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

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. In a subsequent blog post, I will talk about Intelligence screens (Analysis Views, Scatter Analysis, Profit curves, Traceability, and the setup of KPIs), so subscribe to our blog page to be kept in the loop. 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.

Implementing Zero-Based Budgeting: The Requirements

A Culture Change and a Centralized System

The first post in this 3-post series – Implementing Zero-Based Budgeting: Benefits, Myths, and Goals – covers the benefits of zero-based budgeting. To summarize, it enables you to achieve long-term savings that result in sustainable growth and holds your financial analysts accountable for the cost figures they approve and how they are managing the overall budget. This allows more effective recognition of any unwanted costs and how you that money can be shifted into other growth areas within the company.

However, to reap the benefits of a zero-based budgeting program, a culture change is needed first at certain levels within the company. The goal is to eventually have the entire company complete this culture shift, but it is best to start small. Along with a change in culture, a centralized reporting system needs to be created as well to provide teams the ability to share real-time numbers with each other to achieve the goals of this new budgeting program.

Better Than a Quick Fix

What exactly is meant by a culture change? This means starting small and fostering this culture change in other departments starting with Finance. To be successful with this new program, other departments will eventually have to jump on board with this new budgeting approach. These departments will need to step up in analyzing their own costs and how they can save more without diminishing their capabilities.

For example, while financial analysts talk to the shop floor to see where costs can be reduced, the HR department should work with Finance to determine how it can become leaner. Moreover, the IT department should take the lead on negotiating with its vendors to find any areas that can be saved. These are just a few examples of how different departments can step up to the plate; implementing a successful zero-based budgeting program will requires team effort.

Changing the culture doesn’t happen overnight. Senior leaders should take the lead in fostering this change. To ensure that everyone is on the same page, managers need advocate the new approach within their respective departments.

Incentives also help teams to buy into this new budgeting approach.  Although incentives for growth metrics may already exist, additional incentives can effectively encourage staff to find ways to reduce costs for the metrics they manage.

Some examples of incentive metrics are the realized ROI based on the requested capital expenditure and the total cost saving dollars resulting from a zero-based budgeting program. For the former, this can mean moving to the Cloud to save money or reducing redundant tasks by introducing centralized software. For the latter, it can be exemplified by achieving a 10% cost reduction per phone.

Best Practice to Achieve Success

A crucial component of the success of a zero-based budgeting program is an officer who governs the entire process from start to finish. This individual (or team) should contain deep knowledge of the budgeting process. Naturally, s/he will not know the ins and outs of each department, so that is why s/he needs to be an ambassador to department leaders. The officer will also provide oversight to ensure that past bad habits of budgeting do not return to plague this new program. And lastly, s/he must be dedicated to the craft of continuous improvement which means seeking outside counsel when needed.

As mentioned earlier in the post, a culture change needs to be accompanied by a centralized reporting system. Alithya has helped clients implement Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service (PBCS) and Enterprise Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service (EPBCS) and overcome the deficiencies of Excel-based models. These models lose sight of what the true cost numbers are because past budgets are simple anchors of history rather than detailed breakdowns of cost. Moreover, these numbers become siloed within the vast library of Excel models. With Oracle PBCS or EPBCS, budgets can be highly surgical and help leaders in the company pinpoint reductions.

A centralized system allows the capture of all changes in a single location in real-time, and it provides insight into how effectively managers seek cost savings. This can be used as a key indicator to determine if their actions are in line with this new methodology.

Furthermore, centralization not only holds managers more accountable, but it also empowers them to create innovative cost-saving solutions. Driven by incentives, staff will burn with a clear purpose to find new ways to achieve sustainable growth for the company and be rewarded for hard work.

Recapping What It Takes to Achieve ZBB Success

The goal is to create a cost savings culture that allows more capital to be invested into growing parts of the company. To be successful, follow the best practices outlined, starting with a culture change within the company and giving your teams a centralized PBCS and EPBCS system to more clearly see all data points. The hard work does not stop here, though! The next post delves into setting up a zero-based budgeting system.

Implementing Zero-Based Budgeting: Benefits, Myths, and Goals

If you are in the finance world, then you probably have heard of zero-based budgeting. Investopedia defines zero-based budgeting as “a method of budgeting in which all expenses must be justified for each new period. The process…starts from a “zero base,” and every function within an organization is analyzed for its needs and costs.”

There are many reasons that financial professionals decide to use zero-based budgeting. For one thing, it goes hand-in-hand with a centralized system where information can be shared – something at which Excel spreadsheets are terrible. Furthermore, developing a centralized system enables you to scale to your needs as your company grows. Lastly, it enables financial analysts to spend more of their work week analyzing data instead of curating a financial system and worrying if the numbers match.

At Alithya, we have found with our past clients that a successful zero-based budgeting implementation resolves numerous problems. The two main things clients hope to achieve is growth across multiple business units and developing sustained cost reduction. With zero-based budgeting, you can earn long-term savings that can directly translate into sustainable growth.

Earning Long-Term Cost Savings

Zero-based budgeting becomes a daily exercise in cost savings for your financial teams. One method in achieving cost savings is renegotiating costs. For example, instead of taking the run-rate of 3% from last year’s numbers, perhaps you can contact your vendors to bargain for a better deal or switch to a different vendor with a more competitive price. Or how about having your analysts ask the IT department why it costs $38.03 per phone? What makes up that entire $38.08? Don’t assume that there aren’t any negotiable components of a cost.

The reason zero-based budgeting is so effective at long-term savings is that it is not a one-off fix. Many teams tend to implement one-off fixes, and then find that those fixes do not provide sustainable cost savings. A common example is offshoring your call center which might get you an immediate win in the cost column. However, this strategy typically reduces customer service quality while also limiting your ability to evolve with your business as it grows.

