Wednesday Feb 13, 2013

Tax Provisioning: Simplify, Standardize then Automate

Tax provisioning is a process that has become increasingly more complex to perform, but increasingly more important to do well. I recently interviewed Andy Oliver, a PWC Director in their Tax Practice and an expert in Tax Provisioning, in a Podcast which I feel sheds some light on this increasingly complex matter. To listen to the Podcast, click here.


Tax provisioning is the process of reporting current and deferred income taxes in a company’s financial statements – tax on current profits and estimated future tax on future profits. There are a myriad of rules and requirements for calculations and disclosure that apply to different companies and countries and they are changing all the time. It is extremely important to have accurate, transparent calculations as when and what to pay and defer can make a huge difference to a company’s bottom line.


How do most tax accountants and departments manage this process? Andy indicated that a majority of companies pull this information together through numerous and large spreadsheets with complex and convoluted calculations. And although these spreadsheets offer flexibility – to keep up with the ever changing rules – they do not provide consistency in calculations, standardization of the process, or data security. This means that the calculations and resulting reports are error prone and can cause countless hours of work to find and correct the errors.


Ideally, the tax provisioning process should be performed early in the financial close process to get a really good picture of the end result. However, inevitably being early in the process means the financial results will change and the provision or estimation will have to be recalculated. Having the tax provisioning process integrated with the financial close process and systems makes a lot of sense, from an efficiency standpoint, to reduce the amount of work required each time there is a change to the financial results. We also discussed how important it is to SIMPLIFY the tax provisioning process and then standardize and automate the process before integrating with the financial close process to be truly effective and world-class.


Oracle’s Hyperion Tax Provision solution was designed to provide this integration with the financial close process and drive efficiency into the tax provisioning and disclosure process.


Finally, Andy had this advice for the listeners, “If you can align the tax reporting process with the financial close process – eliminating much of the manual, spreadsheet-based calculations, you will get the job done quicker, experience fewer mistakes, and be able to spend more time doing the important part of your job as a tax accountant; analyzing the numbers, and providing insight on the results such as WHY the numbers are different from forecast or from last year.


For more information on the Oracle Hyperion Tax Provision solution, click here.


To listen to the podcast, click here.


 

Monday Dec 17, 2012

Integrated Reporting is Getting Closer

Oracle recently sponsored a webcast on CFO.com titled:  The CFO Playbook on Integrated Reporting: Integrating Sustainability into Financial Disclosures.  The speakers for this webcast were James Margolis, partner with Environmental Resources Management (ERM), a global provider of environmental, health, safety, risk and sustainability consulting services (EHSS) and Mike Wallace, Director of the Global Reporting Initiative's Focal Point USA.


This webcast focused on why top companies in the U.S. and overseas are incorporating sustainability content into their annual reports and other financial disclosures. The speakers discussed the benefits of integrating sustainability reporting with traditional financial reporting. They noted how investors, corporate directors, lenders and most recently, the Securities and Exchange Commission, use this information to better understand, benchmark and value companies. They also discussed the November 2012 release of an Integrated Reporting Framework by the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC).  See the press release and link to the framework here. 


The shift towards integrated financial and sustainability reporting is gaining momentum with a number of global stock exchanges endorsing this approach in 2012.  See the links here if you want to listen to the webcast or download the slides. Also, here is a demonstration of Oracle’s solution for integrated financial and sustainability reporting. If you’re interested in learning more about this and Oracle’s other Sustainability Reporting solutions, click here.


If you have any questions or need additional information, please feel free to contact me at john.orourke@oracle.com.

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


Wednesday Oct 03, 2012

Planning in the Cloud - For Real

One of the hottest topics at Oracle OpenWorld 2012 this week is “the cloud”.  Over the past few years, Oracle has made major investments in cloud-based applications, including some acquisitions, and now has over 100 applications available through Oracle Cloud services. 


At OpenWorld this week, Oracle announced seven new offerings delivered via the Oracle Cloud services platform, one of which is the Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service.  Based on Oracle Hyperion Planning, this service is the first of Oracle’s EPM applications to be to be offered in the Cloud.    This solution is targeted to organizations that are struggling with spreadsheets or legacy planning and budgeting applications, want to deploy a world class solution for financial planning and budgeting, but are constrained by IT resources and capital budgets. With the Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service, organizations can fast track their way to world-class financial planning, budgeting and forecasting – at cloud speed, with no IT infrastructure investments and with minimal IT resources.


