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

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Cloud Support website

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  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.

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

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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:

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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:

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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.

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  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.

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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.

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  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.

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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.

PCMCS…Yeah, FDMEE Can Do That!

Oracle Profitability and Cost Management Cloud Service and Oracle Financial Data Quality Management Enterprise Edition Working Together Better

Over the last year, we have been fielding, positioning, and aligning more with Oracle’s new Cloud products. Some of the most common questions we are asked are:

  1. Has Edgewater Ranzal done that before?
  2. What “gotchas” have you encountered in your implementations and how have you addressed them?
  3. What unique offerings do you bring?

These are all smart questions to ask your implementation partner because the answers provide insight into their relevant experience.

Has Edgewater Ranzal done that before?

Edgewater Ranzal is an Oracle PCMCS thought leader and collaborates with Oracle as a Platinum partner to enhance PCMCS with continued development. To date, we’ve completed nearly 20 PCMCS (Cloud) implementations, and almost 80 Oracle Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management (HPCM – on premise) implementations spanning multiple continents, time zones, and industries. Our clients gladly provide references for us which is a testament to our success and abilities. Additionally, we frequently have repeat clients and team up with numerous clients to present at various conferences to share their successes.

As a thought leader in the industry and for PCMCS, we sponsor multiple initiatives that deliver implementation accelerators, test the latest product enhancements prior to their release, and work in tandem with Oracle to enhance the capabilities of PCMCS.

Our Product Management team is comprised of several individuals. Specifically for PCMCS, Alecs Mlynarzek is the Product Manager and has published the following blog: The Oracle Profitability and Cost Management Solution: An Introduction and Differentiators.  I am the Product Manager for Data Integration and FDMEE with several published blog posts related to FDMEE.

Now let’s explore some of the data integration challenges one might unexpectedly encounter and the intellectual property (IP) Ranzal offers to mitigate these and other data integration challenges that lurk.

What gotchas have you encountered in your implementations and how do you mitigate them?

We could go into great depth when detailing the PROs for using FDMEE with PCMCS…but it is much more beneficial to instead share some of the other less obvious discoveries made. Note that we work directly and continuously with Oracle to improve the product offering.

  • Extracting data via FDMEE data-sync is challenging. The size of the data cube and configuration settings of PCMCS has a threshold limit – 5,000,000 records and a 1GB file size – both of which are quite often reached. As a result, we have developed a custom solution for the data-sync routine.
  • Large datasets directly into PCMCS via DM (Cloud-based Data Management) can exhibit performance problems due to the server resources available in the Cloud. Functionality in on-premise FDMEE (scripting, Group-By, etc.) helps reduce the number of records going into the Cloud and therefore provides a performance gain.
  • Patching to the latest FDMEE patch set is crucial. Cloud applications (PCMCS, FCCS, E/PBCS) update monthly. As a result, we need to consistently check/monitor for FDMEE patches. These patches help ensure that canned integrations from Oracle are top-notch.

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  • Executing two or more jobs concurrently via EPMAutomate is quite troublesome due to the workflows needed and how EPMAutomate is designed. As a result, we have invested considerable time into cURL and RESTful routines. We discovered that the login/logout commands are tied to the machine, not the user-process, so any logout from another executing run logs out all sessions.

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  • The use of EPMAutomate is sometimes difficult. It requires a toolset on a PC – “JumpBox” – or on-premise EPM servers. It also requires the use of .BAT files or other scripted means. By using FDMEE, the natural ease of the GUI improves the end-user experience.
  • Loading data in parallel via FDMEE or DM can cause Essbase Load Rule contention due to how the automatic Essbase load rules are generated by the system. Oracle has made every effort to resolve this before the next Cloud release. Stay tuned… this may be resolved in the next maintenance cycle of PCMCS (18.10) and then the on-premise update of patch-set update 230.
  • We all know that folks (mainly consultants) are always looking to work around issues encountered and come up with creative ways to build/deliver new software solutions. But the real question that needs to be asked is: Should we? Since FDMEE has most of the solutions already packaged up, that would be the best tool for the job. The value that FDMEE can bring is scores better than any home-grown solution.

What unique offerings do you bring?

At Edgewater Ranzal, we have started to take some of our on-premise framework and adopt it for PCMCS. Some of the key benefits and highlights we provide are:

  • To combat the complications with loading data via FDMEE because of FDMEE’s inability to execute PCMCS clears out-of-the-box, we have added the functionality into the Ranzal IP catalog and can deploy this consistently for our clients. This is done via the RESTful functionality of PCMCS. Some of the items we have developed using REST are:
    • Import/export mappings
    • Execute data load rules or batch jobs from 3rd party schedulers
    • Refresh metadata in the Cloud
    • Augment EPMAutomate for enhanced flexibility
    • Execute business rules/clear POV commands as part of the FDMEE workflow
    • Execute stored procedures (PL/SQL) against DBaaS (see below)
    • Enhanced validation framework (see below)
  • We have redeveloped our Essbase Enhanced Validate to function with the PCMCS Cloud application. FDMEE on-premise can now validate all the mapped data prior to loading. This is great for making sure data is accurate before loading.

