EPM Update: The New Reporting Buffet

Did you miss it? There is a big shift happening in the Oracle EPM reporting world. Are you paying attention?

This is not another blog post about how you need Cloud. It might seem like it, but it’s not. Keep reading…

Back in February 2017, Oracle made a couple of formal reporting announcements which generated some interesting discussion. I write this blog post to help make sense of those statements. I also intend to combine the information from those announcements with other important information to paint a clearer picture of the new Oracle EPM reporting landscape.

In Oracle EPM, there are a number of reporting technologies that can fit just about every reporting need out there. These reporting technologies serve Oracle EPM on-prem and Cloud customers, and some solutions traverse both worlds quite seamlessly.

If my memory is correct and I ignore older reporting solutions that are no longer being supported or enhanced (like Interactive Reporting, etc.) we have the following robust reporting solutions for on-prem Oracle EPM customers:

And for Cloud Oracle EPM customers, we have the following robust reporting solutions:

(Note that I’m intentionally excluding data visualization-type reporting, as that is segregated to the BI world in my mind. However, I do acknowledge that as a unique reporting solution that could overlap on the EPM side.)

This nice buffet of reporting solutions has met a variety of customer needs in the past 10+ years. In addition, we’ve seen a number of BI tools making a serious dent in the EPM world in the more recent past (Tableau, OBIEE, BICS, and DVCS). It’s clear that the Oracle EPM reporting world is changing. And in some cases, consolidating. These changes aren’t necessarily a bad thing, as they offer both pros and cons and more strategic offerings. It will be up to you to determine what makes sense for your organization and whether or not a change in your reporting strategy is warranted.

Back to the original programming…let’s go in chronological order, starting with those formal announcements back in February.

oracle-statement-of-direction-fr

Although this information was known for some time on the Oracle EPM Cloud side, a formal “Statement of Direction” for FR Windows Studio was the first one released in February. Those who have access to Oracle Support (note that we’ve been warned not to reproduce the details publicly) were able to view the detailed announcement. To avoid getting into any kind of trouble, I’ll instead summarize what was stated in the Oracle EPM Cloud documentation for many months prior: that the FR Windows Studio desktop client would stop shipping in May of 2017. As of yesterday, that start day has now come and gone.

What was first unclear is which Oracle EPM products would be affected by this. We found out that all products, both on-prem and Cloud were affected. Any new licensing of an Oracle EPM product starting May 2017 would no longer include the FR Windows Studio.

Why was this decision made? The truth is that Oracle had already invested a number of resources into the new Financial Reporting Web Studio, released over a year ago. In addition, last December, Oracle reached near full parity between the Windows Studio and Web Studio. Therefore, it just made sense – no more having to support yet another software client tool. And why force customers to install one more thick client when zero footprint strategies have been the direction for many companies for years? Continuing on with the FR Windows Studio does not meet Oracle’s vision of moving towards Cloud and away from thick clients.

However, what does this mean for the customer? For those of you have used the FR Studio desktop client, you are probably aware of some of the drawbacks of this technology: another IT maintenance point for installations, at one point the need for local admin rights to run the software properly, it’s very memory-intensive, and it’s very bandwidth intensive. However, being a Windows client does bring some advantages: easier to navigate in some areas, less clicks to find some features, and being faster in general for developing reports (depending on your internet bandwidth). I will personally miss these advantages.

It’s time to face reality – change has been in the works for years. And that change is finally catching up to the Oracle EPM reporting technologies, which have seemingly sat untouched for far too many years. What is the last major FR update that you can recall?

oracle-statement-of-direction-dm

The very next day, another statement of direction came out. This was for the on-prem EPM reporting product called Disclosure Management. For those of you who have little experience with this reporting solution, it’s an on-prem narrative reporting product that heavily supports XBRL. Therefore, it’s mostly used on the Financial Close & Consolidation side and for regulatory reporting. Those on the Cloud side knew this was announcement was coming at some point. Again, because I’m handcuffed and unable to reproduce Oracle’s statement publicly, I will instead offer the details shared with me directly by one of the Oracle Product Management teams: that although support for DM would not be going away, the tool (from an on-prem perspective) was on its way out. The strategic direction would be Enterprise Performance Reporting Cloud (EPRCS) once XBRL functionality was added to the tool (which is due to be released this calendar year). From what I understand at a high level about DM, EPRCS will be a seriously good replacement technology that handles many of same features, while offering new features.

Those two announcements made a few people pause in their tracks. However, the information wasn’t completely unknown – just released at a time that was strategic. Chronologically speaking, these announcements were released in the middle of a larger EPM reporting shift.

Now let’s take a look at the entire Oracle EPM reporting landscape and absorb all of the little bits of information to piece together the larger puzzle.

Next up – the tool that hasn’t changed drastically in this reporting buffet: Smart View. Oracle has been very smart with this solution (there’s a joke in that statement, I’m sure). The newer versions are backwards compatible with older versions of on-prem. Smart View also works with EPM Cloud technologies. It seems to transcend platforms with ease. It’s a very robust tool that Excel users love. It can handle ad hoc analysis, static reporting, and leverage native features of Excel pretty well. This tool isn’t necessarily part of the shift, but is the rock amongst the other EPM reporting solutions and slides right onto the buffet with no pause in mid step.

