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.

Wednesday Feb 12, 2014

Strategic P&L Statements and Opportunities for Improvement in Retail

Do you have strategic profit and loss statements for your customers, stores, and stock keeping units (SKUs) or products? Having little experience with this type of statement before, I was very fortunate to have two experts join me for a discussion about how strategic profit and loss statements can make a significant bottom line impact for Retail companies. Mark Wright, Principal Sales Consultant for Oracle EPM Applications and Bart Stoehr, Senior Director of Product Strategy Development, both specialize in the Oracle Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management Product. Both have an amazing depth of experience to share on all matters pertaining to profitability and cost management practices.

To start, I asked Mark to describe shortcomings he has seen in Retail company management practices. Mark explained that for decades retailers have been tasked to improve shareholder value by making decisions based on statutory financial statements and rarely do these mandated statements represent strategic views that embody the business.  Marketing, sales and operations often have to recreate their financials to better serve their decision needs.  Mark offered that “financial” profit and loss statements are generated from ERP systems designed to meet statutory reporting requirements, not the needs of strategic executives. Transactions are recorded in accounting structures by division, department and account with little linkage to profit dimensions such as customer, product, and vendor. When a customer pays for a product, key hidden expenses such as labor, warehouse, transportation, vendor, etc., are recorded in unrelated and separate accounting formats. This lack of linkage and transparency can lead to incomplete, inefficient and sometimes bad decisions.

Mark told us about a company that he had worked with that completely changed their product strategic direction by switching from product and SKU gross margin management to strategic profit and loss statements. This change resulted in driving .5% to 2.5 % profit points to the bottom line!

Diving deeper into this subject area, Mark relayed that marketing executives want to know where to make money so they can plan advertising budgets.  Sales organizations focus more on who is buying so they can set sales targets and quotas. Operational managers focus on what and how so they can balance supply to demand. Merchandisers focus on store floors and aisles so they can plan.  Corporate level executives just want to know when so they can set profit expectations.  Everyone wants different views of profitability.



Mark offered a good example of how a mistake can be made from too little information. Merchandisers want to turn over high volume products but likely don’t understand the hidden costs associated with them such as import fees and distribution costs.  Sales may want to push high revenue products to high volume customers even though the customer may be unprofitable because they tend to buy massive loss-leading products. These are very conflicting agendas and objectives and will not lead to profitability.

Bart provided good insight as to how Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management can transform traditional profitability information into strategic profit and loss reporting, giving execs and others the information they need to make good decisions. “Imagine an executive in your company pulling up a dashboard that has four different points of view into the same profit number”, Bart said. Views such as customer, product, channel (i.e. store), and warehouse all tying to the same bottom line with each view showing a color coded profit graph with the most and least profitable members. Continuing the story, the executive then clicks on the negative portion of the product graph and it displays an independent strategic profit and loss statement showing revenue, discounts, rebates, vendor costs, warehouse costs, transportation costs, store activity costs, cogs and negative income - all fully loaded with transparency and linkage to profit drivers such as quantity, activities, allocations, and other inter-dependencies.  

That sounded like utopia for executives, but Bart kept going…Now imagine further drilling into the strategic profit and loss  report and getting details on the store, SKU, vendor, customer, sales person, zip code, store isle and other profit measures important to decision making. I was hooked!

Bart told our listeners that this is just the tip of the iceberg.  This type of tool can also address:

SKU rationalization
Inventory reduction
Vendor negotiations
Bulk & benchmarking
Customer targeted marketing
Market basket & behaviors; sales incentives
Pricing & policy
Cost plus margin and minimum orders
Capital expense alignment
Return on Investment (ROI) alignment
Operating Expense resource alignment
Capacity and process improvements

I was amazed at the power of strategic profit and loss statements for executives. So you really need to ask yourself, “Can my profit and loss statements do all this?"

To listen to the entire podcast, click here.
To learn more about Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management, 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.












Friday Dec 20, 2013

Déjà Vu? Oracle EPM in 2013


As the year winds down, I wanted to share some of the highlights from EPM in 2013 and give a sneak peak about where we’re going next year. 2013 was a busy year with new product developments, new research studies, as well as customer events like Oracle OpenWorld. Let’s look back at some of these happenings and their associated blog posts.


