Category Archives: EPM

The Age of Big Data – Kscope14 Keynote Address by Jake Porway

Jake Porway, data scientist and founder of DataKind™, challenges us to use big data to change—and maybe even save—the world. Don’t miss his presentation at Kscope14’s Keynote Session on Monday, June 23, where he will explain what big data is, how it’s being used around the world—and why we should care.

I’m looking forward to attending and presenting on “Delivering Actionable Insight” as part of the EPM Business Content track.

My presentation will look at how reporting analysts often spend more time creating reports, rather than analyzing the data.

We’ll look at how data is presented, which with the correct use of visualization and perception techniques can aid users understanding.

And finally I’ll share techniques to create reporting which delivers actionable insight faster to users.

Register for Kscope14 here.

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why connecting matters

I have been lucky enough to present and attended several conferences in the last year – while I like presenting and attending presentations, what I find most important are the chance conversations with other users and industry experts.

One example during a recent conference, was a presentation on developing business intelligence for a US based city council – the speaker talked about how they were able to pull in many disparate sources to provide a single reporting platform that covered almost everything the city covered from water quality to fire response times to even prisoner data …

At the end, I was asked what I thought the dashboards and how they were presented – from the brief overview it seemed to provide the information the users were asked for.  We chatted for a while discussion the various metrics and how they actually worked out how to determine when the fire engine response time was calculated, but finally we got to some more in depth questions:

So after reviewing the key charts and metrics, what did the user do next, where did they navigate to?

While they knew what the users had previously as reports and what they had requested, there was no way to know exactly how they used the system or after reviewing the data where they went next, if they looked at other information.

While users within an organization can use a report differently they tend to separate into two areas – executives and analysts.  Execs are mainly interested in several key metrics, with which they measure the business, while analysts and business managers like to be able to drill to the details behind trends and outliers.

This made me think of how difficult it really is to understand how users interact with the systems even with users who are in a fairly close geographical area … I’m dealing with a similar issue at a current client in developing reporting for users but it’s more complicated as their users are located all over the globe in Asia, Europe as well as North and Latin Americas.

So how do you determine what they are actually doing?

– asking questions can help, but you need to also ask, after you have looked at the report WHAT do you do next, WHERE do you navigate and WHY?

At a previous engagement the process was documented by the users as a “standard P&L” they actually looked at the operating expenses & headcount data first, comparing budget vs actuals to see who was over spending – so they knew who to call first!   We were able to replace this with an dashboard style report which highlighted these key metrics in colors, so they were spending more time connecting with their business managers rather than going from report to report.

This made me view the interactions that report consumers have with the reports in a new light – I’ve always been a fan of learning and previously relied on structured learning environments like classrooms or tutorials but I’m now on the outlook for chance encounters more often and what I can learn from them.

smart view 11.1.2.2 review

Several of the updates to the Hyperion 11.1.2.2 suite are behind the scenes, not noticeable for users, except for users of Planning – with new predictive and chart functionality and Smart View users – who don’t have to upgrade the back end (server services) to take advantage of some:

  • Support for 64-bit Microsoft Office 2010

  • Planning Enhancements for: cell history – so you can review changes to a cell or range of cells and reverse changes, master composite forms (a new type of form), attachment of multiple comments to data cells, customized confirmation messages and support for approvals security
  • Smart View supports Financial Management configurable dimensions
  • New VBA features for: HypGetMemberInformationEx, HypGetActiveMember, HypSetActiveMember, HypGetDimensions, HypSetDimensions, HypGetMembers, HypSetMembers, HypGetBackgroundPOV
  • New Logging Levels: Extended and Profile
  • Excel Formatting enhancements to maintain formats when zooming in and pivoting
  • New Extensions for Predictive Planning and Strategic Finance
  • Smart Query – which is a new reporting tool which allows users to construct report sets from members and filters. these sets can be combined to create complex queries with joins and intersections of data from the defined data sets
  • Changes to the Smart View ribbon to include Panel and Connection buttons for easier, more intuitive access (According to Oracle) to Smart View connections

I’ll spend some more time reviewing the new Smart Query feature next time, so stay tuned.

For more info, check out the Smart View documentation on the Oracle Doc Library:

What’s new in Smart View

Smart View User Guide

Oracle EPM 11.1.2.2 Doc Library

Bootnote: As with any software upgrade, this one is not necessarily a slam dunk – in that it should always be installed. Please review the Readme paying particular attention to the known issues list – while Oracle have fixed 46 issues in this release, there are 104 known issues across all smart view components.

There has also been the following identified as an unknown issue:

BUG 14055582: When selecting a range of cells, then attempting to use the right click range menu, the right click deselects the range and only the last cell is highlighted. A work around is to select whole rows or columns to perform right click selections.

So review the docs and test, test and test again making sure the enhancements don’t take away any functionality key for your users.

a sign of the i-times

ImageAfter attending the recent Oracle update on their business analytics strategy, including the latest Hyperion release and Exa-everything supercharged hardware and software stacks I had expected the usual follow up emails asking me to buy and sell to clients.

However, along with the links to the recorded presentations and content (in pdf), there was also link to download in ibook format.

That just goes to show how ubiquitous the iphone/ipad has become in the  corporate world.

Of course Oracle has been pushing their mobile applications, which run as part of the OBIEE suite, which don’t require any special coding. but you do need OBIEE.

Interesting to see that it’s not just a pdf converted, there are links as well as video embedded (see image below).

 Now I only need an exalytics box to play around with …. 😉

hyperion 11.1.2.2 released

Hyperion 11.1.2.2 is now available on the Oracle edelivery site:

There will be some busy consultants over the new week pouring over the readmes and installation files 😉

PS, Still no love for Solaris x64, guess I’ll have to make do with Windows or maybe Linux 😛

hyperion 11.1.2.2 announced

Almost a year since 11.1.2.1 was released, Oracle have had a big event in Tokyo to announce the release of 11.1.2.2 (among other things).

