In my previous post, I reviewed content from our September 2020 webinar entitled, “Inflection Point: Roadmap Considerations for Hyperion Financial Management (HFM) Customers.” We highlighted roadmap considerations and discussed why 2021 is an important milestone for the Hyperion world. The post concludes with a discussion on why we recommend that all customers should investigate OneStream as a strategic, next generation CPM platform to replace Hyperion. In this post, I continue the conversation with examples of the benefits our customers have realized as a result of migrating from HFM to OneStream.
Hyperion vs OneStream
We found that our ability to innovate has been substantially increased by leveraging the OneStream platform. We have also been able to solve for more complex requirements than we could with HFM. In addition, we have found that the OneStream platform is generally more flexible than HFM. In fact, in several cases, we have been able to more thoroughly address customer requirements directly in the solution versus work-arounds or manual steps. Lastly, OneStream provides a more comprehensive “toolbox” within the platform.
So, what does this mean? Having more functionality or “tools” to work with allows us to build better solutions to match a customer’s needs. We can configure the software to fit the customer rather than the customer changing to fit the software. Here’s an example. Without getting too technical, OneStream has a relational database component, which is tremendously helpful with certain data sets that do not lend themselves to being stored in a cube. The Oracle Cloud modules rely largely on storing data in cube structures, which introduces limitations. So, the key takeaway here is that customers receive the maximum “art of the possible” enabled by a flexible solution, and they are equipped with the best toolkit to build a solid foundation.
Now let’s discuss some examples.
Condensed Solution Footprint
At Finit, we have successfully taken several complex multi-application Oracle Hyperion deployments and collapsed them into a single OneStream application. Yes. This really is possible!
These deployments were labor intensive, and they involved extensive data movement between applications. In addition, some companies struggled with having their applications spread across separate environments, and some were running different versions of the same software.
As you can imagine, collapsing all of these applications into one provides a multitude of benefits with respect to the level of effort and amount of resources needed to maintain environments and reconcile data. Bringing the data together in this manner is much easier for the users to navigate and provides more transparency. This capability alone is a game changer in the Hyperion world.
Finit helped one of the largest private organizations in the U.S. collapse 10 HFM applications into one Corporate application. One of the key features built into OneStream that made this possible is Extensible Dimensionality. This feature makes it possible to accommodate metadata needs for “Corporate”, which may differ from the metadata needs at the business unit level. In the HFM world, multiple applications are often built because of this requirement, and HFM does not accommodate metadata needs the way Extensible Dimensionality in OneStream does – in a way that a corporate finance team truly needs.
Extensible Dimensionality is also instrumental in uniting Financial Consolidation and FP&A processes in the same application. Very often, the level of detail used when an organization does planning is very different from the level of detail applied to capturing actuals. In the HFM world, many companies actually tried to avoid implementing Hyperion Planning by using HFM as a collection point for plan data. This fell apart quickly when plan data was at a higher or lower level than the actuals. To make the problem worse, many organizations added “dummy” accounts to the chart of accounts (because data could not be loaded to a parent account) so they could load budget data that was at a higher level than actuals. Or, they simply picked a lower level of account to load the plan, which was confusing and misleading to users.
On the flip side, when customers did add Hyperion Planning, it usually led to the creation of multiple Planning applications. This is where we’ve really seen some complex data integration happening! In fact, we just kicked off a project with a customer who has suffered through this for many years – 4 Planning applications and 1 large Essbase sales forecasting application. They are elated to finally bring this all into one application.
Increased Level of Detail
It is common for HFM customers to tell us the chart of accounts in their application is too high-level, especially when it was deployed during the first few years when HFM was released. Early on, there were sizing considerations and we leaned toward a smaller chart of accounts to ensure performance was good. Over time, HFM became much more performant so that later deployments often have a more detailed chart of accounts and more dimensions. Other common challenges faced by customers include no cost center detail and no visibility to source accounts that map into HFM (everyone was not licensed to use FDM); and, the chart of accounts was based on the Corporate view and did not support the business units’ needs. Lastly, in order to produce the book of reports for senior management, Finance had to merge HFM reports with other data sources or reports generated from a data warehouse or ERP.
