EPM Cloud First Look: FR Web Studio

November 2016 Update: In the November release notes, the following was mentioned “…support for Financial Reporting Studio desktop client will tentatively be stopped starting with the May 2017 update. Oracle will not distribute Financial Reporting Studio desktop client starting this update.

Starting with the November 2016 update, Financial Reporting Web Studio will achieve parity with most of the functional capabilities provided with Financial Reporting Studio desktop client. You will be able to create new reports and modify existing reports using Financial Reporting Web Studio.

Oracle recommends that you transition to using Financial Reporting Web Studio at the earliest opportunity. Please send questions and concerns to Oracle using the Provide Feedback option in the service.

The following post was authored in March 2016, when Oracle was still working on parity between the FR desktop studio and the web studio. Almost all of the feature gaps have now been resolved.

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It’s been a whirlwind 24 hours. Not only did the Oracle EPM Cloud world receive a brand new cloud product (Account Reconciliation Cloud Service), but Planning & Budgeting Cloud Service also received a series of updates, including the one that I’ve personally been waiting for: FR Web Studio! Note that in this latest release, the following updates were made to PBCS in general:

  • Addition of FR Web Studio (yay!)
  • Upgraded FR chart rendering engine to improve reports visualization (this requires revisiting all reports that use charts after the update to see how they render)
  • New EPM Automate utility version (bug fixes and enhanced access to command reference – this new version must be installed and used by all administrators by May 6, 2016)
  • New sort filters for Process Management approvals (for the Approval Status, Sub-status, Current Owner, Location, and Total Value columns in Process Status)
  • New “Clear Database” Planning job that clears data from the database
  • Defect fixes

Due to the timing of the maintenance release, interRel received our update in the Test environment in the wee early morning hours today.

Production Version (non-new release)

Version - Before

Test Version (new release)

Version - After

When you take a look at the simplified UI, things look and feel the same as before. However, now you see a new option within Navigator >> Manage:

Navigator - After

Although I didn’t see any new tutorial videos, the PBCS documentation has been updated to include at least one new document:

New FR Web Studio Documentation

Update 3/7/16: Oracle has released a short video on the basics of creating a report using FR Web Studio:

So let’s get straight to it! Upon clicking the new Reporting Web Studio option, you’re taken to the opening screen in a new web browser window:

First opening FR Web Studio

Because of my anal-retentive nature, I was naturally curious about how the FR Web Studio folder list compared to PBCS’ workspace folder list. According to the documentation, the extra FR Web Studio folders are system folders.

FR Web Studio Compared to Workspace

And take a look at this. When navigating to Help >> About Reporting Studio, here’s a confirmation of what version is running under the cloud covers:

FR Web Studio Version

First, I’ll start by examining the various drop-down menus at the top:

Within the File menu, you’ll find the wonderful Page Setup option. Luckily, the Fit to Page options are selected by default:

Page Setup

So let’s create a basic report just to take this baby for a test drive. I start by creating a new folder for testing purposes. I realize quickly that there is no right-click menu of actions for this (no surprise – that seems to be on par with many of the cloud products) so I go through the regular menus.

Create a New Folder

There’s also an icon menu under the traditional drop-down menus with a New Folder icon.

Icon Menu

I create a new report (the drop-down name). Note that this is called document on the icon menu. Why they’re different, I don’t know.

This is starting to feel familiar now. When the iconic ruled background opens, my natural instinct is to add a grid and draw it with my mouse onto the report. This reminds of the on-prem release. I immediately get prompted to select a database connection. I can also choose to create a new database connection.

I then get pushed to the dimension layout screen. Surprisingly, the drag and drop is smooth and without issue (note that I’m using the latest version of Firefox as my web browser). I only wish that the colors were a bit more contrasting – it’s hard to make out scroll bars.

Dimension Layout

I make my dimension selections and then start working on refining the members. The POV member selection screen looks and feels intuitive for experienced FR developers:

Select Members

There are even the additional member properties available for display:

Select Members - Show Properties

Column dimension selection:

Column Dimension Member Selection

The one major deviation I feel is when needing to use relationship functions. There is no drop-down for the movement arrows in this version. Now you need to select the member and then the corresponding membership function from the drop-down menu above before moving it over. Row dimension selection:

Row Member Selection

Page dimension selection:

Page Member Selection

For all member selections, there are also tabs for Lists and Functions options:

Function Member Selection

Here is  how the RelativeMember function (one of my favorites) is laid out:

RelativeMember Function

Note that the list of functions changes according to which dimension you’re acting upon. For instance, when selecting members for the Period dimension, I had access to the Y-T-D and Q-T-D dynamic time series functions. These weren’t available to the Product dimension.

