April 17, 2008

Collaborate 08 Hyperion Track - Thursday

Today was the last day of Collaborate. I went to the continental breakfast this morning. The blueberry bagel tasted like, well, perfume, to be honest. While I don't much like eating perfume, I was able to rub the bagel on my shirt collar and now I spell like a department store makeup counter. I bought a strawberry banana smoothie that was actually tasty though it separated into weird red and white floating things after about 10 minutes. Smoothies shouldn't separate.

My only presentation of the day was in room 302, an area I had not previously even visited. My presentation was an encore of the previous "Financial Reporting Tips & Tricks" session in which they had to close the doors 10-15 minutes before the start due to fire codes. The only notice of the presentation encore time was in the addendum pamphlet handed out on-site.

I watched the door as people came in expecting it to be jammed with people I'd seen at my other presentations. To my surprise, there were 50+ people that I had definitely never seen before. At the start time, there were over 100 people in the room. I asked how many of them used the Hyperion Financial Reporting or Hyperion Reports products. Fewer than 10 people raised their hands. I then realized that the title "Financial Reporting Tips, Tricks, and Best Practices" might be misconstrued as a presentation on financial reporting in general and not the product Hyperion Financial Reporting.

I calmly explained to the room that this was going to be an hour of optimization tips on the specific Hyperion product and the majority of the room began to look really uncomfortable. I then told the room that rather than be bored for an entire hour, I'd be totally okay if those not using Hyperion left. A couple of people left and then I said, "no, seriously. I'm not going to be offended at all. It would bother me more if you stayed and wrote horrible things on the review form." Relieved, all but 8 people walked out.

I asked the 8 people to all come up front by me, and I had probably my second most enjoyable presentation of the conference (after the Essbase Guru Panel). It was very interactive. People just asked their questions aloud as we went along (without even raising their hands, which just showed how comfortable we all were) and it turned into a one hour Hyperion Reports training class. Thank you to all my 8 attendees!

After the presentation, I went back to the Hyatt for some meetings with some other Collaborate attendees. I had a nice discussion by the Oracle Bookstore with John Brkopac and Rich Clayton (both in management in Oracle Product Marketing) about the changes going on with Hyperion within Oracle. Suffice to say that things are changing rapidly and sales are accelerating. Speaking from the experience of owning half of a Hyperion consulting firm, there's no reason.for anyone who's worth her salt in Hyperion to be out of work.

I'm relieved that the conference is over. I'm back in my hotel room, and I think I'll take a nice long nap before I head out for a relaxing dinner with the interRel people who haven't flown back yet.

[Addendum from May 6, 2008] I wrote the above entry back on April 17. I just didn't remember, in my exhaustion-addled state, to post it. As such, I'm going to back post this to April 17 so it's with the rest of my Collaborate entries.

Collaborate 08 - Mark Rittman's Blog

Mark Rittman has a very nice blog (he's quite the wordsmith) and since he's in Denver for Collaborate (flew over from the UK), he's blogging about Collaborate all week too. He attended my "How Essbase Thinks" presentation on Monday and he has for more interesting things to say about the presentation than I said during the presentation. My favorite quote was "The room was packed - around 170 at last count, with people standing at the sides and sitting in the aisle - which is about 160 more than the average Oracle OLAP talk in previous years." Interesting to see how much interest has fallen off for Express (Oracle OLAP) in the last few years. Mark was also surprised that I have a techy side, as he had previously marked me as a "business-type person." I think it was my "CEO" title that threw him.

Go to
http://www.rittmanmead.com/2008/04/15/collaborate08-day-1/ and check out Mark's Collaborate entries for yourself.

April 16, 2008

Collaborate 08 Hyperion Track - Wednesday

I got to sleep in until 8AM, because the first presentation I had to deliver was at 9:30AM on "Calc Scripts for Mere Mortals." The room was packed, but I'm not surprised: this one and "How Essbase Thinks" are usually really full.

In the continuing saga of disorganization at this conference, OAUG scheduled me to deliver two presentations at the same time today at 11AM: Ask an Essbase Guru and Tips for Hyperion Planning. Tracy is also supposed to sit on the panel, but she's delivering a presentation at that time too. We've been trying to convince them to move the Guru panel (in addition to the fact that I can't be both places at once, interRel has 3 other presentations at the exact same time). As of Wednesday morning at 8AM, they hadn't moved it, so we scrambled to get coverage. Josie Manzano end up delivering my Planning presentation and Vince Tran delivered Tracy's "Integrating System 9 with Your Data Warehouse" session. I heard afterwards from some of their attendees that they did great jobs.

