Out-of-the-Box Features: Profitability and Cost Management Cloud Service (PCMCS) – Intelligence and Dashboarding: Analysis Views and Scatter Analysis

PCMCS Out-of-the-Box (OOTB) Features:  2. Intelligence and Dashboarding – Analysis Views and Scatter Analysis

Two teams of consultants with similar amounts of experience and prestige guarantee that they can perform an application implementation to the highest quality: one at a higher cost, but shorter timeframe; and the other at a lower cost, but in a longer timeframe?  All other considerations being equal, should I save money, or should I save time?

A few days ago, I released my first blog post on PCMCS, covering Rule Balancing reports usage and customization. This post builds on that first post to cover intelligence capabilities, some of which are only available in the Cloud version of the PCM software.

There are 6 menu options when accessing the Intelligence menu within PCMCS.

Alex Mlynarzek - Analysis Views and Scatter Analysis - 2-28-19 - Image 1  1.  Analysis Views

Alex Mlynarzek - Analysis Views and Scatter Analysis - 2-28-19 - Image 2  2.  Scatter Analysis

Alex Mlynarzek - Analysis Views and Scatter Analysis - 2-28-19 - Image 3  3.  Profit Curves

Alex Mlynarzek - Analysis Views and Scatter Analysis - 2-28-19 - Image 4  4.  Traceability

Alex Mlynarzek - Analysis Views and Scatter Analysis - 2-28-19 - Image 5  5.  Queries

Alex Mlynarzek - Analysis Views and Scatter Analysis - 2-28-19 - Image 6  6.  Key Performance Indicators

This post covers the first two menu options to explain how to set up Analysis Views and how to use Scatter Analysis.

Analysis Views

Analysis Views are the first set of reports available to end users within the PCMCS user interface.

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These views represent a way to predefine and save intersections of members for future review.  The selections within Analysis Views are open to all dimensions within the PCMCS application at various levels within the hierarchies. This is the first step you need to take towards building or defining a dashboard for your PCMCS application.

If you cannot create or edit an analysis view, then you need to reach out to your PCMCS administrator in order to review and adjust your security settings.

The example Analysis Views for this post are based on the “Demo Bikes” application that can be deployed with a few clicks in your PCMCS instance BksML30.

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A data slice is a combination of rows and columns along with the page selection, which, in this case, is the Period dimension.

Any dimension that is not specified in any of the 3 areas (row, column, page) will be read at top level and will be displayed in the settings menu.

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The Add Filter section allows you to filter the columns based on specific numerical values. In this case, the columns are represented by the Product dimension selections.

To create an analysis view, click on the plus (+) sign on the main menu. The three tabs displayed will allow you to define a name and description as well as the setup for row and column dimensions. You cannot select more than a dimension for either rows or columns.

Within the Row dimension selection, you can leverage different formulas applicable to the hierarchies within PCM such as Children of member, Member and children, Level 0 descendants, etc.

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Columns do not have options for member formulas beyond the usage of User preferences.

The row dimension will allow you to display further information such as generation or level details. For example, for the Product dimension, we can display the generation 3 and 4 information alongside the level 0 members, allowing us to expand our analysis to different product categories, or types.

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Selecting new members within the Analysis Views will not impact the original data definition. If you choose to display data for any month other than the one that was setup and saved in the Analysis view, you can do so because the Page parameter is open to end user modifications. If; however, you want to update and store a selection change within the analysis view, you must perform such update via the Edit menu instead of simply selecting a new parameter on the screen in view mode.

You may need to utilize the concept of period ranges when using Analysis Views in order to dynamically reference specific members of your Period dimension.

Defining a current period for the application is mandatory in order to be able to create formulas dependent on time. This action is available via the Application menu by selecting the Edit application option and navigating to the tab called Dimension settings. Here is where you can define the current Period and the Current Year for your PCMCS application.

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These settings will be applied when using the “Single…” or “Current” selection options within Analysis Views. Single (-1) Level 0 selection represents, in this case, the month of May, since the current Period selection for the PCMCS application is June. The Single (-1) Level 1 selections return Q1, since June is in Q2.

