Tuesday Apr 29, 2014

Interactive,Visual Close Analytics for Compelling Investor Relations

Technology is changing the way we do business, and where we do business. The introduction of interactive, visual-style, on-the-go or mobile analytics is certainly helping busy people get what they need when they need it. I had the pleasure of interviewing Mitch Campbell, a Senior Principle in Oracle’s global Business Analytics Product Group on this topic.  In this Oracle Thought Leadership podcast, he shared some amazing information about how business analytics has not only become mobile, but more interactive and visual as well.

Mitch impressed upon our audience that the emphasis on visualization is stronger now than it ever has been. Mitch explained, “Traditional BI and EPM companies have had to adapt to new types of users, new levels of complexity, and new requests for integration to systems that never have been integrated before to get a full management reporting view of things. There have also been many small companies arrive onto the scene pushing desktop visualization, and finding their niche. I don’t look at them as an analytic threat to Oracle, in fact, we have learned a lot from what they offer and the response they get in the marketplace and have applied it to our new product capabilities. We have improved what we do significantly when we consider our approach to analytics and delivering easy self service applications for all sizes of user communities, with new options, new visualizations, and fast creation of content”.

Consumers of Business Analytics are becoming a lot more sophisticated, and Oracle has evolved analytics to keep up with that sophistication by providing tools to help the user build whatever they need whenever they need it. “Oracle is known for products that work for an enterprise, and the analytic focus has always been there,” said Mitch, “but now, we see the need for departments and individuals to be more self service, more in need of interactive analytics. In turn we have changed our business process to a more balanced approach in R&D to meet the needs of the broader user community. I like to say that Oracle can meet the needs of the enterprise, the department, and the individual.

But how can business users continue to analyze and make decisions on-the-go? Mitch explained that the trend towards mobile platforms is one of the main drivers in EPM and BI, and is a perfect example of how Oracle has changed its business process. Oracle develops and releases software for different mobile devices, and that development is considerably quicker than for traditional devices like laptops or PCs. Typically, 6-8 weeks instead of months/years. Mitch elaborated, telling us that mobile users have come to expect this development pace, and they expect simple to use interfaces, fast performance, and great visualizations. Oracle typically adds new features, charts and visualization capabilities in each rapid release to meet user expectations – which is much faster than they have done in the past.

Who might use mobile interactive business analytics? In short, many people. Mitch gave our audience a great example - many companies are posting investor relations information on their websites, mainly in the form of static annual and quarterly reports. Further, the reporting available is typically Income Statements, Balance Sheets, and Cash flow reports. Public sector cities like Boston and New York are posting performance metrics on their website, and giving access to everyone. Mitch posed the question, “What if corporations start looking to meet the new expectations of today’s users and begin providing analytics in some new forms? What if instead of static 10Ks and 10Qs, companies provide easy visualization and interactive analytics?” Mobile access to this information would mean access for phones and tablets too. We both agreed that this new access for investors should be free and easy to navigate so there are no barriers for investors to access or download it.

What might investors expect to see? Mitch suggested that the investor experience would be much more like an interactive application with tabs and visualizations that quickly paint a picture for performance. “We could include things that take a standard report to the next level, like visually explaining the annual report.” For example, make the report “drillable”. Show revenues broken into different categories. Or perhaps take footnote disclosures and visually show them in business categories. This type of reporting does a much better job of showing the focus of a company. “With this interactive analysis, we can also include commentary, trends, and even some directional forecasting that give insight into strategy,” said Mitch. It would be possible to show 10 year revenue growth, year over year analysis, and the ability to allow some controls to – say – “take out a bad quarter”. This would enable investors to see growth trends, when all but one quarter is good, and companies would be able to explain it much better with a visualization to show what is typical for them.

To listen to the entire podcast, click here.

To learn more about BI and BI Mobile, 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.

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: 

We look forward to seeing you in San Francisco!

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.

