Monthly Archives: June 2015

The Top Three Focus Areas to Streamline the Oracle EPM (Hyperion) User Experience

June 24, 2015

The Oracle Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) suite offers generous flexibility for each individual user to control settings based on how each user would like to see data. However, there eventually comes a time when this flexibility can actually be more inconvenient if all users are expected to use the same settings. Do you have a section at the beginning of your User Guide to simply show users how to all set the same settings? No!? Then it’s time to explore the world of Hyperion defaults.

The rest of the blog will be split into sections for defaults of the following tools: Oracle Hyperion Planning, Oracle Hyperion Workspace, and Oracle Hyperion Financial Reporting.

  1. Hyperion Planning

Administrators can set defaults within each application under Administration -> Application -> Settings in the “Current Application Defaults” tab. Within this area, there are two groups of options: “Application Settings” and “Display Options”.

For “Application Settings,” I will keep it short. The most universal option here will be what is displayed for members. The administrator can choose to show member names with the member name and/or alias, in a specified order. If “Process Management” is used, there are a few more options here, but for the most part “Display Options” will be our primary target.

“Display Options” is where the primary focus will be for defaulting preferences for users. The below image shows a number of defaults that have been set for an application. For this particular instance, there was a strong desire for everyone to see negative numbers colored red with parenthesis. Another potentially nice option here may be the use of “Allow Search When Number of Pages Exceeds…” to activate the search functionality on forms within the page. For example, if this number is set to 100, the search functionality is not available if there are 99 options in the page. This may not be very desirable for a user, as it requires a hefty amount of scrolling. By setting it to a lower number, however, the list can be much more manageable.

TF 1

One of the more confusing items here is the presence of “Use Default,” shown below next to “Number Formatting,” “Page Options,” and “Other Options.” Logically, in order for a user to use the defaults, it might seem these options must be selected. Fortunately, this is only the case if a user has already customized preferences to override the defaults. If there are no overrides, each user’s preferences will update to the defaulted settings as the administrator makes them without these boxes needing to be selected.

TF 2

  1. Workspace

This section is “short and sweet” because there are not very many default options for the general Workspace area, but the few that exist are important. This setting can be found at “Navigate” -> “Administer” -> “Workspace Settings” -> “Manage Preferences.”

For Workspace settings, Shared Services will be used to group preferences. They can either be assigned by specific users or groups. After choosing groups/users, the two options available will be: “Default Startup Options” and “Accessibility Mode.” The latter of the options will be very specific to certain EPM users, but the Startup Options can be used by all. Here, a default can be chosen to select the first page that a user will see. For groups that may use reporting and documents most of the time, Explore might be a nice change. Likewise, a different group may primarily only use a single application, and the option can be defaulted to go directly to that application on login.

From a technical perspective, the default start page does not make much of a difference, as all aspects are still accessible. However, from a usability standpoint, it can make a great difference in the user experience.

  1. Financial Reporting

The last (and most complicated) set of defaults will be for Financial Reporting, or FR. Unlike the previous two sections, FR defaults are set using a specific utility called FRConfig on the server where Financial Reporting has been installed in the location <MIDDLEWARE>\EPMSystem11R1\products\financialreporting\bin. For Windows environments, the specific file is FRConfig.cmd while non-Windows will see FRConfig.sh. When this file is executed, a console appears, as shown below.

TF 3

The console can also be used for monitoring CPU and RAM usage if there are optimization issues, but our focus is going to be on the defaulting capabilities, found in the MBeans tab. Within this tab, navigate to com.hyperion -> Financial Reporting -> Attributes.

An overwhelming amount of options will now be displayed. Some of the more popular ones also seen through the front end will be shown with the prefix of “com.hyperion.reporting.HRPrefs”. For example, the “filter_by_security” option is shown below:

TF 4

The “filter_by_security” property (Member Selection Displays in the front-end) will default users to automatically leverage Planning security for member selection on reports that use the Planning connection. The default for this option is actually “false” or off, which will have users see the full member list in POV or Prompt selections. For users with access to only a few entities, this option can make a big difference in usability.

Like the Planning defaults, the FR options will only take effect as long as the user has not customized overrides. For example, if a user sets the “filter_by_security” (Member Selection Displays) option to “false” (“All Members Regardless of Access”) within preferences from the front end, it will override the default setting made in this example.

