Monthly Archives: October 2014

Fall Full of Events!

October 29, 2014

Our 2014 events calendar has been full all year so it’s no surprise that the trend is continuing through the fall. Take a look at what we have planned for November!

2014 East Coast Oracle Users Conference (ECO)
Tuesday, November 4th – Wednesday, November 5th
Sheraton Imperial Hotel & Conference Center, Raleigh/Durham, NC

2014 Fall Kansas City CSOAUG Oracle Summit
Wednesday, November 12th
Westin Kansas City at Crown Center, Kansas City, MO

An OBIEE Developer’s Guide to Essbase Integration Webinar
Wednesday, November 12th, 3:30 PM EST

NYC Metro Oracle Applications User Group (OAUGNYC) 2014 Fall Meeting
Wednesday, November 12th, 8:30 AM EST – 3:30 PM EST
Hotel Pennsylvania, New York, NY

Michigan Oracle Users Summit 2014
Friday, November 14th
Schoolcraft College – VisTaTech Center, Livonia, MI

2014 Fall St. Louis CSOAUG Oracle Summit
Thursday, November 20th
Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis, St. Louis, MO

Our team members would be delighted to schedule time with you to learn more about your business intelligence (BI) and enterprise performance management (EPM) needs. If you would like to schedule a meeting at any of our upcoming events, please send a note to sales@performancearchitects.com with some times and dates that work for a meeting, and we’ll be in touch to confirm.

Author: Melanie Mathews, Performance Architects


© Performance Architects, Inc. and Performance Architects Blog, 2006 - present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog's author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Performance Architects, Inc. and Performance Architects Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

What is Oracle Essbase?

October 23, 2014

When I start a new project, it’s always an exciting time for me (and I’m sure my previous clients are excited to get rid of me too!). In some cases, these new clients are seasoned veterans when it comes to Oracle Essbase, with existing solutions spanning multiple cubes, technologies and environments. At other clients, we are starting with a clean business analytics slate, and an opportunity to try new things. In both cases, if it’s a business analytics initiative using Oracle technologies, I always find myself having a conversation with a variety of different folks answering the same question, “What is Oracle Essbase?”

This is always an interesting conversation, revolving around cubes, architecture, data storage, blocks, ASO, BSO, calc scripts, business rules, hierarchies, Hyperion Planning … the list goes on. I figure there are probably a few readers out there who might be interested in a quick explanation, so read on! Hopefully this provides a nice level set and starting point; if it doesn’t, please comment and ask questions!

Oracle Essbase at its core is a data storage tool, which does a particularly good job organizing data for financial reporting, planning, budgeting, forecasting, and analysis at multiple levels of detail. Oracle Essbase stores and structures the data in a meaningful way to be accessed via Oracle solutions such as Oracle Hyperion Smart View for Office, Oracle Hyperion Planning, Oracle Hyperion Financial Reporting, and Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE). For those of you who are thinking “so…Essbase is just a database,” you aren’t too far off!

When most folks talk about databases they are referring to relational databases like Oracle Database or Microsoft SQL Server. Oracle Essbase is a multi-dimensional database or OLAP database, which stores data in a completely different way. I’ll get into that in just a second, but before I do here are a few other definitions that I gathered when I asked some of my Performance Architects consulting colleagues how they define Essbase:

Consultant Conversation #1:

“Essbase is an On Line Analytic Processing (OLAP) technology that was created in order to quickly answer business questions.

Simple questions include:

  • What is my full year expense budget?
  • What are my current year actual expenses?
  • How are my actual dollars tracking against my budget dollars?

OR

More complex questions include:

  • Which department maintains the largest variance from budget?
  • Which product has the highest sales growth for the last five years?
  • Which product is most profitable, after allocations?
  • Many, many more “What if” questions!”

Consultant Conversation #2:

“A piece of code (or software) that lets one look at data by its various characteristics (dimensions), organized by business models (theoretically).”

Consultant Conversation #3:

“Oracle Essbase is the leading multidimensional database system that provides a platform for complex analytical and custom applications. It can be used by end users to analyze their business and to make rapid decisions while providing complex reporting capabilities out of a common toolset.”

Digging in a little further…data in Essbase is described by dimensions which help describe the data point. Dimensions might be something like Accounts, Cost Centers, or Products. In the screenshot below, you can see two example retrievals in Excel. The first retrieval shows individual balances in January defined by a variety of dimensions: Company, Cost Center, Fiscal Year, Product, Currency, Account and Time Period (Month).

In Retrieval #2, the data has been aggregated across a few dimensions, taking the Company viewpoint from a granular level of detail to a much higher level of detail. The same has been done for Cost Center and Product, giving us a summary view of the business. Make sense?