Oracle Hyperion Planning is a market-leading budgeting, planning and forecasting application that is used by over 3,300 organizations worldwide.  Prior to this announcement, Oracle Hyperion Planning was only offered on a license and maintenance basis.  It could be deployed on-premise, or hosted through Oracle On-Demand or third party hosting partners.  With this announcement, Oracle’s market-leading Hyperion Planning application will be available as a Cloud Service and through subscription-based pricing. This lowers the cost of entry and deployment for new customers and provides a scalable environment to support future growth.


With this announcement, Oracle is the first major vendor to offer one of its core EPM applications as a cloud-based service.  Other major vendors have recently announced cloud-based EPM solutions, but these are only BI dashboards delivered via a cloud platform.   With this announcement Oracle is providing a market-leading, world-class financial budgeting, planning and forecasting as a cloud service, with the following advantages:


·                     Subscription-based pricing


·                     Available standalone or as an extension to Oracle Fusion Financials Cloud Service


·                     Implementation services available from Oracle and the Oracle Partner Network


·                     High scalability and performance


·                     Integrated financial reporting and MS Office interface


·                     Seamless integration with Oracle and non-Oracle transactional applications


·                     Provides customers with more options for their planning and budgeting deployment vs. strictly on-premise or cloud-only solution providers.


The OpenWorld announcement of Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service is a preview announcement, with controlled availability expected in calendar year 2012.  For more information, check out the links below:


Press Release


Web site


If you have any questions or need additional information, please feel free to contact me at 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!

Friday Aug 03, 2012

What CFOs Need to Know About the Cloud

“The Cloud” has become one of the hottest buzz topics in the industry this year, and what started out as a topic mostly of interest to IT executives is quickly moving to the radar screen of CFOs and Finance Executives.  To help companies understand “the cloud”, as well as the advantages and considerations of cloud computing, Oracle has recently published a number of articles, white papers and videos on this topic. 


Some of the advantages of cloud-based applications include improved time to value, reduced up-front costs, leveraging 3rd party skill sets and having a scalable environment to support future growth.  Some of the considerations and risks include security, performance, integration of cloud-based applications with on-premise systems and long-term costs of ownership.


Here are some links to articles, case studies and videos covering what CFOs should know about the cloud on Oracle C-Central:


Partner Perspectives video: What CFOs Should Know About the Cloud


CFO Market Watch article: What CFOs Should Know About the Cloud


Essex County Council Adopts Cloud Computing for Payroll to Save US$ Millions & Offer Shared Services


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


www.oracle.com/c-central/cfo


Here’s an article from Profit Magazine that might be of interest:


Five Ideas: Finance - What CFOs need to know about cloud and other technology solutions


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


Thursday Jul 19, 2012

Progress Towards Integrated Financial and Sustainability Reporting

A few weeks ago in June 2012, thousands of diplomats, world leaders, executives of corporations, institutional investors as well as social and environmental activists gathered in Rio de Janeiro for the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, a.k.a. Rio +20 Earth Summit.  Among the agenda items discussed was corporate sustainability disclosures - and although a global agreement was not reached on this topic, there was some progress made here. 


While over 2000 organizations already have registered sustainability reports with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), and more than 3000 organizations have submitted their environmental information to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), investors are pushing for more consistency and global standards in environmental and sustainability reporting and standards are being defined for integrating sustainability reporting with financial reporting. 


Towards this goal, the Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. joined stock exchanges in Sao Paulo, Johannesburg, Istanbul and Cairo in an effort to require listed companies to report material information about environmental, social and governance risks.  


Also at the conference, UK deputy prime minister Nick Clegg revealed a government mandate that will force companies listed on the London Stock Exchange’s main market to publish the full details of their greenhouse gas emissions.  What this means is that all LSE-listed businesses will have to report total greenhouse gas emissions for the year beginning April 2013. The regulations will be reviewed in 2015, before ministers decide whether to extend the approach to all large companies starting in 2016.


By encouraging companies to take social and environment dimensions into consideration, and by helping investors to make socially responsible decisions, the exchanges are hoping to enhance transparency of information in capital markets and help create more aware investors.


These exchanges agreed to urge their more than 4,600 listed companies to measure and report on environmental and governance issues such as greenhouse gas emissions, water usage and gender equality, or explain why they won’t. They are also asking more exchanges to join the effort.