Scatter Analysis

Scatter Analysis graphs will compare one member’s values against another member’s values. The two members selected must be within the same dimension. Your PCMCS Demo application may not have any sample Scatter Analysis graphs. However, you can create one by leveraging the Analysis Views at your disposal.

You can launch Analysis Views from within Scatter graphs.

Note that saved Scatter Analysis cannot be reused or referenced in dashboards. You should use this section to create graphs for ad-hoc use outside of the dashboarding capability.

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If you need to include Scatter Analysis within your dashboards, you will have a corresponding menu item that allows you to create dashboards within the list of available items.

You can select an existing Analysis view, but you must reselect your X-axis and Y-axis dimension references.

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Conclusion:  PCMCS Intelligence – Analysis Views and Scatter Analysis

While there are many alternative reporting solutions to use in conjunction with PCMCS applications, assuming that both time and money are of essence in any project implementation, it is safe to conclude that using the PCMCS OOTB reporting features would be cost effective as well as efficient. The Intelligence screens shared in this post are included in the PCMCS subscription cost, and any end user of a PCMCS application with the right level of access can take charge and build the desired reports, saving end users in a location accessible to their peers while spending no time in iterations of reporting requirements and data validations.

The PCMCS OOTB reporting features support not only troubleshooting, but also detailed analysis and reporting within one screen.  Such capabilities should not be ignored as they will surely add meaningful insight into finance teams’ day-to-day use of PCMCS.

If you need advice and guidance on how to leverage the PCMCS reporting capabilities for existing or future applications, reach out to our team of PCMCS experts at infosolutions@alithya.com.

The remaining intelligence menus will be covered in subsequent posts over the next few weeks. If you are interested in receiving notifications of such posts, subscribe to notifications.

Out-of-the-Box Features: Profitability and Cost Management Cloud Service (PCMCS) – Rule Balancing Reports

PCMCS Out-of-the-Box (OOTB) Features:  1. Rule Balancing Reports

The other day, I was thinking about the times I used to study Finance, and specifically about a course regarding Interest and how it represents the value of Time. What is the cost, or value, of one’s time? – is it high, resulting in a higher interest rate per period, or is it low, resulting in a low interest rate per period? How much time am I willing to spend working in order to get that new car? How much time do I have before that competitor will outrun me and snatch that market share from me?

This was how I started thinking about various out-of-the-box features (OOTB). Such features are often key in deciding whether to acquire a software/service/product because the one resource that we constantly complain about not having enough of is “time.”

You are now reading the first blog post on OOTB features in PCMCS covering one of the most used Reports for data analysis as well as troubleshooting profitability calculation results. At the end of this blog post, you should know what Balancing reports are, where to find them, how to use them, and also how to further expand them with minimal time and effort invested.

What are Rule Balancing Reports?

Rule Balancing reports provide quick insight into the validity of the application results. These reports are powerful OOTB artifacts that can be further configured to cater to any custom application requirements in order to support validation of calculation results as well as contribution analysis and traceability.

The PCMCS OOTB Rule balancing report is initially based on a Default Model View with a standard selection of upper level members for each dimension. Starting from this Default Model View, the administrators or users of the PCMCS applications can perform a deep dive analysis on more granular intersections and configure detailed reports for a ruleset or a group of rulesets they choose to investigate.

The Default Rule Balancing report is available as soon as the application has been deployed, and it can be accessed via the Main Navigator menu found under the Manage section.

Alex Mlynarzek - PCM Rule Balancing - 2-7-19 - Image 1I will be using the default BikesML30 application to demonstrate the capabilities of the Rule Balancing reports. If you have loaded your sample application and cannot see any results in the Rule Balancing reports, check that you ran your end-to-end calculations for any given POV from the Manage Calculation Menu. The POV I have chosen for this demonstration is FY16, January, Actual Scenario.

As you open the Rule Balancing menu, the Default Model View is the only view available when you initially set up your application and your allocation rules. Any other Rule Validation reports that you see within the Demo application besides the Default Model View have been built and configured outside of the out-of-the-box list of features.