Monday Feb 25, 2013

Gartner Positions Oracle as a Leader in CPM Suites

On February 14th Gartner released their 2013 Magic Quadrant for Corporate Performance Management Suites report. In the report, Oracle was recognized as a Market Leader for the sixth consecutive year.

Gartner’s Magic Quadrant reports position vendors within a particular quadrant based on their completeness of vision and ability to execute. 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.

Here’s an excerpt from the report with some comments about Oracle from Gartner:

“Oracle is a Leader in CPM suites, and the Hyperion brand is respected by finance executives worldwide. Oracle has a very broad and deep CPM product suite, which employs a multiproduct approach with different applications for each of the major CPM processes; however, these products employ a common foundation and administrative components. The vendor has a well-established partner channel and Hyperion skills are plentiful among the consultant community, given the well-established products.”

Oracle Hyperion Performance Management Applications are part of Oracle Business Analytics, which combine market-leading enterprise performance management applications with business intelligence tools and technology and analytic applications to help organizations strategize, plan and optimize business operations and achieve better business outcomes.

Click here to learn more:  reportpress release

For more information about Oracle’s Hyperion Performance Management Applications please go to www.oracle.com/epm.

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:


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!

Thursday Apr 12, 2012

What's New in Oracle's EPM System?

Oracle’s EPM System R11.1.2.2  is now generally available to customers and partners on the download center.  Although the release number doesn’t sound significant, this is a major release of Oracle’s Hyperion EPM Suite with new modules as well as significant enhancements across the suite. 

This release was announced back on April 4th as part of Oracle’s Business Analytics Strategy launch, so analytics is a key aspect of the release.  But the three biggest pieces of news in this release are Oracle Hyperion Planning support for the Exalytics In-Memory Machine, the new Project Financial Planning Application and the new Account Reconciliations Manager module.

The Oracle Exalytics In-Memory Machine was announced back in October 2011, at Oracle OpenWorld.  It’s the latest installment from Oracle in a line of engineered systems that combine Oracle Sun hardware, with Oracle database and application technologies – in solutions that are designed to provide high scalability and performance for specific tasks.  Exalytics is the first engineered system specifically designed for high performance analytics.  Running in-memory versions of Oracle Essbase, as well as the Oracle TimesTen database and Oracle BI tools, Exalytics provides speed of thought response times for complex analytic processes with advanced visualizations.  Early adopter customers have achieved 5X to 100X faster interactivity and 6X to 10X faster planning cycles.  Hyperion Planning running with Oracle Exalytics will support enterprise-wide planning, budgeting and forecasting with more detailed data, with hundreds to thousands of users across an organization getting speed of thought performance.

The new Hyperion Project Financial Planning application delivered with EPM is also great news for Oracle customers.  This application follows on the heels of other special-purpose planning applications that Oracle has delivered for Workforce and Capital Asset planning.  It allows Project Managers to identify project-related expenses and revenues, plan and propose new projects, and track results over time. Finance Managers can evaluate and compare different projects, manage the funding process, monitor and report the actual financial results and impacts of projects and project portfolios. This new application is applicable to capital projects, contract projects and indirect projects like IT and HR projects across all industries.  This application is a great complement to existing Project Management applications, and helps bridge the gap between these applications, and the financial planning and budgeting process.

Account reconciliations has to be one of the biggest bottlenecks and risks in the financial close and reporting process, and many organizations rely on spreadsheets and manual processes to perform this critical process.  To help address this problem, Oracle developed an Account Reconciliation Manager module that is being delivered as part of Oracle Hyperion Financial Close Management.   This module helps automate and streamline account reconciliations and eliminates the chances for errors, omissions and fraud.  But unlike standalone account reconciliation packages, it’s integrated with the rest of the Oracle Hyperion Financial Close suite, and can integrate balances from any source system.  This can help alleviate a major bottleneck in the financial close process, increase accuracy and reduce risk, and can complement existing investments in Hyperion Financial Management, as well as Oracle and non-Oracle transaction processing systems.