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  • The Edgewater Ranzal tool-kip for FDMEE includes the ability to connect to other Cloud offerings for data movements, including DBaaS and OAC.

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Can FDMEE do that…and should FDMEE do that?

Yes, you should use FDMEE to load to PCMCS, and it is an out-of-the-box functionality! As you can see, unlike DM whose feature comparison to FDMEE will be discussed in a later blog and white-paper, there are a lot of added benefits.  The current release of FDMEE v11.1.2.4.220 provides product functionality enhancements and has greater stability for integrations with most Cloud products.  Suffice it to say, having python scripting available and server-side processing for large files will greatly enhance your performance experience.

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

The Oracle Profitability and Cost Management Solution: An Introduction and Differentiators

What is Oracle Profitability and Cost Management?

Organizations with world class finance operations generally can close in a minimal number of days (2-3 in an ideal organization) and have frequent and efficient budget and forecast cycles while also visiting different ‘what if’ scenario analysis along the way. These organizations often deliver in-depth profitability and cost management analysis reports at fund, project, product, and/or customer level, completing the picture of an accurate close cycle.

Oracle offers packaged options in support of all these finance processes, but the focus of this post will be Profitability and Cost Management (PCM).

One of the most painful and time-consuming processes for any business entity is PCM analysis. The reasons why cost allocations processes are time consuming are too many to count – from model complexity to data granularity, driver metric availability, rigidity of allocation rules, delays with implementing allocation changes, and almost impossible-to-justify results. Instead of focusing on the negative aspect, let’s focus on what can be done to alleviate such pain and energize the cost accounting department by giving it access to meaningful and accurate data and empowering users through flexibility to perform virtually unlimited “what if” analysis.

The PCM Journey

The initial Profitability and Cost Management product, like almost all Oracle EPM offerings, was released on-premise in July 2008 and is known as Oracle Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management (HPCM). 10 years later, HPCM continues to deliver an easier way to design, maintain, and enhance allocation processes with little to no IT involvement as it has since it was initially launched, but with a greater focus on flexibility and transparency. The intent for HPCM was to be a user-driven application where finance teams would be involved beginning with the definition of the methodology all the way to the steps needed to execute day-to-day processing. Any cost or revenue allocation methodology is supported via HPCM while graphical traceability and allocation balancing reports support any query from top-level analysis all the way down to the most granular detail available in the application.

There are 3 HPCM modules available on-premise today. Each was designed and developed for a different type of allocation methodology or complexity need:

  1. Simple allocations – Detailed Profitability (a.k.a. single-step allocations. Example: From Accounts and Departments, allocate data to same Accounts, new target Departments, and to granular Products/SKU based on driver metric data. This module allows for a very high degree of granularity with dimensions >100k members, but it does not cater to complex driver calculations or to allocations requiring more than 1 stage).
  2. Average to high complexity allocations – Standard Profitability (a.k.a. multi-step allocations of up to 9 iterations/stages, allowing for reciprocal allocations. Example: Allocations from accounts and departments to channels, funds, and other departments. Allocation of results from previous steps are redistributed onto Products, Customers etc. Driver metric complexity is achievable with this module; custom generated drivers are available as well, but there are limitations regarding driver data granularity, granularity of allocated data, and overall hierarchy sizing).
  3. High complexity allocations – Management Ledger (unlimited number of steps, high number of complex drivers, custom driver calculations, custom allocations, more granularity, and increased flexibility in terms of defining and expanding allocation methodology). This is the last module added to the HPCM family and the only one available as SaaS Cloud Offering.

The Cloud is Your Oyster

In 2016, Oracle introduced the Cloud version of HPCM: Profitability and Cost Management Cloud Service (PCMCS).  PCMCS is a Software as a Service (SaaS) offering, and as with many of Oracle’s Cloud offerings, PCMCS includes key improvements that are not available in the on-premise version, and enhancements are made at a much faster pace.

There is currently no indication that the two HPCM modules – Detailed and Standard Profitability – will make their way to the Cloud, since increased allocation complexity as well as increased hierarchy sizing supported by the Management Ledger module caters to most, if not all, potential requirements.

The Management Ledger module included with the PCMCS SaaS subscription has a core strength in the ease of use and flexibility to change, enabling finance users to define and update allocation rules and methodologies via a point-and-click interface. While the initial setup is advisable to be performed with support from an experienced service provider, the maintenance and expansion of PCMCS (Management Ledger) models can be achieved by leveraging solely functional resources, in most cases. “What-if” scenario creation and analysis has never been easier. Users not only can copy data and allocation methodologies between scenarios, but they can also update the data sets and allocation steps independently from a standard scenario, generating as many simulation models as they need, gaining increased insight into decision making.

Standard Profitability models perform allocations in Block Storage Databases (BSO). While BSO applications are great for complex calculations and reciprocal allocation methodologies, they have the disadvantage of being limited in terms of structure or hierarchy sizing. This hierarchy restriction is not as pressing in Aggregate Storage Option (ASO) type applications, which is the technology used by Management Ledger. The design considerations for a Standard Profitability model are also significantly more rigid when compared with the Management Ledger module, which has no limitations regarding allocation stages, allocation sequencing, or a maximum number of dimensions per each allocation step.