New Product Developments 

Early in 2013, we announced a new release of Oracle Enterprise Performance Management with new integrations and product capabilities and updates to user experience that help companies to Unlock Business Potential – by unlocking business potential, companies are able to drive to the desired business outcomes of Aligned Objectives, Accurate Forecasts, Confident Close and a more Accountable Enterprise.

We also released new product modules, including Oracle Hyperion Tax Provision to help with aligning tax information and financial reporting, and Oracle Data Relationship Governance for improving financial master data governance and managing change.  In addition, we certified Oracle Hyperion Planning and Oracle Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management on Oracle Exalytics In-Memory Machine to help organizations Plan at the Speed of Business.  

For the sixth consecutive year, Gartner recognized Oracle as a Market Leader in its 2013 Magic Quadrant for Corporate Performance Management Suites report.  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.

New  Research

We conducted several interesting research studies in 2013.  Over the past several years, as we have gone through and emerged from the Great Recession, the role of the CFO has transitioned to one of catalyst for change.  New technologies and shifts in skill sets are also contributing to this changing role.  To understand these issues more deeply, we partnered with Accenture and released new research about the CFO’s changing role from financial overseer to corporate strategist and change agent.

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.  The EPM Blog featured some compelling results from the CVI around Enterprise Planning, Budgeting and Forecasting Processes.

Customer Events and Videos 

One of the highlights of the year was Oracle OpenWorld, and winning the America’s Cup during that week certainly added to the excitement!  The Business Analytics program this year was our strongest ever, with over 200 EPM, BI, Analytics, Big Data and Exalytics sessions delivered by Oracle, our customers and partners.   We had the opportunity to catch up with a number of these customers and partners after their sessions, and you can view the interviews here

In one of our blogs about Scorecards, we featured forward-looking DC Courts and their process for managing strategy and KPIs.  DC Courts are making some great strides in setting strategy and executing on it, and are really setting the bar for other US Courts. 
On the topic of Profitability and Cost Management, we interviewed Ida Quamina of Oracle about the great strides being made in mastering the cost of Higher Education, and how these institutions can now address the issues of low or no visibility into individual programs, degrees and course costs, or the cost per student.
Next up – Cloud and Mobile!

As we head into 2014, there are many exciting developments in store, and you can expect to see us talk a lot about Cloud and Mobile technologies next year. Our blog called, “Taking your Business Scorecard Golfing” is just a preview.  

Wishing you a very Happy Holiday and New Year!




Wednesday Nov 20, 2013

Alignment of Ever Shrinking Budgets in Federal, State and Local Government

According to Josh Kahn, the Federal, State and Local government agencies are facing austerity, uncertainty and the need for accountability and transparency now more than ever. Josh Kahn, a Solution Specialist  Director at Oracle, and James Antisdel, Manager with Deloitte Consulting, joined me for a podcast to discuss using Oracle Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management to align the ever shrinking budgets in government. Both James and Josh have a deep knowledge of and practical experience with the US Public Sector, particularly in government agencies.

We started off talking about the issues that government agencies are currently facing. Josh indicated that the agencies are facing many similar issues as the private sector in that transparency and efficiency are needed to help combat uncertainty and austerity. He felt that creating and using shared service centers enables organizations to provide a common product or service to a number of other organizations, thus increases efficiency and reducing effort. But without robust cost models to capture, analyze, and report on costs, it is difficult to measure and account for the new efficiencies, and equally difficult to explain the shared service charges.

So, I asked Josh what the barriers or limitations were to accomplishing this challenge. Josh explained that there are really three categories of limitations:

1) Legacy cost models are generally spreadsheet based. They rely on highly manual processes, lack transparency, lack a robust reporting solution and generally make analysis very difficult.
2) Data governance and quality. Many solutions rely on data that is sourced from disparate systems and commonly rely on data requests that require labor intensive processes and error prone manual transformation.
3) Cost models are generally kept simple.  Simple models limit analysis such as transaction level costing and commonly require a delay in producing results -- reducing the usefulness of data because it is likely old and irrelevant due to the delay

According to Josh, a good enterprise-level costing system like Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management can address all three of these limitations.