Other enhancements in this release include an enhanced Web 2.0 interface for Hyperion Planning and Hyperion Financial Management (HFM), configurable dimensionality in HFM, new Predictive Planning feature in Hyperion Planning, new Detailed Profitability feature in Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management, new Smart View interface for Hyperion Strategic Finance, and integration of the Hyperion applications with JD Edwards Financials.

For more information about Oracle EPM System R11.1.2.2 check out the links below:

Press Release:  http://www.oracle.com/us/corporate/press/1575775

Product Information on O.com:  http://www.oracle.com/us/solutions/business-analytics/overview/index.html

Product Information on OTN:  http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/middleware/epm/downloads/index.html

Webcast Replay:  http://www.oracle.com/us/go/index.html?Src=7317510&Act=65&pcode=WWMK11054701MPP046

Please contact me if you have any questions or need additional information – john.orourke@oracle.com

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!


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

Tuesday Jan 17, 2012

Questions to ask SAP about BPC and their EPM Strategy

Over the past few months, my colleague Rich Clayton and I have been visiting customers evaluating Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) solutions, and in a number of cases it’s become evident that sales teams from SAP often misrepresent the complexity of deployment and administrative requirements of Oracle’s EPM solutions.  We have even seen evidence that most of SAP’s claims about Oracle’s EPM solutions are based on older releases of the products – dating back to 2007 or earlier.  On the flip side, they often overstate the simplicity of deploying and administering their own EPM applications, which were acquired from a number of different companies.  They also often compare and position SAP BPC (the former OutlookSoft product) to a broader suite of Oracle applications. 

Just the Facts

The truth is that Oracle offers the most comprehensive and integrated EPM suite in the industry, the Hyperion EPM Suite, which has been adopted by over 7,500 organizations globally.  It’s an integrated suite of best of breed modules designed to address specific EPM requirements with high performance and scalability.  Each of these can be deployed individually and deliver great customer value, but they also work better together as they share a common user workspace, reporting tools, MS Office interface as well as common administration, security, data integration tools, and dimension management.  The suite was well-integrated before Oracle acquired Hyperion and it’s become even more integrated in the four years since the Oracle acquisition.  Most of our customers have deployed two or more applications from the suite to address specific requirements and typically see a high return from their investment.

In contrast, SAP’s EPM suite resulted from the acquisitions of a number of different companies such as Pilot Software, OutlookSoft, Business Objects (which acquired Cartesis, SRC, and Armstrong Laing), Sybase and Cundus.  The SAP BPC Solution, based on the OutlookSoft product, is often positioned as an “all in one” product that can address a broad set of EPM requirements from strategic planning, to financial planning and budgeting, financial consolidation & reporting, enterprise dimension management as well as management reporting.  But SAP BPC is more of a “none in all” and doesn’t have the depth of functionality customers typically need in all of these areas and other modules will often be required to fully address customer requirements. 

So to help organizations fully evaluate SAP BPC, here is a set of questions to ask SAP sales teams about the product:

Questions to Ask SAP:

How many applications or instances of BPC will be required to support different requirements such as strategic planning, financial budgeting & planning, financial consolidation, management reporting?

How are different instances of SAP BPC administered, centrally or distributed?  How can we synchronize data and meta data across multiple instances?

How many users can be supported on a single instance of SAP BPC?  How many servers will be needed to fully support our application and user requirements?

What's your plan for industry or function specific planning applications?  Are these built on the same platform as SAP BPC and integrated with it?

How do you manage strategic financial modeling requirements with multiple embedded or layered "what-if" scenarios?

Which version of BPC does SAP consider strategic?  MS SQL Server / Netweaver / HANA?  A combination?

Which version of BPC is SAP demonstrating and why?  

Ask SAP to demonstrate all the methods for creating complex calculations? Excel formulas, Visual Basic Macros, BOBJ Business Rules Management and MDX Functions.

Did you / do you have to rewrite the BPC application to leverage HANA?  Is that work complete?  Has it been tested?  Deployed?  In production anywhere?  How many users?  How many countries?

