FEATURES Fall 2019

Journey to Cloud
Important Considerations for
Oracle EPM Reporting
Opal Alapat, InterRel

FEATURES Fall 2019

Journey to Cloud
Important Considerations for
Oracle EPM Reporting
Opal Alapat, InterRel

FEATURES Fall 2019

Journey to Cloud
Important Considerations for
Oracle EPM Reporting
Opal Alapat, InterRel
As Oracle’s new fiscal year dawned on the Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) world, with it came radical licensing changes and the vision of a more connected world of Oracle EPM Cloud. It’s expected with this new licensing that customers taking advantage of the streamlined pricing and those moving to cloud will open up their world of reporting.
What is EPM?

For those of you unfamiliar with EPM, to put it simply, EPM focuses on the ecosphere of processes and technologies that relate to enterprise-wide strategies, budgeting, and forecasting to support those strategies, the financial health of the organization overall, managing the financials, and monitoring operational effectiveness.

Technologies that reside in the EPM space assist companies with:

  • Consolidating their general ledger data
  • Planning and forecasting
  • Integrating data between the EPM sources and targets
  • Controlling master data
  • Reporting

One of the most important functions of EPM is reporting. Reporting is the final, tangible result of this process. A healthy reporting environment allows you to sift through data, wade through many data points, explore patterns, review consolidated numbers, and present the data in a meaningful way. From a platform perspective, Oracle provides similar EPM reporting functionality in both on-prem and cloud. However, there are some key differences between the platforms, and this is where this article comes into play. We’ll cover an overview of the most common types of reporting, map those to the Oracle on-prem and cloud stacks, then walk through some key cloud migration considerations.

Choose the Right Reporting Tool for Your Reporting Needs

Given how varied reporting needs can be, it’s important to choose the right tool for your specific needs. Oracle has been in the EPM reporting space for decades. They have an entire suite of products to support the full spectrum of reporting needs in on-prem and cloud. Note that there isn’t a single Oracle EPM reporting tool that handles all types of reporting functionality.

Figure 1 depicts the different ways EPM customers report today.

Different ways EPM customers report today
Figure 1. Different ways EPM customers report today.
  • Static Reporting – highly formatted, standard reports that users usually can’t edit themselves and that also allow for self-service consumption. Examples: Income Statements, Balance Sheets, Cash Flows.
  • “Drill” Reporting – each technology has its own version of “drill” capabilities and the definition can vary greatly. “Drill through” is the ability to drill from one system into the source system. “Drill to” is the ability to drill from one report to another report. Example: drilling through to the general ledger from a summary report to understand the transactions that make up a cell of data.
  • Narrative Reporting – the ability to add narration around grids and charts to help explain the data. Examples: variance analysis, notes to the financial statement.
  • Ad Hoc Reporting – ad hoc allows for the exploration of specific data points and is usually done with numbers. Example: troubleshooting why sales are down for a particular store and month – “slicing and dicing” into that particular intersection would be an ad hoc function.
  • Dashboards – not part of EPM for Oracle; used with analytics technologies and is a more fully robust dashboard product that allows for self-service, drill-through, full user interaction, and more.
  • Statutory Reporting – formalized reporting that answers to a country’s financial reporting requirements; may require Edgar-ization, XBRL, etc. Examples: “street reporting”, 10K, 10Q, Annual Report.
  • Data Visualization – not part of EPM for Oracle; used with analytics technologies to allow end users to create quick dashboards that can be used to present a story of the data.

As mentioned before, Oracle has solutions to handle all of these types of reporting requirements, and they’ve had these for years. Figure 2 summarizes those solutions in both on-prem and cloud flavors:

A comparison of reporting solutions from legacy on-prem to the new cloud
Figure 2. A comparison of reporting solutions from legacy on-prem to the new cloud.

When a customer is moving from on-prem to cloud, there are some gotchas along the way. Here are four tips to help you avoid those stumbling blocks.

TIP #1: Assess Reporting Needs Up Front

Reporting needs should always be assessed up front. On countless consulting projects throughout the years, I’ve seen multiple customers make the mistake of not including reporting at the beginning of an implementation or migration. Reporting becomes an afterthought, or customers don’t want to spend the money when engaging consultants and exclude this effort altogether from the project.