Next, James and I discussed how he had seen Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management used by his Federal, State and Local government customers. He told our listeners that he had seen it used for:

+ Cost allocations
+ Customer bill calculation/generation
+ Service center performance management
+ Assisting with planning and budgeting
+ Financial and operational analysis
+ Decision making

I was very impressed with the versatility of this application.

Digging deeper into a costing model for government, I asked James to tell us what an agency could hope to gain from implementing a costing system. James told our audience  that “development and management of the cost model can provide greater insight into the full cost of services provided to an agency’s customers, and can enable more informed decisions aimed at optimizing resources, increasing value, improving performance, gaining efficiencies, and reducing costs."  Furthermore he explained that Deloitte’s customers, armed with this new information, can begin taking next steps to improve business processes and work to refine their model to gain more insight into particular areas that offer opportunities for savings and improvements.  As a result, an agency will have the capability to accurately identify current and projected costs, formulate and justify budgets, and support operational process improvement and managerial decision making.

James emphasized that an enterprise costing solution can enable an agency to more readily pinpoint cost variances at a detailed-level and be far more responsive to requests for information from customers and other stakeholders.  It is a powerful analytical tool that can be used to support an agency in becoming transparent, efficient, and a Shared Services Center of Excellence.

So it seems that a powerful, versatile,  enterprise-level costing system can go a long way in helping to align the ever shrinking budgets in Federal, State and Local Government.

To listen to the entire podcast, click here
To learn more about Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management solution, click here

Tuesday Sep 10, 2013

Mastering the Cost of Higher Education with Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management


There is a perfect storm going on in the world of Higher Education right now. Over the last few years, the cost of higher education has been outpacing the consumer price index. To learn more about this important and disturbing phenomenon, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ida Quamina, Principal Solutions Consultant for EPM products at Oracle for our AppCast Series. She has a deep knowledge of and practical experience with Oracle’s Education and Research customers.

Parents are starting to ask how and why this perfect storm is happening. Well, both US college endowments and state appropriations are decreasing, while university expenses and enrollments are increasing. Yet universities are being forced to keep tuition costs flat. Ida also told us that Federal and State Governments are now starting to take a look at costs at institutions. President Obama, during his State of the Union address in February 2013, asked Congress to include affordability and value as a factor in determining which colleges receive federal aid. States are starting to require cost containment measures as part of their performance based funding models.

So how can Higher Education intuitions better understand and manage these issues? Ida told our listeners that Higher Education institutions already have good visibility into total operational costs and total revenue collected, but little or no visibility into individual program, degree and course costs, or the cost per student. Currently, colleges and universities have not implemented activity-based costing which is used in many commercial enterprises. Activity-based costing goes beyond the traditional allocation of overhead and provides institutions with better insight into information needed to make strategic decisions about cost containment and allocation of resources. With governing and regulatory bodies currently recommending (and likely soon requiring) this type of analysis and reporting, it is becoming critical for higher education institutions to have this type of insight for both long term and short term planning and reporting.

So which institutional processes benefit the most from understanding costs more? Ida explained that budget and spending decisions need to be based on data and not assumptions. Financial ERP systems and the current structure of institutions’ charts of accounts are not set up to support the type of analysis needed. Using activity-based cost and revenue modeling enables academic institutions to answer crucial questions and, more importantly, analyze many business scenarios to determine their best courses of action.

Ida further explained that for this type of process to be successful, collaboration between the academic and administrative teams in institutions is foundational and critical. These two groups need to start the discussion about how, and to what level, costs and revenues are to be allocated and which drivers are going to be used. This is the starting point to begin a good model. It is an iterative process and institutions will build upon this and create additional model scenarios as economic and academic conditions change.

