By Joe G on May 10, 2012
Here's video of Smart View in action. Reading about it is fine. Seeing it is better.
When talking with customers and potential customers of Fusion Fiancials, it is clear that they have heard that the reporting capabilities in Fusion Financials is quite extensive. It is not so clear that we have done a great job in explaining the capabilities. I will attempt to explain each of the solutions and point out the acronyms frequently used in conjunction with each solution and when you would use each of these solutions.
Oracle Transactional Business Intelligence for Financials
Frequently referred to as OTBI, this solution allows you to build ad hoc queries or reports using views on transactional business objects. With Fusion Financials, you can build your own reports using the OBIEE tool and subject areas delivered with Fusion. With simple drag and drop functionality, you can build a report (or ad hoc query) on any transaction without the need for a developer. A couple of examples would be Unpaid Supplier Invoices or Payments over $25,000. There are sorting, filtering, formatting capabilities with a variety of output options. There are some pre-built reports delivered in OTBI for Fusion Financials.
There are cases where a very specific format is required such as printed checks. BI Publisher is the perfect tool for this, but is has many other great uses. There are some pre-built reports delivered via BIP as part of Fusion Financials.
When we speak about Financial Reports, we are talking about reports that look solely at GL balances. These reports utilize the essbase cube to present financial data in a real-time environment without having to "run" a report. These reports are defined using the FR Studio tool which has many features including hierarchy expansion and drilldown.
Smart View is an excel add-in that allows users to query GL Balance data real-time within Excel. There's a previous blog post here that provides more information.
Oracle Business Intelligence Analytics
OBIA as we typically call it provides information from the pre-built data warehouse. The data here is not real-time based as with the other solutions. Of all of these solutions, OBIA is not required and is separately licensed.
Hopefully, this gives a better idea of the reporting functionality within Fusion Financials, but if you have any questions, just leave me a comment, and I will respond or add a new blog post.
I've been struggling with how to write on the topic of the importance of hierarchy design. It's not so much that hierarchies haven't always been important, it's more of that with Fusion, the timing of when the hierarchies are designed should take a higher priority. I will attempt to explain.....
When I was implementing applications, back in the day, we had the list of detailed account values to enter with the obvious parent accounts. Then, after the setup was complete and things were functioning, the reporting phase started. Users explained the elements that they want on the reports, what totals should be included, and how things should be compared. Frequently, there was at least one calculation that became a nightmare either because it was based on very specific things that didn't relate to anything else or because it was "hardcoded" so that when something changed, someone need to "fix" the report.
With Fusion, the process changes slightly. You still want to enter all of the detailed accounts, but before you start adding parent values, you should investigate the reporting requirements from the top-down. It's better to build hierarchies based on the reporting requirements than it is to build reports based on random hierarchies. Build reports based on hierarchies that resemble the reports themselves, and maintain the hierarchies without rework of the reports.
For example, if you look at an income statement, you may have line items for Material Costs, Employee Costs, Travel & Entertainment, and Total Operating Expenses. In your hierarchy, you have detail values that roll up to Material Costs, Employee Costs, and Travel & Entertainment which roll up to Total Operating Expenses. Balances are stored automatically in the cube for each of these. When you define the report, you pick each of these members - no calculations required. If a new detail value is added, you simply add it to the hierarchy, and there is no need to modify the report.
I realize that there are always exceptions that require special handling, but I am confident that you will end up with much fewer exceptions if you make reporting a priority and design your hierarchies from the top-down.
I started working at Oracle in 1997. Since then, we (and most everyone) have been talking about transforming finance operations....but what does that mean exactly? From my perspective, I thought it meant eliminate waste and menial tasks and giving your finance team more time to work on more strategic things. That seems logical and simplistic, but how much progress have finance teams (and their IT departments) really made over the past fifteen years?
I have yet to talk to a customer that doesn't have one amusing task that makes me chuckle. Sometimes they still print hard copies of transactions to "file," or sometimes they print 700 pages of data to "analyze," or sometimes they cut and paste from one or more reports into a spreadsheet. Upon hearing these things, my first question is always, "Why do you do that?" to which their response is rarely the same. Sometimes it's related to trust (both the employee and the system). Sometimes, it's habit-based. And sometimes it is just impossible to accomplish the end result without some manual effort.
