Friday Feb 21, 2014

Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service -- What's All the Buzz About?

Earlier this week, Oracle announced the general availability of our first EPM application in the Oracle Public Cloud, Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service, thereby extending our existing portfolio of on-premises and managed /hosted applications with a SaaS offering.

I had the pleasure of speaking and demo’ing our solution to a group of customers that day at an event in Dallas, and there was clear enthusiasm about the ability to access world-class planning functionality in a SaaS-based model.  Our announcement also generated excitement in social media and news articles.  In addition, existing Oracle EPM partners, as well as partners who have worked with us in other product areas, are lining up and are in the process of becoming specialized for Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service.  Some have already launched their rapid start offerings.

So, why are customers and partners excited about Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service?  What’s new and differentiated about this offering?

Fast Adoption

This application is built for SaaS adoption to meet cloud user expectations around ease of use and self-service.  It includes a number of cloud-specific capabilities that make it easy to roll out planning and forecasting to your lines of business across the enterprise.  These include:

+ Extensive online help and video tutorials
+ Best practice design templates and guides that are based on years of experience with Hyperion Planning implementations
+ Guided application navigation features that literally take a new user through the whole process of building an application
+ Plus diagnostics and governors that assist with building and monitoring an application from the administrative side

During the 3-month customer and partner preview program that we ran last year, we received very positive feedback about how users could get up and running with virtually zero training needed.



First-in-Class Functionality

While Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service is a new product, it leverages the code base of the market-leading Hyperion Planning application, which has seen rapid adoption over the past 10 years, with close to 4K organizations implementing it.  Many of these deployments have become quite large with over 1000, and some even over 5000 users globally.  This is what sets Oracle apart in the marketplace -- proven on-premises technology, now optimized for the cloud.

+ Powerful multi-dimensional analysis capabilities and sophisticated rules framework for fast processing of complex calculations
+ Collaborative workflow and plan management capabilities, including powerful annotations, commentary, document attachments, task, workflow and burst reporting capabilities
+ Intuitive web interface with full MS office integration for driver-based modeling, rolling forecasts and analytics
+ On the fly models that can be created and shared collaboratively and validated against sophisticated predictive capabilities
+ Built-in management reporting capabilities

Flexible Deployment

Many companies today are assessing cloud options in parallel with traditional implementations of on-premises solutions.  They are concerned about potentially locking themselves into a single approach from vendors that can only offer either a cloud solution or an on-premises solution with no way back.

For most organizations today, flexibility of deployment holds the key to the way forward.  That is, the ability to adopt mixed mode deployments (public, private and hybrid clouds) as desired and to alter the mix when business circumstances dictate it.  Moreover, the Oracle Cloud offers security and encryption at every layer of the tech stack, utilizing the latest physical and logical data security and protection solutions. Oracle is the only vendor who can deliver this, leveraging our own hardware, database, and applications technology, plus the Oracle Cloud infrastructure.

Customers I’ve spoken with welcome this flexibility of deployment and see the Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service as an additional option to meet their planning and forecasting needs.  Customers have the ability to move applications back and forth between Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service and Hyperion Planning on premises, through Lifecycle Management (LCM) packages, which is proven technology from the Hyperion applications portfolio.

And, unlike niche cloud vendors, Oracle lets you decide when upgrades happen, so you don’t have to go through planned downtimes at a critical time. With Oracle’s flexible upgrade schedule, you can choose an upgrade window that best fits your business. Customers also have the ability to specify the 1-hour slot for daily maintenance and backups performed by Oracle.

So what’s all the buzz about?  Simply put, Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service offers world-class functionality with the simplicity of the cloud.


For more information about the Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service click here.

Friday Jan 31, 2014

Planning and Budgeting in the Cloud

Oracle’s Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service is a new cloud service based on the functionality of the latest release of Oracle Hyperion Planning, which is the global market-leading packaged application for Planning and Forecasting. Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Toomey, a Senior Director of Product Marketing for Business Analytics at Oracle, on a podcast, and she relayed a lot of useful information to our listeners about the types of companies that are turning to the cloud for budgeting and planning, and the kinds of benefits they can experience. 

But first things first. I asked Jennifer to explain to our listeners why companies are moving to the cloud -- what are some of the challenges with planning, budgeting and forecasting that can be addressed with a cloud-based solution?  She relayed to our listeners that planning extends far beyond the walls of the finance organization. “Pretty much every department in your company is involved with planning and budgeting.” The vast majority of planning and budgeting work is done outside of the Finance, Planning and Administration group by line of business users. Jennifer further explained that while common wisdom suggests that more inputs can help lead to more accurate forecasts, the problem is often that these inputs are done via disconnected processes – often using spreadsheets.  There is a huge amount of inefficiency and a general loss of productivity in the planning process done this way.  