So how can Oracle help? Ida told us that to survive, Higher Education institutions need to either make programs financial sustainable, or ensure there are other programs that have enough surplus to make up for the deficit of programs. Oracle can help with:

+ Transparency that enables institutions to ensure resources are aligned correctly based on actual measurable information
+ Understanding the true cost to implement new programs and the ability to make pricing decisions based on those costs
+ A thorough understanding of costs at a more granular level and the root cause of the costs. This information enables institutions to make informed decisions
+ Creating accountability that enables departments to understand the resources they consume as it relates to the revenue that they generating
+  Addressing concerns and questions from various stakeholders, e.g. CFO, Provost, Board of Trustees, State and other governing boards and accreditation bodies.

To stave off this perfect storm, it is imperative that our institutions now master the cost of Higher Education.

To listen to the entire interview, click here
To learn more about Oracle Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management in Higher Education click here
To learn more about Oracle Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management, click here


Tuesday Sep 03, 2013

Align Cost with Revenue for Profitable Growth in Diversified Industries

Historically, growing revenue typically equated to increased profitability for most organizations, but in this economy this statement is no longer true. On this subject, I was very fortunate to interview Ralph Canter, Managing Director, and part of KPMG’s Diversified Industries Practice (an Oracle Platinum Partner) and Bart Stoehr, Senior Director of Product Management for Oracle in an Oracle AppCast podcast. 

According to Ralph, diversified industries – which includes global manufacturing – has had a roller coaster ride in terms of profitability over the last 20 years. Post 2008, many experienced slowed, stalled or even reversed growth so much so that companies had to focus on how to stop the bleeding and reduce/control costs rather than focusing on increasing revenue. Growth for growth’s sake was no longer sustainable so companies had to adopt what KPMG calls ‘profitable growth’. This is growth with a lens or focus on serving many market segments and many demands on product, supply chain, and customer satisfaction.

I asked Ralph to tell us about the biggest hurdles to profitable growth and being able to measure it. He told us, “The biggest hurdle has been that the game has kind of changed. Systems have been developed over time to support the measurement of how growth used to be – which was more regional and stable and long term – and you had a timeframe in which to build the system to address a certain growth period. Today, in a global environment, the global view is segmented by customer, by product, by channel, by region, by market, by sales channel – all kinds of dimensions. And what’s happened since 2008 is that the revenue picture has become a very, very sophisticated analysis that is very aligned to tell you where you’re growing. What’s been left behind is the cost view of that growth. So while I have really good aligned OLAP cubes analyzing my revenue growth, I do not have an associated, detailed cost model that can align with that revenue to create a profitability analysis of the revenue growth view. What we see is a limitation in the maturity of cost to keep up with the maturity of how you are analyzing your revenue and your profitable growth.”

So what became clear was, in this economy, profitability is no longer as simple as subtracting cost from revenue!


Once we were clear on the issues, I asked Ralph to tell us more about how Oracle Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management and KPMG can help organizations with profitable growth.  Ralph told our listeners, “Our point of view starts with revenue and not cost. We help customers understand how they want to measure their growth and then help them design their cost information ‘content’ to make sure we can answer the profitable growth question. In most cases this means reconstructing a cost view that matches up to the profitable growth questions. This is where the functionality of Hyperion Profitability and Cost management is leveraged to not only support the reconstruction, but also keep cost and revenue aligned and reportable”.

I asked Bart if he could talk about some Oracle Customers that are practicing profitable growth and he specifically mentioned Leggett and Platt (invented the bed spring in 1885) who are now quantifying the cost of delivering special services to their customers, assessing the value of those services, improving product portfolio management, attacking cost reduction opportunities and streamlining operations (to mention a few objectives). Bart told our listeners that Leggett and Platt are using a combination of Oracle Hyperion Planning and Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management to push GL costs to align them with revenues by pooling the costs, moving them to activities where they are consumed by the various products, customers and customer segments, and then driving them down based on product consumption characteristics. Leggett and Platt are using some of the costs derived by Oracle Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management to perform driver based planning in Hyperion  Planning - the power of the two working together are simply unmatched.