Note: The overrides actually exist in the Reporting and Analysis table, V8_PROP_VALUE. If desired, the override values can potentially be modified to be the new default (changing false to true and vice versa). However, this is NOT supported by Oracle so steps should be taken very carefully if this option is chosen.

Note: For the FR modifications to properly take effect, the service should be restarted. Additionally, services do not need to be running for the FRConfig utility to be used.

While this blog covers three of the most heavily used EPM components, there are more options out there. These defaulting options can all be used throughout any phase of a Hyperion implementation, whether it’s before any user has even accessed the system, or five years into using a solution. However, there is definitely a major benefit in determining how these defaults should be set up before any user has even accessed the application, especially with Financial Reporting. Through the use of these three components, the user experience can be both a pleasant and streamlined one.

For further information on incorporating a solution like the one described here, please contact sales@performancearchitects.com.

Author: Tyler Feddersen, 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 Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service (PBCS): Simplified Interface Features Overview

June 17, 2015

During most of 2014, Oracle’s Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service (PBCS) operated with a similar interface to the classic Oracle Hyperion Planning “Workspace” with some minor differences (mainly the introduction of a new landing page).

Starting in November 2014, Oracle made a drastic change to the PBCS offering by introducing the “simplified interface” as an additional way to access the solution. However, with the latest patch update in June 2015, Oracle announced that the simplified interface will be the future PBCS interface.

With this in mind, this blog reviews how to access and use key features of this new and improved interface.

How to Access the Simplified Interface

Once you login, you can access the simplified interface from the landing page:

MC1

This brings us to the “Navigation” pane which consists of icons similar to an application layout:

MC2

How to Conduct Administrator Tasks

Administrator tasks are now accessed by clicking on the “Navigator” icon.  Similar to the older interface, this pane allows the administrator to create data entry forms; add and edit dimension members; perform database refreshes; and create and manage workflow and all related administrative tasks.  You can also access Calculation Manager to write business rules, assign security to the application and to manage the various plan types:

MC3

MC8

How to Modify Settings

The “Settings” icon also links to administrator tasks where application settings can be preset prior to the application end user release.

MC5

These settings include number formatting and date / time display:

MC6

How to Automate Jobs Using “Console” Functionality

The “Console” is where the administrator can automate jobs using EPM Automate.

MC7

This is new PBCS functionality that allows an administrator to set up nightly automation jobs for data and metadata loads.

MC8

How to Use Planner Capabilities

The remaining icons allow planners to perform various planning tasks. These tasks include accessing data entry forms for entering data; running business rules; accessing task lists; running reports; and managing workflow:

MC9

Specific features include:

  • This is a new PBCS feature that allows a planner to create dashboards on the fly based on data entry forms
  • Allows a planner to access task lists created by an administrator
  • A planner can access all the data forms from this icon (both individual forms and composite forms created by an administrator)
  • Rules. From this icon, a planner can access all business rules created by the administrator using the Calculation Manager
  • Allows a planner to manage workflow and run through an approval process that was set up by the administrator
  • A planner can access all financial reports created by an administrator using Financial Reporting Studio using this icon 

How to View New Release Changes

Oracle normally updates patches twice a month. Most of these are for minor bug fixes and improvements. However, every few months, Oracle pushes out a major release.

An administrator can view all the changes that have taken place in a new release by logging onto the application and accessing the “Admin Tools” icon from the landing page. To view updates and release notes, follow the instructions below.

Click on the “Maintenance Time” icon:

MC10

Click on the highlighted section; the highlighted section will provide a comprehensive list of all the updates added to the latest patch:

MC11

MC12

The simplified interface officially becomes the default interface in November 2015. Until then, this blog will hopefully allow you to get a feel for the new PBCS interface capabilities.

Need more guidance?  Contact the Performance Architects team at sales@performancearchitects.com to set up a time to talk.

Author: Mohan Chanila, 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.

How to Address the Top Three Trends in Gartner’s “BI and Analytics Platforms 2015 Magic Quadrant”

June 10, 2015

Gartner’s BI and Analytics Platforms 2015 Magic Quadrant was released back in February 2015, so it’s hardly “new news” any more…except that our current and prospective clients and partners keep asking us for feedback on how to address the top trends highlighted in the report, especially given that the key players on the report and the trends represented a major change from last year’s quadrant!  This blog post addresses what the Performance Architects team believes are the three big trends in the report and how to address these.