Detailed Profitability models heavily leverage a database repository while any connected Essbase applications are used solely for reporting purposes. Initial setup and future changes, outside of the realm of simply adding new hierarchy members, will require specialized database management skills, and the usage of a single step allocation model is not as pervasive. Complex allocation methodologies may require the usage of Detailed Profitability models in conjunction with Management Ledger, but these situations represent the exception rather than the rule.

Why Should You Choose Oracle Profitability and Cost Management?

One of the key strengths for HPCM, available since it was released, and now included in PCMCS, is transparency – the ability to identify and explain any value resulting from the allocation process, with minimal effort. Each allocation rule or allocation step is uniquely identified, enabling users to easily navigate via the embedded/out-of-the-box balancing report to the desired member intersection opened through a point and click action in Excel (using Smart View) for further analysis and investigation. The out-of-the-box-program documentation reports identify the setup of each rule and can be leveraged for quick search by account, department, segment code, or any other dimension available in the application. The execution statistics reports delivered as part of the PCMCS offering enable users to quickly understand which allocation process is taking longer than expected and identify opportunities for overall process improvement or to simply monitor performance over time. These two out-of-the-box reports – execution statistics and program documentation – are the most heavily used reports during application development, troubleshooting, and particularly when new methodologies are developed. Users can quickly search through these documents, leverage them to keep track of methodology changes, and use them as documentation for training new team members.

Performing mass updates to existing allocation rules has never been faster. PCMCS contains a menu that allows end users to find and replace specific member name references in their allocations for each individual data slice, allocation step, or an entire scenario. A quick turnaround of such maintenance tasks results in an increased number of iterations through different data sets, giving the cost accounting team more time to perform in-depth analysis rather than waiting for system updates.

PCMCS-embedded analytics and dashboarding functionality is also a significant differentiator, enabling end users to create and share dashboards with the rest of the application users through the common web interface and without the need for IT support. Reports created in PCMCS are available immediately and without time consuming initial setup or migrations between environments followed by further security setup tasks.

A comparison of On-Prem vs Cloud will be available in a future post, so please subscribe below to receive notifications for PCMCS-related blog updates.

Connecting the Value of IT: A Disciplined Solution for Service Costing and Chargeback

This post corresponds to the webinar “Connecting the Value of IT: A Disciplined Solution for Service Costing and Chargeback,” the last in our “Let Your Profitability Soar” webinar series. You can access the recording here.

 

Within an organization, technology is mission-critical to most business strategies, and IT costs represent a significant portion of back office spend.

Among their many responsibilities, the CFO and the CIO must make sure that:

  • Technology spending is aligned with business strategy
  • Business applications and end-user services are delivered efficiently and cost-effectively
  • Coherent project portfolios that grow and transform the business are created and nurtured

Within this new economy, a key ongoing goal of the CIO is to make sure that IT is aligned with business strategy.

Generally, this IT-to-Business Strategy alignment is achieved in two ways:

  1. Running the business: Providing a cost-effective level of internal services necessary for sustaining business activity.
  2. Building the business: Managing and delivering portfolio development projects that are prioritized and aligned with all key business initiatives aiming to improve efficiency and aid in gaining competitive advantages.

The Nature of the Problem

One challenging pattern we see time and again is the ongoing disconnect between the CIO and the CFO.

Some might say this disconnect is an inevitable result of the fact that technology is moving so fast and we don’t always have the time to stop and assess its value. Understandably, it can be difficult for a CFO to get away from all the checks and balances just to get the financial books closed, let alone turn attention to the books that measure performance at greater depths, like line of business.

In general, as a function of the role, the CFO does not talk servers, desktop deployments, applications or other semantics of the technology business. Conversely, with many companies establishing Technology Shared Service Centers, pressure is placed on the CIO to operate the business of IT with the same financial disciplines the CFO requires of all lines of business. The CIO must connect the value of IT services and capabilities to internal business partners. To achieve this, IT Finance teams require performance management solutions that are IT-specific, yet are connected to Finance, to ensure efficient allocation of resources and effective delivery of internal services.

Part of the CFO’s role is to look at the technology projects and initiatives and think about how all of this technology is adding value. CIOs have to fill information voids, while also having to build their own financial models and performance management book of record using their own resources.

Two seemingly differing views of value can be hard to navigate and leverage. If two divergent approaches are not connected in a common view among the key stakeholders, then—more often than not—there is ongoing value-related confusion. Ultimately, the dissonance between the line of business owners can stall or even paralyze decision-making.

A Better Language Is Needed

For the good of your organization, it’s imperative that the CIO and the CFO speak the same shared language of value and that they connect in an effort to move forward in the most aligned and productive manner possible.

Speaking a shared language—one that offers a unified financial model view and is based on shared definition of value—is a key to finding a solution. The disciplines of ITFM (IT Financial Management) is about equipping both of these executive-level offices and their teams with a better language.