To help the listeners understand how Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management specifically helps with profitable growth, Bart and Ralph emphasized some key features used for this purpose. There are many of them, but their favorites are:

+ Any costing method or combination of methods that represent an organization well can be used. Nothing is prescribed but practicality is recommended
+The traceability map enables you to understand where costs come from, how they are consumed and where they go. This is important to help all members of the value chain understand what is going on
+The pre-configured ability to deal with excess capacity (Provides fully loaded view and incremental views of cost to help support current and future decision making)

There is much more to the interview, but it was certainly clear that many kinds of diversified and product-focused industries can benefit from using this method of growing profitably, and Ralph and Bart provided very interesting insight into the practicalities of growing profitably by aligning cost with revenue.

To listen to the entire podcast, click here.

For more information about Oracle Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management, click here.


Friday Aug 02, 2013

Report from OpenWorld Shanghai

Oracle OpenWorld Shanghai 2013 was held July 22nd – 25th at the International Expo Center in Shanghai, China. The conference drew over 19,000 attendees from 44 countries. In addition, 580 CxOs attended the Executive Edge program, and 430+ partners attended the Oracle Partner Network Exchange. The conference included a number of sessions on Big Data, Business Analytics, Business Intelligence and Enterprise Performance Management delivered by Oracle, our partners and customers. 


Shanghai Skyline
I had the pleasure to attend the conference and delivered three sessions focused on Oracle’s Hyperion Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) applications. Each of my sessions was well-attended, and in a few cases was standing room only, so there is clearly a lot of interest in the China market in EPM. The EPM and BI demo pods in the DemoGrounds at the conference also received a lot of traffic. In addition to the conference sessions I delivered, I had several meetings with customers and partners in Shanghai.

These sessions and meetings I attended made clear the interest that customers in China have in improving their planning, management reporting, financial reporting, and profitability management processes. In fact, with the China Ministry of Finance now standardizing on XBRL for annual reporting across multiple agencies in China, there is a great opportunity here for our disclosure management application. One interesting finding is that the China market may not be ready for cloud-based applications as many companies are state-owned and have security concerns, so on-premise applications are likely to see continued demand.  

For more information about the Oracle OpenWorld China 2013 conference, please check the web  site: 

http://www.oracle.com/events/apac/cn/en/openworld/index.html

And don’t forget, Oracle OpenWorld San Francisco 2013 is just around the corner in September of 2013. Please check the web site for registration and content information: 

http://www.oracle.com/openworld/index.html


Shanghai Demo Grounds

Thursday Jul 11, 2013

The CFO as Catalyst for Change - Part 3

Over the past few months, we’ve taken a microscope to the role of the CFO. The changing economic environment is creating new demands and opportunities for CFOs around the world. At Oracle, we are committed to helping CFOs navigate and succeed, and recently partnered with Accenture on a global research study, “The CFO as Catalyst for Change.”

As the Wall Street Journal’s CFO Journal summarized, the study highlights the evolution of the CFO’s role from financial overseer to corporate strategist and change agent. I discussed the main findings in a previous blog post, but wanted to share some great insights on the study from industry influencers.

InformationWeek’s Doug Henschen discussed the increasing role CFOs are playing in the technology department, highlighting the similarity between what has also been happening with CMOs. I think the CFO’s role in technology decisions can have a bigger impact and is worth noting.

Without a doubt, CFOs are taking technology seriously! CFO Magazine highlighted the skills perspective in their article on the study, pointing out that when asked about where CFOs could improve their skills and capabilities, technology knowledge was ranked second only to industry knowledge. Now, that’s saying something!

But they are not just focusing on ways to enhance their knowledge base -- CFOs also understand the importance of new technology. A Wall Street & Technology article on the study stressed how CFOs are increasingly citing disruptive technology as critical for success. In fact, 79 percent of respondents viewed access to information as a key driver of organizational agility, while 57 percent viewed investments in big data and analytics as a key source of competitive advantage.

The study shows that the role of the CFO has dramatically changed and it continues to evolve at a rapid pace. Now, CFOs must be catalysts for change and help their organizations transform and thrive in today’s global economy. 



Tuesday Jul 09, 2013

Beware of Competitive EPM Migration Offers

Recently, one of the upstart, cloud-based EPM vendors announced a migration program for Hyperion EPM Application customers.  This was surprising to see since a number of EPM vendors have tried these programs in the past and they are rarely successful. The reason is that while on the surface software license fees, maintenance or subscription services seem like the largest cost components, much of a customer's investment in EPM applications is actually represented by implementation of the software and training of the users and administrators. 



