So you or your organisation are considering to implement a planning a budgeting tool? You are tasked with spearheading this revolution and for change the way your organisation does planning and budgeting. So before you start writing your victory speech and planning your next solid vacation with the bonus earned for an awesome implementation; let’s stop for a second and discuss this three key variables in your quest:
- The why implement
- The what to implement
- The how to implement
Many organizations use Excel for their budget, forecasting and reporting processes. In doing so these organisations have developed complex spreadsheet solutions and process to manage their overall budget, forecasting and reporting solution. The result is that Excel capability, adoption and skills has become the standard for many individuals responsible for these processes within their organisations and overtime a strong attachment has been formed between the user and the tool. Obviously when people get good at something, they like it, and when they like it, it’s then hard to change and do or use something else. This is why resistance to change is one of the biggest challenges facing organisations, and it takes effective management and managers to make such transitions smoother. Enough about change management for now, maybe we can pick up such a vast topic in a different time/blog and give it the focus it deserves. For now let’s set our attention back to understanding the limitations of Excel as a budgeting, forecasting and reporting tool and How Hyperion Planning not only eliminates such limitations, but also helps bridge the change gap for Excel lovers by offering office as a key interface of the Hyperion solution and so much more.
Understanding The Excel Based Budget Process:
- The process usually begins with the corporate finance department creating excel based templates that will be sent out to departments heads to complete and return along with specific assumptions / drivers that maybe applicable to derive the budget numbers.
- The department heads complete the excel budgets for their departments and email back to the finance department.
- The finance department then consolidates the numbers into a corporate budget and submits for review, usually to the CFO/Management.
- If the budget is not accepted the process may be repeated several times till the desired outcome is achieved.
- As the excel sheets are emailed, maintained, customised and manipulated by many people there are many errors that can occur and the quality of the data can then be compromised.
- In smaller organizations such processes may work, however in larger/growing organizations this type of process can become very error prone, time consuming and unmanageable.
Known issues using Excel for planning, budgeting & reporting:
- Ineffective Security Mechanisms – usually the Excel workbooks are password protected (a security method that is not very effective) and emailed to people requiring access at times with the password in the same email.
- Version Control – as documents are emailed in most scenarios it becomes very difficult to track the latest version of a particular document. Though document management systems, like SharePoint, can alleviate some of these issues, in most cases there are version control issues in such processes.
- No Effective Error Handling / Data Quality Control –
- Focused on the reviewer/users ability to identify errors.
- The excel workbooks are edited/manipulated by the current user and the current user is responsible to review and ensure no errors are in the workbook (EG, formula errors, accidental data deletion, links, etc.…).
- No Control Mechanism –
- There are no ways of ensuring assumptions and drivers are used, except with a detailed review of the workbooks
- No set approach for calculating figures, this is left to the individual on how he thinks the figures should be reported.
- Complex Approval Processes – manual process that require many back and forth emails and consolidation of workbooks from different areas.
Hyperion Planning to the Rescue:
Hyperion Planning emerges as a hero when all hope is lost to save the day and bring an answer to the people of planning and budgeting. Hyperion Planning is a solution that offers a centralised approach to planning and budgeting and forever resolve the previously known issues, limitations and challenges to the people of this world. Accessed centrally and tightly controlled with user/group defined security access, a user will only have access to the data they are provisioned; they can adjust, calculate and report on the data from a web-based front end or through Microsoft Office depending on their preference. The benefits explained:
- Centralised Data –
- The data is all housed centrally in the Hyperion Planning system, the system acts as the single and only source of the truth.
- The database engine is called Essbase. Essbase is a multi-dimensional database server (OLAP). Name derived from “Extended Spread Sheet dataBASE.
- In short Essbase provides excellent performance for data aggregations up the hierarchies and also the complex model calculations within and between cubes and models.
- Security – Security is defined at two levels:
- Product Level – what products the user can use and the type of access he has to them (planning administrator, planning planner, reporting viewer, etc.…)
- Within Product Level – Which forms a user can open, what cost centres are accessible, what reports can be run, what calculations can be run, etc.…
- Enforced Business Drivers and Assumptions – The assumptions are input/loaded/defined and once set the system will enforce the use of such drivers.
- What-if Analysis / Version Control – during a planning/budgeting cycle Hyperion enables what-if analysis and can maintain multiple cuts of the data during the process. Using the slice and dice capability analysis on the data, different cuts can be done and once the process is complete the final cut of the version can be locked and updates/calculations disabled.
- Formal Reporting – A tool called financial reporting enables high-quality standardised financial reporting that are excelled for management, monthly, and yearly reporting purposes. The reports can be presented in PDF, HTML or extracted to Excel. Report books capability also enables many reports to be collate into a PDF book for distribution.