Immediately, I notice something annoying about making member selections. Every time I finish a member selection, I get prompted to save my username and password in Firefox. I bet this is a browser specific issue and once reported, will get resolved.

Annoying Popup After Each Member Selection

Now that I have selected all of my members, it’s time to investigate how properties work on the report. This is where things start to get interesting and deviations from on-prem become more apparent. There are dividers breaking up FR Web Studio. You can click and slide the dividers to size the window panes to your choosing (and even hide an entire pane).

Report Window

The left pane can be used to interact with some of the report properties:

Reports left pane

I have not saved my report yet so right now it’s called “Report1”. When I click on Report1, Header, Body, or Footer on the above pane, I can see the Report Properties on the right-hand side of the report. Report1 is an important selection, as it allows you to see and interact directly with the report grid, header, and footer. Here are the Report Properties:

Report Properties

If I click on Grid1  (also currently unnamed), I see the Grid Properties. This has general, suppression, and position options.

The Grid1 selection is important, as it allows you to interact with the report dimension layout, row, column, page, and cell properties. You can activate those properties in the right pane by clicking on the cell, row number, column letter, or “Pages” text.

Cell Properties

In addition, if you click on either the row or column dimension names, you’ll see header properties. These are the same between rows and columns.

Heading Properties

Now that I’ve investigated the property options available to me, I’d like to view the different types of report objects possible. If you remember from the on-prem world, these are things like text boxes that you can use to create a cover page, report narration, headers, and footers. These can contain static text and dynamic text functions that can display page numbers, the report name, date, etc.

To add a report object, I click on the appropriate icon in the left pane. You can add report objects to either the Header, Body, or Footer.

Adding Report Objects

For the Header and Footer, you are given 3 options that should look familiar: saved objects (previously saved report objects that you can recycle), images, and text boxes.

Report Object Options

I’ll choose to insert a text object, which will then send me to the editor screen. Once you’re done editing the object you don’t press Save or OK or any other button to indicate that you’re done editing. FR Web generally auto-saves everything. I clicked Report1 on the left pane to get back to the main grid.

Report Object - Function Editor

In the middle of this screen, I can edit the font, font color, font size, alignment, style, etc. On the right pane, I can change the report object name and shading, insert functions, etc.

When I choose to insert a function, I get taken to the function selection screen. One of the wish list items I have here is making this more of a true editor to help me complete the parameters of each function.

Report Object - Insert Function

When I’m done, I’m taken back to the report object editor screen. What’s of note here is that if I need to edit the report object again, I can right-click and choose from multiple options here to edit, delete, or set visual precedence of the report object.

Report Object - Right-click Menu

Once I’ve created the report object and it’s auto-saved, it appears under the Header section of the left pane. The “X” option next to it allows you to delete it directly from there. Edit and other options can be accessed through the right-click menu.

Report Object - Added to Header Section

If I choose to add a report object to the Body instead, I’m offered the additional options of Chart and Grid objects:

Body Report Object Options

These options are also available in the icon menu at the top of the screen. Let’s check out the new chart engine. First I’m taken to the Chart editor:

Chart Editor

There are general and position options available in the right pane. Here is the list of current chart type options available:

Chart Type Options

If I choose to Format Chart, I’m taken to tabs of more specific chart formatting options:

Chart Format

When I’m done making my selections, I can see that the chart was added under the grid under the Body section of the left pane:

Chart and Grid Together under Body

However, one annoyance is that the chart has also seemingly disappeared in the Report view. When I move the grid (via drag and drop), I see that the chart is inserted by default behind the grid. I move and resize both.

Chart and Grid Together

As I played with other resizing options, I encountered something else interesting that’s reminiscent of on-prem. I can’t resize the header to above 0.75 inches. In addition, I must put the header and footer in decimal format. If I try to resize the header or enter an integer I receive the following error:

Header Size Error

After moving the chart and grid further down the report so that they’re not overlapping with the header, I could increase the size of the header.

This is a great time to save the report. There is a Save icon in the icon menu, as well as a Save option within the File menu. I can save the report in the workspace folder of my choosing, as well as save it either as a report object or a snapshot object.