What are PCMCS Model Views?

A Model View represents a predefined data slice within the PCMCS application; consider the model views as a set of selections of members for each dimension that displays only the relevant data points for a required intersection.

Rule Balancing Report Example

After running the entire set of allocation rules within the Demo BksML30 application, the Rule Balancing report should look like this:

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The description of each rule selected will be displayed along with the rule number. The rules will be displayed in the order that they were launched following the user-defined sequencing, regardless of the actual Rule Number/Rule ID that has been assigned.

  • The “Input” column enables users to confirm that what was loaded into the application matches the expected values received from the source system.
  • The Allocation In and Allocation Out columns validate the allocations performed by the application from both a balance perspective (Allocation In should be equal and opposite to Allocation Out) and a numeric one.  The balance aspect is particularly of interest when allocations are executed with custom calculation rules.  In these cases, two separate rules are typically required, one for the “credit out” and one for the “debit in.”  As such, there is a greater risk that the formulas for the outbound and inbound values will not produce amounts equal and opposite in total, thereby causing an undesired imbalance.  In these situations, the Allocation In and Allocation Out values are shown on two separate rows, and they quickly illustrate to the user the success of their calculations.

Rule Balancing and Smart View Ad Hoc Reports

Any highlighted data point/data value in the Balancing screen will allow you to further investigate the allocation step through a Smart View ad hoc report. These hyperlinks represent pre-built/pre-defined queries that point directly to the Essbase database, allowing you to further expand the analysis of a selected data point.

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When you click on the highlighted number, a Smart View link will be downloaded to your workstation.

As an example, you can see how the detail for Net Change looks like for the Custom calculation rule R0001 – Utilities Expense Adjustment in a Linked report in Smart View.

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The column headers for the Rule Balancing report will list the relevant Balance dimension members. If there are members that are not populated, these will be automatically filtered out of the view. You can choose to display them by selecting View -> Columns and tagging the members you would like to display on your report – whether they have data or not.

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For further information on what each of these Balance dimension members represent, check out my blog post on Demystifying the Balance dimension in PCMCS.

You can view and edit the model view definition in the collapsed area between the POV and the Balancing report.

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The Input data on this customized Model View is pertinent only to Operating Expenses rather than the entire pool of data. This is the reason that the total USD value may be different from data displayed on the Default Model View report.

You can perform ad hoc edits to the Model View as you are using it, but none of the newly made selections will be stored. If you want to apply permanent changes to a specific Model View selection, you will have to edit the Model View in the corresponding menu.

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Your Model Views can be defined in the same order of operations as your allocations, or you can choose to create Model Views that are more detailed and dive deeper into a custom grouping of rules, regardless of the ruleset to which they might belong. The only dimensions displayed in your Model View selection are the Business dimensions. POV, Balance, Rule, and Attribute dimensions are not represented and therefore are not open for selection. The data points you define in the Model view will apply to all relevant rules IDs that generated the new cells.

Enhancing and Customizing Your Rule Balancing Reports

In the Demo BikesML30 application, there are several standard Rule Balancing reports that are split by Ruleset while others are named “Trace.” The Trace Model views are built in order to support point troubleshooting of allocation areas that are either complex or open to high variation during each run.

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If you want to use the Rule Balancing report values outside of the ad hoc capacity, you can export the report into XLS, but remember that such an export will not represent a Smart View report – it will simply be a listing of the information presented on the Rule Balancing screen, as some members displayed here do not have a direct equivalent in the application (Running Remainder, Running Balance). This export option can be found in the Actions menu, export to Excel, or by selecting the button in the below screen capture.

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A new workbook is downloaded called RuleBalance, and the entire set of data displayed on your screen will be available in XLS.

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PCMCS Rule Balancing Drawbacks

Rule Balancing does not allow filtering based on Attributes, UDAs, or Names.