How is SAP BPC integrated with SAP and non-SAP ERP applications?  Is this an IT-driven process or user-driven?  Does it support drill-through to transactional details?

How many clients with large-scale requirements have deployed BPC for their entire, enterprise-wide financial planning process?  In CPG, Retail?   On which platform?

What role does a web based user interface (UI) have in your development plans?  Is this getting as much emphasis as the Excel interface?

Is there any pre-built integration between BPC and Business Objects BI?  Is there common security?  Are there any pre-defined Universes?

How much work does it take to use Business Objects BI on top of BPC?  Any restrictions or caveats?  Does that depend on the architecture we choose to deploy?

Where does the calculation logic live in BPC?  In the worksheet?  In SQL Server/NW/HANA?  How does that scale?  Do you have any benchmarks? 

When will BPC and other applications be available on HANA?  How will we be able to migrate existing applications to HANA?  How is/will write-back be handled in HANA?

I hope this set of questions is helpful to customers considering Oracle’s EPM solutions vs. SAP BPC and the rest of their EPM suite.  Let me know if you have any comments or additional questions to add to the list.  Thanks!

Monday Dec 19, 2011

EPM Resolutions for 2012

With 2011 coming to a close and 2012 quickly approaching, many organizations are wrapping up their plans for the New Year.  While 2012 planning may be mostly financial in nature, organizations should also think about setting some goals and objectives for how they can improve their performance management processes.  With that in mind, here are my top 10 recommendations for EPM/BI process and system resolutions for 2012:

Streamline the period-end close.  With increasing regulatory and stakeholder reporting requirements like IFRS and Solvency II, many organizations spend too much time and resources on the financial close and reporting process.  Review your process and look for areas that continuously present hurdles or bottlenecks – such as data integration, account reconciliations, regulatory reporting, and XBRL-based filings.  These low-hanging fruit could be ripe for review and updating and targeting with software solutions that can help shorten the entire close and reporting process, like at Menzies Aviation.

Bring XBRL tagging in-house.   When first adopting XBRL, most organizations have chosen to outsource XBRL tagging to third party publishers.  But as detailed tagging of footnotes and disclosures drives up the cost of outsourcing, and organizations realize they can’t make last-minute adjustments to their filings – many are bringing XBRL tagging and filing in-house.  Integrating XBRL tagging with the financial close and reporting process, like StealthGas, can reduce the costs of outsourcing, improve accuracy and increase your ability to accommodate last minute changes.

Align planning processes.  Many organizations suffer from planning processes that aren’t aligned across functions and are supported by disconnected spreadsheets.  Look for ways to better integrate long-term, strategic planning with financial budgeting as well as operational planning.  Reel in processes that still rely on spreadsheets and use web-based software applications to eliminate time and resources spent on data collection and aggregation.  Connecting strategic, financial and operational planning like Societe General will also help improve resource alignment across the organization. 

Focus on forecasting.  Most organizations still have an annual budget process, but many are placing less focus and effort on this and are relying more on monthly or quarterly forecasts to update planning assumptions and implement changes to operating plans.  The rolling forecast technique is being utilized by many organizations like Sunshine 100 Real Estate to maintain a steady view of the business 4 – 6 quarters into the future.  This approach increases business agility and ensures better utilization of resources.

Leverage predictive modeling techniques to improve forecast accuracy.    Predictive modeling is being used in business forecasting by leading edge companies like Ingersoll Rand to bring statistical analysis and techniques such as Monte Carlo simulations into the mix.  These techniques can augment the forecasting be performed by line managers and can be used to validate those forecasts based on historical information, and to produce a broader range of outcomes to consider in decision-making. 

Get more granular on profitability and cost analysis.  Many organizations rely on corporate-level or divisional views of profitability and don’t regularly allocate revenues and costs down to the individual product, service or customer levels to understand which lines of business are adding or detracting value from the business.  Having a repeatable, accurate process and system for allocating revenues and costs, like Shenhua Gouhua Power, can reveal hidden insights about which parts of your business are truly profitable and which aren’t.  It can also help in allocating resources, adjusting pricing or customer service programs, or driving marketing campaigns.