Reports are often the final, most tangible items that come out of EPM systems. Therefore, why wouldn’t you include them as important artifacts at the beginning of a project?

Here are some general questions to start with at the beginning of your cloud migration project:

  • What are the important data elements for critical path reporting? Have these been captured in the new Oracle EPM Cloud design and architecture?
  • How many reporting elements are calculated manually in the report and is it possible to push these calculations to the source application? This might save some migration time if additional development is required to make these calculations work properly.
  • How many reports do you have — do you really need all of them? What are the most important reports? This presents the opportunity to go through a reports rationalization exercise to reduce the reporting migration effort.
  • What are your reporting feature must-haves? Do you know which Oracle Cloud products address those?
  • Does Oracle EPM Cloud provide new reporting opportunities for your organization?
TIP #2: Understand the Feature Differences in Cloud

Failing to understand how different the Oracle Cloud world can be for reporting can get you into hot water quickly. To get you started, here’s one notable difference: Financial Reporting (FR) users are moving quickly to Narrative Reporting’s (formerly called EPRCS) Management Reporting (MR) tool. However, there is not full parity between FR and MR today (August 2019), so knowing which features are not yet available in Oracle Cloud and plugging those gaps becomes fundamental to a successful migration.

Understand the Feature Differences in Cloud

It’s not an easy task to figure out where all of the gaps exist between on-prem and cloud solutions, but Oracle does have some useful documentation online. Be resourceful and seek out this technical information before moving forward with the cloud migration — there are plenty of free resources online.

TIP #3: Educate Yourself on the Impacts of a Multi-Pod Oracle Cloud Environment

In the on-prem EPM world, customers can have multiple applications that see each other and are generally limited only by the resources of their on-prem infrastructure. Cloud architecture restricts the number of applications by “pod” (which is two instances for a single product solution, one for Test and one for Prod). Only one application can exist by instance, which means that multiple “pods” will be required for multiple applications. This architecture change can have impactful ramifications to reporting. Customers in the following situations will need to exercise caution:

  • those with multiple applications for a single technology on-prem moving to multiple pods in the cloud.
  • those moving from a single technology application on-prem to multiple applications in the cloud (a common scenario here is to split out a Planning Cloud Workforce application to its own pod for security reasons).
  • those who have a combination of both standalone Essbase cubes and one or more EPM applications.
Educate Yourself on the Impacts of a Multi-Pod Oracle Cloud Environment

Some Oracle EPM Cloud reporting technologies that replaced on-prem solutions cannot handle data sources from multiple applications in the new cloud world within a single report. Therefore, choosing the correct reporting solution here is critical, and sometimes this means using more than one reporting solution with similar features. If it’s important that users not mix their reporting solutions, then new data integrations may be required instead to ensure the data resides within a single application.

In addition, Financial Reporting in the cloud, a common reporting technology that customers migrate to, does not support the version of Essbase that came with legacy Oracle Analytics Cloud. However, in the on-prem world it supported on-prem Essbase. This may force a new reporting solution, which then requires a new learning curve, change management, and potentially feature gaps.

There are a handful of considerations to unpack when moving to multiple pods in cloud, and it’s vital to gather the necessary information up front to avoid making costly wrong turns.

TIP #4: Don’t Discount the End User Reporting Experience

Finally, in order to maximize user adoption of your new Oracle Cloud reporting technology, it’s imperative to think carefully about the end-user experience. I’ve found that many customers want as little disruption to end users as possible during their migration.

Some questions to ask:

  • If end users will be moving to a new reporting tool, what is the change management plan? What is the training plan?
  • Oracle EPM Cloud potentially changes monthly and these changes may impact end users. What is the on-going change management and training plan for end users?
  • Where will users report out of? Does this require multiple reporting technologies and how can you lessen this burden on users?
  • What is the current internal reporting service level agreement (SLA) for end users and how does that change with Oracle Cloud?
Conclusion

In conclusion, the new Oracle EPM Cloud licensing that debuted this summer promises new and exciting features for new cloud customers. Take precaution and understand these important reporting considerations to help your path be successful!

Opal Alapat
Opal Alapat is the Vision Team Practice Lead at interRel Consulting. She’s an Oracle ACE Director with ~20 years of EPM and Analytics experience. Opal is active with user groups and a regular speaker at COLLABORATE. She blogs at: https://womaninepm.com.