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.


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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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