We have deployed several options to overcome these challenges in OneStream. Most often, the OneStream application we build has more detail than HFM had – either the chart of accounts is expanded, cost center is added, and/or the dimensionality is expanded in some manner. Drill-through to source data is out-of-the-box in OneStream, so all users can see the original data that was loaded. Additionally, we can connect OneStream to other data sources and produce reports and dashboards which can be seamlessly combined with the traditional financial reports that were produced out of HFM. We’ve also enabled drill-back to external data sources to provide visibility to additional detail that supports a value in OneStream.
One example I would like to highlight is with a customer who has presented at SPLASH and has also been a popular reference for OneStream and Finit. For this customer, we built a OneStream application to address the reporting needs of both Corporate and their business units. It was Extensible Dimensionality again, for the win! This organization uses both SAP and JDE as their main ERP systems. We extended the chart of accounts and added the SAP chart detail and the JDE chart detail. Each group could see only their accounts, so this did not add confusion or complexity for end users. In addition, drill-back to SAP BI HANA was enabled to provide access to supporting ERP detail.
Guided End-user Process and Workflow
Although HFM, FDM, and FCM offered some level of process management, most HFM customers do not have fully systemized processes for managing the consolidation process. In addition, understanding status of the end-to-end process could require a login to multiple Hyperion applications. Sign-off on data was often more manual, and process documentation was used to guide end-users on the tasks they needed to complete. This is an area where, in OneStream, we see a huge leap forward with better process management. In addition, system-driven controls are incorporated. OneStream likes to describe workflow as each user or group of users having their own swim lane. They manage progress through their lane, but they are part of a larger pool where everyone is moving toward the same end goal.
OneStream offers robust workflow capabilities that can be leveraged to provide a more guided experience for end-users that is tailored to the organization’s defined process. This concept is a cornerstone of OneStream. Workflows are highly configurable and can incorporate such processes as data entry for supplemental data, I/C reconciliation with applicable partners, entry of variance explanations, journals, certification questions, and more. Most, if not all of our OneStream customers who migrated from HFM, saw huge benefits in this area, along with a significant improvement over their old process. OneStream also offers the Task Manager MarketPlace solution. This tool can be deployed in concert with workflow to facilitate managing the overall close process and other processes such as FP&A. Activities that occur outside of OneStream can be tracked, as well. Task Manager provides end-users an executive style dashboard to easily determine status of close increasing communication and avoidance of communicating incomplete data. Did we mention this integrates with email for follow-ups!
Enhanced Data Quality and Tighter Integration
Another common issue we hear from HFM customers is that they continually struggle with data quality. Similar to process management, there were components of FDM and HFM that did provide the ability to configure data quality checks. However, it was not seamless, and it was more error-message driven than if it were incorporated into an end-to-end process. As such, we have seen varying levels of what was configured in the existing applications.
Many customers resorted to building out massive Excel worksheets to check the data and used email and phone calls to resolve issues. Given the global nature of most companies using HFM, different time zones or working hours could make time resolve issues even longer. For data loads, most HFM customers we’ve worked with were using flat files. Although Oracle did ultimately provide the ability to do some level of direct connections with FDM, this feature was not widely adopted. Lastly, we have seen several customers who struggled with long load times for larger data files.
Fundamentally, OneStream provides much better capabilities for enhanced data quality and tighter integration because if its ability to incorporate all data quality checks into a single workflow. Specific validation checks can be incorporated depending on which step of the workflow an end-user is in. Beginning with the data load, confirmation rules can be set up to check the data as it comes in and either warn the user or prevent the user from moving forward until the issue is resolved. Once the data is in the system, validations that align with the type of activity being conducted can be set up.
For example, if an end-user is entering data for cash flow roll-forward and there is a reconciliation that needs to occur, it can happen as part of this task. Sign-off for intercompany review can’t be done until everything is reconciled based on the parameters set up in the system. Variances that are greater than a certain threshold need to be explained. Confirmation rules on certification workflows can highlight specific accounts for activity and require answers to questions before certification can be completed. I could go on and on here… you get the idea.
Finally, you can break free from flat files! The direct connect feature (to bring data into OneStream) really works, and most customers elect to use direct connect in some capacity. Your internal audit team will love it.
Tailored Reporting Strategy
Ok, flashback to 201x. You are sitting in room viewing an HFM demo. Look at the amazing formatted reports. One version of the truth, they say. No one will have to build out their own Excel reports anymore.
Fast forward to today.
Most customers using HFM are largely using the Excel add-on reports and have abandoned wide adoption of the financial reporting report writer. Sound familiar?