So again, while a global standard was not agreed upon at the conference, some progress was made in getting additional stock exchanges to require or encourage listed companies to provide more disclosures to investors and other stakeholders about the environmental and social impacts of their organizations, in addition to their financial results.  These initiatives are positive steps towards the adoption of “integrated reporting”, or the alignment of sustainability reporting with financial reporting which I covered in a prior article on this blog.  See link here:


https://blogs.oracle.com/epm/entry/integrating_sustainability_reporting_with_financial


For more information about the Rio 20+ Earth Summit and announcements made there, see the links below:


http://www.environmentalleader.com/2012/06/20/firms-on-london-stock-exchange-will-be-forced-to-report-co2-data/


http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-06-19/nasdaq-joins-four-exchanges-in-sustainability-effort


http://www.forbes.com/sites/mindylubber/2012/06/19/a-tipping-point-on-sustainability-disclosure-in-rio/


For more information about Oracle’s solutions for environmental and sustainability reporting, check out the following resources:


Press Release - http://www.oracle.com/us/corporate/press/513393


Sustainability Reporting page on O.com – http://www.oracle.com/us/products/applications/green/risk-performance-management-304575.html#sustainabilityreporting


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

Friday Jul 13, 2012

Account Reconcilations - Making this Less of a Headache

The finance department in most organizations is coming under increasing pressure to transform and streamline the financial close and reporting function while continuing to maintain the integrity of the financial statements and close process. A key part of this close process includes the completion of detailed account reconciliations, which can be a major bottleneck and headache in the close process. The necessity for understanding and certifying an account balance and its transactions is prompted by regulatory and audit control requirements. In addition to the statutory pressure for account reconciliations, the current economic situation makes it imperative for Finance executives to understand the details and transactions behind every account. They need to be able to easily identify fraudulent, improper and excessively aged transactions. In most organizations, the account reconciliation process is a very time consuming and manual process. A robust and integrated account reconciliation software application   will allow Finance to more effectively manage their business.


Account Reconciliations Can Extend the Financial Close and Introduce Risk


Medium to large organizations often have the need to perform thousands of account reconciliations during the quarter-end or month-end close.  Examples of the typical reconciliations include tying general ledger balances to sub-ledger balances, general ledger balances to bank account balances, general ledger balances to data warehouse balances, and consolidation application account balances to general ledger account balances.  Most organizations also maintain reconciliations of general ledger balance sheet accounts such as prepaid expenses or accrued liabilities.


This tedious process is typically performed in Microsoft Excel, where Finance staff manually tie out the list of items in a spreadsheet to those in the general ledger and other systems.  Managers usually send emails or make phone calls to track progress and follow up on delinquencies.  Due to the challenges in tracking account reconciliations, companies typically prepare and review most reconciliations on the same schedule and are often not factoring in risk when determining frequency and due dates.  Common failure points include:


- Missing or lost reconciliations


- Unreconciled accounts


- Improper use of roll-forwards


- Reconciliation of the wrong balance (balance changed after certification)


- Insufficient justification or documentation


When these failures occur, audit findings can result in a significant deficiency or a material weakness in internal control, and costs can reach the hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars.


Integrated Account Reconciliation Management Applications Meet the Challenge


Leading edge Finance organizations are now looking to eliminate spreadsheets and manual processes used to support account reconciliations, and adopt packaged software applications designed to automate and streamline the process.  But it’s not enough to have a packaged software application to support account reconciliations, this application should also be integrated with financial close workflow, and the various systems in which account balances and transaction detail reside, such as financial consolidation applications and specific general ledgers.  Key features in account reconciliation software packages include:


- Currency translation


- Audit controls for all activities


- Reporting and Monitoring


- Pushback of reconciliation adjustments to source systems


- Rule based thresholds for automatic certification and risk assessments


- Workflow support for reconciliation process


- Tasks and task assignments


The key benefits of integrated and packaged account reconciliation software packages include efficiency gains as well as reduction in risk to Finance organizations.  Efficiency gains can be measured by the value in labor savings achieved by making the administration, preparation, and review of account reconciliations more efficient.  Reduction in risk can be measured by the avoidance of costs associated with a failure in internal controls around account reconciliations.  If material weaknesses are found and announced in external audits, the consequences can be costly.  Companies incur expenses for additional legal and audit fees and there can be an impact on the stock price for publicly-held entities.


In summary, with increasing pressure to reduce close times and improve the integrity of financial reporting, Finance departments need to eliminate spreadsheets and manual processes and adopt technologies that can help automate and streamline the financial close process and eliminate the chances for errors, omissions and fraud.  Integrated and packaged account reconciliation software applications can help alleviate a major bottleneck in the financial close process, increase accuracy and reduce risk, and can complement existing investments in financial consolidation, financial reporting, financial close workflow and transaction processing systems.