When enacting this type of program, you will analyze the costs of your business at every level. This may seem tedious, but what you will find is a clearer understanding of where your money is going. This can mean acquiring a greater understanding of contract labor costs as well as improving purchasing and procurement procedures, just to name a few. Moreover, when properly implemented, zero-based budgeting can reduce SG&A costs by 10 to 25 percent, often within as little as six months,” according to McKinsey & Company.

Debunking Myths Surrounding Zero-Based Budgeting

There are many myths surrounding zero-based budgeting that have sadly created an artificial barrier that CFOs and their teams do not want to cross. Many financial professionals think that it means cutting the budget down to the bare bones, but rather, a zero-based budgeting program analyzes costs from the top-down. Moreover, it is the CFOs’ duty to outline cost-cut targets so that their team’s efforts are focused.

Another misconception is that zero-based budgeting only helps with cutting the costs of SG&A. Actually, it can do much more, such as breaking down the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) and help teams make investment choices on the capital expenditure with the greatest ROI.

Just because your business is not in decline or stagnating doesn’t mean that you can’t adopt a zero-based budgeting program. If you are already achieving growth, you can use this type of budgeting method to keep the overall business leaner so that you can provide more runway for growing business units.

Do you really start from zero? This is a common question that we are asked, and many people think because of its name that you do always start from zero. Technically, this is true, but this is the core component that drives the cost management culture change that will be introduced in the next post in this series.

However, not all things have to start from zero. At Alithya, we have been through many implementations where parts of the P&L are driver-based or zero-based. This can be achieved with a detailed, structured, and interactive system (like Oracle PBCS/EPBCS) that gives you real-time feedback.

How Does Oracle PBCS and EPBCS Help Achieve ZBB goals?

The main feature you acquire when you implement an Oracle PBCS or EPBCS system with your zero-based budgeting program is deeper analytics. This data enables you to dig into the “why and how” of your P&L.

For example, you could pose the question what driver did they use? Did they just simply take last year’s actuals and add 3%? Did they take a cost-per-head and budget it manually, or did they take the easy way out? All are important questions that force finance teams to be more accountable when it comes to everyday decisions.

Recapping the Benefits of ZBB

By implementing a zero-based budgeting program with a centralized system, you can hold your analysts more accountable to cost figures while making them own up to how the costs are managed. It allows you to recognize any unwanted costs that can be diverted into certain growth areas as well as breed a culture of cost reduction and visibility. The latter requires that you to start a culture change within your team. It is an essential part of having success with a zero-based budgeting program which is why we will cover it in greater detail in the next post.

PCM Micro-Costing, a Framework for Detailed Profitability and Costing

Oracle’s Profitability and Cost Management Cloud Service (PCMCS) provides a powerful service for allocating General Ledger profits and costs.  Recently, we worked with a banking industry client to provide a model that calculates profitability at a Product/Channel level while maintaining Account level detail.  We accomplished this through a framework we refer to as Micro-Costing where detailed profits and costs are calculated in a database using rates developed at the summary level in PCMCS.  Alithya began development of this framework in 2016 to meet a functional gap in PCMCS and provide a common framework that can be used either on-premise or in the Cloud.

To highlight the capabilities of Micro-Costing, I will use the solution deployed at our banking client as a specific example.  The following table describes the two layers where profits and costs are provided:

PCM Micro-Costing, a Framework for Detailed Profitability and Costing - Image 1

 Definitions:

  • Product – a loan or deposit offering. Examples of a loan are an auto loan or credit card; examples of a deposit are a savings account or a checking account.
  • Origination Channel – where the account was originated.
  • Service Channel – where the financial or transactional cost or profit is occurring or assigned to.
  • Customer – a legal entity responsible for accounts; for example, a person with both a home loan and a savings account.
  • Customer Account – a product that is assigned to a customer.
  • Financial Costs and Profits – the cost or profit of servicing a loan or deposit for a customer; for example, interest paid on a savings account.
  • Transactional Costs and Profits – the cost or profit of interacting with a customer; for example, the cost of an ATM transaction.

A simple way of thinking about the client’s business model:

  • Origination channels offer Products
  • Products are assigned to Customers as Customer Accounts
  • Customer Accounts are used by Customers through Service Channels

The generation of an Account level profit or cost is a C = A*B calculation where

  • A is the driver
  • B is the rate of a driven value
  • C is the driven value (profit or cost)

An example is:

ATM Expense = ATM Transaction Count * ATM Expense Rate

Micro-Costing Diagrams

Data Model

This summarizes the data model deployed.

PCM Micro-Costing, a Framework for Detailed Profitability and Costing - Image 2

STAGING – Contains transient data.

OPERATIONAL DATA STORE (ODS) – Persists the operational data with minimal transformation.  Dimensional integrity is not enforced, but validation jobs are available for validating stored data regarding rules and dimensional integrity.

WAREHOUSE-STAR – Persists the drivers, the rates, and the calculated profits and costs at the Customer Account level.  The Driver Lookup and Driven Value Lookup functions are used to define the drivers and driven values so that the addition of a driver or driven value is a configuration activity for an administrator rather than a coding activity.

Data Integration

A high-level summary of the data flows as deployed:

PCM Micro-Costing, a Framework for Detailed Profitability and Costing - Image 3

The source data is broken down into 3 types:

  1. General Ledger
  2. Operational Data
  3. Metadata

Data Integration uses interim flat files to maintain flexibility regarding the source data by establishing an API via the flat files without requiring knowledge of the source systems.  This allows for the introduction of source data that comes from 3rd parties not available for automated extraction from the source.

The operational data includes both Customer Account financial information and transactional activities or fees.  Product and Channel references are provided along with this information:

  • 1 million+ Customer Accounts
  • Approximately 6 million transactions per month

Some transactional drivers represent an activity that cannot be associated with a specific Customer Account; for example, a new loan application.  Proxy Customer Accounts for each product are generated to provide a place for these activities.

