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.

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!




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

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.

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. 

Friday Oct 19, 2012

Why CFOs Should Care About Big Data

The topic of “big data” clearly has reached a tipping point in 2012.  With plenty of coverage over the past few years in the IT press, we are now starting to see the topic of “big data” covered in mainstream business press, including a cover story in the October 2012 issue of the Harvard Business Review. 


To help customers understand the challenges of managing “big data” as well as the opportunities that can be created by leveraging “big data”, Oracle has recently run and published the results of a customer survey, as well as white papers and articles on this topic.  Most recently, we commissioned a white paper titled “Mastering Big Data: CFO Strategies to Transform Insight into Opportunity”.


The premise here is that “big data” is not just a topic that CIOs should pay attention to, but one that CFOs should understand and take advantage of as well.  Clearly, whoever masters the art and science of big data will be positioned for competitive advantage in their industries or markets.  That’s why smart CFOs are taking control of big data and business analytics projects, not just to uncover new ways to drive growth in a slowing global economy, but also to be a catalyst for change in the enterprise.  With an increasing number of CFOs now responsible for overseeing IT investments and providing strategic insight to the board, CFOs will be increasingly called upon to take a leadership role in assessing the value of “big data” initiatives, building on their traditional skills in reporting and helping managers analyze data to support decision making.


Here’s a link to the white paper referenced above, which is posted on the Oracle C-Central/CFO web site, as well as some other resources that can help CFOs master the topic of “big data”:


White Paper “Mastering Big Data:  CFO Strategies to Transform Insight into Opportunity


CFO Market Watch article:  “Does Big Data Affect the CFO?”


Oracle Survey Report:  “From Overload to Impact – An Industry Scorecard on Big Data Industry Challenges”


Upcoming Big Data Webcast with Andrew McAfee


Here’s a general link to Oracle C-Central/CFO in case you want to start there:


www.oracle.com/c-central/cfo


Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or need additional information:  john.orourke@oracle.com


Thursday Sep 13, 2012

What's Happening in Business Analytics at OpenWorld 2012?

Oracle OpenWorld 2012 is rapidly approaching on September 30th when we take over the city of San Francisco for five days.  The Business Analytics this year is our strongest ever with over 150 EPM, BI, Analytics and Data Warehousing sessions delivered by Oracle, our customers and partners.  We’ll also have Hands-On Labs, 20 demo pods dedicated to Business Analytics products, and over 30 partners exhibiting their solutions. 


So what’s hot in the Business Analytics program at OpenWorld?  Here are some of the “can’t miss” sessions at this year’s conference:



  • The EPM and BI general sessions, led by SVP of Product Development Balaji Yelamanchili will highlight what’s new provide a view into Oracle’s EPM, BI and Analytics strategies.  Both sessions are scheduled on Monday, October 1st.

  • Thursday Keynote:  See More, Act Faster:  Oracle Business Analytics, led by Oracle President Mark Hurd, will provide a view into Oracle’s strategy for Business Analytics, especially engineered systems designed to provide extreme performance for the most rigorous analytic tasks.

  • Superfast Business Intelligence with Oracle Exalytics.  Hear about various business intelligence scenarios in which Oracle Exalytics provides exemplary value—from operational reporting and prepackaged applications to analytics on unstructured data.

  • Turn Insights into Real-Time Actions with Oracle Business Intelligence Mobile.  Learn how Oracle Business Intelligence Mobile enables organizations to deliver relevant information and turn insight into real-time action, no matter where employees are located.

  • Empowering the Business User: Introduction to Oracle Endeca Information Discovery.  Find out how you can find fast answers to the new questions that confront your business every day, while avoiding the confusion and inconsistencies brought about by spreadsheets and desktop tools.

  • Big Data:  The Big Story.  Learn how to harness big data, your existing data, and predictive analytics to make better decisions in an environment of rapid shifts in behavior and instant feedback.  Learn about the technologies that constitute a big data architecture, how to leverage and implement advanced analytics for real-time decisions, and the tools needed to know the unknown.

  • Planning at the Speed of Business with Oracle Exalytics.  Learn how Oracle Hyperion Planning leverages the power of Oracle Exalytics to do planning faster, with more detail and more users than ever.


For more details on these and other Business Analytics sessions at OpenWorld, download the Focus On Business Analytics program guide at:  http://www.oracle.com/openworld/focus-on/index.html


We look forward to seeing you in San Francisco!

Wednesday Mar 21, 2012

What's New in Business Analytics at Oracle?

Business Analytics, which includes Business intelligence and Enterprise Performance Management, are top priorities for IT and Finance executives in 2012.  Some of the hot market trends and topics include managing big data, mobile information access, in-memory computing, advanced analytics, predictive modeling, leveraging unstructured data, as well as risk and performance management. 


Find out what Oracle is doing about all of this, and what’s new from the market leader in Business Analytics by attending our live webcast event on April 4th titled “Introducing Oracle’s Business Analytics Strategy”.  At this event, you’ll hear about Oracle’s strategy for Business Analytics from Mark Hurd, Oracle President and you can learn about the latest advancements in Oracle’s Business Analytics solutions from Balaji Yelamanchili, SVP of Analytics and Performance Management.


The keynote session from Mark and Balaji will be followed by breakout sessions that provide a more in-depth look at what’s new in specific product areas including the latest release of Oracle’s Hyperion Enterprise Performance Management suite, Oracle Business Intelligence Applications and Exalytics In-Memory Machine, Oracle Endeca Information Discovery, Big Data and Advanced Analytics solutions.


This event will provide a great opportunity to hear about what’s new in Business Analytics at Oracle, and for attendees to pose questions to Oracle experts during live chat sessions.  Here’s a link to the registration page, and more details about the April 4th event.  We hope to see you (virtually) there!


http://www.oracle.com/us/corporate/events/business-analytics/index.html


Also, use the following hashtag to follow along on Twitter and share comments during the webcast and Q&A sessions:  #oracleanalytics

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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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