December 15, 2007

Iowa Hyperion User Group

I'm currently freezing in the arctic tundra euphemistically referred to as "Des Moines, Iowa in mid-December." Des Moines just went through an ice storm. While ice storms are very sad and tragic (people die), I have to admit that ice storms make for gorgeous scenery. All the trees look like they've been dipped in glass.

I flew into Des Moines last night from Dallas (via Austin and Chicago). The temperature this morning was 12 degrees: I checked the weather in the USA Today, and it's colder right now in Des Moines than it is in Anchorage, Alaska. How stupid am I? Instead of a thick winter parka, I brought a polyester hoodie. Polyester hoodies are for staying warm during light summer breezes not The Great Ice Storm of Ought Seven.

So why am I in Des Moines on the 14th of December? I'm one of the two presenters at the Iowa Hyperion User Group. The keynote presenter (question: why am I never the keynote?) is John O'Rourke who's one of the Senior Directors of Hyperion at Oracle. He was at Hyperion for years and on a good note, made the jump to Oracle.

There are about forty people here (mostly clients, hurrah) which is impressive considering most people are surprised when they find out there's an Iowa Hyperion User Group at all. Every one of these people seems to be dressed more warmly than I am. Apparently, every one of these people is smarter than I am.

John O'Rourke's presentation is on the Hyperion Roadmap going forward. John acknowledged that the roadmap he's presenting is virtually identical to what was presented at OpenWorld. Interestingly, John isn't actually here in person. He's back East and his flight to Des Moines (via St. Louis) was cancelled. As such, he's doing the keynote via webcast. It's funny to me to think that I traveled to Iowa to watch a webcast. The audio is actually fairly high quality and the slides are coming across well. He started off by taking a poll of how many people in the room went to OpenWorld. About ten people raised their hands which, of course, John couldn't see. Giggle.

The start of his presentation covered the same overall "where does Hyperion fit into Oracle" information that we've all seen before. One thing I'm not sure I've written about before is that Oracle's new official policy is that Essbase is not a database. This is surprising considering that for the last 15 years, everyone has said that Essbase is a database. The problem is that Oracle officially only has one database (the main Oracle relational database). So what is Essbase? It's not clear, but in the EPM diagram, it's part of the Business Intelligence Foundation. I've heard it referred as a server that delivers multi-dimensional data, so I guess it's a "Multi-dimensional server?" I'll have to get my head around that one.

Oracle has three milestones for product integration with Hyperion. The first milestone is "Align and Certify" which was already in the 9.3.1 release. One of the great things that Oracle did in 9.3.1 was to remove the license server. They also did rebranding (putting the Oracle name everywhere) as part of the Align & Certify initiative. The only thing they haven't done yet is to localize Hyperion to the tons of languages that

The second milestone is "Unify & Integrate" which is due in the first and second quarters in 2008 (most likely in the Kennedy/9.5 release of Hyperion). Some of the goals of this milestone are:

- Common user interface & workspace

- Common identity management

- Common application server

- Common data integration

- Common data access & search

- Interoperability across BI foundation

- Integrated access to applications

The third milestone is "Extend & Evolve." This will bring together the Hyperion applications with some of the other Oracle products like Retek, Siebel, Oracle ERP, and so forth.

John talked about some of the goals for what they're now calling "Financial Performance Management" (Planning, HFM, Strategic Finance, etc.). One of their goals for these products is to actually increase the integration with SAP R/3 and SAP BW. This is not unexpected, but it's nice to see it in print. John also announced that the intention is to migrate users of other Oracle products (like Oracle Financial Analyzer, PeopleSoft EPM or Oracle consolidations) to the superior Hyperion products. For example, those using PeopleSoft EPM should be migrating to Hyperion Planning. They're not going to insist on it, but it's clear that future development of budgeting functionality, for instance, will be focused on Hyperion Planning. Likewise, financial consolidation will be concentrated on the Hyperion Financial Management product. Tony (Hyperion's Iowa Account Manager who's the only one in the room, from what I can tell, from Oracle) said that the migration will be a credit towards Hyperion (not a one-for-one replacement) and also pointed out that there's not a migration path. In other words, it's a reinstallation because there's no tool to migrate say, Oracle Financial Analyzer to Essbase (or HFM).

Specific goals for HFM in 9.5 and beyond include:

- 64-bit platform support

- EPM Architect enhancements

o Common calc manager (integrated with Hyperion Planning)

o Lifecycle management

- Reporting accelerator

- Delegated user management and administration

- Better Oracle platform integration including drill-back to the underlying transactional systems

Goals for Hyperion Planning in 2008 include:

- EPM Architect enhancements (same as HFM)

o Common calc manager (integrated with Hyperion Planning)

o Lifecycle management

- Planning for banking

- Delegated user management and administration

- Oracle platform integration

John talked about some of the goals for Hyperion Strategic Finance which include integration with Smart View as well as integration with Hyperion's Crystal Ball acquisition for predictive analysis. Performance Scorecard will also be integrated with Smart View.