Here’s a link where you can find information about how the new Account Reconciliation Manager feature in Oracle Hyperion Financial Close Management can help make account reconciliations less of a headache:


http://www.oracle.com/us/solutions/ent-performance-bi/financial-close-065894.html


Also, here’s a link to a recent webcast replay on this topic:


https://oraclemeetings.webex.com/ec0605lc/eventcenter/recording/recordAction.do;jsessionid=gLMyQNcpqmQSGGf8h2YNZYT2gcwpdQNyTjvlxMj2hP0rXFJSSDTz!-866538466?theAction=poprecord&actname=%2Feventcenter%2Fframe%2Fg.do&actappname=ec0605lc&renewticket=0&renewticket=0&apiname=lsr.php&entappname=url0107lc&needFilter=false&&isurlact=true&rID=69582487&entactname=%2FnbrRecordingURL.do&rKey=168b45687e963894&recordID=69582487&siteurl=oraclemeetings&rnd=0489765029&SP=EC&AT=pb&format=short


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

Tuesday Jul 10, 2012

Challenges in Corporate Reporting - New Independent Research

Earlier this year, Oracle and Accenture sponsored a global study on trends in financial close and reporting. We surveyed 1,123 finance professionals in large organizations in 12 countries around the world during February and March.


Financial Consolidation and Reporting is the most mature aspect of Enterprise Performance Management with mainstream solutions having been around for over 30 years. But of course over this time there have been many changes and very significant increases in regulation. So just what is the current state is Financial Consolidation and Reporting in our major corporations across the world? We commissioned this independent research to find out. Highlights of the result are:


          Seeking change: Businesses recognize they need to invest in financial reporting to address the challenges they currently face. 47 percent of companies have made substantial investments over the last year to the financial close, filing, and reporting processes.


          Ineffective investments: Despite these investments, spreadsheets (72 percent) and e-mails (68 percent) are still being used daily to track and manage reporting, suggesting that new investments are falling short of expectations.


          Increased costs and uncertainty: The situation is so opaque that managers across the finance function are unable to fully understand the financial impact or cost implications of reporting, with 60 percent of respondents admitting they did not know the total cost of managing and publicizing their financial results.


          Persistent challenges: 68 percent of respondents admitted that they have inadequate visibility into reporting processes, while 84 percent of finance managers surveyed said they find it difficult to control the quality of financial data across the entire reporting process.


          Decreased effectiveness: 71 percent of finance managers feel their effectiveness is limited in some way by data-analysis–related issues, while 39 percent of C-level or VP-level respondents say their effectiveness is impaired by limited visibility.


          Missed deadlines: Due to late changes to the chart of accounts, 15 percent of global businesses have missed statutory filings, putting their companies at risk of financial penalties and potentially impacting share value.


The report makes it clear that investments made to date by these large organizations around the world have been uneven across the close, reporting, and filing processes, which has led to the challenges these organizations currently face in the overall process. Regardless of whether companies are using a variety of solutions or a single solution, the report shows they continue to witness increased costs, ineffectual data management, and missed reporting, which—in extreme circumstances—can impact a company’s corporate image and share value.


The good news is that businesses realize that these problems persist and 86 percent of companies are likely to make a significant investment during the next five years to address these issues. While they should invest, it is critical that they direct investments correctly to address the key issues this research identified:


          Improving data integrity


          Optimizing processes


          Integrating the extended financial close process


By addressing these issues and with clear guidance on how to implement the correct business processes, infrastructure, and software solutions, finance teams will find that their reporting processes are much more effective, cost-efficient, and aligned with their performance expectations.


To get a copy of the full report:


http://www.oracle.com/webapps/dialogue/ns/dlgwelcome.jsp?p_ext=Y&p_dlg_id=11747758&src=7300117&Act=92


To replay a webcast discussing the findings:


http://www.cfo.com/webcast.cfm?webcast=14639438&pcode=ORA061912_ORA

Tuesday May 29, 2012

What's Going on With IFRS?

There hasn’t been much news lately about the adoption of IFRS in the United States, and I have received some questions from customers and partners on this topic.  So here’s a quick update.


Most of the world has moved to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) with the last holdouts being Japan, India and the United States.  Japan has started the transition process and should be complete by 2015 and India will be in transition through 2018.  The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) has been discussing and working with the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) on the convergence of US GAAP and IFRS for many years.   The reality is that the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is not going to force a switch entirely over to IFRS, but is proposing a slow convergence of US GAAP with IFRS principles over time.  In fact the latest word being used to describe this process is “condorsement”, as per a proposal issued by the SEC in May 2011. 