Additionally, although not graphically displayed in the above diagram, Branch level drivers are directly fed into the PCM Model, examples of which are Branch square footage and number of branch employees.  These drivers were used for non-Customer Account PCM costs and profits.

All Batch processing is built using SQL Server Integration Services.  This is based upon an agreement with the client regarding the preferred tool sets with the database selected being SQL Server.  Framework is transferable to other integration tools and databases including Hadoop framework, and in-house solutioning by Alithya was performed in preparation for use of the Micro-Costing framework with larger clients.

The data integration is as follows:

  1. Set POV
  2. Update metadata and stage
  3. Stage financial and transactional information
  4. Validate staged data and reprocess as necessary
  5. Load staged data to ODS and then to Star
  6. Upload PCMCS with GL and drivers
  7. Process allocations in PCMCS
  8. Download rates
  9. Run A*B calculations for each Customer Account and populate profit and cost table

Key Design Principles

The following design principles were focused on during development of the Micro-Costing framework.  These principles facilitate an easy-to-use and easy-to-maintain solution as deployed for our client.

  • Dimensional synchronization between the Micro-Costing warehouse and PCM
  • Validation checks as close to the original data as possible
  • Configurable drivers and driven values

Dimensional Synchronization

All dimensional mapping must occur prior to the warehouse star schema.  It is not possible to perform the Micro-Costing A*B calculations to derive profits and costs detail otherwise.  This has an impact on any deployment that uses FDMEE or Cloud Data Manager as they cannot perform additional mappings during upload to the cube.

Dimensional Synchronization includes a Point of View: Year, Period, Scenario, and Version to allow for loading multiple sets of drivers during a month, and for transfer of ‘what-if’ rates back to the Customer Account level, if desired.

Validation Checks

Validation kick-outs and checks occur as early in the data integration process as possible, with a “simple” validation during staging and a “complex” validation during generation of the fact information in the warehouse.  This allows the administrator to catch quality issues with a minimum amount of overall process duration occurring.  The data integration process is broken into a series of steps that allows for validation review and then re-running a step prior to moving on to the next step.  This principle held up in deployment, ensuring that time wasn’t wasted running later processes with invalid data, the result being an improved overall process and a significant reduction in the number of days required to produce profit and cost analysis for a given month.   A lesson learned during the initial roll-out was that our client had not previously required a rigorous validation of the drivers at the Customer Account level and had to develop new techniques for validating the source information to ensure accuracy.

Configurable Driver and Driven Values

A key feature of Oracle’s PCM applications is configurability, and the Micro-Costing framework is built to provide an easy-to-maintain solution that allows for rapid addition of drivers and driven values without the administrator having to manually update the tables and views required to manage the transformation and persistence of data.  This was accomplished by defining the drivers and driven values in tables and providing stored procedures for maintaining the tables and views.

The process for adding a new driver and driven value is very straightforward:

  1. Backup the database and the PCM cube.
  2. Update the source feeds to include the new activity or fee.
  3. Update the activity to Driver Lookup and Driven Value Lookup tables with the new values.  *Note: The driven value record references the driver for the A*B calculation.
  4. Execute the “Update Costing Tables and Views” stored procedure. *Note: removing a driver or driven value does not modify the tables.
  5. Update HPCM Account dimension for the new driver and driven value.
  6. Update HPCM rules to use the new driver and allocate expenses to the new driven value, and calculate the rate for the new driven value.
  7. Run the entire data integration process for the POV, and review results.

Key Benefits

The successful deployment of the solution provides the following key business benefits:

  • An improved ability to provide Product/Channel level costs and profits.
  • Reduced monthly cycle time and effort. The prior data integration process was disjointed and required a large amount of effort to produce results.
  • Drill-through capability to Customer Account level drivers, profits, and costs allows for root cause analysis of Channel and Product Costs.
  • Aggregation along other dimensional paths. Starting at the Customer Account level allows for aggregation along Customer attributes such as zip-code or credit score, providing new insights and enhanced executive decision making.  A follow-on project to use the Customer Account level data in OAC is currently being assessed.

Additionally, the following benefits to the administrative team are realized:

  • Model flexibility. The configuration of an additional driver and driven value in Micro-Costing takes fewer than 15 minutes.
  • Operational Data Store (ODS) and Warehouse. This allows for future projects to use a common curated source of information.  This was a pot sweetener for our client who was dissatisfied with its prior warehouse, but needed a business reason to refresh.  The prior warehouse lacked the following items that were addressed in the new ODS and warehouse:
    • Explicit mappings such as Activity Code to Driver Code that are controlled by the business
    • 3rd party data from partners and industry sources
    • Consolidation of financial and transactional information into Customer Account level facts
    • Hashing of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) for account security
  • Easy troubleshooting, validation, and auditing capabilities with PCM. Errors or mismatches in profit or cost at the Product/Channel level can be reduced to either rule definition mistakes or driver data entry mistakes. Finding out where the issue is and correcting it with a few clicks has a positive impact on the overall analysis and maintenance effort.

Final Thoughts

Alithya has developed a Micro-Costing framework that allows an integrated view of profits and costs at both a summary and detailed level.  This framework is successfully deployed at a banking industry client to provide a superior solution.

Framework is deployable either on-premise or in the Cloud and is available for other industries such as:

  • Patient encounters in Healthcare
  • Claims in Insurance
  • SKUs in Retail
  • Subcomponents in Manufacturing

…or anywhere the allocations occur at a summary level with drivers aggregated from a detail level.

 

Demystify the Balance Dimension in Profitability and Cost Management

Management Ledger models, whether Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management (HPCM) or Profitability and Cost Management Cloud Service (PCMCS), have been around for a few years, but I still receive emails asking for help with figuring out where the results are coming from. This request is often related to a lack of understanding of the Balance dimension. Here are some key pieces of information regarding this system dimension, how it works, how it should be used when defining allocations and integration jobs, and how to leverage it to troubleshoot your allocations.

