As a consultant working with Oracle EPM products I regularly see new applications/products being released. Often when these products come out I think, how will this make my clients’ lives easier? How will this make the period close quicker? Is this a solution that is applicable to a medium sized client, or are the only clients that will benefit from this product large multinational companies?
And often it seems my clients are not large enough to justify the solution, or that they don’t have the budget or business need to justify the added expense. In other cases it is that the solution adds complexity to a reasonably straight forward close process, and would extend rather than reduce the period close.
And then at UKOUG Apps14 I saw Supplemental Data Management (SDM).
SDM is the newest addition to the Financial Close Manager suite, and is designed to be a data collection tool and repository for all the tangential financial and non-financial data that supports the main reporting of accounts. In Oracle’s words, SDM is a generic, configurable, integrated data collection system maintained by Finance. There are a number of situations where this could be really helpful. For example:
- Sarbanes Oxley checklist. Fortunately in the UK I have not had to implement Sarbanes Oxley compliant applications very often, but one application I worked on did include Sarbanes Oxley questions for a checklist in the HFM application. This was a hack in HFM with limited functionality and flexibility that could be dealt with better in system designed for the purpose.
- Any item where you need to provide something like the five largest members of a group, for example Investment Details or Capital Lease Commitments.
Oracle is, of course, in the business of selling software licences and to keep that growing it is constantly looking for solutions to complete the various suites of product groups. When looking at the whole Financial Close process it found a gap that I agree needs filling. Oracle analysed the existing approaches that companies were using and found that there was no solution that was robust and flexible enough to recommend.
The survey of current tools came back with:
- Excel Spreadsheets
Typically involves sending out multiple workbooks, usually over email, and then collating different versions of the responses into one version of the truth. It is then often difficult to follow how it was created and provide an audit trail back to the originals.
- This is a very manual processes collecting and tracking the different versions of data.
- There is no workflow control, and monitoring progress is a completely manual process.
- There is no way of effectively measuring the accuracy of the data submitted and this can lead to unreliable data.
- Custom built solution
This can involve the cost of development, both internal and external, and then the associated costs of maintaining a bespoke system that may not have the original developer available.
- This is a solution that is unlikely to be maintainable by resources within the Finance department.
- Unlikely to offer integration with the consolidation system.
- Oracle EPM – HFM and FDM
This approach has some advantages, allowing the import of flat files and then using HFM functionality with enhanced Cell Text to collect non-financial data and the use of Line Item Detail for financial data.
- The functionality is still limited within HFM for collecting data.
- Performance can be impacted by large amounts of data.
- There is limited functionality around calculations and aggregations.
- There is no workflow around the supplemental data collection.
Reporting in all of these solutions is not ideal and Oracle has rightly developed a proper solution for the whole workflow surrounding the collection, process and reporting of this extended data.
Supplemental Data Manager comes with significant improvements to the alternative methods/tools that it is designed to replace.
- Management of the Supplemental Data and process
- Can be configured to collect financial and non-financial data.
- Facilitates data validation and calculation to ensure data integrity and correct aggregation of data.
- Users can enable a flexible approval process that can be different for different data sets.
- Complete integration to HFM from within the Workspace
- Data integration for processing and reporting.
- Metadata integration for initial configuration.
- Users can post to HFM from within SDM at base or aggregated levels, and then from HFM drill back to the SDM schedules.
- Integration with Smart View
- Input and reporting from within Smart View.
- Preconfigured Dashboards/Reporting
- There is work flow status and data reporting as a dashboard within SDM.
- Also included is flexible transactional reporting.
Two important things to note, the security settings are complementary to the existing EPM security, so authentication is required and data is protected. Data can be collected in local currency and the data will be translated to the reporting currency.
SDM does some very clever things to help users in the configuration and processing of the data. SDM has a separate database from HFM, and once the mapping is set up the HFM API is called to push the data into HFM. For importing the metadata from HFM an integration is created and it is then possible to select which attributes of the metadata to import. There is also some clever functionality within the data collection, calculation logic in the attributes. This includes some standard calculations and the facility to create your own calculations. This will afford great flexibility in capturing and reporting the data at the level and in the format required to meet reporting requirements.
Oracle have provided the basis for a standard workflow in SDM, and I would imagine that this will be fleshed out in the documentation accompanies the release.
- Data Sets and Forms
Create the forms based on the data sets that are to be collected. These data sets can be associated with imported dimensions from HFM, or completely independent.
The forms have flexible layouts and form the basis of the workflow with associated time lines and tasks like Prepare, Review and Submit.
- Data Collection Period – Control the period for the data entry.
- Email Notifications – SDM can automate sending out reminders to submit data.
- Preparation – Collect and submit, attach supporting documentation. Excel or web based input.
- Review – Review and approve the data.
- Integrator – Push the summarised data into HFM
- Late Notices – Sent to users who have not submitted only, and these notifications will continue until the work is complete.
- Integrations – Push the data to HFM, and drill back from HFM to SDM.
- See the status of data collection forms in preset dashboards
- Summary of the collected data with automatically configured filters that adapt to the data being shown
- You can export the data to Excel
- Real-time dashboards to see summaries of the statuses or data
- Configurable reporting.
The demonstration that Oracle provided at Apps14 showed a smooth configuration and processing of the data. This is a tool that I am really looking forward to getting to grips with, and as soon as 126.96.36.199 is released I will be downloading the files needed to install SDM. As soon as I have some hands on experience with the software I will do a follow up post to show the functionality as it works.
Is anyone else looking forward to SDM? I’d love to see your comments.