Ushering in the New Era of Hyperion Strategic Finance

Welcome to the first installment of our new Hyperion Strategic Finance (HSF) blog series. Edgewater Ranzal’s HSF team has been working closely with Ranzal’s other Hyperion practices (HFM, FDM, Planning/Essbase etc.) to hone in on how HSF can be utilized to its full potential in accordance with the other product offerings.  As part of that process we felt it was important to start a dialogue (blog) to share some of our insights on various topics ranging from new product release info to cutting edge integration best practices.  We are hoping this series will be a good resource for you and your organization on your HSF journey.

Given the major changes to HSF in the 11.1.2.2 release, and the exciting product roadmap ahead of us, I thought it would be good to start the series by discussing “The New Era of Hyperion Strategic Finance.”

So…What’s new?

With the 11.1.2.2 release comes probably the most significant change to the product since it was acquired by Hyperion.  A shift in the user interface from a traditional thick client to an Excel based Smart View Add-in is at the core of the change.  The enhancement enables the end user to perform the majority of HSF modeling activities directly in an Excel workbook.  With this change, the legacy reporting in the HSF client has been REPLACED with Excel reporting via Smart View.  This means that those who choose to implement 11.1.2.2 will be required to use the Smart View based reporting and/or export the data to an external database (i.e. Essbase) to utilize other reporting tools (i.e. Financial Reports, OBIEE etc.).  For any current HSF users looking to upgrade, it is important to note that the process of upgrading to 11.1.2.2 automatically converts existing HSF reports into the Smart View format, however, existing charts/graphs will need to be rebuilt and some formatting issues have been identified which may require some re-work.  While this does introduce a big change for end users, it also presents a great opportunity by opening up native Excel functionality like allowing the use of Excel graphing, conditional formatting, highlight sums, and the group / ungroup data feature etc. To view the full list of new features you can look through the 11.1.2.2 Read me, available here.

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Why make the change?

Some existing clients have asked me why this change was made in the first place.  The answer is really two-fold:

1. Tighter Integration with Hyperion Planning: If there has been one consistent theme throughout all of my meetings/conversations with Oracle’s HSF/Planning development team it has been a desire to continuously improve the integration between Hyperion Planning and HSF.  The integration I’m referring to doesn’t stop at data, but also includes seamlessly integrating the end user experience.  Everything from selling the tools as a combined solution (i.e. bundled pricing) to having both HSF and Planning users interact with the tool in a similar manner (i.e. Smart View) have been or will be addressed.  Below I will outline some additional roadmap items that are planned that will continue this theme.

2. Reporting: All legacy HSF users that have spent time creating, formatting, and modifying HSF reports are well aware that reporting has NOT been an area of strength previous to 11.1.2.2.  Both Oracle and our implementation team consistently receive requests to have HSF reporting operate “more like Excel.”  This move is a direct response to those requests, and it is definitely a big step in the right direction.

Current Challenges:

As with any major change / new release there are going to be some growing pains and the 11.1.2.2 release of HSF is no different.  We have been working closely with Oracle over the past couple of months to identify any issues, make recommendations, and test fixes that have been applied.  The main point I want to make clear is that from a functional perspective the tool has the EXACT same capabilities.  You are simply changing the way you do things, not what can be done.  There is a bit of a learning curve to understand the new menu bar, short cut keys etc…but in general it still functions much like its predecessor with the added benefit of the Excel look and feel.

A couple of things to look out for if you will be implementing AND going live prior to the 11.1.2.3 release:

1. Issues with large numbers of active reports:  We have experienced some performance issues when working with a file that has numerous reports (standard or freestyle) open at once.  This includes reduced speed of the check out / in process, flickering upon calc/refresh, and occasional freezing of the application.  Currently, the product seems to work more seamlessly when working with just the accounts tab or 1-2 reports, however, fixing this is at the top of Oracle’s priority list and we expect it to be addressed sooner rather than later.

2. Renaming of Time Periods: You want to avoid renaming the default time periods in the entities (i.e. Changing 2013 to FY13).  In the current release this can cause some calculation issues in system regarding the funding routine.  Again, this has been identified by Oracle and is expected to be resolved in the next patch set or release.

3. Smart View Parity: There are some features that are not currently in the Smart View interface which may require users to revert back to the old HSF client.  Some of these features include the debt/depr schedulers, ECM/ACM etc.  This means that the end user may have to jump between interfaces in certain instances.  The good news is that these features are expected to be added to the Smart View functionality in the next release (11.1.2.3) and can still be utilized in the traditional client if need be.  To see a full list of these items look to the 11.1.2.3 roadmap column below.

4. With the change in the technology, come some changes to the infrastructure component, so it is important to discuss these requirements with your technical team to diagnose hardware and software needs before moving forward. It is also important to note that the upcoming release of 11.1.2.3 will NOT be backward compatible with 11.1.2.2.  So, if you have a multiproduct implementation with integration components you would need to upgrade the entire suite.