The panel consisted of 7 of interRel's Hyperion Essbase Certified consultants (including Eduardo Quiroz, the co-founder of my company, and one of the first three Essbase certified consultants in the world). I played the MC role, and I really enjoyed it. We took questions from the audience (the room was about half full) and it's one of only three times in my life when I can recall not a single person walking out until time was up.

Some of the questions were high-level (how do you get Essbase certified?), some were forward-looking (what's going to happen with the Essbase VB API?), some were historical (what does the acronym 'Essbase' stand for?), some were technical (how do I get the Essbase Add-In to work for any user on a given computer not just the one under which it was installed?) and some were downright bizarre (when was the last time Edward shaved his beard?). We made it through about half the submitted questions and the audience gave the panel a nice round of applause at the end. I enjoyed the experience, and I think the attendees did to (since none walked out and they seemed to be smiling throughout).

The only problem was that although OAUG knew this was a panel, they only put one wired microphone in the room. They also didn't set up a raised table at the front (as we've had at previous panels). We ended up setting up 7 chairs for the panel, I used the microphone, and the panel tried to speak in their best "outside voice." There were a couple of times when Jason, Lisa, and Tracy couldn't be heard, so I had to do a bit of repeating (and one time Tracy walked around to the podium mic for a particularly long bit).

The organization of this conference compared to Hyperion Solutions (or OpenWorld which I did not enjoy from a content standpoint, but it was VERY well organized) is underwhelming. I've had several Hyperion attendees come up to me and when I ask "so how are you enjoying the conference?" either answer with "this is so poorly organized that I had to sit on the floor to eat my continental breakfast since they didn't provide tables or chairs" (or something about else about disorganization) or "there aren't a lot of good presentations." Some people have actually told me that they're not coming back to Collaborate due to its inferiority compared to Solutions. This isn't good, because where else are they going to go? There's Kaleidoscope for the technical side, but they don't (at least at the moment, anyway) offer applications content.

... and they have to do something about the food. I know I'm beating a dead horse (and on a related note, some of the attendees feel like at lunch they've been eating a dead horse), but food is important. People have to eat every single day, and they don't expect to be out of town eating bready sandwiches. May I add that I'm also appalled that you have to submit a ticket to get food (and one drink only!) at lunch? We're all wearing our badges, so the only reason to have us also give tickets is to make sure that we're not getting seconds. In other words, they want the people who are still hungry after their sandwich to stay hungry. They also limit each attendee to two drinks during the Wednesday night event which they monitor through tickets. Two drink maximum? That's reason enough to boycott right there.

I think someone from Collaborate must have read my blog, because they actually served a hot lunch today! I was told it was a buffet style lunch with actual warm food. I saw someone eating steak and someone else with salmon. As luck would have it, I was at my second book signing today, so I wasn't able to find out if there were any hot vegetarian options. Danielle was kind enough to run over to the Hyatt Altitude restaurant and pick me up a quesadilla. My stomach was most appreciative. Today's book signing was more lively than yesterday. The bookstore sold out of our System 9 books but they have plenty of Essbase 7.1.x books left. I wonder if the adoption rate of System 9 is accelerating or if people just hate to learn outdated information?

The book signing overlapped into the OAUG Meeting of the Members in the Wells Fargo Theater. I dragged Tracy over there with me. We sat high in the balcony and ate our warmish lunch. When we walked in, OAUG was talking about their new Web 2.0 application: Knowledge Factory. It lets users share information with other users and there's a bit of social networking as well. While this seems nice, isn't this already being done by Blogger, MySpace, and Wikipedia? Maybe it's better simply because it's not opened up to everyone but rather exclusive for OAUG members? I doubt it, but we'll see.

They asked all the Oracle ACEs to stand, so I did, but I was in the back row, so I think only Tracy saw me. She gave me a pity clap. Most of the meeting (from the point where we walked in) was devoted to giving out awards. Tracy left about 10 minutes after we arrived, and I really can't say I blame her. I stuck it out, though, in the hopes of quality information. There was none.

After the Meeting of the Members, I had a 90 minute talk with Kristin Newman about the future of the OAUG Hyperion SIG. She asked me to "please not blog" about the contents of our conversation, so I'll respect her wishes. I'll see if Ed Delise (President of the OAUG Hyperion SIG) wants to put anything on the record.