At Hyperion and Oracle, through more than 30 years of working with Finance applications, we have found that when finance users have deployed a solution that works and addresses their needs, they will stick with the tried and true and are resistant to switching applications and, in many cases, even upgrading to new releases of the same application. In addition, EPM applications used for the financial close and reporting process, or ongoing forecasting and planning, have become mission critical so upgrades need to be carefully planned to avoid disruption.



From my perspective, Hyperion EPM application customers who are satisfied with their solutions (and most are) will be unlikely to switch to another vendor’s cloud-based solution. In fact, such a move could represent a step backwards in functionality. And, if a Hyperion EPM customer wants to move from an on-premise deployment to a cloud-based solution, Oracle provides options here. This includes Oracle Managed Cloud Services where the customer retains their software license, but Oracle hosts the EPM applications (and others) in our data center. Hundreds of Oracle customers are already using this service. In addition, Oracle recently launched a Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service which makes Oracle Hyperion Planning available as a Cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) offering.



The Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service speeds implementations and reduces the barriers to adoption for new customers. It also provides existing customers the option of moving their existing Hyperion Planning applications to the Oracle Cloud. If a cloud-based approach is of interest, moving Hyperion Planning from on-premise to the Oracle cloud will be a lot easier than moving to a competitor's offering – which requires a re-implementation and re-training of users and higher costs. But more importantly, the Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service will be most attractive to new customers who have outgrown spreadsheets and low-end planning applications and are ready for a world-class solution that’s part of a broader set of cloud-based applications.



Oracle is the market leader in EPM and is committed to meeting the current and future needs of our customers - with world class applications that can be deployed on premise, in the cloud, or via a hybrid approach.  
For more information about the Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service, and other Oracle Cloud solutions, click here.



Tuesday May 28, 2013

Unlocking Business Potential with Enterprise Performance Management

As we look at the enterprise performance management (EPM) market, it’s clear that the fundamentals of EPM haven’t changed in the last 5 – 10 years.  EPM is still about linking strategies to plans and execution, monitoring financial and operational results against goals, and applying analytics to understand key trends, make better decisions and drive enterprise-wide performance.

What has changed is the world that we operate in. Although economic growth is slow, business cycles are faster so planning and forecasting needs to be more frequent.  There’s more data available to analyze and leverage for planning and reporting – both internally and externally generated.  Stakeholders have higher expectations.  That includes external stakeholders who want more quantitative and qualitative disclosures about the organizations they are investing in, as well as internal management stakeholders who are demanding more frequent insights into financial and operating results.  Even the workforce has changed, for instance Millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000) were raised on technology and have less patience for systems that are outdated or don’t respond quickly.  In addition, technology is changing with the shift to Cloud, Mobile and Social computing.  These new technology enablers that are available today create many opportunities to drive innovation and improve efficiency if leveraged correctly.  

So while today’s market presents a number of challenges to achieving the goals of CEOs and CFOs, there are also opportunities to unlock the potential of their organizations to drive profitable growth. These include:

-
Eliminating or investing more in under-performing products
- Putting more focus on under-served customer segments
- Better utilizing existing staff and capacity
- Putting the excess cash on the balance sheet to work – investing in new markets, products, and services
- Creating more efficient business processes and reducing IT complexity to reduce costs

Many organizations are finding that an integrated EPM platform can help them break down the barriers to success, linking business goals to results and unlocking business potential.  With a world class EPM platform organizations can deliver the desired outcomes needed to succeed in today’s market; Aligned Objectives, Accurate Forecasts, Confident Close and a more Accountable Enterprise.  Plus they can address the needs of Finance, IT, as well as line of business managers to ensure more consistent decision-making.

To learn more about how an integrated EPM platform can help your organization unlock its business potential,
download our new white paper:  Enterprise Performance Management – Unlocking Business Potential. 

Also, learn how the latest release of Oracle Hyperion EPM helps organizations unlock their business potential, here’s a link to the
press release.