Rule Balancing hyperlinks open SmartView tabs called Linked View, and any new selections of links within the Rule Balancing report will overwrite the contents of the existing tab. If you start developing a report by using Rule Balancing, remember to always rename the tab in case you want to kick off another report for a secondary data point within the same workbook.

Common Issues When Using Rule Balancing Reports

“Rule Balancing Report Links Don’t Work”

Your workstation must have Smart View installed before using the hyperlink feature within PCMCS. The latest Smart View version is available for download through the Navigator main menu under the Installations section.  For more guidance on generic EPM product patching, read the blog post Patch Today! Don’t Delay!

When selecting a hyperlink in the Rule Balancing report, you should be able to see that a download has started. As you click on the downloaded content, a new Excel tab will open, and you will be prompted to enter your Cloud credentials in order to have access to the requested data point intersections. If you do not have Excel open at the time you are accessing the downloaded content, the prompt to enter your Cloud credentials may not appear on the screen.

“I Can’t See Any Data in the PCMCS Rule Balancing Report.”

If data is not displayed on the screen, you are looking at one of the following situations:

  1. There is no data loaded and/or calculated for the POV at the intersections you have defined in the Rule Balancing report. Check your job console to see if such tasks have been triggered and completed successfully.
  2. Your security setup is restricting you from seeing any data values. Reach out to your administrator to adjust data grants or application access.
  3. (This used to happen occasionally during on-premise implementations) If your Business dimensions are tagged as Label Only, check that the first child contains values. You may be able to see data at base level intersections within your application, yet the Rule Balancing report shows no vales due to the Dimension Type, Member Storage, or Aggregation operators you have defined in the metadata.

“I Can’t Create a PCMCS Model View.”

This restriction is based on provisioning. Reach out to your PCMCS Administrator for assistance with your profile or settings.

Rule Balancing Wrap Up

Rule Balancing reports are easy to set up and use.  They retrieve data quickly, are accessible to all application users through the same menu, and they should be the first stop during a model run to quickly identify if there were any issues with data allocations.

Because Rule Balancing is a fast reporting tool with a predefined template OOTB, it is one of the commonly used troubleshooting reports for PCMCS, which can be leveraged for quick balance checks. It is also a mechanism for quick report building at detailed Rule level, a faster alternative to reading the Rule definition and manually replicating the intersections in a Smart View report.   Because these reports are system generated and their hyperlinks are based on application and rules set-up, there is no room for manual errors when building validations.

Save precious time by leveraging the PCMCS OOTB functionality. The next post in this series covers Intelligence screens – Analysis Views and Scatter Analysis.  If you have further questions on the usage of Balancing Reports within PCMCS, please reach out to our team of PCMCS experts at infosolutions@alithya.com.

Implementing Zero Based Budgeting: Setting Up Your Environment

The previous post – Implementing Zero-Based Budgeting: The Requirements – outlined two key components of a successful zero-based budgeting program:  a culture change and a centralized system. We recommended creating a centralized system with Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service (PBCS)/Enterprise Plainning and Budgeting Cloud Service (EPBCS) because of the many advantages it provides such as an environment with data depth.

Even with a zero-based budgeting blueprint, many companies are still hesitant to go “all in” thinking that a zero-based budgeting program implementation requires too much time and resources. The introduction of Cloud services such as Oracle PBCS/EPBCS makes the implementation of a centralized financial system easier than ever, greatly reducing the barrier to entry.

This final post in this series shares the power of a PBCS/EPBCS environment to achieve the greatest success with a newly implemented zero-based budgeting program.

How Can PBCS/EPBCS Environments Enhance the ZBB Experience?

There are four key ways to gain the most from a PBCS or EPBCS environment, including the setup of targets and accountability metrics that offer more meaningful data and greater transparency when making budgeting decisions.

Clients are often given target settings goals in management meetings or over the phone, but we demonstrate for them how to integrate this into their budgeting systems. On numerous occasions, Alithya has been contracted to implement target settings where leadership sets growth targets and the systems flows down the revenue by service, product line, etc. In turn, analysts match the underlying details.