There are a number of convergence projects now being worked on between the two standards committees, but the four that are in focus currently relate to Financial Instruments, Revenue Recognition, Financial Statements and Leases.  Exposure drafts on these topics were released for public comment back in 2010 and SEC board reviews occurred in 2011.  The expected timeline for adoption of the revised US GAAP rules in these areas is highlighted below.


Revenue:  Exposure draft closed, comment period over, the boards are mulling the exact wording.   This is expected to be finalized in late 2012.  Effective date unknown – but not likely until 2015, with retroactive reporting back to 2013.


Leasing:  Principles established, exposure draft still being finalized.  Anything that meets the definition of a lease will be on the balance sheet as a right to use asset and a lease liability.  P&L expense will distinguish the interest element from the usage element.  Some issues still to be resolved.  This is expected to be finalized in 2013.


Financial Statement Reporting: Postponed indefinitely.


Financial Instruments:  Progress, dialogue this year between FASB & IASB.  Basel III, Dodd-Frank, JPMorgan Chase, Greek exposure all factors in getting this one done.  No final dates at this point.


The SEC has not made their announcement, but everyone is pretty certain that what they will do is ask the FASB to expose the IFRS statements, other than the 4 convergence ones listed above, as ASUs (Accounting Standards Updates) to US GAAP: that is, FASB will adopt IFRS, not companies.    Companies will then adopt the IFRS statements as US GAAP Updates as FASB rolls them out, but absolutely no details are available on that program currently.


Oracle has staff carefully tracking these developments and provides features and capabilities in our financial management applications designed to help customers migrate smoothly from their local GAAPs to IFRS.  For news and updates on US GAAP/IFRS convergence projects, please consult the following resources:


US SEC:  http://www.sec.gov/


FASB:  http://www.fasb.org/home


IASB:  http://www.ifrs.org/Home.htm


For information about how Oracle’s financial management solutions can help with the transition to IFRS:


http://www.oracle.com/us/solutions/corporate-governance/ifrs/061806.html


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

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 11.1.2.2 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 28, 2012

XBRL - Moving from Production to Consumption


Here's an update on what’s new with XBRL and how it can actually benefit your organization versus adding extra time and costs to financial reporting.  On February 29th (leap day) of 2012 I attended the XBRL and Financial Analysis Technology Conference at Baruch College in NYC.  The event, which attracted over 300 XBRL gurus and fans was presented by XBRL US, The New York Society of Security Analysts’ Improved Corporate Reporting Committee, and Baruch College’s Robert Zicklin Center for Corporate Integrity.  The event featured keynotes from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the CFA Institute as well as panels covering alternative research tools and data, corporate reporting to stakeholders and a demonstration of XBRL analysis tools.  The program culminated in a presentation of the finalists and the winner of the $20,000 XBRL Challenge.   


Some of the key points made in the sessions included:


The focus of XBRL tools is moving from production to consumption.


As of February 2012, over 9000 companies are reporting in XBRL, with over 10 million facts filed to date


XBRL taxonomy extensions have dropped from 27% to 11% making comparisons easier


The SEC reports that XBRL makes it easier to analyze disclosures, focus on accounting issues


XBRL is helping standards-setters like the FASB speed their analysis of impacts of proposed accounting rule changes


Companies like Thomson Reuters report that XBRL is helping speed the delivery of data to clients


The most interesting part of the program though, was the session highlighting the 5 finalists in the XBRL Challenge competition and the winning solution.  The XBRL Challenge was launched in 2011 as a means of spurring the development of more end-user tools to help with the consumption of XBRL-based financial information.       Over an 8-month process handled by 5 judges, there were 84 registrants, 15 completed submissions, 5 finalists and one winner of the challenge.  All of the solutions are open-sourced tools and most of them focus on consuming XBRL-based data.  The 5 finalists included:


Advanced XBRL Processing from Oxide solutions – XBRL viewer for taxonomies, filings and company data with peer comparison capabilities.


Arrelle – API for XBRL processes, supports SEC Validations, RSS Feeds to access filings etc.


Calcbench – XBRL data analysis tool that can be embedded in other web applications.  This tool can combine XBRL filings with real-time market data.


XBRL to XL – allows the importing of XBRL data into Microsoft Excel for analysis, comparisons.  Users start on the web and populate Excel with XBRL data.