According to industry studies, on average:

20% of employees are involved for at least three weeks to create the annual plan
This can add up to 3% of a company’s revenue, or
$1,000 per employee!


So how can Cloud help? Jennifer explained that using a cloud-based model, a planning solution can be quickly and flexibly rolled out across the organization, enabling you to easily gain the input and intelligence of line of business managers as part of the planning process. Moreover, up until a couple of years ago, we still saw reluctance in the Finance department around adopting cloud applications, largely driven by security and data confidentiality concerns. However, this reluctance is vanishing rapidly.    Analyst studies indicate that Finance executives are increasingly buying into the SaaS model, and in a recent survey that we conducted, three quarters of respondents indicated that they are currently using or will consider deploying EPM in the cloud. So what is happening with Oracle’s Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service?  Jennifer explained to our listeners that “Oracle’s been moving aggressively towards the SaaS model across its application suite and, as we’ve seen our customers’ attitudes shift in favor of cloud, we are now moving our EPM applications into the Oracle Cloud.” She also described some of the functionality being offered:

It is based on the functionality of the latest release of Hyperion Planning, which is the market-leading packaged application for Planning and Forecasting, and it is optimized for the cloud.
Ability to migrate from on-premise
Data integration
Financial and management reporting
Full MS Office Integration
Same security, operations and infrastructure as all applications that are part of Oracle Cloud

It is important to note that this is not simply a hosted version of Hyperion Planning, but rather, it is a new application that has been completely optimized for the cloud.  We chatted about some of these cloud-specific enhancements to accelerate usage and minimize administration, including online help, guided tutorials, and diagnostic tools.

What are the key benefits for customers with this cloud offering and who can benefit? Jennifer explained to our listeners that mid-size companies have a lot to gain, especially if they don’t have the resources to implement an on-premises solution. Hyperion customers with a custom-based Planning application in Essbase also have the opportunity to modernize and have a fully workflow-enabled application. But really any customer looking to quickly roll out a departmental or line of business-based planning solution, outside of finance would benefit greatly. They can all expect:

Fast Adoption
First-in-Class Functionality
Flexible Adoption (it is exactly the same software whether in the cloud or on-premises– so organizations can change the deployment method in the future with minimum effort if they need to) 

In summary, Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service offers world-class functionality with the simplicity of the cloud.

To listen to the entire podcast, click here.
To learn more about Oracle’s Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service, click here.












Monday Mar 25, 2013

Optimizing the Business as a Whole: The Case for Enterprise-Wide Planning

I recently interviewed David Jones, Director in PWC’s Consulting Services EPM Practice, and Simon Kenney a Senior EPM Consultant also from PWC, in a podcast about their successes in enterprise planning implementation and their research on finance effectiveness.


Initially, we discussed the research they have been conducting around planning and forecasting effectiveness; they call it the Finance Effectiveness Benchmark. For 2012, some issues were consistent with previous years. Planning, budgeting and forecasting is taking too long to pull together, it’s still too manual and requires too many resources or effort to get it done. But the interesting headline this year is that 80% of the respondents declared that the accuracy of their forecasts is critical to the running of their business, but only 45% said that their forecasts were actually reliable. This result is very concerning as this deficiency will prevent companies from making the right critical business decisions.


So what are the causes of this large deficiency?


According to Simon, a lack of integration across the entire planning process – front office to back office is a key issue. The business functions are just not engaged enough as the forecasting is mostly finance led. Sales and marketing are essential to any forecast, but they are often not engaged properly. Ultimately, those that generate the opportunities and the revenue need to be involved with the forecast.


No wonder the forecasts are not accurate!


How do companies to fix this deficiency and move to an integrated more inclusive world of forecasting? Simon suggested the following three steps are a good start.


Step 1: Identify why the forecasting process is failing (Is each function independently running their own processes? Is there a lack of clearly defined accountabilities?)


Step 2: Determine if/when the company is ready to integrate their processes. (Does it have the required level of sponsorship in place to move to an integrated planning process? Are the functions prepared for change?)


Step 3: Define a blue print or target “n” state (Design the integrated process. Determine which technology can help support the new integrated process)


These steps sound fairly simple, so I asked David what some of the more difficult or challenging things are that he sees when undertaking these steps with his customers. David indicated that there are challenges specific to each industry, but some common ones to watch for are:



  • Lack of executive sponsorship across functions (Very Key!) The drive to implement change must come from the top and be a collaborative process.

  • Miss-aligned performance measures that drive the wrong behaviour.

