Oracle Analytics Cloud-EPM Cloud Direct Connect!

Side note: Back in 2020 I was invited to be a guest presenter for the Analytics and Data Oracle User Community. I was pretty honored to be part of their December techcast – I was given the white glove treatment during prep, execution, and even now after this presentation! My topic was the new OAC-EPM Cloud Direct Connection. The presentation topic was one that my buddy Wayne Van Sluys originally tested and presented last year, with several EPM co-presenters, including myself. Then I rearchitected the content to cater to the Analytics audience. Presenting this topic was a grand time (and thanks to Roger and Edelweiss for the very warm introductions!), and I’m very happy that I participated!

Below is a summary of the session in written format (kudos to the Oracle team for providing the session in text), and here is a direct link to a replay of the techcast. Enjoy!

You Complete Me: The Long Awaited Union of Oracle EPM & Analytics Cloud

In challenging financial and organizational times, a deep cross-enterprise financial snapshot is essential to understanding where you are. And accurate, data-driven modeling and forecasting is mission-critical to see where you’re going, and how to best get there.

This is where EPM comes in. In this post, we’ll drill down into what EPM is and where it fits in with the rest of your enterprise tools. And we’ll also take a look at how the marriage of Oracle Analytics with EPM benefits us all. 

So, What is EPM? 

EPM stands for Enterprise Performance Management and includes the close cycle consolidating general ledger data, budgeting and forecasting, profitability analysis, modeling scenarios, account reconciliations, governance, and all of the reporting that goes with it. Essentially, EPM is used by finance and accounting teams that work with data to understand where the enterprise has been, and attempt to forecast and model where it’s headed. 

ERP & EPM: What’s the Difference?

In Oracle, EPM formally falls under the ERP umbrella. And while it’s a complementary technology stack, ERP and EPM are just not the same thing. 

ERP systems are meant to host lots and lots of transactional data, usually related to the general ledger and accounting close process. Because of the size of ERPs and the types of data stored there, from an internal management standpoint, it’s difficult to report on and analyze portions of that data quickly. In addition, ERPs do a really good job of telling you what has already happened at an organization, but don’t necessarily give you the tools or level of detail for predicting the future.

Initially, EPM was used for things like scenario planning, forecasting, modeling, financial consolidation close, and reporting and analytics. Yet over time, as data and metadata have grown exponentially and business management has evolved, additional processes and technologies were created – data governance, account reconciliations between systems, cost and profitability management, and more.

Below you can see what Oracle EPM Cloud and Analytics looks like today – and how, together, they cover the full gamut of EPM processes: 

Timeline

Description automatically generated with medium confidence

EPM & Essbase

EPM has, of course, some overlaps with other technologies like Essbase. When we talk about connecting to EPM Cloud products – like planning or financial consolidation and close – we’re really talking about connecting to Essbase, which is the primary data store for many of these applications. You can think of most EPM Cloud products as an Essbase database, with interfaces built on top of it to facilitate specific EPM processes and with added financial calculation intelligence built in. 

It’s important to note that Essbase is a separately licensed product within the Oracle database group. Essbase databases are groupings of related hierarchies, otherwise known as dimensions, that define and organize the data stored within them. They are often called cubes, and may include calculations for variances, ratios, and allocations. They’re great at creating data marts that quickly calculate and report on data. Many end-users use an Excel add-in to access the data, and they do this not through written queries, but by typing in the exact intersection of data they want. 

What About Data Visualizations?

The right data visualization solution can help EPM customers to see connections between their data – going beyond grids and spreadsheets of numbers to something more meaningful, seeing shifts in data faster, bringing actionable insights to the surface, and adding context to EPM data. This is especially important now for many finance and accounting departments as we continue to navigate COVID and the economic impacts of quarantine. 

Within Oracle, data visualization is offered in multiple flavors, and platforms, so customers of both EPM and analytics can sample this awesome way of consuming data. Oracle EPM Cloud comes with its own visualizations called dashboards. These dashboards offer a guided visualization through key business data related to a specific business process. Although they’re created by administrators and then assigned to users, the users do have the ability to interact with charts, drill down within the cube, submit data, and comment on the data. 

In September of 2020, Oracle released a major update to EPM Cloud dashboards. This 2.0 release provides better and more powerful visualizations that will allow the EPM Cloud platform to do more, and users to see data differently. Some notable new visualizations in this release include ring gages, pyramids, spark charts, and geo maps. And in addition, the construct of these dashboards is no longer limited to forms, custom text, and webpages for data sources.

Integration is Easy with Direct Connect

If an EPM customer wants to marry the two technology stacks, what options exist for them today? There’s good news on this front: since September of 2020, Oracle EPM Cloud has allowed for Direct Connect.

The configuration of Direct Connect from Oracle Analytics to Oracle EPM Cloud is an easy, three-step process. The Direct Connect method provides multiple benefits over others, including utilizing real EPM security due to the Direct Connect to EPM Cloud. With no need to model in the RPD, the use of live connections decreases the need to duplicate data, and enhances metadata options like exposing various member properties, which are useful to end-users when going against EPM Cloud data sources.

Key Takeaways

So, what are the three key takeaways from the marriage of Oracle EPM Cloud and Oracle Analytics? 

  1. Direct Connect is here. For EPM customers who need more robust data visualization capabilities in a tool like Oracle Analytics, there are now better options for directly connecting EPM Cloud data sources. 
  1. Native dashboards are here. EPM Cloud does have its own set of dashboards, so Oracle EPM Cloud customers who do not have the budget for an additional platform can have a dashboard-like solution. 
  1. Data visualization is here. Integrating data visualization against EPM Cloud is an exciting turn for power users and data addicts who want to see their data differently by creating their own dashboards. 

Together Oracle EPM Cloud and Oracle Analytics Cloud provide context to data and help customers visualize the EPM story. And it’s just going to get better over time! To learn more, and see some hands-on samples, please watch the companion webinar to this blog here.

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