I stopped by the booth to help with the packing away of everything. They would only trust me to handle taping of the boxes. I did a few and then Val decided I was unworthy and took my tape gun away. I did convince one of the exhibit hall cleaning people to let me have one of the interRel blue dog prints (the ones that led the way to our booth); it's proudly adorning my laptop bag at the moment.

I went to dinner at Baur's with the ODTUG board of directors and a few others (Tim Tow, Mark Rittman, Dan Vlamis). Dinner was pleasant. For dessert, I ordered chocolate gelato (I'm a big fan of gelato) and they brought me 4 balls of gelato... each the size of a marble. Literally, they were less than a bite full. Everyone else's dessert was huge, so I got seriously mocked. It got even more ridiculous when the waiter brought out cones of cappuccino ice cream compliments of the house each one of which was bigger than my four marbles of gelato put together. I asked Mark Rittman to take a picture of my dessert just so I could show how unbelievably small it was. My advice if you're eating at Baur's in Denver: don't order the gelato.

Did I mention that it started snowing? It was 70 degrees last night and now the ground is covered in a layer of wet snow.

I was supposed to go to the "Explore Colorado Party," but several of my friends stopped me as I was about to go in and warned me not to bother. They claimed that there was some indoor skiing (on a carpet?) and inflatable rock climbing. While it sounded like it could have been fun, I do have some blogging to catch up on. Tomorrow's the last day, and I can't hardly wait!

April 15, 2008

Collaborate 08 Hyperion Track - Tuesday

Remember how I went a bit "off the rails" about the horribleness of Monday's lunch? I was told by someone later that there were actually decent desserts during the afternoon snack hour. I was busy then, so I didn't personally see the desserts in question, but I'm willing to stipulate to their existence. Still, chocolaty goodness in no way makes up for the gruel (cold) that they served for lunch. Note that I kept my eye out for tasty snackage today and saw nothing. If there was sugary heaven to be found, someone was hiding it from me.

This was the busiest day I've ever experienced at a convention. I was supposed to go to John Kopcke's presentation at 9:45AM on the "EPM Vision," but I cancelled (in favor of catching up on e-mail) when I heard that it was going to be shockingly similar to the presentation Fred Richards gave at the Hyperion SIG. I sometimes get a kick out of hearing Kopcke speak, but I forced myself to miss this session.

At 11:00AM, I delivered a presentation called "Essbase for Non-Financial Applications." The room was about half full (or was it half empty?). Roughly, there were about 100 people there. I enjoy giving this presentation, because it gives concrete examples of how Essbase is not just for the financial analysts and accountants at a company.

I talked about the many applications Michaels (the arts & crafts stores) has built that were non-financial and I went into exhaustive detail about their marketing/advertising analysis application. It's interesting not only because it's primarily operational statistics, but also because it has a newspaper dimension that lists over 1,300 newspapers around North America. I think it's probably the only "newspaper dimension" I've ever seen.

Immediately after the presentation, Tracy and I rushed to a book signing at the Collaborate bookstore for our two new books. While people have asked us for autographs before, I've never been a part of an actual book signing. I really enjoyed myself. Some people stayed to chat while others just presented their books. I had fun making up pithy comments to write in the books along with the signature although being tired, some of the comments were only semi-pithy.

The only problem with the book signing was that it occurred during lunch. Oh, wait. They served box lunches again. God was smiling on me this day by saving me from the dreaded boxes of bread.

I stopped by the booth briefly. Traffic was extremely light, so I was able to walk around and talk to some friends from other consulting companies. I heard a few rumors about the implosion of some of our major competitors. I'd like to repeat them here, but I'm not the gossipping type. ("Say, did you see Acme Solutions kissing AAA Consulting behind the projector screen?") I also heard (again, rumor) about the impending demise of a couple of Hyperion products that will be replaced by Answers Plus. I'll have to verify this before I post it, but since a lot of people use these products, I'm not sure who I can convince to go on the record.

Today's exhibit hall (at least at around 2:00PM) was devoid of food. I may starve to death at this convention.

Two presentations after lunch: Real World Optimization and Power of 64-Bit Essbase. The Optimization present had around 140, but the 64-bit presentation was surprisingly light (50 people, tops). Maybe it's because it ended around 5:45PM and a lot of people were tired.