Not surprisingly, this is a common request because target setting has been a long-time tradition during the budget process. By setting up this target setting process in PBCS\EPBCS, an off-line process is instead online and is molded with the overall budgeting system process.  Combining that with the zero-based budgeting mantra allows targets to be set and provides analysts with their needed baseline.  Moreover, analysis can be done on departments that take the typical “reduce expenses by 10% approach” to archive the target number instead of the more insightful zero-based budget journey.  Yes, target setting in a centralized system is easier, but the benefit of a centralized system is the ability to see how teams react to the new target.  Did they take the traditional “reduce budget percentages to fit the numbers,” or did they look at their budget as a whole and analyze each line item and question the numbers organically?

After targets are set and the budget is approved, we look at the said cost saving come to fruition.  A centralized system allows capital projects or initiatives to be tracked to help systematically measure the expenditures of cost savings activities found during the zero-based budget discovery. This provides a clear picture of what each department is doing and holds them more accountable for project decisions. It is an achievement to complete a zero-based budget “diet,” but holding teams accountable brings them to the next level of the zero-based budget “lifestyle.”

In essence, this new budgeting environment provides better insight into data – insight that ultimately allows savings to be found more effectively. For example, if you want to see the cost of direct materials, this centralized system can be set up to capture the costs in order to analyze and keep track of the different KPIs that reduce or increase overall costs.

Another example of how this works is by segmenting down employee costs such as travel. Instead of having a run rate of 10% of direct labor or travel costs, determine what job or tasks required that travel and use this KPI to negotiate travel expenses to further drive down costs.  Essentially, use PBCS/EPBCS as a tool to capture KPIs (e.g. travel costs by job) and determine the best use of travel dollars and – more importantly – negotiate with vendors on key travel.

Lastly, a budgeting environment provides clarity to help teams make better informed decisions about future initiatives. With the ability to see all of the underlying data points in a single location, it is possible to identify past sales and marketing campaigns and expenditures that led to profitable customers. Therefore, zero-based budgeting teams that took the initiative to determine the best sales and marketing costs to benefit analysis from the ground up are able to dedicate more resources (e.g. dollars, people, etc.) to winning strategies.  This is in contrast to the traditional budgeting approach of “10% rate of marketing spend year-of-year” that often masks the winning and more importantly losing marketing initiatives. Moreover, such planning and availability of different data points helps draw key inferences that allow sales and marketing teams to be more successful.

Summary 

Utilizing a Cloud service such as Oracle PBCS/EPBCS makes it easier for companies to implement a centralized system and achieve success with a zero-based budgeting program. PBCS/EPBCS environments can and should be set up in a way that enhances the zero-based budgeting experience. This is achieved by integrating target setting goals and establishing accountability metrics that allow a deeper dive into budget data while providing greater transparency to make better informed decisions.

To learn more about zero-based budgeting best practices and to get professional help with your Oracle PBCS/EPBCS environments, feel free to contact our team of experts.

Oracle’s ARCS Patch 1812 and Patch 1811 Review: Gazing into the Crystal Ball

Peruse the Account Reconciliation Cloud Service (ARCS) forums on Oracle’s Cloud Customer Connect and you’ll notice a theme: Transaction Matching. Questions, comments, and critiques have been flooding in from across companies and industries, clients and consultants alike. Combine this with Oracle’s game-changing announcement of the EPM Cloud price simplification plan teased for 2019 – that is, the strategic move to strictly sell bundled EPM Cloud products in the near future (more on this another time – it’s a doozy) – the changes released for ARCS in Patches 1811 and 1812 could not have come at a more opportune time. Furthermore, these changes provide a sneak peek into Oracle’s crystal ball of what’s to come.

The WHAT has come: Changes for ARCS at the end of 2018

The most important change to ARCS from the 2018 season finale, Patch 1812, is the shift from having separate reconciliations between Transaction Matching and Reconciliation Compliance to one standardized use of Profiles. This is configured through the new reconciliation methods provided in Formats (Balance Comparison with Transaction Matching, Account Analysis with Transaction Matching, and Transaction Matching only).