XBurble – allows users to search and view XBRL filings, export to Excel, merge for comparison, and includes a workflow interface.


The winner of the $20,000 XBRL Challenge prize was CalcBench.  More information about the XBRL Challenge and the finalists can be found at www.XBRLUS.org/challenge


XBRL for Sustainability Reporting – other recent news on the XBRL front was the announcement by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) of an XBRL taxonomy for Sustainability Reporting.  This taxonomy was co-developed by the GRI and Deloitte and is designed to make the consumption of data found in Sustainability Reports much easier.  Although there is no government mandate to file Sustainability Reports in XBRL format, organizations that do use the GRI guidelines for Sustainability Reporting are encouraged to tag and submit their data voluntarily to the GRI – who will populate a database with Sustainability Reporting data and make this available to the public.  For more information about this initiative, you can go to the GRI web site:  www.globalreporting.org.


So how does all of this benefit corporate filers and investors?  Since its introduction, the consensus in the market is that XBRL has mainly benefited the regulators and investment analysts who need to consume and analyze large volumes of financial data.  But with the emergence of more end-user tools for consuming and analyzing XBRL-based data, and the ability to perform quick comparisons of one company versus its peers and competitors in an industry group, will soon accelerate the benefits to corporate finance staff, as well as individual investors.  This could apply to financial results tagged in XBRL, as well as non-financial information such as Sustainability Reporting – which over the long-term will likely be integrated with financial reporting.   And as multiple regulators and agencies in a country adopt the XBRL standard for corporate filings, more benefits will accrue as companies will be able to leverage one set of XBRL-based financial data for multiple regulatory filings.    


For more information about the latest developments in XBRL, check out the XBRL US or XBRL International web sites:  www.xbrl.org, www.xbrlus.org.


For more information about what Oracle is doing to support XBRL, here are some links:


http://www.oracle.com/us/solutions/ent-performance-bi/disclosure-management-065892.html


http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/database/features/xmldb/index-087631.html


Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or need more 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!


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

Friday Mar 02, 2012

Key Findings from Latin American CFO Summit

I recently had the pleasure of speaking and attending a Latin America CFO Summit in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, sponsored by Oracle and Deloitte.  The event drew over 50 CFOs from mainly Mexico, Columbia and Ecuador for a day and a half of presentations, workshops and networking.  Here is a summary of some of the key points and findings that were discussed at the event.


Keynote speaker: Alfonso Stransky Paniuahua, Partner, Mexican Institute of Finance Executives.  In his keynote, Mr. Stransky revealed new research from the 1600-member IMEF on the “Evolving Role of the CFO in the 21st Century”, and the CFO’s increasingly important partnership with management and the business to drive value and mitigate risk.  He highlighted the CFO's increasing role in talent management and development, focusing on intangible assets, and encouraging innovation.  He also discussed the new global economy and the need for CFOs to take a bigger role in strategic planning, driving efficiency, and re-engineering business processes, and encouraged CFOs to embrace change, adapt to the new rules of business and be prepared for increase risks.  His discussion of risk management included information risk as well as social risk and responsibility.  In summary, his research revealed an increasing focus on the CFO as a strategic business partner, key driver of both performance and risk management, with an increasing emphasis on creating long-term business value vs. short-term profitability.


Francisco Silva, Partner at Deloitte Latin America followed with a session focused on “current opportunities and challenges facing Latin American CFOs.  In this session, Mr. Silva highlighted the results of a recent benchmark study of LAD CFOs, and their recent CFO Signals survey on the transformation of Finance.  Some of the key finding from the benchmark study included the following:


-  Costs of Finance in LAD are generally 25% lower than for US companies at 1.10% of revenue.  LAD companies spend less on Finance Staff and IT, but they spend more time and resources on transaction processing and less on performance management and analytics than their counterparts globally.


-  LAD companies tend to make less use of technology, and apply more Finance staff – this was identified as an opportunity for productivity improvement via better use of technology.


-  LAD companies have a high degree of complexity in Finance – too many controls and costs of compliance, they need to strike the right balance of controls.


-  With regards to compensation, Brazil has the highest Finance salaries, much higher than the LAD average and very close to the US.  Chile has the lowest Finance salaries.


-  With regards to FTEs in Finance, Mexico and Argentina have the highest, albeit with some of the lowest costs of Finance staff.    


-  In general, it was found that the larger companies had the lowest cost of Finance as a percent of revenue, but LAD in general has a lower cost of Finance across all sizes of companies vs. the US.


