Strategic To Tactical

Oracle's new planning application includes ad hoc reporting tools, and it analyzes data using performance metrics.
Oracle last week shipped Enterprise Planning and Budgeting, the successor to its aging Financial Analyzer and Sales Analyzer applications. The software will bring Oracle into more direct competition with Cognos Inc. and other suppliers of business-performance-management software.

Oracle Enterprise Planning and Budgeting automates financial-planning and budgeting processes, helping companies create tactical plans from strategies, according to Oracle. It's being sold to financial analysts, controllers, budgeters, and department managers. The new app taps into the online analytical processing capabilities built into the Oracle database that's sold with it. Enterprise Planning and Budgeting also has new reporting capabilities, presents data in a multidimensional format, and loads data into reports and Excel spreadsheets.

It includes a set of ad hoc reporting tools and display components such as frequently used graphs, and it analyzes information using performance metrics. All data in the application is associated with a manager or staffer should there be questions or need for feedback or action. The software has the same look and feel as Oracle's Discoverer reporting software.

"They spent a lot of time developing this product," says Paul Hamerman, an analyst with Forrester Research, who adds that the software is a year or two behind schedule. But the application fills a major gap for Oracle, Hamerman says. The built-in ad hoc reporting features "could be a differentiator for them," he says.

Oracle's Financial Analyzer and Sales Analyzer are holdovers from Express, the vendor's separate OLAP server. Oracle began building OLAP capabilities into its mainstream database software starting with version 9i. But Financial Analyzer and Sales Analyzer don't run on the Oracle database, and Oracle plans to phase them out. The company will continue to update the old products through the end of 2006, supporting them until 2008.

Enterprise Planning and Budgeting includes tools to migrate data, reports, personal work, and other items from Financial Analyzer and Sales Analyzer to the new application. Current Financial Analyzer and Sales Analyzer licensees will be offered free upgrades to the new application, according to Oracle.

Pricing starts at $2,995 for a run-time license, including development and customization rights. A license for read-only apps is $595.