Trend #1: Decentralization

According to Gartner, the BI and analytics market has undergone a “fundamental shift” over the past six years from large-scale, highly-governed, centralized BI to a more decentralized and departmental model using focused reporting and analysis tools with demand for more self-guided data discovery in place of standardized reports.

What Gartner’s report leaves out is that IT organizations went through massive downsizing over the past six years, leaving very little in the way of centralized support for business users.  Most larger organizations that we have worked with in this time period were stripped down to only “lights-on” support staff on-site, while maintaining a large contingent of off-shore resources for maintenance and enhancement work.  In our opinion, this has been the catalyst behind this shift.

Organizations needed to be more competitive over the past six years in order to just survive. The lack of available on-site IT staff for business support staff, in conjunction with this new overwhelming need for competitive and strategic intelligence, is causing lines of business to turn away from central IT.  The availability of more powerful, localized BI and analytics systems is now making it easier for business users to gather, consolidate, and report on their own data without the need for IT services.

Trend #2: Data Discovery

Newer software vendors have come to market with strong data discovery capabilities.  In reaction to this trend, traditional BI platform vendors are working very hard – but aren’t necessarily succeeding – at providing their own business-user-driven data discovery capabilities.  The potential problem with this situation is that these large software packages reside in central IT, while business-focused data discovery tools are gaining a foothold directly within the lines of business.

What is most ironic and interesting about this trend is an issue highlighted by Gartner in the report:  “Customers of IT-centric platforms that have a broad range of BI platform capabilities report [that they are] using them narrowly, most often for production reporting. “  In other words these large-scale analytical systems with data discovery capabilities are being used for operational, “lights-on” reporting.

Gartner goes on to state, “On the other hand, business-centric platforms such as Tableau, QlikTech and other emerging vendors have a more narrow set of capabilities, but are used more broadly for a range of BI and analytics functions — including for reporting, for which they are not optimally suited, and for expanding use cases — primarily because they are easy to use and deploy.”  This includes the fact that many of these applications cannot scale to the enterprise level.

Trend #3: Cloud and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) 

Gartner states that the overall interest in cloud BI declined slightly during 2014, to 42% compared with last year’s 45%.  For those who are interested in cloud, there is a definite leaning toward private and hybrid cloud solutions.  Once again, the major impetus for the push to cloud comes primarily from organizations whose lines of business are already in the cloud.  Private cloud seems to be winning as the most preferred near-term solution, and I believe this is a result of concerns (in some cases, regulations), over data security.

The main issue for organizations in implementing cloud is the lack of a strategy on how to integrate cloud services and data with their on-premise infrastructure.  This is further demonstrated by the fact that most cloud solutions are just coming forth with “hybrid” solutions.  So the technology and the vision from cloud vendors themselves is still not very mature at this point.

What You Can Do To Address These Three Big Trends

There are many factors to consider when addressing these trends.  As you would imagine there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution.  Here are some points to consider when modernizing your IT infrastructure to address these disruptive technologies.

  1. Review the prevalence of these technologies across your enterprise. Departments in your organization are probably using cloud-based data discovery and/or BI solutions without your knowledge.  It is critical to not ignore these systems as they will likely continue to undermine the integrity and security of your organization’s data.  These new cloud-based systems present more risk than the shadow IT systems of yesteryear.  These are not a “server box” underneath someone’s desk running Microsoft Access – these solutions now transmit, store, and present data and information outside your organization’s firewall.
  2. Reach out to these groups and discuss ways to partner for the greater success of the organization. Your goal here is to govern data and maintain control of your organization’s information through better integration and management of these technologies.
  3. Research and present software options to the lines of business and discuss what features are critical for them. Favor software that features a high level of integration and data security.  Even if this software doesn’t have every feature the lines of business want, it will ensure that you have the control and flexibility you need for expansion.
  4. Think “and” – not “or” – when planning your technology roadmap. Long gone are the days of massive, centralized systems.  The millennial workforce has become accustomed to the “there’s an app for that” mentality that drives the “and” mindset.  The idea is to use the very best tool for a specific task or set of tasks.  Tools like Oracle’s BI Cloud Service (BICS) or Tableau can complement your existing business intelligence and reporting systems.
  5. Consider the fact that the next version of your on-site software may be cloud-based only! All software vendors at this point have added cloud capabilities to their technology stack and they are slowly sunsetting their on-site portfolio.  For some vendors like Oracle, IBM, and others, this process may take years, but eventually there may be no such thing as on-premise software.