Before we have a look at each member within this dimension, let’s go over some basic rules that govern the creation of an HPCM or PCMCS Management Ledger (ML) application:

  1. All HPCM or PCMCS ML applications must contain just one dimension named Balance
  2. Members and their properties cannot be edited or removed.
  3. You don’t need to import a file in order to load/setup the Balance dimension; members are created automatically when deploying an application for the first time.
  4. You can choose to rename the Balance dimension (translate it into another language, for example) when you first set up the application in PCMCS.

For the most part, the Balance dimension members are quite easy to follow and understand, but familiarity with usage guidelines helps to avoid issues during development and supports troubleshooting.

Demystifying the Balance Dimension in PCM - Image 1

  • Input — Used to store data input/pre-allocated data sets, whether these are pool or driver data sets. Data is generally loaded against this member in combination with the NoRule member. Input can be populated through custom calculations, but it is generally advised to keep it dedicated to valid data loads/input rather than for storing calculated or allocated results.
  • Adjustment In —Adjustment In can be used for manual adjustments to the Input data prior to running allocations. In this case, the Adjustment In data will be loaded against the NoRule member. Any manually submitted data on the Adjustment member against a Rule ID member may be eliminated during the subsequent data loads and calculations. Adjustment In can also be used during custom calculations to store intermediary values or calculated driver data.
  • Adjustment Out —Same usage as for Adjustment In, but with a negative data value.
  • Allocation In — This member will be populated against the Destination or Target intersection for the allocation rule.
  • Allocation Out —This member will be populated against the Source intersection of the allocation rule and the corresponding Rule ID member, or against a predefined “Offset” intersection that is custom defined for a given rule.
  • Allocation Offset Amount — Displays an amount that further reduces an Allocation In member, if one was used in addition to the Allocation Out. I have provided an example of how this member is populated and used in a lower section of this post.
  • Net Change — represents the total change for a given intersection, regardless of alternate offset actions.
  • Net Balance – sum of Input (initial data loaded) and any Net Changes made to the same intersection.
  • Remainder — Displays the difference between Allocation In and Allocation Out plus Allocation Offset Amount, if any.
  • Balance — The amount resulting when adjustments, allocations, and offsets are considered.

Rules assign funds to destinations based on the way you have defined the allocation logic (member selections, sequencing, concurrency, etc.). “Allocations in” and “allocations out” are being generated upon executing the calculations of the Profitability model. Each pair of adjustments and allocations (the “in” and the “out”) should result in a zero sum in order to balance the transaction. The Input member is affected by each adjustment and allocation. The difference between what was taken from Input and what remains at the end of an allocation will be accounted for in the Remainder.

The Remainder member is the source of your allocations, not the Net Balance member, as most would think.  Remainder takes into consideration alternate offsets and ensures we do not perform a double booking or a double allocation of the same data source, regardless of where the offset was applied.

To further explain the Balance dimension usage, I have used an example from the Bikes default application BksML30, which can be deployed into PCMCS through a few clicks.

The original application had only one adjustment Rule populating the Adjustment In member. I have copied that rule and reused it to demonstrate the same usage for the Adjustment Out member. Remember the adjustment out aggregation operator is still +, so if you want to offset data sets, you must use the appropriate signage for your data; in other words, negate the result either via a multiplication with -1 or by simply adding a – to the formula.

The new ruleset contents will look like this:

Demystifying the Balance Dimension in PCM - Image 2

Our initial data set is loaded on the Input/No Rule combination for the two accounts – Rent and Utilities – on the intersection with Corporate Entity.

The data adjustments are stored against Adjustment In and Adjustment Out.

Demystifying the Balance Dimension in PCM - Image 3

In order to further illustrate how to correctly follow the allocation process, I split the original Reassignment rule into 2 rules, each dedicated to its own account. I also updated the metadata by adding two new Account siblings to Rent and Utilities as offsets for each account.

Alternate offsets are simply intersections of members where you would like to store the offset data point, if it should differ from the source of the allocation.

The Remainder member demonstration is connected to the usage of alternate offsets, and before we go into the details of the numerical example, I would like to list out a few rules for setting up alternate offsets:

  • Alternate offsets are available for selection only in standard allocation rules. For Custom calculations, your Offset custom calc would have to be pointed to the appropriate “alternate” target.
  • All dimensions, including the ones predefined in the rule context, are repeated in the Offset screen as soon as you select “Alternate Offset Location.” You must select a single base level member for at least one dimension.
  • There is no “Same As Source” (SAS) option for offsets. The dimensions that must be offset on the Source intersections can be left blank in the Offset screen selections.
  • If each source member selection has its own offset, you will have to split the rule up into as many granular rules as needed in order to cover the individual offset selection. For example, if you have 6 accounts, each with its own offset account equivalent, you will have to create 6 standard allocation rules to create the individual offset selection for each account.

Going back to the numerical example and the usage of the Offset tab, in the update rule I have selected the below member intersections:

Demystifying the Balance Dimension in PCM - Image 4

The Source account was Rent, target is “Same as Source” (SAS), and the alternate offset account is FACOffset_Rent.

After the rules are executed, we will see the results below; focus on the Allocation Offset Amount member and the Allocation Out Member.

Even though the offset was applied to an alternate account for both Rent and Utilities, the allocation engine correctly identifies the Remainder of these two accounts as being 0.

  1. The first step behind the scenes is for the allocation to correctly distribute the data to the target intersections.
  2. The second step is to perform the offset on the intersection specified by the user, if different from the source intersection.
  3. The third step is to copy the Allocation Out value onto the Source Intersection members, on allocation Offset Amount member. This final step is performed via a custom calculation embedded in the PCMCS generated scripts which ensures there will be no double counting of pool data.