Product Direction / Road Map

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The above picture is a snap shot of the HSF roadmap given to me by the Oracle product team.  You can see the current release (as of this blog post) on the far left, calendar year 2013’s scheduled release (11.1.2.3) in the middle, and the subsequent releases on the far right.  The focus this year is to truly stabilize the Smart View integration and incorporate all of the standard features of the thick client into the Smart View interface.  The exciting part of this is how the changes in 11.1.2.2 have set up the product for even more advancement in the future.  Post 11.1.2.3, a lot of the heavy lifting for HSF’s major changes will be complete.  This will allow the team to focus on true feature enhancements like adding a monthly depreciation scheduler or addressing the concept of parent level scenario modeling (possibly an idea for a future blog post!).  In addition, if you look at the future direction, in the Enterprise Readiness section, you will see items such as LRP Integration to Planning, Automated Data Loads, DRM support etc…This represents a future state which allows a user to manage both data and metadata in a consistent manner between HSF, Planning, and Essbase.  Imagine a world where you can have one excel worksheet open with your HSF model and another with a LIVE connection to an HSF reporting cube (via Essbase) for Ad-hoc purposes!  Not only that but a world where the Essbase cube is automatically updated as you make changes to the HSF model, meaning no manual metadata management between applications or tedious mappings that need to be maintained. This type of enhancement truly empowers the user to focus on the modeling aspects of HSF while allowing Essbase to shine for management reporting – truly using the right tool for the right job.

Our Recommendation

Overall we are very excited about the direction Oracle is heading with HSF.  The Smart View capability in 11.1.2.2 is really just the first step in what we see as a continued effort to make the product better for its users.  With that in mind, we have begun multiple 11.1.2.2 implementations, however, it is understood in all cases that there will be some issues to work through and there are no pending deadlines where these issues could put the project success at risk.  In fact, the Go Live dates are not expected to occur until a time when we believe 11.1.2.3 and / or an 11.1.2.2 patch set will be available.  Given that, we do recommend that all new HSF clients seriously considering starting with v11.1.2.2 while taking note of the challenges mentioned above.  Initially this approach eliminates the need for your end users to learn two different user interfaces.  Additionally, if you are willing to give feedback, as an 11.1.2.2 client you will definitely have the ear of the Oracle team as it pertains to resolving any existing product issues, as well as requesting new enhancements for the future.  Oracle is very eager to make this release a success and they truly value any input early adopters can provide.  So if you have the patience to work through some bumps in the road, and the time to resolve the issues you may encounter, I would definitely encourage giving the 11.1.2.2 release serious consideration.

I hope you found this information helpful.  We look forward to coming out with many more in the future. In that vein, if you have any ideas / request for blog topics please feel free to leave them in the comments section or reach out to me directly at rmeester@ranzal.com and we will make sure to address them in future posts.

About the Author

Ryan Meester is a Practice Director for the Strategic Planning Practice at Edgewater Ranzal.  His first encounter with HSF dates back to 2004 as a Consultant with Hyperion in the HSF practice.  After three years in that capacity, leading projects and assisting with business development efforts, Ryan co-founded Meridian Consulting International with two of his Hyperion colleagues, Andrew Starks and Ricardo Rasche.  At Meridian, Ryan, Andrew, and Ricardo focused exclusively on HSF implementation services until Meridian was acquired by Edgewater Ranzal in May of 2010.  This was a strategic acquisition for both Meridian and Ranzal. Both organizations were seeing more and more multiproduct implementations which required a broader EPM focus. The acquisition effectively rounded out Ranzal’s EPM service offering by adding HSF expertise to their repertoire.

Oracle Business Intelligence Essbase Cube Builder: Continued Integrations with Essbase and OBIEE

Oracle has been busy focusing on improved consolidation of their BI applications this past year. This next offering within Oracle’s arsenal of BI apps will allow for enhanced integrations between the multi-dimensional and relational worlds of Essbase and OBIEE. The new application is called Oracle Business Intelligence Essbase Cube Builder (OECB) previously referenced as Oracle Essbase Integrator (OEI) during beta testing and its purpose will help refine and make for more consistent binary integrations. OECB will permit OBI apps to push metadata and data into Essbase cubes, a significant advancement for OBIEE users where leveraging in-depth ad hoc and what-if scenarios can be available. You can download OECB on the Oracle e-delivery site:

OECB Download

Oracle Business Intelligence Essbase Cube Builder

OECB will bestow an integrated BI platform that supports OLAP capabilities and dashboards among others. OECB will also allow Essbase to leverage metadata and data from OBI and OBI apps. Other supports will include what-if scenarios, allocations, spreading, changing attributes, and multiple hierarchy comparisons.