Definitions

Performance Architects defines some terms a little differently than Gartner does, so we wanted to provide definitions of these terms to make sure that our recommendations in this post are clear:

  • Business Analytics. Develops new insights and understanding of business performance based on data analysis and statistical methods. Provides access to driver-based information based on nearer-to-real time information to make better informed decisions. Offers capabilities around “unstructured” or “big” data (search plus database). Supplies heavy statistical and predictive modeling capabilities to better connect drivers and outcomes.  Many vendors tout business analysis as the “marriage” of their BI/EPM capabilities.
  • Data Discovery. Data discovery is the process of searching for patterns in structured and unstructured data sets in order to validate or gain new insights.  This technology existed for many years but really became popular in the last few years.  Improvements in computing power and software now make this possible for business users.
  • Public Cloud. Software hosted on a computer that is accessible to the general public. Users of this software use its front-end capabilities and have no control over the application platform and its back-end components.  Public cloud vendors take care of the application infrastructure such as backups, migrations, and upgrades.  Users typically need to migrate their data to the remote host where the public cloud software is located.
  • Private Cloud. An application environment restricted to a particular company and not available to the general public.  Typically the software implemented in a private cloud is similar to an on-site deployment.  For example, a company might purchase a license to host a virtual Linux environment from Amazon and installs and configures their application software in this environment.  The main objective is to host the software outside of the company’s data center to save on infrastructure costs.
  • Hybrid Cloud. A solution where some of the application environment is hosted outside of a company’s infrastructure while another portion remains internal. For instance, a company may elect to host non-sensitive data outside the firewall in a private cloud while maintaining a separate database with sensitive information within the firewall.  In other cases, certain public cloud tools may be used by departments and then synchronized with data behind the firewall.  The definition is still evolving and companies today are still struggling over the best way to effectively deploy to the cloud without exposing them to data-related risk.

Author: John McGale, 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 Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service (PBCS): The “Simplified” Interface Becomes the “Standard” Interface in November 2015

June 2, 2015

For most of the Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service (PBCS) product lifetime, customers could use PBCS with either the traditional Oracle Hyperion Planning interface or the newer simplified interface, with the latter providing a more streamlined and mobile-friendly experience. While this newer “simplified” interface offers a “modern” look and feel, not all functions of PBCS were included in the PBCS simplified interface at product launch. As such, many organizations used PBCS with the traditional Planning interface.

Over the past year, Oracle has significantly increased the usability and functionality of the simplified interface. With the latest June service release document (which can be viewed from the Admin Tools / Maintenance section from the landing page in PBCS), Oracle has cemented its position and timeline with respect to Planning and PBCS interface future plans:

“Oracle is committed to providing a simple and intuitive user experience to the users of the service. To achieve this goal, the simplified interface, an option available in the service since November 2014, will be established as the standard across the service. Starting with the November 2015 service update, all service functionality will be available through the simplified interface only.

So, what does this mean? It does not mean that you need to panic. It simply means that the November PBCS service release will change your PBCS environment so that users can only access your application via the simplified interface. Essentially, this release makes the simplified interface the standard interface; and does not allow usage of the traditional interface.

The good news here is that you do not need to do anything!  You do not need to make any changes to the application or to user settings. This will all magically happen in November 2015. Depending on the general capabilities of your user base and on their experience with PBCS, there may be a learning curve and some growing pains in getting people up to speed in using the simplified interface. To this end, I recommend having users familiarize themselves with the interface now, before November. By doing this now, you are providing the users with the experience of using the latest interface, and also allowing them to switch back to the traditional interface if and when they experience any issues or confusion early on. For many, it may be far less problematic to be eased into something new, than to be abruptly forced into it.

If providing your users with these choices proves to be too much in the near-term, I recommend having your administrators and power users come up to speed, allowing them to coach the user population when the time comes. To help with this journey, Oracle offers the following documents:

Stay tuned to this blog for more information on the simplified interface.  If you need help with your Oracle Hyperion Planning and PBCS interface evolution, send the Performance Architects team a note at sales@performancearchitects.com.

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.