With an ITFM solution, you are able to:

  • Reduce the time that IT Finance spends on managing the business processes, providing more time for value-added analytical activities
  • Give IT Managers more detailed, timely, accurate data to better understand the cost & effectiveness of the services and projects they are delivering
  • Provide Line-of-Business managers with cost transparency into IT allocations and chargebacks, allowing them to better align their consumption of services with their business goals

ITFM focuses on these finance business processes:

  • IT Planning: Budgeting & forecasting of IT Operating and Capital Spend
  • IT Costing: Linking supply side financial cost structures with demand side consumption for services and projects
  • IT Chargebacks: Equitably charging lines of business for internal services and projects performed (or Showback)

IT Finance Organizations typically manage these processes through a series of multiple systems and offline spreadsheets. These processes are not ideal, as they create pain as far as inefficiencies and ineffectiveness in terms of results.

Our preferred solution for IT Service Costing—co-developed with Oracle—is based on PCMCS (Profitability and Cost Management Cloud Service). Oracle’s PCMCS is a cloud-based, packaged performance management application. It offers, in one package, a rules engine for cost allocations, embedded analytics and data management platform.

When developing the solution with PCMCS, the following were top priorities for our team:

  • That it required no large initial investment
  • That it was accessible to all
  • That it was always updated/up-to-date
  • That limited IT involvement was needed

Oracle IT Financial Management Solution Overview

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The ITFM solution, a joint development effort with Oracle and based on valuable feedback and results from multiple Ranzal customer implementations, offers all of the following in one package:

  • Pre-Packaged Content for Cloud or On-Premise
  • Pre-Built Data Model
  • Pre-Built Costing Model & Reporting Content
  • Pre-Built Interface Specifications

A key component of the PCMCS IT Costing & Chargeback Template is its approach to modeling IT Like a Service Business, which includes the following modules:

  • Model Financials & Projects: This first step is focused on modeling financial projects, allowing you to combine multiple data sources, perform cost center allocations and, for those customers without an existing project costing system in place, to perform basic project costing and project allocation functions.
  • Complete Costing of IT Operations: This second pillar of the solution provides a flexible framework that allows you to combine data from multiple sources, perform resource costing and perform service costing.
  • IT as a Business Service Provider: This third leg of the solution service considers catalogue & bill rates, contribution cost trace, consumer showbacks and consumer chargebacks.

 We Have Options, You Have Options

Our Flexible Maturity Model allows customers to start where they feel most comfortable, and progress in a way that is focused on maximum flexibility for maximum effectiveness. No one size fits all, and we believe in starting right where you are.

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For more information or to request a demo, email us. Be sure to ask if your company qualifies for our one-day complimentary PCMCS assessment of your IT Service Costing needs.

Full Circle Planning, Cost Management, & Profitability in the Manufacturing Industry

This post corresponds to the webinar “Full Circle Planning, Cost Management & Profitability in the Manufacturing Industry.” You can access the recording here.

As we are all aware, today’s manufacturing industry faces multiple ongoing challenges, including:

  • Changing customer/consumer demands
  • Shrinking operating margins
  • Ever-changing compliance and regulatory pressures
  • Increasingly globalizing economy
  • Lowered availability and visibility of detailed information

Now more than ever, manufacturers’ focus is not just on growth, but, more specifically, on profitable growth.

 

Managing Profitable Growth

When it comes to profitable growth and insight into profitability, the first place to start is the consolidated P&L.

But while the P&L offers information on profitable growth, it does not help manage profitable growth. The financial P&L provides limited insight into costs, profits and their underlying drivers, from the perspective of their lines of business, products, customers, markets and channels. Cost bases are imperfect and are limited to legacy standard costing and unstructured cost extracts. Results lack a matching of costs and revenue to manage margins at the same strategic view as revenue.

 

The Need to Focus on Strategic P&Ls

To address and contend with these challenges, we recommend a greater focus on more strategic P&Ls for the manufacturing industry.

Strategic P&Ls provide insight into both direct costs and indirect costs.

  • Direct Costs include costs directly associated with:
    • The making of a product or delivery of a service
    • Parts for the product
    • Labor for Service Delivery
    • Costs directly attributed to the selling to a customer or client
    • Shipping and handling expenses
    • Customer processing expenses
  • Indirect Costs include costs that are not directly attributable to the making of a product, delivery of a service, or the selling to a customer:
    • Operating costs (e.g., Call Center, Distribution)
    • Selling costs (e.g., Sales & Marketing)
    • Investment costs (e.g., R&D, Initiatives)
    • G&A costs (e.g., IT, HR, Finance, Admin)
    • Finance charges for Cost of Capital Employed

Measurement of indirect costs in particular can be difficult.

 

What Would A Solution for the Manufacturing Industry Look Like?

With all of this in mind, it’s important to look at the big picture when determining what manufacturers can do to attain strategic P&Ls and overcome their challenges?