From a user’s perspective, OECB will provide seamless authentication from OBI to Essbase which reduces maintenance and improves the user experience. Users can also feel confident that metadata and data will have the same context across platforms which mean users will see the same dimensions, members and measures between their OBI and Essbase apps. The environments will be synchronized as updated changes will be retained and applied with data values matching between the two apps. OBI dashboard metadata and data contents will be synchronized to Smartview. OBI physical/business model and mapping/presentation layers will be synchronized to Essbase. Additional support features indicated above affords users with the ability for more robust development. All of this becomes available starting with version 11.1.2. Prior versions will also become available after the official release of OECB.

The implication here is if you’re a traditional OBIEE shop wanting to add flexibility to improve analysis with a powerful application like Essbase, OECB will be your opportunity. As Oracle continues to provide expanded integrations between Essbase and OBIEE, see how this new offering called Oracle Business Intelligence Essbase Cube Builder can be leveraged within your organization.

Smart View – Integration with Microsoft Office.

How many people take the time to read a product manual cover-to-cover?  For many, it feels like punishment, but for consultants it is a required duty.

Recently, I read about some of the latest features in the Oracle / Hyperion “Smart View” for Microsoft Office Add-In.  As I read the manual, I could not help being impressed by the all new features. 

“Smart View” is not a new product.  It was first provided with the release of Hyperion Financial Management (HFM) 4.0.x.  However, the pace of the development and enhancements has been incredible over the past four to five years, adding a laundry-list of new functions.

Soon after reading the documentation a client asked me to assist with planning a simple upgrade from HFM 3.5.1.  Their initial thought was to simply take a free upgrade to version 4.x in order to have access to the latest platform.

Like most companies, their users are most comfortable accessing data through Microsoft (MS) Excel. We reviewed the list of enhancements that are found only in the latest version of “Smart View”.  We touched on the availability of Data Forms, Import and Refresh of Workspace reports, Drag and Drop, and dynamic support of data within MS Word and MS PowerPoint. 

Their reaction made it clear that only the most current version would suffice.  I wanted to expand on other enhancements found in HFM such as the latest Calculation Editor, Minority Interest Module, Intercompany Transactions Module and Metadata Management, but they were almost sold on the Smart View enhancements alone.  A good salesman knows when to clam up.

Reflecting on the discussion, I discovered that what is really happening is the software functionality has matured to the point that it truly meets the users’ needs and then some. 

Not too long ago, a big part of a consultant’s time was spent managing a “work-around” to meet a client’s requirements. We don’t hear the phrase “work-around” too much anymore because the functionality is real. Today, a great deal of time is spent expanding upon the requirements with more uses of the inherent functionality and building integrations with other systems.

The embedded functionality is very user friendly in products such as “Smart View”.  One of my client’s reporting requirements was to incorporate their financial data with supporting commentary in MS Word and MS Power Point.  Rather than leading a demo myself, I passed my laptop across the desk to allow them to experience the ease-of-use first hand.

For example, to link financial system data into a Microsoft document or presentation with “Smart View” user would follow some basic steps:

  1. Create an Ad-Hoc Analysis Grid in Smart View Excel.  Place the items you wish to display on the rows and/or columns.  The items that may need to change over time, such as the Month, Year or Scenario can remain as part of the point-of-view.
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  3. Format the Data. As data is moved between MS Excel, MS Word or MS PowerPoint, the data will retain its formatting.  Therefore, you can edit the formatting of the data. jcblog22
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  5. Select the Area to Display.  The linked data can be displayed as only the amount field or can incorporate the row/column member labels by simply highlighting those cells on the worksheet.jcblog31
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  7. Copy Data Points.  The Hyperion menu enables the data to be dynamically linked into other MS products by selecting Copy Data Points.
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  9. Open a MS Office Application.  Select the area in a document or presentation that requires the linked data.  Using the Hyperion menu choose, Paste Data Points.  For example, MS PowerPoint.jcblog51
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  11. Refresh the Document. By choosing Refresh from the “Smart View” menu, the most current data will always be displayed as it is retrieved directly from an application such as HFM.jcblog61
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  13. Account for Changes.  Depending on the design, the information can be updated for a change in the Month, Year and Period, Product or any dimension by simply changing the point-of-view setting in the “Smart View” menu item, POV Manager.  Simply change a parameter such as the current month and Refresh the document.jcblog71jcblog81
  14. The results in the example above are a great indication on how easy it is to now incorporate financial system data into external applications.  Once applied, the data is able to be refreshed in order to display the most current data or alternate views.

    Then enhancements made by Oracle / Hyperion to the entire Enterprise Performance Management suite of applications truly address the user’s need to collect and analyze data.   They also address the many issues surrounding the routine tasks when developing and maintaining financial documents.

    Users new to Oracle / Hyperion, or those upgrading from earlier versions, will find the latest products really do live up to their expectations.  They will finally benefit from more flexible access to data and spend less time collecting and maintaining it.

 

Authored by:
Joseph Chimbolo
Ranzal Consulting
Sr. Consultant
Hyperion Enterprise Certified