So even though we “moved” data from the Rent account, Corporate Entity, to other Entities, on the same target Account, the offset was performed on an alternate member. This allows us to create a report with Rent (Input), Rent (Allocation In) and FACOffset_Rent (Allocation out).

This is not a typical example of how alternate offsets are used from a functional standpoint, but it helps explain the mechanics behind the scenes. This alternate offset option is mostly used in cases where a Bill Out account and a Chargeback account will differ and allows users to trace which portion of a chargeback account is coming from different source accounts.

The final goal of an allocation is to generate a Remainder member with a value of 0. This ensures the total allocation of a pool data set, whether this was loaded or received from prior allocation steps. If the Remainder member has a positive value, then it is indicating that you have not fully utilized your pool data. If the Remainder member has a negative value, then you have overutilized your pool data which may be, in some cases, intentional.

Demystifying the Balance Dimension in PCM - Image 5

In situations where you will not give access to the PCMCS ML application to users who need to understand the various components of a data point flowing through the allocation steps, due to licensing costs or other considerations, the usage of alternate offsets throughout your allocation flow might be helpful.

When talking about reporting out of PCMCS ML, our clients always emphasize simplicity, and we often get requests to remove the Rule and Balance dimensions from final reporting solutions, to cancel the noise and give finance users solely the core information. In such situations, the usage of alternate offsets has proved beneficial as these finance users can still follow the flow and components of a cost without having to deal with the rule by rule detail. If further investigation is necessary, this can be pursued within the PCMCS ML model itself rather than in the external reporting solution.

If you need further help with figuring out the purpose and usage of the Balance dimension within PCMCS, email us at infosolutions@alithya.com. Our PCM Center of Excellence team is ready to share leading practices and industry-specific solutions that accelerate your ROI and expand the capabilities of your chosen profitability software.

Worry No More! Say Goodbye to Pain and Frustration when Submitting Service or Enhancement Requests with Oracle for PCMCS

While nobody likes submitting Service Requests (SR) on the Oracle support site, this is a necessary task that we must get comfortable with, whether our applications are on-premise or in the Cloud.  After 12 years of consulting, I can say that I have seen or pursued many wrong ways of submitting an SR which, in turn, yields results along similar lines – a lot of back-and-forth emailing with Oracle’s support staff, personal frustration, misinformation, and most importantly – time wasted on all sides.

Worry no more!  Here is a list of things you can do to avoid further pain and frustration when submitting Service Requests or Enhancement Requests with Oracle for Profitability and Cost Management Cloud Service (PCMCS).

  1. Where do I start when submitting SRs and ERs for PCMCS?

You can still use the generic Oracle Support website to open either an SR or an Enhancement Request (ER) with Oracle for Cloud applications, but the right way to do this is to first gain access to the Oracle Cloud Support website which looks slightly different and has a couple of new fields to complete. The email associated with the Oracle account should be the same email that has access to specific Cloud subscriptions.

Standard Oracle Support website

PCMCS Image 1

Cloud Support website

PCMCS Image 2

  1. Provide feedback

Login in to the Cloud application for which you want to create the SR or ER, and once you are logged in to PCMCS, navigate to your user name (top right) and select “Provide Feedback.” A new screen will appear enabling you to highlight the area of concern to provide context for the reason you are submitting the SR or ER.

Provide details around the area of concern. This gives context to the issue at hand and creates a reference for future troubleshooting. For example, if the issue is related to one specific Rule, ensure that the last screen open before you click on Provide Feedback is on the rule itself, or open to the job library listing the execution of the rule. You will only be able to highlight areas on the last screen open before launching the “Provide Feedback” screen.  The details you provide here will not automatically be copied into your SR. If you want to describe the issue in detail within this section, you can copy the same text within the SR itself – save it locally before submitting the feedback.

  1. Options for your feedback.

After you submit your feedback, a new panel will come up and will contain the following 3 sections:

  1. Environment: a listing of your Browser, Platform, Version, Locale, Resolution, Time zone, Cookies enabled (Y/N), URL of the instance, and the User Agent. You do not have to fill in anything in this section. All information is filled in for you.
  2. Plugins: a listing of enabled plugins, if any. You do not have to fill in anything in this section. All information is filled in for you.
  3. Confirm Application snapshot submission: this is the only section where you must provide input.

PCMCS Image 5You have a choice of Yes / No – depending on how comfortable you feel about Oracle using your daily maintenance snapshot for regression testing in upcoming releases. Giving Oracle access to your maintenance snapshots means you are agreeing to them using the model and any related data for their testing going forward. If your hierarchy structures and data are not sensitive, then you may choose to select “Yes.”  My personal preference is to select “No” and provide the static/current moment in time archived snapshot within the SR . When the SR is closed, the contents of said snapshot will be archived and not used for further regression testing.

  1. Generate a Diagnostic Report (UDR) ID

When clicking the “Submit” button on this screen, a unique alphanumeric reference is generated. This reference will be required when submitting an SR or ER on the Oracle Cloud Support website. Write down or, preferably, copy and save this UDR string of characters on your workstation in a txt file.

  1. Log in to the Oracle Cloud Support website and proceed with opening a new Cloud SR/ER.

Select the “Create Service Request” button on the lower left-hand side of your screen.

PCMCS Image 6

Select “Service Type” from the drop-down list of available Cloud services to which your user has access.

PCMCS Image 7

Once you have selected “Oracle Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management Cloud Service,” a listing of all available instances will be displayed in the new “Service Name” section:

PCMCS Image 8

Make sure you select the appropriate “Service Name” with the instance where you generated the related UDR (see previous steps).