I will say that I used to print nearly everything that I needed to review. Partly, because I liked having the ability to scribble notes on the paper, and partly, because it was uncomfortable to read online. However, I have changed. Rarely do I print anything anymore. It's easier for me to read and notate online, and well, I guess I've just changed my habits.
So where do you think our resistance to change comes from? Is it truly deficits in our systems, or is it our own personal resistance to change? What's your most annoying & untransformed task?
I hear this phrase frequently from customers and partners. Generally, the blank is filled in with "it" or "it this way". When they say, "EBS does it" or "R12 does it", they're inevitably talking about some feature. If they say, "EBS does it this way", it means there's a misunderstanding of how Fusion works.
This leads me to the first misconception of Fusion: Fusion is just like the E-Business Suite. While it is true that EBS Financials was the basis for Fusion, Fusion is not a re-packaged version of EBS. Much of Fusion does closely resemble EBS, but much of it does not.
"EBS does it"
There are features that exist in EBS that are not in Fusion. EBS is an extremely mature product with many releases, and each release typically adds new features building on the functionality of prior releases. This is how software works, our beloved facebook is always releasing new "features", and angry birds gives us new birds and new levels. Fusion Financials is software, and it is not EBS R13.
"EBS does it this way"
For many of the capabilities that exist in EBS, Fusion has a different way of meeting the same functional requirements. Some examples are Responsiblities & Security, Setup, and Reporting which are quite unlike EBS. In my opinion, Fusion handles these three areas in a much better way than EBS. However, they are significantly different in Fusion, and it's not just a simple mapping or translation exercise to understand the differences.
So, for all of you EBS gurus out there, take comfort in knowing that there are similarities between Fusion and EBS. Not everything is similar though, and in some cases, it may be easier to forget your knowledge of "how EBS does it" and learn "how Fusion does it" without trying to translate.
The next time you hear someone say, "EBS does _______", just realize that comparing software is sometimes like comparing fruit.
Over the past year, I have spent a lot of time working with customers who are implementing Fusion Financials. My primary role is to educate these early adopters on the inner workings of Fusion Financials and its benefits. Most of you probably assumed that I have just gotten bored with blogging and decided to abandon this blog. I can't completely argue with that assumption because honestly, it's partly true. However, a bigger part of the truth is that I wasn't really sure exactly what stuff anyone would be interested in reading. I can spew forth all kinds of detailed facts, but are any of you looking for a regurgitation of the vast information readily available on oracle.com regarding Fusion Financials? I doubt it.
In spending time working with these customers, I have gotten my own education. It's not that I learn new functionality in Fusion (well, sometimes), but I learn from listening to our customers and partners and from understanding their business needs and nuances. Sometimes, I'm schooled because of a complete misconception on their part of what they think Fusion is. Other times, it stems from my persistent questioning of "Why do you do that?"
We've been working on Fusion for several years now. Often, we forget that the concepts in Fusion, many of which we take for granted, are completely foreign to outsiders. For the more complex concepts, I believe that we are just beginning to understand the best way to explain them, or we're just now identifying the bigger, previously unrealized, benefits that many customers can gain from them.
Over the next few blog posts, I'm going to attempt to explain in detail some of the most common misconceptions, some of the more "interesting" concepts, and some the newly discovered benefits of Fusion Financials. In the meantime, if there is something that you're just dying to know, just leave a comment.
If you haven't see it already, take a look at this post on the Oracle Financials Product Marketing blog.
In it, Kathy Kelly from PGA (The Professional Golf Association) of America talks about why they became an early adopter for Fusion Financials.