The ideal solution for the manufacturing industry would:

  • Design, support and evolve to an integrated financial process
  • Leverage operating metrics and key assumptions to:
    • Link business drivers behind financial performance
    • Modify drivers and assumptions to plan future performance and attain strategic P&Ls
    • Drive accountability to Lines of Business
  • Offer a consistent and transparent framework to support indirect cost attribution
  • Use integrated applications and tools to support and adapt to changing business processes
  • Provide robust reporting to business for transparency into causal factors

A true full-circle planning, costing and reporting solution that aligns and adapts to an integrated financial process includes the following:

  • Driver-based revenue planning and departmental expenses leveraging the actual financial data, operational metrics
  • Integrated costing capabilities that can allocate indirect expenses to lines of business by leveraging the same actuals, plans and drivers used in the planning process
  • Robust and real-time reporting to surface strategic P&Ls by Customer, Product and other Lines of Business

 

Some Solutions are Ineffective and Unsustainable

Our team at Ranzal has seen many manufacturers attempt to piece together a solution using various combinations of spreadsheets, ERP, custom and packaged applications.

Typically, spreadsheets are the most common ingredient given their flexibility and accessibility. But spreadsheets tend to be error-prone, highly manual/labor-intensive and prone also to risk regarding controls and governance. We’ve also seen customizing the ERP as a common solution-oriented approach, but this can be too expensive, overly IT-centric and can also be somewhat of a “black box.” And lastly, custom applications are slow to adapt, can promote high effort and cost and also function like a “black box.”

 

Oracle’s EPM as the Foundation for Full-Circle Planning

We recommend Oracle EPM’s packaged applications to be the foundation to configuring the right full-circle planning, costing and reporting solution that avoids the constraints and risks other avenues bring on.

The specific Oracle EPM offerings that support a full-circle planning, costing and reporting solution involve:

  • Planning & Budgeting Cloud Service (PBCS)
    • Best-in class solution for financial planning, budgeting and forecasting
    • Align top-down and bottom-up processes
    • Consistency of assumptions, calculations and methodologies
    • And many more features here
  • Profitability & Cost Management Cloud Service (PCMCS)
    • Computes Profitability for Units, Segments and Services
    • Pre-Built Framework for profitability modeling: Dimensions, Support for Multiple Cost Allocation methodologies, Validation reporting
    • Graphical Interactive Traceability Maps & Dashboards
    • Measures, Allocates and Assigns Cost and Revenues via User-defined Rules
    • And many more features here
  • Tightly integrated with the Oracle EPM Cloud
    • Consistent Administration with EPM Cloud Offerings
    • Shared Reporting Tools like Financial Reports & Smart View for Office
    • Proven Technology Stack

We believe a comprehensive solution focused on a “Technology Trio” of Integrated Business Analytics, or the convergence of: EPM, BI and BD solutions. Experience and results have shown us that this combination provides the tools and answers needed for improved business performance, increased innovation, better vision, and increased business value.

For more information or to request a demo, email us. Be sure to ask about our complimentary one-day Profitability and Cost Management assessment and how the newly-released Oracle Profitability and Cost Management Cloud Service (PCMCS) can help modernize your solution.

Process Simplification – Migrating from HPCM Standard Profitability to Management Ledger

With the introduction of Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management (HPCM), many organizations have recognized the power of this breakthrough solution to build sophisticated and powerful cost models. As such, HPCM has been successfully in use for several years, and in numerous cases, its use has been expanded.

Since the initial release of HPCM, Oracle has developed additional variations of HPCM to provide a full suite of capabilities in costing and profitability that can more specifically provide the right tool for the right job (RTRJ). These additional offerings include HPCM-Detailed Profitability and HPCM-Management Ledger, the latter of which is available either in the on premise version (HPCM-ML) or the cloud version – Profitability & Cost Management-Cloud Service (PCMCS).  The original solution of HPCM is now referred to as HPCM-Standard Profitability (HPCM-Standard).

Edgewater Ranzal is the leading implementation services provider of Oracle and Hyperion EPM solutions and has extensive experience with Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management (HPCM). This experience has prompted the notion that given the multiple offerings that are now available, it is worthwhile to evaluate the applicability of the new solutions to an organization’s existing use cases and consider making a change where appropriate.  In particular, Management Ledger offers benefits of flexibility and process simplification to warrant consideration of conversion of an HPCM Standard model to HPCM-ML or PCMCS.   This article discusses that process.

Background

Since HPCM’s introduction, it has been seen that there is not necessarily a one-size-fits-all solution for the set of needs in cost allocations and profitability. All allocations fundamentally follow the basic formula, A = S x F x D/Sum(D) where A = the target Allocated amount, S = Source amount, F = Factor, i.e. percent of source amount to be allocated, often 100%, D = Driver quantity, and Sum(D) = Sum of Driver quantities across target values.

However, this fundamental formula is where similarities end and distinctions begin. The original solution, HPCM-Standard, is well suited for cases where highly complex allocation models are utilized.  It is also well positioned where adherence to a highly-structured framework is sought, and it provides capability for highly detailed graphical tracing of allocations in the user interface.

Alternatively, Detailed Profitability, which can be deemed as the “heavy-lifter” of the offerings, requires that users define relatively simple allocation rules through a single allocation stage. However, in exchange for this concession, the solution can apply those rules across a wide range of dimensions and is able to do so at a very granular level of detail.  Also referred to as “Microcosting,” this solution leverages source pools and rates applied to a high volume of transactions or near-transactions.  Firms within industries such as consumer goods, transportation and distribution, retail banking, and healthcare are among those that may want to leverage this capability.  This solution enables capture of variation in cost at the shipment, order, transaction, or encounter level of detail, and then aggregates those values to higher levels such as product, service, or customer for analysis.

