% decrease in the time it took to gather data and a 35% increase in time now available and used to analyze data, after implementing Oracle Hyperion Planning.

Although the average change for some of these processes may not seem overwhelmingly significant, average numbers tend to understate some of the dramatic changes individual organizations experience. For example one Oil and Gas company told us that they had experienced an increase in their forecast accuracy from 50% to 90% after adopting Oracle Hyperion Planning. A wholesale distribution company experienced a positive change in data gathering from 90% of their time to only 50% of their time leaving them with more time for valuable analysis. A Financial Services company experienced a 75% reduction in the time needed for administering their budgeting and planning process after adopting Oracle Hyperion Planning.

Stay tuned for more results in Part 2.

If you would like to become a member of the Oracle Business Analytics Customer Value Index Program (a free program), please contact me at toby.hatch@oracle.com. Please keep in mind that you must be an Oracle customer to become a member, however you do not have to be using any specific Oracle software to become a member.

To learn more about Oracle Business Analytics including EPM and BI, click here.

Tuesday Jul 09, 2013

Beware of Competitive EPM Migration Offers

Recently, one of the upstart, cloud-based EPM vendors announced a migration program for Hyperion EPM Application customers.  This was surprising to see since a number of EPM vendors have tried these programs in the past and they are rarely successful. The reason is that while on the surface software license fees, maintenance or subscription services seem like the largest cost components, much of a customer's investment in EPM applications is actually represented by implementation of the software and training of the users and administrators. 



At Hyperion and Oracle, through more than 30 years of working with Finance applications, we have found that when finance users have deployed a solution that works and addresses their needs, they will stick with the tried and true and are resistant to switching applications and, in many cases, even upgrading to new releases of the same application. In addition, EPM applications used for the financial close and reporting process, or ongoing forecasting and planning, have become mission critical so upgrades need to be carefully planned to avoid disruption.



From my perspective, Hyperion EPM application customers who are satisfied with their solutions (and most are) will be unlikely to switch to another vendor’s cloud-based solution. In fact, such a move could represent a step backwards in functionality. And, if a Hyperion EPM customer wants to move from an on-premise deployment to a cloud-based solution, Oracle provides options here. This includes Oracle Managed Cloud Services where the customer retains their software license, but Oracle hosts the EPM applications (and others) in our data center. Hundreds of Oracle customers are already using this service. In addition, Oracle recently launched a Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service which makes Oracle Hyperion Planning available as a Cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) offering.



The Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service speeds implementations and reduces the barriers to adoption for new customers. It also provides existing customers the option of moving their existing Hyperion Planning applications to the Oracle Cloud. If a cloud-based approach is of interest, moving Hyperion Planning from on-premise to the Oracle cloud will be a lot easier than moving to a competitor's offering – which requires a re-implementation and re-training of users and higher costs. But more importantly, the Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service will be most attractive to new customers who have outgrown spreadsheets and low-end planning applications and are ready for a world-class solution that’s part of a broader set of cloud-based applications.



Oracle is the market leader in EPM and is committed to meeting the current and future needs of our customers - with world class applications that can be deployed on premise, in the cloud, or via a hybrid approach.  
For more information about the Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service, and other Oracle Cloud solutions, click here.



Thursday Jun 13, 2013

Three Technologies CFOs Need to Know About

Big Data, the cloud and mobile computing are reshaping the office of the CFO. 

Today’s fiercely competitive global economy demands more from finance organizations than ever before. In addition to fast and accurate planning and forecasting, finance is being challenged with managing growing data volumes, evolving regulations and compliance requirements, and the need to deliver real-time insights to senior staff. Progressive CFOs and finance executives are increasingly leveraging transformative technologies to enhance the effectiveness of their organizations—driving new efficiencies, innovation and a competitive advantage in the business.

Click here to read an article I recently wrote for Business Finance on this topic.   

The article examines three technologies transforming finance—Big Data, the cloud and mobile computing—and how the office of the CFO can incorporate these technologies to better forecast and plan for profitable growth, report with confidence and accelerate business value for the organization.

Let me know what you think!  Thanks. 

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This blog will highlight key EPM market trends, recent events and other news of interest to our field, customers and partners.

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