  • Too much granularity or unnecessary detail in the financial plan. Requests for more detail and more clarifications lengthens the process (without sufficient benefit) taking too much time and effort.


Simon shared his experience working with a large UK based motor car manufacturer – the challenges and success they had experienced.


Car manufacturers are a more traditional type of company with lots of legacy systems. Being so entrenched in these systems meant that they were not sure if they were really ready for a big bang approach to integrated planning and forecasting. They, therefore, decided to work on one area of the company at a time – in waves – so they could prove it was the right thing to do by demonstrating success and showing value to drive further change.


I asked David how real the benefits were that could be obtained through integrated planning and forecasting. David said that he sees real results in more accurate forecasts and a much better understanding of what goes on in the business, how it behaves, and the impact each business function has on delivering the optimal level of profit. These are real and tangible benefits. Individual functional areas need to understand their role in the overall plan and not behave independently.


What can organizations do today to evaluate their planning and forecasting processes? Simon suggested the following:



  • Look at your existing processes – are they collaborative and integrated?

  • How accurate are your forecasts? If you are not sure, take a retrospective look and find out.

  • How effective are the different business functions in forecasting accurately?

  • Take a look at benchmarks and case studies outside your organization and see how you measure up and what else you can achieve.

  • If you are in the spreadsheet world, re-evaluate the process and take an honest look at how it is working for you. How accurate are your forecasts?


It became quite apparent from speaking to David and Simon that it’s all about optimizing the business as a whole and not the individual parts; without enterprise planning integration, this is simply not possible.


To listen to the webcast, click here.

Friday Jul 15, 2011

Independent Research on 1500 Companies Reveals Challenges in Performance Visibility – Part 2

My blog article on the first part of this study focused on profitability and cost management.  In this second blog I am going to look at the findings around planning and budgeting.

Just to remind you, or if you haven’t read my first blog here is some background: At the end of May 2011 I was joined by Professor Andy Neely of Cambridge University on a webinar, with an audience of over 700, to discuss the results of this extensive study which covered 13 countries and nearly every commercial and industrial sector.  What stunned both of us was not so much the number listening but the 100 questions they asked in just 1 hour.  This certainly represents a record in my experience and for those that organized the webinar. So what was all the fuss about?  Well, to begin with this was a pretty big sample and it represented organizations with over $100m sales across the USA, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. It also delivered some pretty interesting results across a wide range of EPM subjects such as profitability management, planning and reporting.

For the planning section we started off with a question to get an idea of just how prevalent the use of spreadsheets actually is for planning and reporting. I guess we should not have been surprised when the results were consistent with what we have seen for many years with 71% - 80% (depending on company size) using spreadsheets for financial planning and budget control. There are many well documented consequences of this, one of which came through clearly in our results, with 54% of managers saying they spend more time gathering information that analyzing it. When we looked at how much of their time managers spend on spreadsheets, finance managers spent the longest at 45% but surprising the next was the CEO at 40%. Our conclusion is that organizations and more importantly their managers are still ‘drowning in spreadsheets’!

This was further confirmed when we looked specifically at ‘enterprise’ planning. Less than a third of organizations confirmed they had specialist software for any one of the specific categories of planning we defined. It gets noticeable worse when considering those that confirm they have specialized software for ‘all’ the categories, just 11%. The result is a catalogue of confirmed problems with planning that include - gaps in data, data not standardized, data being provided late and data inaccuracies.  In fact 95% of our respondents said they encountered problems of some form with their planning process. These results concur with what we hear when we talk to organizations about their planning and budgeting which are often described as a collection of ‘fragmented’ systems and processes most often stitched together with email and spreadsheets.

‘Fragmentation’ is confirmed in this study with only 16% of organizations saying their management processes are linked through specialist software and 71% actually stating that the links between strategic goals and operational plans and budgets are fragmented. This has an impact on communication and management commitment with 72% of managers criticizing communications from senior management and 89% of non-finance managers stating they would feel more committed if communication on performance were improved.

Given all of the above findings, when it came to asking about how long it takes to implement strategic change it is no wonder the average came out to 6.5 months. Fragmentation of management processes introduces time and errors that no organization can afford.  It reminds me of the situation often seen with fragmented operational processes 15 years ago before the wide adoption of ERP. It really is time organizations took a serious look at integrated Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) solutions to help them create consistent, end-to-end management processes.

If you want to read the complete report on the research go to: http://www.oracle.com/webapps/dialogue/ns/dlgwelcome.jsp?p_ext=Y&p_dlg_id=10077790&src=7038701&Act=29 Alternatively if you would like to know more about Oracle’s Enterprise Performance Management solution go to: http://www.oracle.com/us/solutions/ent-performance-bi/051191.html

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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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