TB 1

We can have data for multiple periods and multiple years in an Essbase cube at any one time. But wait! We can layer in even more detail by adding dimensions like scenario or version.

TB 2

In this expanded example, we layered in Scenario helping us dissect our forecast data from our actuals data. Not only have we done that, but we have also dissected our forecast interactions from one another by leveraging a Version dimension. From here, we can further analyze the data, and have a word with Company 400 about their initial forecast.  Grossly overstated?! All of this data can be stored in the underlying Essbase database, and retrieved when required.

As for data storage, Essbase stores data in its own proprietary format, and getting into that is a whole other question, because it depends on which type of Essbase database we are talking about!

That brings us to a second portion of this whole “What is Essbase” question and answer session. There are two types of Essbase databases, which do certain things very, very well. Option number one is the “Block Storage Option” or BSO. The other is “Aggregate Storage Option” or ASO. These two Essbase cube types have their own strengths, which lean heavily into the design decisions that we make with our clients.

BSO applications are great for the manipulation and transformation of data, such as calculating healthcare costs for next year based on a rate, or transforming data based on a series of exchange rates. Data in BSO applications is manipulated using calculation scripts and business rules, which provide the math that Essbase needs to perform.

“Aggregate Storage Option” applications are extremely useful for the rapid aggregation of data on the fly. Data is only stored at the detailed level, and aggregated when users request information. In our old retrieval, an ASO cube would only store Retrieval #1, and then aggregate the data on the fly for Retrieval #2. This is particularly useful when we have a large data set that is updated frequently. A use case might be a reporting cube built on E-Business Suite (EBS) data that is refreshed throughout the month close with more information. ASO might be an excellent option when it comes to summarizing those detailed general ledger balances. Deciding on the database type is always part of a larger design conversation, but certainly one that comes up during the regular “What is Essbase” conversation!

All right…enough for now, plenty more to cover in other posts. Hope this brief definition has been somewhat enlightening. If you have any questions feel free to comment!

Author: Tom Blakeley, Performance Architects


© Performance Architects, Inc. and Performance Architects Blog, 2006 - present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog's author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Performance Architects, Inc. and Performance Architects Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Oracle OpenWorld 2014: Business Analytics News

October 15, 2014

My introduction about Oracle OpenWorld business analytics trends is going to sound suspiciously like my colleague Chuck Persky’s recent blog about Oracle OpenWorld EPM (Hyperion) news…the overwhelming theme of OpenWorld (and for the business analytics software category) this year was CLOUD, CLOUD, and CLOUD!

Setting the Stage: Business Analytics Definition and Strategy

I want to clarify how the Performance Architects team defines the term “business analytics.”  We think of business analytics from a technology perspective as the intersection of business intelligence (Oracle Business Intelligence), data discovery (Oracle Endeca Information Discovery or OEID) and enterprise performance management (Oracle EPM or Hyperion).  Oracle segments EPM into a separate category from a marketing and sales perspective, which is why we have a separate blog entry on OpenWorld EPM outcomes.  This blog entry therefore deals with news from OpenWorld in what we call the BI and data discovery areas (as well as supporting technologies like Oracle’s engineered systems).

Oracle’s overall business analytics strategy has remained remarkably consistent over the past several months, but how Oracle is achieving this strategy has evolved over time.  In short, their strategy remains any data, using integrated tools as well as packaged EPM and BI solutions, leveraging engineered systems via any delivery channel (cloud, on premise, etc.).  Oracle’s public announcements at OpenWorld about business analytics product development focus areas in relation to this strategy include:

1.     Offer analytics in the cloud

Oracle’s Analytics Cloud is touted as providing a “comprehensive portfolio of offerings built for the cloud, covering every need across business intelligence, big data analytics and embedded SaaS analytics.”  The big news in this arena is Oracle Business Intelligence Cloud Service (BICS), which was “officially” announced at OpenWorld, although it has been in preview mode for several months in advance of the conference.

From my perspective, this offering is intended to bridge the gap between some of the departmental “desktop BI” vendors that don’t offer a great architecture to scale to an enterprise-wide solution and those behemoth enterprise-wide BI solutions that require too much involvement on the part of IT to allow business users to efficiently analyze a situation to enact change.  To this end, BICS offers some really cool features (this is by no means a comprehensive list, just what I personally find exciting):

  • Built on existing Oracle BI technology
  • Integrates with Oracle Database Cloud Service
  • Provides mobile capabilities “out of the box” for Android and iOS
  • Works with Oracle Application Express (APEX)
  • Supplies multiple data loading options, including those associated with Database Cloud Service
  • Delivers robust lifecycle management with row-level security

2.     Augment mobile BI access

Oracle is providing more intuitive ways to report and analyze business information via mobile devices.  The “out of the box” integration of mobile with BICS and other Oracle Analytics Cloud capabilities is the tip of the iceberg in terms of what is coming in this area.