The new Hyperion Profitability Application got mentioned again. As many have already heard, it lets a user analyze profitability (hence the catchy name) with support for cost management, activity based costing, traceability maps, and more). One thing I learned about it that I didn't know before is that the primary data store for this application is Essbase. It's currently in beta and should be released in the spring of 2008. It looks a lot like Hyperion Planning and since it uses Essbase, you can access the data with Web Analysis, Financial Reporting, and so forth.

There were a few slides on the future of Essbase which was covered in more detail at OpenWorld. John concluded with a call for people to attend COLLABORATE 2008 in April, 2008. He feels that there will be 80-100 presentations (down from the 150 previously hoped for) with 1/3 of those being delivered from Oracle and the rest from customers and partners. He also mentioned that COLLABORATE is extending a discount to Hyperion clients in the hopes of getting 1,000+ people to the conference; the price should be about $975 per person.

Someone asked about the future of Hyperion Enterprise. Per Tony, Oracle's direction is to push people to HFM. Hyperion Enterprise is going to be continued to be supported and enhanced, though, including Smart View against Enterprise in 2008.

I'm actually giving two presentations (live an in-person, unlike my snowed in buddy, John O'Rourke). One is a repeat of one I've delivered a lot in 2007, "Busting System 9 Migration Myths," which is basically an episode of Mythbusters but with all the myths being Hyperion System 9 specific. It's a lot of fun and includes video clips from the TV show. Normally, I deliver it with my fellow Mythbuster, Eduardo Quiroz (who's also the co-founder of interRel), but today, I'm flying solo since Eduardo recognized that the presentation was in Des Moines in December. My second presentation is on "Best Practices in Reporting & Analysis."

I just delivered my two presentations (with a break in the middle so I could wake up the sleeping attendees). If anyone wants a copy, send an e-mail to and specify which presentation you want. Pioneer Hi-Bred (a division of DuPont) is hosting this event and they've brought lunch in. I'm going to go hunt down some vegetarian food (oh, the irony), network a bit, and then head to the airport for the flight back to Dallas.

This may end up being my last blog entry for the year, because I don't think I have anything interesting planned for the remainder of 2007. May your 2008 be better than your 2007!

December 11, 2007

Hyperion Town Hall - Houston

I'm at the Alden Hotel in Houston, Texas today attending an Oracle sponsored event called "Hyperion Town Hall."  Basically, they're supposed to talk about the Oracle acquisition of Hyperion.  Here's the agenda:

- Welcome

- Integration Strategy & Roadmap

- Customer Speaker (University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston)

- Question and Answer

- Networking Session

There is some networking time before the agenda above.  From what I can tell, most of the crowd is either Oracle (former Hyperion) or partners.  Every partner has at least two people (we have three including me).  Having a one-to-one ratio of partners and clients makes for some odd networking situations.  There's a lot of partners talking to partners about partnering.  Observing the forced niceties is making giggle on the inside.

                "Hi, My Dreaded Competition.  What's a nice guy like you doing in a place like this?"

                "Well as I live and breathe, if isn't That Guy I Hate With A Passion!  How the heck have you been?  Hope you haven't lost your arms in a trash compactor accident!"

                "No, of course not, I made sure to stand way back as I pushed your mother in.  I'm kidding of course."

                "Oh, you always were the quick wit.  Well, I guess I better move on and talk to someone with a personality, um, I mean the potential to get me revenue."

                "I completely understand: you're not getting any younger, you know."

The main speaker was Ken Hohenstein, RVP of Southern EPM (over John Hernandez who's the regional EPM manager over Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas).  I get along pretty well with Ken on a personal level, but he can be kind of a dry presenter (though that may be due to the dryness of the material too).  He could crack a joke once in a while.

Most of the presentation was pretty dry: the same slides I've seen before.  There's an interesting point on retention post-acquisition: 98% of the development staff joined Oracle and 95% of sales, support, and consulting made the move as well.  I'm thrilled about the development retention.  Consulting?  Not so much.

He talked some about the leadership of the EPM/BI Leadership.  John Kopcke is now SVP of Performance Management and Business Intelligence.  Rich Clayton is now VP of BI and Performance Management Marketing.   Both of those guys are in Product Strategy.  Robert Gersten is in Product Development as SVP of Development of Performance Management and BI.  I think they just said that he's now in charge of 2,000 developers.  Wow.

Ken talked about support for a bit.  One of the more surprising things is that all standard-level and Enterprise-level support clients have been migrated (at apparently, no charge) to Oracle Premier Support on December 1, 2007.  This means that if a Hyperion client was on standard support (meaning only 8 hours per day support, 5 days per week).