To be fair, the report writer did work but it was cumbersome to manage.
Dashboards anyone? Oracle tried to get some dashboarding capabilities for HFM but it never really panned out. We’ve worked with companies who exported their data and loaded it into tools like CXO Cockpit or BI tools like Tableau or Qlik. There was a time lag from the time data was finalized and loaded to the tools. So, the dashboards were really more “after the fact” than a live-view of HFM data during the close. The effort involved with delivering a reporting strategy on top of HFM to address the use cases across the organization wasn’t easy, and this ultimately resulted in separate tools being introduced.
OneStream enables organizations to create a defined report delivery strategy that promotes better discipline with standard reports and starting points for ad hoc analysis. This strategy can tailor the information delivery mechanism to specific user types – dashboards, dynamic or static formatted reports, Excel add-in reports, and Excel ad hoc analysis. Cube views are defined as the basis for all types of reports or presentation of information, and they provide reusability and less maintenance. Lastly, the ability to schedule and distribute reports to the server or via email is so much easier with OneStream’s extensible documents and Parcel Service!
For those of you that were Hyperion Enterprise customers prior to HFM, row sets and column sets are back! In OneStream, row sets and column sets are defined once and then used across reports. This is a huge time saver. Finally, OneStream provides dashboarding capabilities right in the system, so you do not need to move the data. There is no more worrying about moving and reconciling the data, recreating security on the data, or trying to build out financial intelligence that is not inherent in a BI tool. This is a big deal. Trust me!
Improved Analysis Capabilities
Ok, this is getting long, so let’s wrap up with a discussion on analysis capabilities.
In the beginning of the blog I mentioned that OneStream has enabled us, as a consulting firm, to be more innovative with the solutions we deliver. This really rings true when it comes to analysis capabilities.
In the webinar, we talked about the following on the topic of analysis capabilities:
- Week-based analysis and flash reporting
- Cash flow analysis
- Intercompany reconciliation
- Variance analysis with commentary
Week-based reporting has been a popular topic, especially with companies that have week-based fiscal year calendars. This also came up with cash forecasting this year as many companies needed to do a daily or weekly cash forecast in order to tightly manage cash during the pandemic. Companies often do weekly sales flash reporting, as well. This is not something that could be done in HFM because it would have required setting up the time dimension for all data based on weeks. In OneStream, you can build out week-based reporting that can co-exist with traditional monthly data collection needed for consolidation and planning. We have built out week-based analysis in OneStream for multiple use cases and we have invested time in developing the best techniques/design principles based on requirements. I have no doubt that our Finit consultants are leading in the industry in this area!
We invested quite a bit of time with our HFM customers on cash flow and intercompany reconciliation solutions. In OneStream, we have been able to take cash flow and intercompany reconciliation to the next level. Although the capabilities existed, there are many HFM customers that were never able to get a working cash flow deployed. Or, it was set up and then abandoned due to turnover with system admins and knowledge transfer was lost. With respect to intercompany, we have been able to expand the capabilities within OneStream to accommodate matching at different levels or the ability to incorporate other dimensions into the elimination process.
Variance commentary is a popular topic, as well. We often find that companies use Excel spreadsheets to extract the data from HFM and then populate the variance comments. These Excel spreadsheets are then stored in a central repository like Sharepoint. Sound familiar? Well, not only does OneStream provide the ability to enter comments, it also can aggregate comments so you can see all comments at a parent level. In addition, rules can be set up to require comments under certain conditions and it can be incorporated right into the workflow! Yes, it rocks!
Our talented team of consultants genuinely enjoys crafting solutions to solve customers’ unique challenges, especially those that involve complex requirements. As you have seen from the examples shared here, OneStream helps us take our innovation game to the next level. OneStream is generally more flexible than HFM. It provides a more comprehensive toolbox. In several cases, we have been able to more thoroughly address customer requirements directly in the solution versus work-arounds that risk-prone during upgrades or manual steps. And, perhaps most importantly, we have seen customers migrate from HFM to OneStream and realize substantial and measurable benefits.
The bottom line is this. Before you make a decision about your CPM roadmap, I recommend that you look closely at OneStream
Hopefully this post has demonstrated the potential benefits that your company can realize by moving from HFM to OneStream. Please reach out with questions. We can also provide more customer case studies based on specific areas or topics.
Do you have questions about your roadmap or would you like to learn more about migrating from HFM to OneStream? Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.