Integrate sustainability reporting with financial reporting.  To address increasing stakeholder demand for more detailed disclosures regarding energy usage and carbon footprint, many organizations are producing a sustainability report or voluntarily submitting data to organizations such as the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP).  However the processes used to collect, aggregate and report this type of information is often manual – relying on spreadsheets, email and other processes which are unreliable.  Leverage existing business processes and systems like Dong Energy to collect, consolidate and report sustainability metrics and ensure that the non-financial information you are providing to stakeholders has the same level of accuracy as the financial results.

Centralize enterprise dimension management.  If your organization is maintaining dimensions and hierarchies such as charts of accounts and organizational structures in multiple systems, this would be a great time to centralize the management of this information. Centralizing and automating enterprise dimension management like Anglo American can lead to better IT governance, reduced costs, more consistency in reporting and high return on investment by eliminating manual, redundant administration across EPM, BI and ERP applications.

Standardize business intelligence (BI) tools.  Most large organizations have a variety of BI tools and data delivery systems and processes being utilized across different departments, business units and functions.  This often leads to different versions of the truth, duplication of effort, and higher support costs for IT.  Organizations like Presider and Home Credit Group that are standardizing BI tools and information delivery are able to improve user productivity, ensure more consistency in decision-making, and reduce costs of ownership and maintenance for IT.

Last but not least – go mobile!   Don’t be left behind – Gartner predicts that 33% of BI will be consumed on mobile devices by 2013.   Most of today’s BI tools provide support for deployment on today’s popular mobile devices.  Think about the mobile road warriors are in your business who can most benefit from having management dashboards and key metrics delivered to them anytime, anywhere to improve decision-making and customer service.

I hope these resolution suggestions give you some ideas to think about for your organization.  Best wishes for the holidays and continued success in 2012!

Thursday Jul 21, 2011

BI For Environmental Reporting

I’ve written before about the increasing use of EPM and BI tools for environmental and sustainability reporting.  As organizations outgrow spreadsheet approaches to collecting and reporting environmental metrics they are looking to software vendors for special purpose tools, or extensions of existing applications to bring rigor and control to this process. 

In response to this trend, Oracle recently released Oracle Environmental Accounting and Reporting (EA&R) for Oracle E-Business Suite and JD Edwards EnterpriseOne Financials.  Oracle EA&R enables organizations to track their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other environmental data for both voluntary and legislated emissions reporting schemes. The solution manages this function from within the existing ERP system and utilizes Oracle Business Intelligence to provide immediate insight into an organization’s environmental data to identify and manage CO2 and cost reduction opportunities—providing rapid ROI.

This will be a great solution for existing Oracle E-Business Suite and JD Edwards EnterpriseOne customers who would like to extend the capabilities of their existing system to collect and report this information internally or externally.  EA&R enables organizations to:

Automate Environmental Data Collection – by leveraging existing systems and business processes, with user access control and full audit trails, and multiple data entry options.

  • Calculate Greenhouse Gas Emissions - in accordance with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, defining  emissions factors by source, and managing emissions factor changes over time

  • Analyze KPIs and Comply with Regulations – with pre-built analytics and dashboards, including for the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), custom KPI definition and ad hoc reporting, comparative analysis and benchmarking to drive energy savings

This new application is complementary to other solutions Oracle offers to help with environmental and sustainability reporting including Oracle Sustainability Sensor Data Management, for detailed data collection from utility meters and sensors as well as Oracle Hyperion Financial Management for corporate-level GRI reporting.

If you would like more information about Oracle Environmental Accounting and Reporting here’s a link to the press release as well as OEA&R page on Oracle’s web site:



Here’s a link to the Sustainability solutions pages on O.com:  www.oracle.com/green


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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