Add “Problem Type” and select based on the type closest to your issue:

PCMCS Image 9

The above choices will not trigger related content or a list of options – this is merely to ensure that the ticket goes to the appropriate team during the investigation process.

In the “Problem Summary” section, reference the Cloud product for which you are creating the SR or ER. This will be the subject of your ticket, and it will help administer and keep track of multiple tickets at the same time.

  1. Attach all System Reports available for your PCMCS app.

To avoid multiple back and forth email exchanges with the Oracle Support staff, provide them with all the available information. Here is a current list of all available reports for troubleshooting PCMCS applications.

  1. Execution statistics for the last model / allocation execution connected to the SR – if SR is related to calc performance, calc troubleshooting or rule setup. (PDF or XLS format preferable)
  2. Program Documentation (with details; not with aliases) (XLS or PDF format preferable)
  3. Dimension Statistics (PDF format preferable)
  4. POV Statistics (PDF or XLS format preferable)

All these reports can be generated from PCMCS – Navigator menu – System reports.

PCMCS Image 10

  1. Attach the Diagnostic report

From the “Navigator” Menu, select “Application,” click on the drop-down in “Actions” and select “Export Supplemental Diagnostics.” This report is very useful to the development team troubleshooting your issue.

PCMCS Image 11

When selecting this report, a new job will be launched that can take anywhere between a couple of minutes to 20+ minutes, depending on the size of your application and the amount of logging involved.

An archive of the diagnostics reports will be generated in the File Explorer within the Application menu.  Some of the reports in this archive will be a repeat of the other reports mentioned in the previous step, but if you provide all this information simultaneously, the redundancy should not cause any issues. If you are not open to launching such process in your environment during business hours, and yet you still want to submit the SR in a timely fashion, you can skip this step and provide this report only upon request from Oracle Support staff.

  1. Error description

If you can replicate the error, capture each step via screenshots and save them in a Word doc. The earlier the support staff understands what you are dealing with, the faster the entire troubleshooting process will be completed.

Refer to menu options precisely as what they are called within PCMCS.

For example, to submit an SR or ER related to the Calculation Rules menu, refer to it as Calculation Rules – Rules Express Editing, as both names appear in the PCMCS menu.

PCMCS Image 12

  1. Establish the SR level appropriately.

There are 4 options to choose from, and you should choose based on urgency as well as level of importance.

PCMCS Image 13

Choose severity 1 and 2 only when applicable. You may be inclined to select such severity options so that your issue is resolved quickly, but use your own criteria to distinguish between something that is really a show stopper and something that is not. Time is of the essence for both you and the Oracle Development team.

When choosing severity 1, you will open your calendar for potential phone calls that can occur at any time, regardless of your time zone.

  1. My request is really an ER, not an SR.

If your SR is an Enhancement Request, provide a lot of supporting detail in the “Business Justification” section. Not doing so will delay the Enhancement Request submission by up to 2 weeks. If further business justification is requested, respond promptly to make things move along and ensure that your request makes it to the next patch release sooner rather than later.

Once an Enhancement Request is recorded, your SR will be updated with the ER ID (which will differ from the SR ID originally assigned the moment you submitted the ticket).  The original SR will be closed, and you can open a new SR quoting the ER ID 48 hours after the moment your request was accepted. The Support staff will confirm whether the ER will make it in the next monthly patch release.

  1. Bedside manners for SR/ER submitters.

Try to reduce the number of communications within the SR. Taking the above steps will get you closer to achieving a near-perfect SR submission. Be mindful about how to communicate efficiently. The higher the amount of back-and-forth communication, the more difficult it will be for the development team to follow the conversation trail and ensure efficient troubleshooting.

Whether you are a service provider or a PCMCS administrator who inherited an application at the end of a project implementation, we all tap the same Oracle Support resources which are, as are most things, finite. The more efficient your SR/ER submission is, the faster these resources provide a response with accurate and detailed troubleshooting steps. For any time-sensitive issues or further escalation, leverage your Oracle representative and your implementation partner. Their existing relationship with Oracle Product Management will help direct your query to the right resources and ensure your SR is not stuck because of lack of clarity regarding which team should own it. This will ensure that your SR/ER is fast-tracked to the appropriate team and given the right level of attention. For any critical issues you encounter with PCMCS or other Cloud subscriptions where there is no solution in sight, reach out to Alithya at infosolutions@alithya.com so that our team can provide a fast end effective assessment.

Using Subscriptions with EDMCS

As an earlier blog mentioned, the 18.07 release of Enterprise Data Management Cloud Service (EDMCS) delivered one eagerly anticipated piece of functionality: Subscriptions! And do not fear – these subscriptions are useful and do not involve a 1-year subscription to the Fruit of the Month Club (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

This blog post dives deeper into this new functionality, describes how it works, and highlights some lessons learned from utilizing Subscriptions with a current project involving multiple EDMCS Custom applications supporting multiple Profitability and Cost Management Cloud Service (PCMCS) applications.

Why Are Subscriptions Important?

Subscriptions are a huge step towards true “mastering” of enterprise data assets within a single master data Cloud platform. With EDMCS, it is important to build deployment-specific applications configured to the dimensionality requirements of the target applications to most effectively use the packaged adapters, validations, and integration capabilities. But in many cases, you also need to share common hierarchies across applications and avoid duplicative (that’s my big word for today) maintenance. After all, why have a master data management tool if you still must perform maintenance in multiple places? That’s just silly.

The answer to this dilemma is Subscriptions. By implementing Subscriptions, requests submitted to a primary viewpoint will automatically generate parallel subscription requests to subscribing viewpoints to automatically synchronize your hierarchy changes across EDMCS applications.

Note

This comment is important: “automatically generate parallel subscription requests.” EDMCS will not update a target, or subscribing, viewpoint behind the scenes with no visibility or audit trail to what has occurred. A parallel Subscription request will be generated along with the Interactive request that will be visible in the Requests window, along with the full audit trail and details that you find in an Interactive request. Even better, the Subscription request will generate an email and attach a Request File of the changes.