3.     Provide big data discovery capabilities

The cornerstones of this big data evolution are the soon-to-be-released Big Data in the Cloud and Big Data Discovery.  Big Data Discovery is touted Oracle’s “visual face of Hadoop.” The implication of this new offering is that business users can search, in an easy-to-use fashion, less-structured data to determine correlations – and ultimately causation – for some of their thornier business issues.  Up until now, a business person needed to have a data science background to truly take advantage of these kinds of technologies; I can’t wait to experiment with this solution to see how it measures up!

4.     Enhanced business user experience

The Oracle BI technologies are – in a good way – road-tested and more mature.  However, this means that interface and data discovery capabilities are in need of some enhancement. Oracle is delivering modifications both by providing the ability to search, analyze and report on additional data types (e.g., more modern data storage technologies like Hadoop) as well as enhanced interface capabilities across the company’s BI platform introduced into Oracle’s BI product capabilities with the Endeca acquisition.

5.     Innovations in engineered systems and in-memory analytics

Whether Oracle’s customers use Oracle software on premise or in the cloud, they have the opportunity to take advantage of Oracle’s engineered systems and in-memory analytics to provide optimal performance (Oracle runs its own engineered systems in company data centers).

The big engineered systems news was the Exalytics X4-4 launch.  My colleague Andy Tauro already did a great job covering the key benefits of this release in another Performance Architects blog entry on this topic.

The other (continued) big news was the launch of Oracle Database In-Memory capabilities certified for Exalytics.  In other words, the Oracle database is preconfigured to put all data in memory on Exalytics, making everyone’s jobs a lot easier!

Want to access Performance Architects’ presentations from OpenWorld this year?  Go here.

Author: Kirby Lunger, Performance Architects

 


© Performance Architects, Inc. and Performance Architects Blog, 2006 - present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog's author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Performance Architects, Inc. and Performance Architects Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Oracle OpenWorld 2014: EPM (Hyperion) News

October 10, 2014

I recently returned from Oracle OpenWorld, and, as expected, Oracle’s leadership highlighted one clear theme: CLOUD, CLOUD, and CLOUD!  This theme was a central focus for the Oracle EPM (Hyperion) news at the show as well.

Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service (PBCS) News

Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service (PBCS) was a main highlight in the Oracle EPM arena. In just a mere six months, PBCS has grabbed significant attention for its ability to provide enterprise planning and reporting through a Software as a Service (SaaS), subscription-based model, utilizing the framework of traditional Hyperion Planning in the cloud. Many organizations already made the leap into using this offering, with the intent of implementing solutions through a rapid deployment model without significant capital investments…and without use of IT resources.

I learned that Oracle will be expanding PBCS functionality with the next EPM release, V11.1.2.4. This release will provide several of the Planning modules for optional use with a PBCS subscription. These modules include Workforce Planning (WFP), Capital Expenditures Planning (CapEx), and Project Financial Planning (PFP). In addition, Oracle’s team announced that they will launch other SaaS EPM components (such as Hyperion Financial Management  or HFM) in the not so distant future. The goal is to keep versioning and functionality between EPM on-premise and cloud based solutions in synch. To this point, the upcoming 11.1.2.4 will offer new functionality via both types of deployment models:

Oracle Hyperion Planning Version 11.1.2.4 News

Oracle Hyperion Planning will offer the long-awaited “valid member combinations!” This means that Planning forms and Smart View input templates will filter drop down list content based on a list’s relationship to members in other drop down lists. Other additions will include a private sandbox for each user, and “usage” statistics for Planning components.

Oracle Hyperion Financial Management (HFM) Version 11.1.2.4 News

In the HFM arena, the theme at the conference was lighter, faster, simpler, and portable. With the new version, HFM users should expect increased performance. It is believed that new government regulations may require HFM to capture more detail across an increased amount of dimensions. To this end, Oracle believes that performance and process time will be a key consideration to the future of HFM and the financial close process. Other additions include “mobile” capabilities. Specifically, this upcoming version will offer users the ability to execute workflow tasks in “Financial Close Management” through a mobile application interface.