The third offering, Management Ledger, combines aspects of both of the other two solutions, such as some of the metadata granularity of Detailed Profitability, along with the logic complexity of Standard. This enables users to define custom models with fewer restrictions on the framework and fewer limits on the level of detail required for reporting.  Management Ledger is also flexible to accommodate future changes through its Rule Set/Rule sequencing construct.  Subsequent allocation logic changes can be of a substantial nature, potentially up to a near redesign.  Also, the rules building process itself is simplified in Management Ledger and it is one that aligns well with the intuition of finance users.  Further, Oracle’s current strategic direction is with Management Ledger, most notably seen in the recent release of PCMCS.

What is the benefit of conversion?

Management Ledger offers several key capabilities that can improve, streamline, or otherwise address existing challenges in a Standard Profitability environment.

  1. Management Ledger does not rely on a back-end staging table paradigm for data loading as does HPCM-Standard. Such reliance requires the availability of resources with the database skills required to support SQL interfaces to automate model processes, as well as to perform maintenance when metadata updates are made. For some user sites, the availability of these skills is limited.
  2. Management Ledger is an ASO application. It is not subject to the metadata restriction faced when deploying the HPCM-Standard calculation cube, which is BSO, and is subject to reaching the maximum number of potential blocks due to metadata duplication. Since Management Ledger does not duplicate the dimensions, it makes reporting easier for end-users and can eliminate the need for a “simplified” HPCM reporting application that is often created in an implementation of HPCM-Standard.
  3. Management Ledger does not require the use of pre-defined stages and an associated limit of three dimensions per stage as utilized in HPCM-Standard. This framework drove design decisions and influences future changes at certain user sites.
  4. Management Ledger is flexible to accommodate new methods of allocating data. The presence of a dimension in an application allows for its selection and filtering without the need for re-design.
  5. Management Ledger provides an interface that can be quickly learned by business users. Its set-up and maintenance simply requires the identification of sources, destinations, and the driver bases of allocations. Because it does not rely upon or require use of any specific methodology, existing Planning and HFM users can quickly learn the navigation and logic of Management Ledger. As shown below, the process for rules building in Management Ledger is straightforward.
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    Management Ledger Rules Building Interface

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  6. Management Ledger offers a multitude of standard reports for model documentation, rules validation, rule balance summaries of the results, and graphic traceability. PCMCS adds Business Intelligence visualizations such as scatter plots, cumulative profitability “whale curves,” and KPIs.

 

PCMCS Visuals

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With all of these potential benefits, there are also offsetting considerations. Management Ledger may require more maintenance than HPCM-Standard due to a higher number of allocation rules, which is required in order to enable parallel processing.  Further, the graphical built-in traceability screen in Management may be considered by some as being less intuitive than the screen provided with HPCM-Standard.  Therefore, not in every case where Management Ledger is seen as a useful fit, will the advantages over Standard Profitability be sufficient justification to undertake the time and effort of a conversion.

What are the criteria for undertaking a Management Ledger Conversion?

To help evaluate whether it is worthwhile to pursue migrating a Standard Profitability model to Management Ledger, the following questions can be asked:

  1. Is there a major re-organization pending that is prompting a re-evaluation of the overall stages framework?
  2. Will there be future changes in which new allocation processes are added, such as moving beyond organizational allocations to ones that include other dimensions such as product or customer?
  3. Do changes in allocation methodologies occur often? Will business users be required to make these updates/changes and without the support of IT staff?
  4. Are new scenarios such as What-If or Ad-Hoc planned and is there an interest in testing different allocation methodologies versus the existing live production models?
  5. Are the theoretical limits associated with the Block Storage Outline (BSO) being approached?
  6. Is the process for updating the Standard Profitability staging tables considered to be time consuming and/or is the automation for populating the staging tables viewed as complex or poorly understood?
  7. Are there currently other Management Ledger models in the organization and is there a need or desire to achieve communization of platforms?
  8. Is there an objective to move applications to the Cloud?

 

What are the steps to migrate?

If the answer to any of the above questions is yes, then there is a potential opportunity to convert a Standard Profitability model to Management Ledger. In such a case, a prototype to test the concept should be created.  This prototype should be loaded with a sample of data and rules, typically for at least one POV, and calculated and validated.  Though each situation will have unique requirements, the overall steps are as follows:

Prototype Build -> Rules Creation -> Testing -> Validation -> Adjustment -> Migration

