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Oracle Expands Its Performance Management Offerings

Oracle Enterprise Planning and Budgeting gives businesspeople control of processes but little Excel integration

EPB has a lot of the sophisticated functions you'd expect of an enterprise planning and budgeting tool. When creating a business process, you can specify the data (actuals, for example), or just the dimensions if the data is to be entered via worksheets (such as forecast data). You can also specify whether EPB should create a new (versioned) view of the data or append to an existing view. You can, furthermore, determine whether the time horizon should be fixed (such as all months in 2005) or relative (such as 18 months forward from the current time period).

You create "solve" tasks to provide the rules on how to initialize, calculate, aggregate and allocate each individual Line Item (natural accounts such as revenue, expenses and gross margin) to be processed. For the other dimensions (such as Organization and Time), you select the hierarchical levels at which the data will be acquired (input) and the levels of the required result (output). If input is, say, at the corporate level while output is at the departmental level, EPB will perform an automatic allocation based on the rule specified. If input is at a lower level than output, it will perform an aggregation.

The administration console shows you the business processes that make up your EPB implementation. Each process consists of tasks, such as "Solved Initialized Data."

A unique and differentiating feature of EPB is that it automatically creates the initialization, calculation, aggregation and allocation procedures once the business process and tasks are defined — thus eliminating the development time and cost of IT developers or consultants. If the business process involves data entry tasks, EPB automatically generates the worksheets based on the data ownership specified by the Security Administrator. Targets (mandatory or advisory) can be associated with worksheet cells. For example, it could be mandatory that planned travel expenses for Marketing not exceed $20,000 per month.

Auto fill functions such as Grow, Increase, Spread and Aggregate can be used to populate worksheet cells. However, the main weakness with EPB is the lack of integration with Excel — which is the mainstay for planning and forecasting in many finance departments. Although a worksheet or report can be exported to Excel, EPB provides no facilities to report from, enter data directly from, or copy and paste data from Excel into a worksheet.

Migration from OFA and OSA

Oracle will support OFA and OSA until mid 2008, with error correction support until the end of 2006. Existing OFA customers looking to migrate should consider two approaches. The first is to identify the business processes and tasks in OFA, and then implement EPB. The second is to load information from OFA into EPB and then define processes and tasks. In both cases, Oracle provides migration tools to transport data, structures, users and reports from OFA to EPB. Placeholders are created for OFA formulas so migrated reports will open. However, formulas require redefinition in EPB using calculation templates. Models, solves, worksheets and data entry forms are not migrated, because EPB automatically defines these components when you define business processes.

• Oracle EPB is priced by named user and includes a run-time version of Oracle9i Database with OLAP Option. A full user license is $2,995 and a read-only license is $595. Existing OFA/OSA licenses migrate free of charge to EPB or Discoverer, and the underlying Oracle Express Server licenses migrate free of charge to a run-time version of Oracle9i Database with OLAP Option. Contact Oracle at 1-800-633-0615 or www.oracle.com.

Paul Dean is an independent consultant providing OLAP product evaluation and selection, implementation and training services. Write to him at [email protected].