Financial Data Management Enterprise Edition (FDMEE) News

One of the biggest EPM takeaways was in the data integration arena; specifically, Oracle detailed that FDMEE is the “go-forward” data integration tool for all things EPM. In the upcoming version, FDMEE will be able to utilize EPM applications as the source of data (instead of as the traditional target only). The ability to source both master data and financial data to/from EPM applications allow this component to serve as the true flagship EPM data integration tool. It should be understood that with the new version of EPM, Oracle will be discontinuing the “data synch” capabilities in EPMA, and also discontinuing the ODI knowledge modules for Hyperion Planning. These changes truly show that FDMEE is the go-forward EPM data integration tool.

Unfortunately, I was not on hand for Aerosmith at the conference finale, but managed to enjoy myself in San Francisco nonetheless. As always, the conference was packed full of people, information, and fun. As expected, this year proved to be an excellent venue for the Oracle EPM community. I’m looking forward to next year.

Want to access Performance Architects’ presentations from OpenWorld this year?  Go here.

Author: Chuck Persky, Performance Architects


© Performance Architects, Inc. and Performance Architects Blog, 2006 - present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog's author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Performance Architects, Inc. and Performance Architects Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Choosing the Right Oracle EPM (Hyperion) Tool for Financial Modeling

October 2, 2014

Oracle’s Enterprise Performance Management suite of products includes three tools for building financial models: Hyperion Planning (Planning), Oracle Essbase (Essbase) and Hyperion Strategic Finance (HSF). Understanding each product’s capabilities and limitations can help ensure successful project outcomes. To quickly determine the right tool for a given situation I evaluate four characteristics of a proposed financial model: time to value, inherent control, the number of users, and the level of collaboration.

Time to Value

Time to value is represented on the horizontal axis in the diagram below. The applications on the left side of the diagram, Planning and Essbase, follow a traditional application development life cycle that requires changes be developed and tested in a separate environment prior to migration to production. In contrast, the applications on the right-hand side of the diagram are capable of creating new financial modeling scenarios without going through a lengthy change process.

Two examples illustrate this concept:

  • Acquisition Model. When one company considers acquiring another, the acquirer needs a financial model to forecast possible results of the combined company. Required information includes how much debt will be needed, and how that debt will be serviced from operating income. Acquisition modeling is generally a good fit for HSF, as this type of modeling can be done within the application without making changes to the underlying software code. Within a few hours, an analyst can modify an existing company operations model to represent the changes required by the acquired company.
  • Annual Budget. Planning is typically used to prepare annual budgets. The budget process has a predictable cycle, generally occurring once annually. Several months prior to the start of the budget process, system owners request changes to the application. Typical changes include correction of issues from the last budget cycle, adding new web forms to collect data, or adding new business rules. Once the changes are made, a round of testing occurs to ensure the system is functioning as designed.    

ron w 1

Inherent Control

Inherent Control is represented on the vertical axis in the diagram above. The inherent control of an application is the combination of process and functionality that ensures the model continues to work as designed after changes are made. I’ve included Microsoft Excel because everyone is familiar with this application, and it is a great example of an application that has essentially no inherent controls.

HSF by contrast is a highly structured model that mimics standard financial statements. To use HSF, the analyst has to map actual data into the application’s chart of accounts. Once this effort is complete and tied out, the forecast periods can be modeled. This tightly controlled process ensures the integrity of the initial model, and more importantly allows for the incorporation of wholesale changes quickly and with a high degree of confidence that the model is still functioning correctly.

Planning is an application built upon an Essbase engine. Planning includes a proprietary structure that is customized during the initial implementation. The application’s inherent controls are derived from Planning’s proprietary structure and the controls added during the implementation. Essbase is used without the Planning application in situations where Planning’s proprietary structure prevents the system designer from meeting the business requirements. Applications built in Essbase have no inherent controls to begin with. All inherent controls need to be built to meet business requirements.

Number of Users

The number of users is a clear differentiator between the tools on the right and left of the diagram.  On the left, it is not uncommon for a Planning or Essbase application to have over a hundred users.  On the right, HSF typically has fewer than five users with an application model owned by no more than two analysts.

ron w 2

Level of Collaboration

Level of collaboration is also a differentiator. HSF offers functionality that allows analysts to share models and to integrate data between models, but does not allow for collaboration on the scale of Planning and Essbase. Budget and forecast models built with Planning and Essbase enable large groups of people to simultaneously input data and to calculate business rules, which is not possible in HSF.

Evaluation of these four characteristics should help to identify the right tool for the job!

Author: Ron Woodlock, Performance Architects


© Performance Architects, Inc. and Performance Architects Blog, 2006 - present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog's author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Performance Architects, Inc. and Performance Architects Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.