Nerdy Details

Views and Viewpoints

The first thing to really think about is the View and Viewpoint design of your EDMCS applications. Subscriptions are defined at the Viewpoint level, so you need to identify the source and target viewpoint for your business situation. With my current project, I have multiple EDMCS applications supporting multiple PCMCS applications. While the dimensionality is similar across the applications, the hierarchies vary, especially with the alternate hierarchies. So, it has been important to isolate the “common” or shared structures that should be synchronized across applications into their own viewpoint so that a subscription mechanism can be created.

Node Type Converters

You will likely need to create a node type converter. If the source and target viewpoints do not share a common node type, you must create a node type converter for subscriptions to work. In my situation, I had already created node type converters since I wanted to compare common structures across EDMCS applications, so the foundation was there to readily implement subscriptions.

Permissions

To create a Subscription, the creator must have (at a minimum) View Browser permission to the source view, View Owner permission to the target view, and Data Manager permission to the target application.

The Subscription assignee (this is the user who will “submit” the subscription request) must have (at a minimum) View Browser permission to the source view and Data Manager permission to the target application.

Creating a Subscription

Once the foundation is in place in terms of viewpoints, node type converters, and permissions, the actual creation of a subscription is easy.

Inspect the target viewpoint (the viewpoint that is to receive the changes from a source viewpoint via subscription), navigate to the Subscriptions tab, and click Edit. From there you can select the source viewpoint, the request assignee, and enable Auto Submit if needed. Save the subscription and you are all set.

  • Currently, there is no capability to edit an existing subscription. You must delete and add a new subscription to effect a change.
  • Any validation errors for your subscription will appear on this dialog as well. These are documented nicely in the Oracle EDMCS administration guide.

Using Subscriptions with EDMCS Image 1

Auto-Submit and Email Notifications

Emails will be generated and sent to the Request Assignee, whether Auto-Submit is enabled or not. The email will include details such as the original request #, the subscription request #, and how many request items were processed or skipped.

Using Subscriptions with EDMCS Image 2

Note

  • Remember, the subscription request will have a Request File attached to it. View the request file attachment to see details on why specific request items were skipped.
  • The request file is not attached to the email itself, only to the request in EDMCS.

Lessons Learned

Like I mentioned earlier, the foundation is important to making subscriptions work. And it all boils down to design and ensuring the building blocks of that foundation are in place:

Design, Design, Design!

  • The importance of dimension, view, and viewpoint design cannot be overstated. For each dimension, evaluate the primary and alternate hierarchy content and identify what will be shared across dimensions or applications and what will be unique to each dimension and application.
  • Based on that analysis, carefully design your viewpoints to enable subscriptions across EDMCS applications for hierarchies that truly need “mastering.”
  • As early as possible, identify the EDMCS user population along with permission levels for applications and views. This is important to identify the appropriate “Request Assignee” for your Subscriptions. I recommend creating a security matrix identifying each user and the permissions each will have.
  • Without a clear and well thought out design, you will find yourself constantly re-doing your views and viewpoints which, in turn, will cause constant rework of your subscriptions. The “measure twice, cut once” adage certainly applies here!
  • I am a big proponent of standard, consistent naming conventions to improve the usability and end user experience. The same holds true for Subscriptions. Consider using a standard naming convention for your viewpoints so it is clear which viewpoints have a subscription. It’s not obvious – unless you Inspect the viewpoint – that a subscription exists.
    • One approach I’ve been using is to name my source and target viewpoints identically with a special tag or symbol at the end of the target viewpoint name to indicate a subscription is present. I’m sure there are other and probably better ideas, but I find the visual cue to be helpful.
    • Perhaps in the future, Oracle will display subscription details when you hover over a viewpoint name (hint hint).

Node Type Converters

  • Ensure you have node converters in place
  • Make sure your node type converters are mapping all required properties.
    • I ran into an issue where updates to one property in my source viewpoint were not being applied to my target viewpoint via subscription requests, but all other property updates worked fine. The reason? I had recently modified my App Registration and added this property to a dimension’s node type. But my node type converter had already been created and wasn’t mapping or recognizing the new property. Once I updated my node type converter, the problem was solved.

Troubleshooting

  • The request files attached to subscription requests are a valuable troubleshooting tool. Status codes and error messages are included in these Excel files that are extremely helpful to determine why your request was not auto-submitted.
  • Inspect the Subscriptions on your viewpoints. Any validation issues will be displayed and are easily addressed. Typical Subscription validation errors include:
    • The request assignee no longer has the correct permission levels
    • The viewpoint no longer is active
    • A node type converter is missing

Conclusion

I have been looking forward to the subscription functionality in EDMCS and am pleased with it so far. Subscriptions are easy to configure, can be configured to auto-submit if desired, and generate emails to remind the requester a request has occurred and to act if the request was not submitted or request items were skipped. EDMCS Subscriptions are a big step forward to enabling true mastering of your enterprise data management assets!

Retro Reboot #1: Set It & Forget It – Scheduling FDMEE Tasks

As with most nostalgic items, reboots are the next best thing. From video game consoles to television shows, they are all getting a modern facelift and a new prime-time seat on television.  I have jumped on that band-wagon to revitalize a previous post authored by Tony Scalese: Set it & Forget It – Scheduling FDM Tasks.

As with most reboots, there must be flair and alluring content to capture old and new audiences. Since Oracle Financial Data Quality Management Enterprise Edition (FDMEE) has been in the Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) space for a while and has moved into the Cloud, this is a great time for its reboot!

Oh Great…A Reboot. Now What?

