In the Field

Opportunities, Cost Savings, and an EPM Case Study

How ODTUG leaped from spreadsheets to SaaS—and how to take advantage of change

By Leslie Steere

January/February 2019

Oracle Magazine took the opportunity at Oracle OpenWorld 2018 to catch up with leaders from several key Oracle user groups and communities. In the second of a series of articles based on our conversations, Gary Crisci describes ODTUG’s adoption of an Oracle enterprise performance management (EPM) cloud solution, talks about the benefits of embracing change, and outlines ODTUG’s mission to support its members in the present and prepare them for the future.

As director and treasurer of ODTUG, a global organization whose purpose is to keep members “on the cutting edge of the constantly changing Oracle technology landscape,” Crisci has many areas of expertise, one of which is EPM (in his day job, Crisci is a principal architect and director of product management at GE; he is also an Oracle ACE Director).

Credit for Cloud

The beauty of a SaaS application is that you don’t have to do things such as install and capitalize hardware assets and depreciate them on your balance sheet, buy on-premises licenses, or patch the software, says ODTUG director and treasurer Gary Crisci. “I have no capital investment. I don’t have to put anything in a physical location. All I have to do to order a service is give them a credit card, and we start using it.”

“EPM is a way of using a suite of technology products to look at what we’re doing in our business, report on it, and understand where we are and where we can go,” he explains. It’s “the last mile of finance reporting in a lot of ways, because most of the finance work gets done in the ERP system first and then you bring it down into the EPM modules, where you can do your consolidation, eliminations, financial planning, and analysis and come up with your external reporting. EPM is critical to running a business. In my experience, I have found that when things are going well, you want EPM. And when things are going badly, you need EPM.”

Out with Spreadsheets, in with the Cloud

No surprise, then, that one of Crisci’s first moves as ODTUG treasurer was to upgrade the user group’s own financial reporting structure from Microsoft Excel to Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service. “We manage a 14,000-member user group,” he explains. “We spend a tremendous amount of money on conferences, booking them five years out; our contingent obligations are in the millions of dollars; and we managed everything in Excel. As an EPM professional, I found the idea that we were managing our budgets and our finances in a spreadsheet very painful.”

If questions arose during ODTUG finance committee meetings, “I would have to ask our accountant and she would have to find the data, build an Excel report, and send it to us,” he says—which sometimes took a day or two. If the committee had more questions, she’d do it again, “and we’d go back and forth like this,” says Crisci. “So when Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service came along, we got a subscription. I was able to log in the next day, and within a few days, I was able to start migrating away from those Excel files and start doing a better analysis of the way the organization works.”

Prior to cloud services, “we couldn’t adopt any kind of tools like this, because it would have involved a capital investment in servers, location storage, maintenance, patching—all kinds of things that a volunteer organization cannot do,” he says.

Now ODTUG runs its financial close and board meetings directly out of Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service. With the cloud service, says Crisci, “we have a full visual picture of what our organization’s finances are and we can drill down into the details if we need to answer a question. As a board, we operate faster and much more efficiently.”

ODTUG financial close meetings now last about 10 to 15 minutes, says Crisci, “and it’s been a great shift for us and a real success case in how cloud technology and SaaS applications can revolutionize and change things for organizations of all sizes.”

Embrace Change

“I think that one of the things everyone has to recognize is that if you’re not comfortable with change, it’s too bad,” says Crisci. “People who hold on too tightly to what they’ve done before are going to struggle in the future. I think you have to be the kind of person who embraces change and sees it as an opportunity; you must to be willing to adapt.”

Embrace Change—or Else

“You have to be comfortable with change, because things are changing at a pace that we haven’t seen before and they’re only going to continue to get faster,” says ODTUG director and treasurer Gary Crisci. “You have to alter your mindset to see change as opportunity. When things change, it means there’s an opportunity to do more, to do something else, to right a wrong—whatever the case may be. It’s an excuse to transform and do things that can benefit you.”

“When we look at things like Oracle Autonomous Database and we see organizations moving to the cloud, where people are asking whether they are still going to have a job, they need to know we are creating new jobs in this process,” says Crisci. “We’re talking about jobs that are going away, but the jobs that go away should be the non-value-add jobs. The jobs where so much money is spent just to keep things working are not a good spend of capital and not a good use of human resources,” he says. “And that’s what we want to do with our membership base, through our education programs and our conferences, and the kind of things that we do such as networking—to help people keep pace with change and understand where the opportunities are and be prepared to take advantage of them.

“Those people who are just keeping the systems running are smarter than that,” says Crisci, “and we need to learn as business leaders how to repurpose those people now that they’re freed from those shackles and use them in a way to actually start providing more value to the organization. So I don’t think they go away; I think they get repurposed.”

Next Steps

WATCH the Gary Crisci video.


LEARN about ODTUG’s Kscope event.

Photography by Oracle Digital Media Production