-  One interesting point is that multi-national companies operating in LAD have higher Finance costs than local companies, but with fewer FTEs.  This trend reflects the higher salaries of LAD staff of multinational companies, but better use of technology and fewer FTEs. 


Mr. Silva also highlighted some of the key findings of Deloitte’s recent CFO Signals Survey.  Some of the key points include:


-  The role of Finance in driving strategy is growing in response to economic uncertainty, creating new demands on the broader finance organization.  This is causing significant growing pains, as many CFOs already operate lean organizations.


-  CFOs see the recession continuing, but most are focused on growth. Even as companies eye longer-term growth, they are focused on protecting near-term profitability.


-  Continuing global economic malaise appears to be causing rising uncertainty around global market demand and heightened competition for revenue. Pricing trends are a top concern for 52% of companies (up from 40% last quarter) and new competitive tactics are on the rise.


-  Over a third of North American CFOs surveyed cited economic uncertainty in Europe as the biggest potential risk they face - this despite European CFOs being among the most optimistic of the regions surveyed by Deloitte.


-  Despite focusing on growth and investment, CFOs in North America don’t expect hiring to pick up.


Marie Hollein, President and CEO of Financial Executives International (FEI) discussed “The Growing Influence of CFOs Over Technology’ and the finding of the 2011 survey on the use of Finance technology.  Some of the key findings included:


-  42% of CIOs report to the CFO, and this will likely increase.


-  Performance Management/BI/Analytics is the #1 priority for technology investments followed by Enterprise Business Applications.  This trend will continue in 2012.


-  Licensed software will continue to be the primary delivery platform, with 76% of respondents running their applications in-house.  But Cloud-based adoption is increasing with 10% embracing SaaS and 12% running with ASP models. 


-  ERP consolidation is a preference, with 64% of organizations favoring a single instance ERP. 


-  54% of companies are making improvements in BI now or are targeting BI investments over the next year. 


-  Planning/Budgeting/Forecasting is the #1 focus for BI/PM investments, followed by Performance Scorecards/Dashboard applications.  


-  The market for XBRL financial statement generation products is growing with 30% looking for in-house solutions and 24% of respondents outsourcing XBRL tagging to 3rd party publishers. 


-  Only 16% of respondent companies are planning or evaluating the impact of IFRS (this was not surprising since the survey base was mostly US companies)


There were also sessions at the event delivered by Oracle executives on key market trends and the investments Oracle is making to help CFOs address today’s challenges, as well as some customer case studies.    Key takeaways include:


-  The role and influence of the CFO continues to evolve and expand beyond Finance into corporate strategy, talent management, IT management all with a focus on optimizing performance while managing risk


-  While costs of Finance in Latin American companies is generally lower than in the rest of the world, CFOs in this region can improve productivity by better leveraging technology and shifting the focus of Finance staff from transaction processing to value-added analysis.


-  Performance Management and Analytics are key priorities for CFOs globally, and can help organizations plan and forecast more accurately through market volatility, while improving the timeliness and quality of information they deliver both internally and externally.


To get access to some of the content presented at the Oracle LAD CFO Summit, please visit Oracle’s CFO Central web site at http://www.oraclecfo.com/Main/Events/Events_w.html?step=3

Tuesday Feb 21, 2012

Hyperion Enterprise Customers - Moving Forward

There has been a lot of buzz in the Oracle/Hyperion customer and partner community in the past few weeks about the impending end of life of Hyperion Enterprise.   Yes, Hyperion Enterprise (or good old Sparky as we affectionately call it) which was first released in 1995, is finally approaching the end of its lifecycle after almost 20 years.  Hyperion Enterprise was the leading financial consolidation application in the world with over 3,000 organizations using the application at its peak.  But market requirements and technology have changed, new licenses of Hyperion Enterprise have declined, and the majority of customers have switched to Hyperion Financial Management, Oracle Essbase, or other solutions.  So in January 2012, Oracle published a Statement of Direction for Oracle Hyperion Enterprise and Hyperion Enterprise Reporting which communicates that these products will be on Controlled Availability as of December 2012.  What does this mean?


This means that additional sales of these products will be limited to existing customers only, no sales of Hyperion Enterprise to net new customers.  Premier Support for these products will be offered until April 2013, after which Sustaining Support will continue to be provided, so customers who wish to continue using these products will be supported for a number of years into the future.  More information on the Oracle Lifetime Support policy and the services offered under Premier and Sustaining Support can be found here:  http://www.oracle.com/us/support/library/lifetime-support-applications-069216.pdf


The good news is that there are a number of options for existing Hyperion Enterprise customers:


For customers who are satisfied with Hyperion Enterprise and wish to continue using the application, you can continue using it and will receive support for many years into the future.  However there will be no product enhancements and limited service patches.