And now we come to the new items and features on the buffet.

In summer of 2015, EPRCS made its debut. EPRCS is a cloud-only reporting solution that initially made waves because of its narrative reporting functionality. It’s had a slower start compared to the other EPM Cloud products and understandably so. Customers have been confused on where and how EPRCS fits into the EPM reporting spectrum. I do plan to do an EPRCS series which will cover all of this, but let’s jump ahead to the important details regarding the story I’m telling. In December 2016, EPRCS released a component called Management Reporting. Way more detail on this later in a dedicated post, but this “tool within a tool” looks very similar to the Web Studio version of FR. It not only leverages the same basic reporting objects as WebFR (text, image, grid, and chart), but also uses an overlapping list of text and grid functions. It feels very much like WebFR when it comes to report development, too.

(One of these things feels a lot like the other. Can you tell which product is which?)

About a month after Management Reporting was released (and I had a chance to play with it), I had a chat with my EPRCS Oracle Product Development friends. I was confused. Why would Oracle release an FR adversary in EPRCS? After that chat, the broader strategy of EPRCS really started to sink in. Believe it or not, the goal of Management Reporting is not to replace FR, but to offer static reporting to folks who don’t have FR. EPRCS is meant to be a standalone reporting solution and it doesn’t care if you have EPM as a data source or not. Think about that.

Oracle’s strategy on EPRCS came even more into view when Oracle Analytics Cloud (OAC) was released back in March of 2017. We were told that FR would not be a supported reporting technology, only Smart View and…EPRCS.

And finally, Dodeca. Although I am less familiar with this technology, Tim Tow just recently released an announcement that it is now certified on OAC. Dodeca is a wonderfully fast, amazing spreadsheet add-in technology. And even Dodeca is supporting Cloud. There is something to be said about the reporting tools that support both on-prem and Cloud.

So where does this leave us?

Signs Point to EPRCS

I asked the Oracle Product Management team very direct questions about the future of their reporting strategy in order to better understand how to advise customers on what they should be considering. From an Oracle-only standpoint, the message is clear to me: Smart View and EPRCS are where it’s at. In 2018, this combination of reporting tools will contain the full set of reporting features that Oracle EPM customers are looking for, regardless if you’re in on-prem or Cloud. And just a little side note…Smart View comes with EPRCS because it depends on it.

Smart View is the same Smart View that customers have grown to love, except that it keeps getting better. It comes out of the box at no additional cost with (all?) application-based Oracle EPM solutions. It provides a reporting solution for hybrid deployments (both on-prem and Cloud). Finally, it offers native Excel functionality for those hard-core business users who love the power that Microsoft Office provides.

EPRCS is, in my opinion, the clear strategic reporting tool for Oracle. It supports existing report development in Smart View and Financial Reporting so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It’s also data source agnostic – if you can get your numbers into Excel, EPRCS will use them. It offers narrative reporting capabilities and a place to create highly formatted, static reports. In addition, I’ve been told that EPRCS will have full (or near full) parity with FR sometime in 2018. EPRCS will also support XBRL, in addition to pretty much every single EPM Cloud, BI Cloud, and EPM on-prem technology. EPRCS offers something to Oracle that FR cannot – a brand new product and platform. It’s not built on FR, but something new and better and has a whole development team supporting it. Features that FR customers have been requesting for many years may find their way into this solution, given the new life breathed into this reporting animal. Imagine one reporting solution to rule them all. Although I think this is a stretch, this seems to be the vision. EPRCS is licensed separately, though – the current full retail price and minimum user requirement can be found here.

And just so I don’t forget it…Dodeca, well, is Dodeca. It meets many important needs for customers and has an excellent user base. If you’re going the OAC route, then this tool can join your reporting buffet and offer complementary features.

What have we learned?

  1. The future of Oracle EPM reporting is…hybrid. The future exists in the form of reporting tools that support both on-prem and Cloud user bases. EPRCS is one of those strategic reporting tools and it does happen to be in the Cloud. But it doesn’t force you to report against Cloud data sources if you don’t want to. Add to that some other strategic reporting solutions – Smart View and Dodeca…more tools that work with hybrid deployments.
  2. The future of Oracle EPM reporting is…consolidated. Less is more, finally! Buffet may be going a la carte.
  3. Real development is actually happening with Oracle EPM reporting. Like, real development with new features. In March, EPRCS released scatter and bubble chart types in Management Reporting. This was in addition to stacked bars, polar charts, and radar charts which were already available. When was the last time FR got a new chart type? EPRCS’ feature set has already surpassed FR’s feature set in multiple ways. How exciting!

Finally, I wanted to share a reporting matrix that I’ve been using in my EPRCS presentations for about a year now to help you understand some of the high-level reporting tool differences. This matrix focuses on Oracle EPM reporting technologies only (and will, therefore, not include Dodeca nor BI). Hopefully, it brings more clarity to the Oracle EPM reporting buffet:

Matrix comparisons

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