Save Report

After playing around to fix fonts, font sizes, text position, and overall styling I come up with an ugly but usable report. I also discovered a few areas that I missed before. For instance, when needing to change the number formatting and font of the actual report grid, I realized that there is a right-click menu for that:

Grid Right-click Menu

There are basic formatting options available in the icon menu as well. This format button leads to a series of important options for formatting:

Format Cells Options

Here is my final report in HTML format:

HTML Final

Here it is in PDF format:

PDF Final

There is more work that I could do to get it to look prettier. However, there are many more things to play with regarding FR Web Studio (formulas, functions, member selection with criteria, etc.) so this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Oracle has advised that not all features are available in the FR Web Studio version – it was mentioned that ~85% parity exists with the Windows Studio client.

Here is a list of oddities/lacking features that I discovered during my initial play. Note that there is a good chance that I may have missed something, as I only played around for a few hours.

  • This tool is a bit specific when it comes to the sizing of report objects, their layout, header and footer size, etc. If I change the position of the report objects and they begin to overlap with the report body, I start getting error messages indicating that various report size fields need to be adjusted. An example of this error message is below. This caused some confusion. Luckily, there are generally red boxes around the fields that need to be resolved, with guidance on the values necessary.

Weird Size Error

  • Related to the above, I had issues saving font size changes to the report object in the header. I finally realized that this was contingent on me expanding the report object box to allow for the new adjustments.
  • No conditional formatting is available at this time. <– This feature has been added
  • Row and column templates are not available at this time. <– This feature has been added
  • Butterfly reports are not supported at this time. <– This feature has been added
  • This note in the documentation: “If you rename the dimensions or members in the data source, you must manually update each report in Financial Reporting Web Studio to reflect the changes.” I guess this issue will always persist. 😦
  • “Same As” feature for columns and rows. <– This feature has been added
  • Formatting between HTML and PDF is unexpectedly off in a few areas. For instance, check out the comparison below (HTML on the top, PDF on the bottom). The header foots correctly in HTML but not PDF. I fixed this by adding in an extra line between the header text rows.  This did have a negative impact to the HTML version, though, as the extra line showed up.

HTML Header Weirdness

PDF Header Weirdness

^^ Removed from my list above: books and batches. They are actually there. They’re available in Workspace, just like always. Note that it’s seamless to combine reports from either studio version – the report files behind the scene are the same – it’s just the front end tool that differs (which expose different features). Sorry for that brain fart.

Also, the PBCS March Update Release Content Document (RCD) notes the following limitations about FR Web Studio (taken directly from that document):

  • Only Service Administrators can save new report designs using this release of the Financial Reporting Web Studio.
  • HTML Preview from the Windows Studio Designer does not work in this release. Use the Web Studio Designer, Simplified Interface, or Workspace to preview reports instead.
  • Reports with bar charts support solid bar border style only. All other bar border styles are ignored.
  • Point values may not be displayed in the HTML preview of a chart that contains a large image. To display the point value, resize the image, the bar width, or decrease font sizes.
  • Previously selected data range may not appear as selected in the Chart Properties screen.
  • In Financial Reporting charts, bar shape options such as Triangle bar, Diamond Bar, and Cylinder Bar that were available in the previous release as combo chart format options are not supported. Bar is the only bar shape option available in this release.
  • In reports containing combo charts, clicking the Refresh button may cause the Primary and secondary axis labels to be hidden even if you selected the settings to display these labels in the report.
  • Grid depth and smooth font options are not available in Financial Reporting charts in this release.
  • Reports with pie charts support solid bar border style only. All other bar border styles are ignored.
  • Proper min, max, and step tic values on the yaxis and y2axis do not always display correctly. The min label is not always present. Also, the step by value doesn’t always increment from the min value (or decrements from the max value).
  • Financial Reporting Web Studio does not display hidden system level folders such as
    Administration, Broadcast Messages, Crystal Ball Workbooks and System. Additionally, folders that users mark as hidden (new and existing folders marked as hidden by changing their properties) are not displayed after the next refresh operation. To display hidden folders in Financial Reporting Web Studio, open the Properties screen for the folders, then deselect (uncheck) the hidden check box, and then perform a refresh operation.

 

Overall, I think FR Web Studio functions pretty well considering that it’s a version one release for cloud. Performance was my number one concern and I didn’t notice any latency issues (note that it is Saturday afternoon, however). I do believe Oracle intends to reach nearly full parity at some point with this product. We’ve also heard that down the line they will plan to remove the Windows Studio client completely.

At this time, I have faith that Oracle will figure out some of the strange weirdness and bugs once customers get into the system and log the issues.

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