Finally released: FCCS & Enterprise Planning Cloud!

And tonight Oracle finally lifted the “coming soon” veil on 2 of their EPM cloud products: FCCS and Enterprise Planning Cloud (also referred to as EPBCS). Take a look! Although I don’t see new online documentation or videos, there is a datasheet and interesting FAQ now available for FCCS.

And just in time – earlier today, I had the good fortune to attend partner FCCS training in Stamford, CT. The group of partners in attendance was privy to a full, in-depth demo and got to ask as many questions as we wanted. The Oracle team, including the awesome Rich Wilkie, and folks from product development, marketing, and alliances, really did a fantastic job and the parter community now has a much better handle on what FCCS has to offer.

Without going into the technical details (I’m still gathering my team’s notes together) here are some key high-level takeaways about FCCS and even Enterprise Planning Cloud:

  • With the release of FCCS, the consolidation & close EPM world now has a cloud product to embrace. This means that a whole new wave of folks are entering the knowledge sharing community for cloud.
  • Comparing FCCS to HFM technically is just…pointless. It’s really like comparing apples and oranges. If you are a new Oracle customer for consoldiations & close then consider FCCS – it might have everything you need and then some. If you are an existing Enterprise customer then definitely consider FCCS. Enterprise has long stopped being supported and FCCS has more to offer you. If you are an existing HFM customer…well, it gets more tricky. If you’re using HFM in a “standard” way without tons of HFM rules (and a few other factors…see later in this bullet point list) then you should take a look. Otherwise, just wait…FCCS will get there eventually and relatively soon.
  • If you know PBCS, then you already know FCCS…technically. They share ~70% of the same platform. What’s interesting is that there are several areas of FCCS that refer to either “Planning” or “PBCS”. Note that with this observation I’m not suggesting that Planning developers can just convert over to consoldiations & close developers – you still need the functional knowledge. A strong accounting background is key. However, already having the knowledge of how Essbase inherently calculates and stores data will give you a leg up.
  • When you first go to create your consoldiations & close application, you’re asked if you want to create a Planning application or an FCCS application. Very interesting. The FCCS license comes with both as a starting point, but you must pick one per environment and you can’t switch from one to the other without deleting the existing application first. You could theoretically have one of each in each environment. This is untested, but it’s an intriguing thought.
  • Traditional Enterprise and HFM folks will need to get over a learning curve of understanding how Essbase stores data and calculates in order to really get a grasp on this technology (hint, hint crossover bloggers). For example, the concept of member formulas does not exist in HFM nor Enterprise. However, this is the only type of calculation object that you can construct in this first release of FCCS. There are no “HFM rules”, custom Essbase calc scripts, or even custom Calculation Manager rules in this release.
  • Oracle is really pushing this idea of crowd sourcing EPM cloud developer content. This is not the first time I’ve heard of this, but the FCCS platform (based on the Enterprise Planning Cloud platform, which is used for multiple EPM cloud technologies) has been developed in such a way that objects can be created generically and then shared with other customers through LCM. FCCS in particular uses a concept of system member names that stays static under the covers. It can do this because the basic dimensions are pre-configured at the highest levels, so the foundation won’t change largely between customers. It will be interesting to see if customers and partners latch onto this idea and create a new shared content community.
  • We are now entering a world of “simplified UI only” Planning. Although FCCS is built upon the entire Enterprise Planning Cloud foundation and leverages many of the same features, it only has the simplified UI URL and web interface. This has been rumored to be the direction that Oracle is going with Enterprise Planning Cloud and here is a clear first sign. The navigator card has been moved to the upper left-hand corner of the window, several of the admin functions have been moved out of the Navigator card and into the Console card, and the concept of the standard/workspace interface simply does not exist. This was an easy drop for FCCS, as many of the backend developer features are not allowed to be exposed to the users (Calc Manager, etc.) right now.
  • In addition, in FCCS we are seeing a Planning simplified UI that isn’t in sync with PBCS right now. Enterprise Planning Cloud and FCCS are being released together and theoretically mirror each other on the foundational Planning platform. However, PBCS is now lagging a month behind in features. Case in point, the new navigation flows feature is available in both Enterprise Planning Cloud and FCCS but not in PBCS. This catch up is expected to happen in the June release of PBCS.
  • The product has been released with some important functionality not available yet, namely: Data Management support (flat files only for now), write-back through Smart View, custom rules, advanced consolidations (minority interest, equity eliminations, etc.), and fully functional alternate hierarchies (support exists in this first release, but…well, it’s complicated). I know how this might sound to some, but the truth is that this should not stop customers from buying it, as the implementation cycle will be slower than the first fix. Some of these lacking features will be released as early as next month.
  • One of the benefits of this technology is that it houses multiple great tools together in one place: close & consolidation, SDM (supplemental data manager), and FCM (financial close manager). Customers no longer have to jump out of one tool to get to another.
  • The tool has more than I expected. Several partners murmured this today, and not even about the technical components. There were exclamations about the translation features, intercompany, and more. I am surprised at how much functionality comes out of the box. In my opinion, this is really due to the fact that it’s built on top of Enterprise Planning Cloud. And it’s going to get better…and quickly. Rich shared the 1-year roadmap of the tool and they have clearly prioritized the important stuff. Very exciting times, my friends, very exciting times…
  • Based on how the underlying Planning application and plan types are configured for calculations, there are design constraints necessary for performance reasons. For instance, there are limits on how many dimensions the application can have (13), and how many members each dimension can hold (thousands or tens of thousands, depending on the dimension). This is not to say that the product is slow – it’s just that the rearchitecture to the Essbase platform creates some considerations. They are already thinking through how to improve this for a future release. It will be interesting to see if the FCCS development team embraces Hybrid Essbase when that feature gets supported by the cloud.
  • The FCCS development team is very interested in making this product a smashing success. It’s clear through the passion in their voices and how many times they mentioned being available to both customers and partners. They are looking to take this product to the next level and as soon as possible. If you’re smart, you’ll join the journey now so you can directly influence the future direction of this technology. It’s much easier to have a stake when there aren’t so many fish in the sea…

So that’s just a taste of things to come. As someone who lives and breathes Planning, I am very excited about FCCS and can’t wait to learn more. If you’re a Planning developer who’s ever wanted to diversify your functional skills, now is the time!

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