For customers who have outgrown Hyperion Enterprise and are ready to move to a more modern, web-based financial consolidation application, with more dimensionality and other advanced features, Hyperion Financial Management (HFM) has been the solution of choice.  There are software tools and services available from Oracle, and some partners, that can help with the conversion process.  In addition to offering a more robust platform for financial consolidation and reporting, HFM is complemented by a number of other modules that can help address the extended financial close and reporting process.  This includes Hyperion Financial Data Quality Management for data integration, Hyperion Disclosure Management for regulatory filings and XBRL support, Hyperion Financial Close Management for orchestrating the financial close process and Oracle Financial Management Analytics, a packaged executive dashboard solution providing real-time access to financial results and close process metrics.     Of course, Hyperion Financial Management also integrates with Hyperion Planning and Oracle Essbase, so customers already using these products will see additional advantages from converting to HFM.


For customers with simpler financial consolidation requirements but a need to collect and aggregate financial data from multiple sources to perform financial and management reporting, Oracle Essbase has been a popular choice as well.  Customers can leverage a number of familiar tools with Essbase such as Hyperion Financial Data Quality Management, Hyperion Financial Reporting, and Smart view for Office.  One advantage here is that Oracle Essbase data can be leveraged by Hyperion Disclosure Management for regulatory reporting and XBRL filings, as well as OBIEE for management reporting.


Of course, since the news has broken about the upcoming controlled availability of Hyperion Enterprise, some of Oracle’s competitors have been targeting Hyperion Enterprise customers with their own offers.  Customers should certainly evaluate all of their options here, but Oracle’s goal is to make it as attractive as possible for Hyperion Enterprise customers to “stay in the family” and take advantage of our solutions to address their financial and management reporting requirements.  Here are a couple of key points to consider:


·         Oracle/Hyperion has been a trusted partner and a low-risk choice for thousands of customers, and we continue to invest in providing market-leading financial close and reporting solutions.


·         Oracle’s Hyperion Performance Management applications address the complexities of the extended financial close and reporting process as well as enterprise planning, strategy management, profitability and cost management.  All of these applications are designed for high scalability and performance, with integration across the suite.


·         Oracle’s Hyperion applications provide direct integration with Oracle E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft Financials, Fusion Financials and soon JDE Financials.  This enables customers to leverage existing ERP investments, data and meta data, and provides drill-through capabilities from summary reports and dashboards to transactional details.


·         Oracle’s Hyperion applications also provide direct integration with SAP Financials, and thousands of SAP customers continue to select our solutions over alternatives from SAP and other vendors.


·         Oracle’s Hyperion Financial Close Suite integrates with Oracle Essbase, the Oracle Hyperion Planning Suite, as well as Oracle Business Intelligence tools – so customers can leverage their investments in these technologies as they convert from Hyperion Enterprise.


Some of the “all in one” performance management solutions offered by other competitors may appear attractive to Hyperion Enterprise customers looking to move.  But “buyers beware”, while these applications claim to support a broad range of requirements (i.e. budgeting, planning, financial consolidation, financial and management reporting) they can be risky and typically don’t provide the depth of functionality offered by best of breed applications.  And the all-in-one applications typically don’t scale and perform well for large deployments.  A number of customers who tried the all-in-one approach eventually switched to Hyperion Financial Management due to performance issues.  One example is Brady Corporation who tried to use SAP’s BPC solution for financial consolidation and eventually switched to Hyperion Financial Management.  Here’s a link to a podcast interview with an executive from Brady Corporation:  http://streaming.oracle.com/ebn/podcasts/media/9590934_Brady_Int_012711.mp3


Here’s a link to more information about Oracle’s Hyperion Financial Close Suite:  http://www.oracle.com/us/solutions/ent-performance-bi/051190.html


Here’s a link to a white paper on the options for Hyperion Enterprise customers: http://www.oracle.com/us/solutions/business-intelligence/064290.pdf


Here’s a link to the Astellas Pharma Hyperion Financial Management success story:  http://www.oracle.com/us/corporate/customers/astellas-pharma-europe-hyperion-081582.pdf


I hope this information is helpful as you consider your path forward from Hyperion Enterprise.  The product has had a long life, providing value to many organizations, but it’s time to move forward.  Feel free to contact me if you need additional information:  john.orourke@oracle.com.

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