Great to see our president and founder Robin Ranzal quoted in the release:

“Organizations that lack visibility into cost and profitability will find the expanded features of Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management attractive,” said Robin Ranzal, president of Edgewater Ranzal. “These features allow revenues and costs to be allocated at a very granular level. Executives gain improved insight into how customer-driven interactions across any channel impact profitability and allow for improved decision-making about company offerings.”

It will probably take a few days for the downloads to be released and the new readmes and known issues fully read and understood. Then there should be a flood of information on the internet tubes 😉

The one interesting note is that Oracle Hyperion Calculation Manager has replaced Oracle Hyperion Business Rules as the mechanism for designing and managing business rules, therefore, Business Rules is no longer released with EPM System Release 11.1.2.2. If you are applying 11.1.2.2 as a maintenance release, or upgrading to Release 11.1.2.2, and have been using Business Rules in an earlier release, you must migrate to Calculation Manager rules in Release 11.1.2.2.

Will be interesting to see if the Hyperion suite follows the OBIEE 11.1.1.6 lead and releases a Solaris x86 version at release.

Kscope12: San Antonio, Texas. June 2012

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My abstract has been selected for the Kscope EPM Business Content – Subtopic: Product Demos topic, so I’ll be in San Antonio, Texas in late June presenting:

Field of Reporting Dreams: Build it and users will come?

How data visualization can give you an extra edge in bringing and maintaining happy users.

While previous presentations have covered mostly stand-alone data visualization, this one also looks at how it can help in creating a reporting ecosystem to understand how to bring components (including visual ones) together to enable users to get to the answers faster and easier.  So users spend time on decisions, not on compiling reports.

I’ll post some information leading up to the event, but in the meantime, you can head over to the Ranzal blog, where I’m also posting a series on using data visualization and usability to enhance end user reporting.

I’m looking forward to Kscope to catch up with colleagues, industry thought leaders and immerse myself in a great learning experience.  Hope to see some of you there!

atlanta connection point

Just a quick note to say the schedule for Atlanta OAUG Connection Point EPM/BI conference has been released and I’m presenting in the Financial Consolidation & Reporting track 😉

Looking forward to catching up with industry experts, colleagues and friends.

seattle connection point day two review

After a full day on Wednesday, Thursday again had some tough choices for which presentations to attend at the Seattle OAUG Connection Point EPM/BI conference:

Hari Sankar, from Oracle, gave the keynote on the present state of Hyperion/EPM and the overall plan/roadmap going forward – well as much as anyone from Oracle does with their standard disclaimer that any feature mentioned in a future product may or may not happen.  Of interest to me was the confirmation of Financial Reporting and Planning products being key products in the “Fusion release” of BI/EPM, whenever that happens – as I have a lot of experience in reporting and forecasting and don’t want that to go to waste 😉

Hari also covered off a few possible highlights in the next release of Hyperion:  11.1.2.1, scheduled for release in the first half of 2012.  Nothing really killer from my perspective or previous clients that they would use, but making the Hyperion suite much more integrated and incorporating the best of breed from other products.

I then attended two customer implementation presentations, to get some different perspective from different industries than I have worked with.

After lunch there was a group chat with all attendees discussing the setup and format of the conference, from the very scientific ‘show of hand method’ there were some interesting results:

  • 50% of attendees were from out-of-town
  • most were users of Hyperion products, with Essbase and Planning being the main products used
  • a small number of users had OBIEE actively installed, although given the Oracle product direction to consolidate Hyperion and OBIEE at some point, most were keen to seen the product and understand the features
  • most people were happy with the format, although with five separate streams it meant, like me, they missed other conflicting presentations – which while the presentations go up on www.oaug.org for members, you don’t often get the full context or understanding
  • a high proportion of the local users were keen to meet regularly and some had only heard about the event a week or so in advance, good news for the local Northwest Oracle Users Group

The afternoon was spent catching up on some work and attending some introductory and best practice sessions.

It was a very busy two days with lots of information to process and new faces to meet.  I’d like to thank the organizers for all their hard work and the Hyatt Regency Bellevue staff for putting on fabulous food and nibbles.  Thanks also goes to the other presenters and sponsors of the event, who helped make it an enjoyable and education two days.

chartjunk – oracle helping reduce the urge to clutter

When Tufte defined ‘chartjunk’ back in 1983, he probably didn’t realize how easy computers and software would make it for people to add the “… graphic paraphernalia routinely added to every display that passes by: over-busy grid lines and excess ticks, redundant representations of the simplest data, the debris of computer plotting, and many of the devices generating design variation.”

Consider the above Hyperion Analyzer sales graphic, did you notice the important figures, or was your focus diverted by the colored circles and bright colors?

It’s very difficult to indeed see that the south and central regions aren’t performing as well as the east and west – although both still over budget.

Nor can you easily compare the colors on the maps for east in blue, with the chart for east in purple.

In fact if you measure the screen it seems that the actual data (and I’ll be generous here and include the map) is less than 40% (or 15% without).

While Hyperion and Oracle have previously been enablers in adding headers, panels and other junk it’s refreshing to see the latest version of OBIEE present a cleaner surface – which users can still mess up, but it’s more difficult 😉

Here’s a sample dashboard from OBIEE, notice how the headers and panes take up less room, enabling the designer to cram six sections onto the space. While it’s a step in the right direction, it’s still up to report designers and system architects to present data that is clear and enables the user to quickly see the important data and trends – so they can take action.