- Dashboard capability – for more visual oriented and quick high-level data analysis.
- Mobile Friendly Interface – tablet and mobile friendly for those on the go, or showing off in boardrooms.
- Office Integration (Lovers of Excel is this the tool for you) – The developers of this tool were very smart when it came to this area. Realising the limitations of excel is one thing, but understanding/appreciating its capabilities is equally important. A realisation was apparent, this industry revolves around excel and most finance people have built expertise in Excel over time and are heavily reliant on it. Why you ask? Simple Excel brings incredible flexibility in the area of planning, budgeting and reporting. Excel’s capability could not be denied, but yet the limitations where also clear. The developers were smart enough to see this, so what did they do, they decided to ride the wave and not swim against it. They developed a tool called Smartview which did exactly this, it integrated with Office tools as an add-in and enabled all Excel lovers to continue working in an interface they are comfortable with, at the same time offered the completeness of Hyperion Planning as a solution. Ad-hoc analysis (drilling up and down hierarchies, slicing and dicing data), Opening Data Forms, Triggering Calculations and Running Reports are possible through Excel using Hyprtion Smartview.
The What (Product)
You have done all your homework/internal research, seen a few demos, attended some user groups; and now are comfortable to go ahead and implement Oracle EPM (Hyperion). If you have decided to implement something else, reconsider… If you don’t want to reconsider, you can stop reading this Hyperion focused blog or keep reading and then reconsider. I kid of-course, but I am biased to what I believe is an industry leading product that I love to work with it.
Things I really like about the product in general and interesting technical points:
- Provides a web / office based interface for users
- HTML & PDF reports and report books that can be schooled.
- Native and External Authentication.
- Uses a true Multi-dimensional Database (Essbase)
- Oracle based product, with great support and product development behind it
- Integration Options with various sources systems (BS, SAP, JDE, PEOPLESOFT, ALESCO, ORACLE OR SQL VIEWS/TABLES, FLATFILES, ETC…)
- Excellent Integration with external systems (MSAD, EMAIL, ETC..)
The obvious and let me guess a tender went out, you researched Oracle partners with relevant skills to implement the solution, you reached out to Oracle for advice for partners best placed to implement this for you, or for the more crazy, there are those that may adopt a DIY (Do it yourself) approach (Note: unlike building an Ikea cupboard, there is no simple instruction manual).
“The who” will implement the system is very critical. In the service industry getting “the who” wrong can be very dangerous. For example, from what I have seen in the industry, getting it wrong can yield in an end solution that doesn’t deliver the required business requirement, complex and unusable, failure in delivery, wrong use of software or a system that simply doesn’t deliver the performance required.
The answer to this is really simple, Experience, and not just any experience, but experience with Hyperion. When looking at a partner or individual(s); there are five key elements for successful implementations as shown below. Ensuring your implementation team has a successful/proven track record in these areas is essential. Five key areas of success:
- Functional/Finance Knowledge – Ability to Transform Business Requirements into a Hyperion Solution Design
- Developer Knowledge – Ability to develop the solution in the most user friendly and performant way possible
- Integration Knowledge – Ability to integrate Hyperion with various source systems for metadata and data integration and management.
- Technical Knowledge – Ability to design and build a technical solution that can deliver all the required system requirements and confirm with companies IT standards and policies.
- Project Management/Controls Knowledge – Ability to manage/deliver Hyperion implementations on time and budget.
Before anything lets set our success criteria and whatever happens always come back to this as the constitution of success. I like to define the key success factors of any project as the three Os:
- On-Target (Requirements)
I like to describe Hyperion Implementations in the following sections defined below. I think for those experienced PMs out there reading this, you will find this applies to many implementations and is not specific to Hyperion. It is essential for Hyperion projects to follow a project plan and have the appropriate project controls in place, no matter the size of the implementation.
Also there are many questions in “the how” that are important to ensure are answered and answered early. These are usually answered in the requirement / design phases, but are extremely important and should not be missed:
- Wil the solution be On-premise, Oracle Cloud or Hosted (private hosted)
- What is required from a client’s involvement during and after the project
- What is required from Client Finance Project Team (E.g., Testing and Building Reports)
- What is required from Client IT (E.g., Infrastructure setup, Backup/DR, Client tool rollout, Etc….)
- What type of support do I need / Do I want a managed solution at the end
- Should I go for full end goal requirement or should I break down the solution delivery into stages.
Hopefully this blog has better prepared you for a Hyperion Planning Implementation and gave you some insider knowledge to tackle some of the why, what and how questions.
This is Ahmed Hafez, signing out, I hope you find success in your adventures…