One of Mr. Hohenstein's final slides was on the conferences replacing Hyperion Solutions (may she rest in peace).  COLLABORATE 2008 is in Denver from April 13-17.  This is the one put on by the user groups.  They're trying to get more Hyperion presentations at COLLABORATE, and I think it should have 50-100 Hyperion presentations.  OpenWorld 2008 is September 21-25th.  God, I hope they improve the Hyperion content, but I guess I've written about that one to death.

Jay White, President of the South Texas Hyperion User's Group (STxHUG), got up to speak next.  He thanked Oracle for picking up his valet parking and US-Analytics for bribing people (or as Jay put it "donating the door prizes").  He spoke for about 15 minutes, but none is much relevant to those outside of Houston, so I won't repeat it.  At the conclusion of his section, he did comment on interRel's "Hyperion Solutions Road Trip to the South" we held back in August.  He praised our game show (as he put it "Business Intelligence Jeopardy") and said that we must have more money than Oracle to put that event on.  I thought that was pretty darned funny.

The next speaker was Rich Clayton, VP of stuff (see above), talking about the EPM Product Strategy and Roadmap.  He started off by mentioning that Smart View is being placed on top of Hyperion Enterprise which is interesting, because I thought that Enterprise wasn't long for this world.  I'm still not convinced it's staying around, but this is at least a sign that it's not dead already.

Rich had a lot of slides that again, I've seen before on the growth in reporting, analytics, and such.  I'd blog them, but I'm worried that while typing in the content of the slides, I might bore myself into a coma.  Some of the content (specifically around Essbase) was the same as the Future of Essbase presentation from OpenWorld.  Here's what's new:

·         HFM will have enhanced XBRL support.  HFM will also allow journals and adjustments to go back into the underlying ERP (too cool).

·         Financial Reporting will allow annotations to be added to a report.  This could be quite helpful for variance analysis ("you missed your budget: explain yourself, man!").

·         Hyperion will be linked to Oracle E-Business Suite to allow drill-down and account analysis to underlying ERP data (in PeopleSoft, Oracle financial ledgers, etc.) via Hyperion Financial Data Quality Management. 

·         Planning will have a new module to do "Strategic Operational Planning."  I think that means more detail-oriented planning beyond the financial space (like manufacturing detail).

·         Hyperion Profitability Management is being released sometime in 2008.  I haven't seen a demo of this, so I don't know much more beyond the title.  It's apparently going to let a user look at a Profit & Loss statement and have visibility to where all the numbers came from (which were direct and which were allocated).  When I actually see this one live, I'll write more on it.

·         Calculation Manager is the integrated method for writing calculations across all Hyperion products.  It should be in 9.5, but he admits that it will take 2 or 3 releases to get all the kinks worked out.

·         Simplified installation and configuration should be coming in 9.5 (formerly known as Kennedy).

·         Lifecycle Management Services in 9.5 allows administrators to move Hyperion applications from development to production.  It's a retooling of the old Hyperion Hub product, from what I can tell.

·         There are about 75 new features in 9.5 in the old BI+ products (Interactive Reporting, Web Analysis, Financial Reporting, SQR Production Reporting).   The only one that I was able to read (in 3 point font) was that Interactive Reporting in 9.5 will have prettier charts.

·         Visual Explorer will have predictive visualization sometime in 2008.

He said that 9.5 is scheduled for release in May of 2008.  Well, that's targeted, but officially it's sometime in 2008.  Knowing what I know about the beta schedule for 9.5, I think that May-June of 2008 is realistic.

The chairs they have us sitting in are horrible.  I may take a Blog Break so I don't get deep vein thrombosis.  I lost feeling in my legs about an hour ago…

The customer presentation from Jerry Jackson of UTMB (Univ. Texas Medical Branch) was about how they converted an Essbase cube from block storage to aggregate storage.  Considering how marketing-oriented the earlier material was, the technical nature of this presentation was jarring.  Also, the speaker's microphone was set at zero, so no one could hear him.  I was in the back row, so not could I not hear him: I was too far away to read lips.  I did read his slides.  One slide I did enjoy the title of said "18 Dimensions is Not Enough" which explained why they needed to expand from 18 to 24 dimensions to do their financial reporting.  I find this shocking since the dimensionality on financial reporting cubes tends to be much smaller (in the 5-9 dimension range).

Jerry's presentation wasn't nearly as, um, technical as the second presentation from one of the IT people at UTMB.  The topic was "Accessing Stored Procedures [in Oracle] Using Interactive Reporting."  I found the looks on the sales people comical when he started showing stored procedure code.

At the conclusion of the event was some drawing of door prizes.  I may be mistaken, but I think all three prizes were won by employees of UTMB.  This is not surprising since UTMB brought the largest contingent (I guess, because they were speaking?).

I am supposed to go to the Hyperion Town Hall in Dallas tomorrow.  Based on the assumption that tomorrow's content will be quite similar to today's, I think I'm going to skip it.