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The implication is that Transaction Matching reconciliations receive all the benefits that previously only Reconciliation Compliance enjoyed, including but not limited to: bulk uploads/updates to Profiles and reconciliations, access to new Workflow options such as Reviewers and Teams, and detailed filtering options including the more hidden statistical metrics (such as attributes related to count, etc.). It is important to note, though, that these new features will almost exclusively relate to new reconciliations using one of the two ‘*with Transaction Matching’ format options, as seen below. Still, the opportunity for clever design is there.

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Furthermore, to support this change, Period will now be shared between the two feature sets. Additionally, reconciliations that are performed in Transaction Matching will now utilize their period-end Balances loaded to Reconciliation Compliance. While historically there have been business processes put in place to ensure that the balance loaded to Transaction Matching equaled the balance loaded for the month-end reconciliation in Reconciliation Compliance, patch 1812 ensures that a system process governs the data’s integrity – certainly a more reassuring thought.

Two additional under-the-radar features introduced in Patch 1812 are (1) the ability to have Workflow that includes multiple members while not requiring an order precedence to the work and (2) the option to now have end-users approve their own re-assignments, reducing the administrative bottleneck. These changes provide value-add functionality that demonstrate Oracle’s willingness to listen to customer feedback even during these more “stuffed” patches.

The last item to mention was actually included in Patch 1811. In Transaction Matching, a text file can now be generated with the transactions or adjustments from the tool which can then be uploaded to the ERP source systems as a journal adjustment. This has been an ongoing request, and I am happy to see it finally actualized.

The WHAT does it mean: Implications and Expectations for ARCS in 2019

Transaction Matching’s relative strength to its competitors is becoming increasingly apparent, as Oracle continues to sure up areas in need of support while also providing updates that show a sensitivity to market demand. The move to unify Transaction Matching and Reconciliation Compliance is not a new idea, as Patch 1805 made apparent with the uniting of the two UIs (and much more – see Oracle Product Management’s webinar update here), but nonetheless is a bold one that I anticipate will pay dividends. The automatic conversion of Transaction Matching reconciliations to Profiles is a nice touch too, making the transition an easier pill to swallow for skeptical clients who I am sure were not eager to pay expensive consulting fees for this. Even smaller changes such as providing a space for strictly manual matching (i.e. without Auto Match rules; Patch 1811 change) demonstrate ARCS’ commitment to be an approachable and modular product that grows with your company – a benefit I have consistently touted in the past, and I expect to continue to do so in the future.  More details about the benefits of ARCS are shared in the posts A Safe Step into the Cloud: The Argument for Account Reconciliation Cloud Service (ARCS) and Modularity in Account Reconciliation Cloud Service (ARCS): No Mistakes from “Day 1” to “Day 100”

Changes continue to come to ARCS that only slowly trickle, if at all, down to Account Reconciliation Manager (ARM). This was true for the Variance Analysis reconciliation method which arrived in May 2017 for ARCS, but not until Dec 2017 for ARM, and it is a fair guess that this will be true for the aforementioned “All Preparers” and “All Reviewers” workflow options and end-user re-assignment configuration setting. Combine this with more and more dollars being invested in Transaction Matching compared to Reconciliation Compliance (from where I’m looking, anyway), and the message is clear on who the favorite is in the Oracle product family. While ARM contains strong functionality as an on-premise option, expect the functionality gap to increase compared to its Cloud counterpart.

Lastly, the inclusion of a journal adjustment export out of Transaction Matching is a combo solution: a “we can do that too” to product competitor Blackline’s existing functionality as well as a demonstration of Oracle’s willingness to think outside of the product. This highlights ARCS’ flexibility as a tool capable of being used within other processes. In fact, the Oracle EPM Cloud ecosystem is one of ARCS’ biggest strengths over its competitors.  I would love to see this journaling ability out of Reconciliation Compliance as well which would provide the functionality to most ARCS clients. Regardless, this is a step in the right direction.

This post has been cross-posted on the #DataRestless blog site – read it here and other Oracle-related posts as well.