And for more general information about Oracle Hyperion EPM please go to www.oracle.com/epm.



Thursday May 23, 2013

The CFO as Catalyst for Change - Part 2


In Part 1 of this series, I talked about some of the factors that are changing the role of the CFO.  But exactly how much has the CFO role changed and what’s in store for the future? To shed more light on the subject, Oracle partnered with Accenture to conduct a global research study. The study "The CFO as Catalyst for Change", includes insights from 930 CFOs from organizations of varying sizes and from different continents. In other words, it's quite comprehensive.

The study highlights the evolution of the CFO’s role from financial overseer to corporate strategist and change agent. Specifically, there are a few key takeaways I wanted to highlight:

The CFO role is becoming more strategic and influential:

- More than 70% of respondents said their overall level of strategic influence has increased over the past three years
- Respondents said their role is increasing in setting and determining strategy (65%) and business transformation (47%).

Internal and external challenges are hindering CFOs from reaching their full strategic potential:

- Only 33% of CFOs surveyed play a leading role in strategy formulation; an even smaller proportion (24%) play a leading role in strategy execution
- The challenging economic environment was identified as the largest barrier (37%), followed by a shortage of time (35%) and lack of integration between the finance function and other parts of the business (31%).

CFOs recognize technology is critical to helping:

- 84% of respondents said co-operation between the finance leader and CIO has increased during the past three years.
- 79% listed access to information as a key factor to making their organization more agile
- 57% of respondents viewed investments in disruptive technology, such as big data and analytics, as key source of competitive advantage.

Maintenance and integration issues are still the biggest technology concerns for CFOs:

- Cost of maintenance, cost of integration and lack of integration between systems were listed as the top three concerns of CFO respondents.

For more information, you can find the press release and links to the full report here.  If you’d like to hear the findings discussed in more detail make sure to tune into the CFO.com webcast on May 30th at 12PM EDT.  More information on the webcast and registration is available here.








Wednesday May 08, 2013

The CFO as Catalyst for Change - Part 1

In today’s hyper-competitive global economy, senior executives often have to wear more than one hat to help their organizations reach their full potential.   A good example is the CFO. With the constant need to drive innovation and growth, coupled with their more traditional financial responsibilities like managing costs, CFOs are under increasing pressure to take on an even broader role within their organizations. This evolving role has seen CFOs become more valued strategic and commercial partners, but has not reduced the challenges they face. From working with customers in nearly every industry and geography, a few of the challenges CFOs currently face have become clear, including:


  • The operating environment – While the economy is recovering, CFOs are still facing a low-growth external environment. The need to focus on cost management and efficiency has, in many cases, meant the difference between survival and extinction. Yet, the CFO’s role has broadened to include playing a greater role in technology and operations. Therefore, lack of time and role overstretch are key problems.

  • Skills and capabilities – As the role of the CFO expands, so must the CFO skill set. This has presented a problem for organizations with finding the right talent and capabilities that move beyond the traditional finance skills. Current CFOs also need to expand their own capabilities – particularly with technology. 

  • Technology – The CFO's role in IT investment is more apparent than ever. According to Gartner, 45 percent of IT leaders report to the CFO…that’s more than report to any other executive. While technological innovation such as big data, business analytics, cloud, mobile and social are a priority for the majority of organizations, most financial executives are unable to evaluate IT investments, making it harder for them to show the fruits of their labors. 

Despite these challenges, I know many CFOs that are taking a more strategic role, but they are also the first to admit that there is more work to be done. Over the next few months we will explore this topic in more depth and discuss how technology and other factors can help CFOs become catalysts for change and unlock the true potential within organizations around the world.

For more information about the role of the CFO and best practices in dealing with today's Finance challenges, check out Oracle CFO Central at www.oracle.com/cfo.