General Steps to Migrating to Management Ledger

  1. Migrate the Standard model to the same environment where the Management Ledger test will be built.
  2. Run a calculation of the Standard model to obtain a benchmark performance time.
  3. Create a new cube and database and copy the dimensions from the existing cube. A new Master application should be created and the dimensionality copied from the existing Standard Profitability Master application. This is so that the dimensionality from the calculation cube isn’t used, in order to avoid duplicate dimensions.
  4. Copy the dimensions from the old to the new cube. Make Cube Outline Updates.
    • Change the NoMember dimension member in each dimension to NoDimensionName.
    • Determine the dimension for the Drivers, usually the DataType or Account dimension.
    • Add the drivers from the Measures dimension to the Account or a DataType dimension.
    • Delete Measures and AllocationType dimensions (used with Standard model).
    • Add the Rule and Balance dimensions (used with Management Ledger models.
    • Add UDAs for potential rule filtering requirements.
    • Should both Source and Target allocation details be required for reporting, dimensions may need to be duplicated or split, such as in a case with Initial Cost Pool and Final Cost Pool.
  5. Create a new Management Ledger Profitability application that references the new cube.
  6. Deploy the Management Ledger Essbase Calculation engine.
  7. Choose and create a single POV to start.
  8. Import data from the existing cube to the new one utilizing the various methods available such as free form loading without rules, structured loading with rules, spreadsheet add-ins such as SmartView or other tools such as FDM/FDMEE. Note: For PCMCS, flat files of dimensions and data are employed.
  9. Document the allocation rules in a template.
  10. Enter the allocation rules through the ML user interface.
  11. Run Model Validation to check the new Rule Sets and Rules for errors before calculating.
  12. Launch a calculation. Start with running a single rule.
  13. Validate the Results. Progressively select more rules for successive calculation as rules are validated.
  14. Adjust methods iteratively.
  15. Create and update a report to demonstrate the validations to end-users as well as how the results are consumed.
  16. Migrate, once validation is complete including acceptability of both the results values and the processing times.

 

Some thoughts on building allocation rules

Upon having a Management Ledger outline, the allocation rules from Standard should be constructed through the user interface. There should be an association between the Stages in a Standard model versus the Rule Sets in a Management Ledger.  As a starting point, the Rule Set sequence flow should match the stages, though it may be found necessary to break the stages into multiple rule sets.

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Once the rule sets are determined, the rules themselves should be documented in a template (Excel, Word, etc.) that is easy to manage and understand. The example that follows shows the dimensionality of the Source, Destination, Driver Basis, and Source Offset.

This template becomes part of the documentation of the prototype. Upon completion of the template, a user should build the rule sets and rules in the Management Ledger interface.  One of the key benefits of Management Ledger is to reference parent level values in the assignment rules.  This provides the ability to create many-to-many source-destination associations with few keystrokes.  This not only saves time in initial set-up, but also makes the entire process data driven such that when new dimension members such as new accounts, cost centers, products, or customers are added, the allocation rules automatically accommodate them without the need for editing or updating.  The ability to select at the parent level also reduces the need for automation routines of the types that are frequently created in Standard Profitability implementations, such as those used to update staging tables (Management Ledger does not have staging tables).

Users should start with referencing the highest-level parents to make the process as automated as possible. If performance becomes an issue, it may be necessary to reference mid or lower level parents.  Rules should be tested iteratively, i.e. run individually and then in groups to validate both the answers and to track processing time.

If calculation times exceed requirements or expectations, then start moving references to lower level parents. Avoid going to children as that will increase maintenance in the future.

Validation Concepts

Use the Rule Balancing Report to validate the cost flow and confirm that allocations in and out match expectations. Users should also generate a set of SmartView queries from the control HPCM-Standard Model and compare those to a set of SmartView queries from the HPCM-ML prototype.  Input and Stage amounts from HPCM-Standard should compare to Rule Set amounts in HPCM-ML, including checks that rule sets are using drivers correctly.  Calculation time and performance should also be tracked and benchmarked.

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Conclusion

The advent of HPCM Management Ledger in both the on premise and cloud-based versions provides organizations with an opportunity to consider their existing solution and whether a migration to Management Ledger is warranted. Multiple considerations must be evaluated in this decision, and a prototype-based assessment is recommended as part of the process.  Edgewater Ranzal provides an Assessment service offering to assist organizations with this evaluation, as well as a subsequent implementation.  With over twenty experienced full-time consultants across the Americas and EMEA, and with more than twenty-five successful HPCM projects delivered since 2009, Edgewater Ranzal is the leading Oracle partner in delivering all versions of HPCM. Its comprehensive multi-product delivery approach can incorporate other tools such as Planning, DRM, FDMEE, & OBIEE.  These qualifications, along with its close relationship with Oracle Development, make Edgewater Ranzal the premier partner for client success.

 

Accelerate Your Ride to the Cloud: Extending ERP with Oracle Profitability & Cost Management Cloud Service (PCMCS) for Standard Cost Rate Development

A common need among manufacturing organizations is improvement in the process of developing annual labor and overhead standards to use as input into standard cost rates for product cost and inventory valuation. In spite of the investments that have been made in ERP solutions, it is typically an offline Excel-based exercise that is required to take historical data from the ERP to determine the updated direct labor rate & overhead rate components of a product standard cost for an upcoming fiscal year.  The release of Oracle Profitability and Cost Management-Cloud Service (PCMCS) in October 2016 provides a unique opportunity for manufacturers to ease, streamline and document the process of generating the cost-per-direct labor hour or cost-per-machine-hour rates that are requisite in standard costing.

Background

Generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) allow for one of multiple methods for the valuation of inventory to a manufacturer: Last-In, First-Out (LIFO); First-In, First-Out (FIFO); or a Weighted Average.