Scheduling tasks in FDMEE has never been easier. Oracle provides several ways to do this for a variety of out-of-the-box activities.  Is there a report that you want to run and email every hour?  Or how about a script that needs to run hourly?  Or maybe batch-automation every 15 minutes?  No worries!  FDMEE can handle all of that with out-of-the-box functionality.

Let us pause for a moment and determine what is needed to make this happen:

  1. Is there a business case and justification for what is about to be scheduled?
  2. Who benefits and how will they be notified of the results?
  3. Is there a defined frequency for which the activity must take place?

Getting Started

First, understand that the scheduling for FDMEE is built directly into the Graphical User Interface (GUI) anywhere you see the “SCHEDULE” button. Unlike the previous FDM counterpart which had it as an independent utility to be installed/configured, the ease of having it via the Web has removed some complexity.

A word of caution:  while this screen allows items to be scheduled, there isn’t a screen that shows “what has been” scheduled.  To do that, access to the Oracle Data Integrator (ODI) is needed, but more on this later.

Initially, the screen shows the types of schedules that can be created and their relevant inputs.

Retro Reboot Screen Shot 1

Below is a reference guide to outline FDMEE’s scheduling capabilities.

Schedule Type Inputs Notes / Examples
Simple TimeZone, Date, HH:MM:SS, AM/PM Single run based on the specified inputs.

 

Example:  Run 08/02/2018 @ 11AM

Hourly TimeZone, MM:SS Repeatable run at the specified time MM:SS time.

 

Example:  Run every hour, at the 22minute mark.

Daily TimeZone, HH:MM:SS, AM/PM Every day at the specified time.

 

Example:  Run every day at 11AM.

Weekly TimeZone, Day of the Week, HH:MM:SS, AM/PM Every specified day at the specified time.

 

Example: Run every Monday thru  Friday at  11AM.

Monthly
(day of month)
TimeZone, Date, HH:MM:SS, AM/PM Specified day at the specified time.

 

Example: Run on the 2nd day of every month at 11AM.

Monthly
(week day)
TimeZone, Iteration, Weekday, HH:MM:SS, AM/PM Specified interval and week day at the specified time.

 

Example: Run every third Tuesday at 11AM.

Why Does the Job Run Under My UserID?

That is because the system assigns the user’s credentials who created the schedule. What can go wrong with that, right?!  Well, if a user no longer exists or a password is changed, the existing jobs will no longer run.

The following considerations should be observed:

  1. Dedicate a service account that is not being used by an employee to be used for server/automation actions.
  2. This account can be a “native” user; since the account is only used internally for EPM products, having a domain account is not needed.
  3. Non-expiry passwords are best.

 It is Scheduled…Now What?

After the item is scheduled, what really happens? The action executes at the scheduled time!  Actions can easily be monitored via the FDMEE Process Details screen.  Now all the possibilities of scheduling the following can be explored:

  1. Data Load Rules
  2. Script Executions
  3. Batch Executions
  4. Report Executions

Also, as mentioned earlier, there is no way to see the batches inside of FDMEE. For that, information can be retrieved in a few ways.  The easiest way to see what is scheduled is to use the ODI Studio.

The ODI Studio provides details as seen in the screen shot below:

Retro Reboot Screen Shot 2

Any scheduled tasks will be listed under “All Schedules.” Simply double click them to obtain details related to that task.

Retro Reboot Screen Shot 3

Another effective option is to write a custom report that displays the information. My previous blog post, Easy Value with FDMEE Reports, provides further details of FDMEE report options and their value.  This would allow a report to be executed to provide a user-friendly report.

Seriously … What Now?

By now, you may have noticed from the previous blog post Scheduling FDM Tasks – A Second Option by Tony Scalese that the upsShell process is quite handy.  It allows other tools to control the FDM jobs…maybe through a corporate scheduler.  Now that most organizations have a corporate scheduler, the new FDMEE options below must be learned:

Command Purpose
Executescript.bat / .sh Executes an FDMEE Custom Script
Importmapping.bat / .sh Executes an import from text-file for Maps
Loaddata.bat / .sh Executes a Data Load Rule
Loadhrdata.bat / .sh Executes an HR Data Load Rule
Loadmetadata.bat / .sh Executes a Metadata Load Rule
Runbatch.bat / .sh Executes a defined Batch
Runreport.bat / .sh Executes a defined Report

*All files are stored in the EPM_ORACLE_HOME\products\FinancialDataQuality\bin\

In the example below, the command, when launched, executes a Data Load Rule for Jan-2012 thru Mar-2012:

Retro Reboot Screen Shot 4

There still must be a better solution…right? Things to overcome:

  1. What happens if the scheduler is Windows-based and the server is Linux?
  2. How does a separate scheduling server communicate with EPM? Does it have to be installed on each EPM Server?
  3. How can we monitor and get details of a job once it is kicked off?

What Happens if You Don’t Want to Run the .BAT/.SH Files?

You’re in luck! With the introduction of new functionality to FDMEE, RESTful APIs are also now available.  With the RESTful APIs, not only can you execute a job, but you can also loop and monitor for the results.  This enhances the previous .BAT/.SH file routines and provides a cleaner and more elegant solution.

Command Purpose
Running Data Rules Execute a Data Load Rule
Running Batch Rules Execute a Batch Definition
Import Data Mapping Import Maps
Export Data Mapping Export Maps
Execute Reports Execute a Report

*URL construct: https://<SERVICE_NAME>/aif/rest/V1

The below example is just querying for a process:

Retro Reboot Screen Shot 5

The Future…

As Oracle moves forward to enhance the RESTful APIs, many doors continue to open for FDMEE and tool scheduling. At Edgewater Ranzal, we fully embrace the RESTful concept and evolve our solutions to utilize this functionality.  The result is improved support and flexibility of FDMEE and the future of Oracle Cloud products.

Contact us at info@ranzal.com with questions about this product or its capabilities.