Friday Apr 26, 2013

EPM and ERP - Better Together

I recently had the pleasure to attend and present at the Collaborate 2013 user conference in Denver, Colorado.  This event is run by three of the Oracle user groups – OAUG, IOUG and Quest and attracted over 5000 attendees this year.  The conference included hundreds of sessions covering Oracle Applications, Database, and Middleware which were delivered by Oracle customers, partners and staff members.  The EPM/BI/Data Warehousing track itself had over 130 sessions, most of which were delivered by customers and partners, and which were very-well attended.  Conference attendees and members of the Oracle user groups can see the session list and gain access to the presentation content at this link:  http://collaborate.oaug.org/education/search.

One of the highlights of the conference was the RadiOAUG live radio show that was broadcast from the exhibit hall during the conference.  This was pretty interesting – as two professional radio broadcasters interviewed Oracle executives, customers and partners on a variety of topics that were in focus for the conference.    I was interviewed on the topic of “ERP and EPM – Better Together”. 




During this short interview I talked about the progress Oracle has made in integrating the Hyperion EPM Applications with Oracle E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, Fusion and SAP Financials.  I highlighted 3 specific areas of integration that Oracle has built out -- data, metadata, and process integration.  We also discussed how EPM can help with ERP upgrades, through managing metadata like the Chart of Accounts, and providing a consistent planning and reporting environment while the systems are being upgraded on the back end.  I finished by talking about the role our EPM applications can play in helping ERP customers extend their investments and improve their management processes such as Strategy Management, Planning and Forecasting, Financial Close and Reporting as well as Profitability and Cost Management.  Here’s a link to a replay of my RadiOAUG interview:  JohnO'Rourke.mp3.

Here’s a link to all of the RadiOAUG programs that were recorded at Collaborate 2013: http://remote1.businessradiox.com/

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


 

Wednesday Apr 10, 2013

Planning at the Speed of Business with Hyperion Planning on Oracle Exalytics

Oracle’s corporate strategy is based on simplifying IT and powering innovation for our customers. As part of that, we recently announced a series of new Oracle In-Memory Applications and released several white papers focusing on how Oracle Engineered Systems can help customers run their business processes without constraints.
In the world of enterprise planning, this includes implementing best practices like driver-based rolling forecasts, “tapping into the wisdom of crowds” in the forecasting process, and aligning financial and operational planning. While customers strive to actually implement these best practices, system constraints often get in the way. In fact, in a study done by Dynamic Markets for Oracle in 2011, a staggering 95% of respondents said they encountered problems with their current planning systems, especially around data, timeliness and analyzing different scenarios.

Deploying Oracle Hyperion Planning on the Oracle Exalytics In-Memory Machine changes the game by delivering some remarkable performance capabilities at lower cost than ever before possible. In-memory technology can dramatically accelerate analytic performance and enable more innovative decision-making. Exalytics drives a new class of smarter and more powerful analytic applications that simply weren’t possible using conventional planning software and generic hardware configurations.

Consider the following results from early customer benchmarks:

+ 5X to 100X faster interactivity, leading to better decisions and accuracy

+ 6X to 10X faster planning cycles

+ 5X reduction in server footprint, resulting in lower TCO

So what does this mean for you? It means you can more feasibly address the new realities of today’s planning environment. You can speed up your planning and forecasting processes, while planning in more detail and for more users across the organization. Moreover, you can extend planning beyond Finance, run more complex planning models, and ultimately increase your forecast accuracy. Improvements in forecast accuracy translate into substantial business value – industry analysts estimate that even a nominal 3% improvement in accuracy could drive as much a 2% gain in profit margins. And isn’t increasing business value what Finance is all about?

For more information about Oracle Hyperion Planning and EPM applications running on Oracle Exalytics, you can find the new whitepapers on oracle.com here:

+ Oracle Exalytics In-Memory Machine: Enterprise Planning without Constraints (PDF)
+ Oracle Hyperion EPM Applications on Oracle Exalytics In-Memory Machine: Performance Management without Constraints (PDF)
+ Management Reporting on Oracle Exalytics In-Memory Machine (PDF)
+ Achieving a Virtual Financial Close with Oracle Exalytics In-Memory Machine (PDF)
You can also listen to the replay of a recent webcast about how Biogen Idec, working with Peloton Group, is leveraging Oracle Exalytics to transform planning processes. Click here to listen to the replay.

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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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