Because prices for labor and materials fluctuate throughout a year and inventory is built or drawn, it is difficult to track inventory on an on-going basis using these methods. Further, from a management perspective, it is more meaningful to separate the effects of price changes and inventory builds/draws from values associated with normal business.  Pricing decisions, incentive compensation and matching expenses to the physical flow of goods would all be adversely impacted by trying to constantly manage to these methods.

A common approach to achieve meaningful inventory and cost of goods sold values is to establish a “standard cost” for every product and then adjust the value of inventory on a separate line at year-end, to bring it to the GAAP basis.

This standard cost requires direct labor, direct material and an inclusion of an amount representing the “absorption” of certain of plant-related overhead costs into the inventory value.

There are two forms of overhead that must be included in the inventory value from a GAAP perspective: 1) Labor overhead and 2) Manufacturing overhead, sometimes called Indirect Overhead.

  1. Labor overhead represents the costs of direct labor resources above and beyond their direct hourly wage rate. This amount includes payroll taxes, retirement and health care benefits, workers’ compensation, life insurance and other fringe benefits.
  2. Manufacturing overhead includes a grouping of costs that are related to the sustainment of the manufacturing process, but are not directly consumed or incurred with each unit of production. Examples of these costs include:
  • Materials handling
  • Equipment Set-up
  • Inspection and Quality Assurance
  • Production Equipment Maintenance and Repair
  • Depreciation on manufacturing equipment and facilities
  • Insurance and property taxes on manufacturing facilities
  • Utilities such as electricity, natural gas, water, and sewer required for operating the manufacturing facilities
  • The factory management team

The most common first step for determining the value of overheads in inventory is to use a predetermined rate that represents a cost charge per direct labor hour or cost per machine hour. From product bills of material and routings, the total number of hours or labor or machine usage for a unit volume of production is known. The value of the overhead cost rate per direct labor hour (or machine hour) x the number of hours required per unit of production, yields the overhead cost rate per unit. In the example below, the ERP will calculate the cost per work center, but it is reliant on the Direct Labor and Overhead Rates to complete this process.

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The challenge comes when calculating the applicable pre-determined rate for overhead per direct labor hour or machine hour by the applicable cost or work center. PCMCS can assist with automating and updating this process.

A Better Solution: The Ranzal PCMCS Standard Cost Solution

PCMCS provides the ability to quickly and flexibly put the creation of multi-step allocation processes into the hands of business users. It also provides for the management of hierarchies without the need for external dimension management applications as well as standard file templates for data upload.  Further, a series of standard dashboard and report visuals augment the viewing and monitoring of results.  These capabilities allow organizations to quickly load and allocate expenses to applicable overhead cost pools and then merge those cost pools with applicable labor or machine hour values to obtain the relevant overhead rates.

PCMCS allows users to quickly select the cost centers or work centers that are applicable as sources to be included in the overhead rate:

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Users then can easily select the targets for collecting these costs into relevant pools,

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as well as the operational metric to use to assign these overhead costs to their applicable pools.

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Users then can easily select the targets for collecting these costs into relevant pools,

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Edgewater Ranzal is the leading implementation services provider of Oracle and Hyperion EPM solutions and has extensive experience with Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management (HPCM). Following the release of PCMCS, Ranzal will be announcing a Cloud servicing offering that will leverage the power of the Cloud to provide an accelerated method of producing the required inputs for overhead allocation in standard costing.

More than just Standard Costing

Additionally, while PCMS provides an excellent way to develop overhead rates for standard costing, it can simultaneously be utilized to determine allocations and costing valuations that leverage other methodologies for product and customer costing and profitability. Much has been written about the potential for inaccuracies if the standard cost basis of overhead allocation in product costing were to be used universally or exclusively for management analysis.  Overhead has become such a large portion of the total cost, that in many cases, overhead rates can be three or four times higher than their respective direct labor rates.  This suggests a general lack of causality between overhead and direct labor hours in many cases, and this has led to the evolution of other methods for costing.  Activity Based Costing is one such example, while simply allocating manufacturing variances to product lines is another.

PCMCS can be used to meet the requirements for both the externally reported methods and the management methods of product costing.

All of the Results in One Place

Determining the method by which overhead should be captured in the cost of different products of inventory is an important process because it represents a step by which a large number of dollars is moved from an expense to an asset, usually temporarily but sometimes permanently, and this can impact profitability and stock share price.

For the purpose of valuing inventory for statutory reporting, the overhead rate method is considered acceptable and it is widely used. It is therefore important that organizations find a way to develop and manage these cost valuations in a manner that is well-documented, has transparent methodology and is one that reduces the amount of time spent on the process.  However, it is not the only method that should be used for considering overhead in product and customer costing and profitability analysis.  Further, selling, general and administrative expenses (SG&A) represents another layer of cost that while not part of standard inventory cost, should be considered in overall product costs from a management perspective.

To this end, the Edgewater Ranzal PCMCS Standard Cost solution will provide an opportunity to fulfill multiple needs in costing and profitability and will do so in a manner that will be faster and more user-friendly than what has previously been experienced.