If you want to find out more about Fusion Financials at OpenWorld this week, come along to the following sessions:
Monday 3.30pm Meet the Experts: Oracle Fusion Financials Moscone West - Applications/CRM Lounge
Monday 5pm Oracle Fusion Financials' Coexistence with Oracle E-Business Suite Moscone West 3018
Tuesday 11.45am General Session: Oracle Fusion Applications—Overview, Strategy, and Roadmap Moscone West 2002/2004
Tuesday 5pm Oracle Fusion Financials Overview, Strategy, and Roadmap Moscone West 3002/3004
Wednesday 10.15am Oracle Fusion Financials: Innovations in Financial Reporting Moscone West 3016
Wednesday 11.45am Oracle Fusion Enterprise Resource Planning: Answers to the Top 10 Questions Moscone West 3003
Wednesday 11.45am General Session: Oracle Fusion Applications—Overview, Strategy, and Roadmap (repeat session) Moscone West 2002/2004
Wednesday 1.15pm Oracle Fusion Financials: Improve Accounting Operations Productivity Moscone West 3014
Thursday 12pm Oracle Fusion Financials' Coexistence with PeopleSoft Financial Management Applications Moscone West 3003
Fusion Financials is also at the demogrounds in Moscone West, Area W-027 and W-028.
Also look out for us in the red Fusion Nation vests – if you have questions about Fusion, stop us and ask!
With the earlier request, I wanted to take a moment to discuss the Fusion Accounting Hub. First of all, it is a separately licensed product just as is the Financial Accounting Hub in EBS. However, Fusion Accounting Hub is different in that it has two modes of implementation:
The Fusion Accounting Hub can be used as an integration platform where the Subledger Accounting module can be used to create accounting entries that post to your existing General Ledger. This is very similar to how the Financial Accounting Hub works. You would use this option if you're satisfied with your current implementation, but you have external systems for which you would like to generate accounting entries and post to your current GL.
The primary difference with the Fusion Accounting Hub is the ability to use it as a reporting platform. In this option you would post your journals (or balances) from your existing implementation to Fusion General Ledger. You may be wondering why someone would want to do this. The primary reason is the innovative functionality built-in to Fusion GL, including the cube, Financial Reporting, Smart View, and the GL Dashboard. This may be an attractive option for companies that are in need of better analysis and reporting functionality in their General Ledger without re-implementing an entire suite of applications.
Hopefully, this helps explain the Fusion Accounting Hub a bit more, but as always, if you have any questions, feel free to leave us a comment.
I put together this blog entry for the Account Inspector at the same time as writing the one for Smart View. It made sense because the two tools are similar in many respects - both are designed around the capabilities of the Essbase cube which is at the heart of Fusion GL.
Just like Smart View, you can use Account Inspector to slice and dice or pivot your data, you can also expand parent / child values within your account hierarchy and drilldown to supporting journal details. And, like Smart View, the Account Inspector is based on real-time GL balances. (If you need more details on what any of these mean, please take a look at the earlier Smart View post).
So why do we have two similar tools in Fusion GL? When might you want to use
one rather than the other?
Smart View is one example of the Essbase cube at work: it is a GL account analysis tool that combines Essbase and Excel. Smart View is an Excel plugin, so if you're already using spreadsheets for account analysis this is a very nice feature. And it works by exploiting some of the capabilities inherent in the cube.
For those of you that have forgotten algebra, GL3 is GL cubed, that's an Oracle Essbase cube to be precise. The idea behind incorporating the cube into Fusion GL was to give users the powerful multi-dimensional analysis capabilities, but wait, it's even better.....
The cube contains real-time balances. Meaning that when a journal is posted, the balances in the cube are updated. And not only the detailed balances, but the balances for all levels of the hierarchies over different dimensions too. In short, this means that there's no longer any processes needed to calculate summary balances. Oh, and, you can have multiple hierarchies or versions of hierarchies over any dimension, and they're all updated during posting.
Still not convinced? There's more.....Smart View, Financial Reporting, Allocations, Account Monitor, and Account Inspector all powered by cube.
Stayed tuned. Over the next few weeks, I'll go into more details around what makes Fusion Financials better and more on the power of the cube. In the meantime, if there's something that you would like to know, leave a comment and we'll put it on the list of topics for future posts.
This blog will be used by Financials Strategy group to discuss various Fusion Financials topics. Want to know more? Just ask.