I did cause quite a stir in the 64-bit session when I broke the news about the upcoming release of 128-bit Essbase. Supposedly (I believe it when I see it), it can handle outlines with up to 2^1024 members in a single dimension. Theoretically, a single cube can grow to 274,877,906,944 YB (yottabytes) in size. In the lab, the Essbase developers have built a cube that stores the entire current contents of the internet. I'm hoping that they used Aggregate Storage. While Oracle is pretty inspecific about their release dates, one of the developers told me (off-the record) that "they won't even have this in beta until after this year" so don't hold your breath.

Consider that last paragraph to be a delayed April Fools Joke. Back to the serious.

After the presentations, I raced back to the Hyatt Regency to catch one of the limos we rented to a client appreciation event we were hosting at the Denver Chophouse. We rented three limos. The one I was in was called an "REO Speedwagon" and looked like an armored car on the outside. Some of the other people got in a party bus that looks like the "heavily armed recreational vehicle" in Stripes. I kid you not.

We had about 60 people show up at the event. Dinner was tasty (I had the 4-cheese Penne) and after the meal, we had an amazing mentalist named Chris Carter perform. We started off by introducing him as "Chris Carter, interRel's new Director of Human Resources." He actually sat and ate dinner with us doing periodic tricks: "I learned these to help break the ice in my HR role." It eventually became obvious that he was not an HR Director.

After the food and mentalist, we went downstairs to Sing Sing, a dueling piano bar. We rented out the place from 8-9:30PM for our "private interRel party." It was more fun than humans should be allowed to have without serving jail time. I attribute a large portion of the fun to the open bar we had during the event. They let us keep the tab open until 10:30PM (though they started letting other people in) which just added to the fun, frankly.

I rode the Urban Assault Vehicle back to the Hyatt at 10:30PM, staggered up to my room, and collapsed. Conventions are exhausting. I really need to get myself a Segway.

April 14, 2008

Collaborate 08 Hyperion Track - Monday

I had to leave Charles Phillips' presentation about 15 minutes before the end. He hadn't mentioned Hyperion yet (although there are 1,300+ attendees here for Hyperion). I think that he was probably going to spend the last 15 minutes on Hyperion (and I also think that every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings).

I walked up to the exhibit hall at 5:45PM and was absolutely astounded to find that everything was complete. I followed the blue paw prints back to our booth (yes, I'm serious). We have a nice position right on the main back walkway. We're also next to the "Mile High VIP" oxygen bar. I have got to figure out a way to get in there. I think I'm suffering from oxygen-deprivation here in the Mile High City. There are also some very nice appetizers (macaroni and cheese martinis!) which compared to the prison food they served for lunch, is a welcome relief.

The exhibit traffic was minimal. We got a lot of people stopping by asking either "So what is Hyperion?" or "Tell me about your Essbase product that you're selling." I've previously written that Oracle hasn't been communicating terribly well to the Hyperion community about the changes to Hyperion within Oracle. Now, I'm not terribly sure Oracle has done a great job of explaining the Hyperion acquisition to the existing Oracle clients. I know that as quickly as Oracle is gobbling up companies, there's no way anyone could keep up, but you'd think a $3+ billion acquisition would warrant some major customer education.

After the hall, I had a nice dinner hosted by one of my very generous/appreciative clients at Kevin Taylor's at Hotel Teatro. They didn't have a single vegetarian option on the entrée side of the menu (there was ONE vegetarian salad), so I told the server what I could and could not eat and told her to surprise me. The chef astounded me. He brought out the most creative 4-course vegetarian meal I've ever seen. I'd like to list the items, but I don't think most of the things they made up had names. I took a picture of the dessert, so I might post it her: everything was beautifully presented.

At about 11:30PM, I stumbled my way back to the hotel to prepare for the marathon of Tuesday: 3 presentations, a book signing, and a client appreciation event.

I'm sitting in the "General Session" listening to the mayor of Denver tell vaguely relevant technology stories. He actually sounds technology-oriented more than most politicians I've seen (and apparently, prior to becoming mayor, he ran the largest brewpub in America). I figured that while he's selling the crowd on why they should move their companies to Denver, I would catch up on my blogging.

Charles Phillips just came out. I doubt he'll say anything Hyperion-related. If he does, I'll write immediately. In the meantime, let's continue recapping the day.

Today has been a whirlwind. The three presentations I gave were all standing room only. In two of them (How Essbase Thinks and Hyperion Reports Tips and Tricks), they closed the doors and wouldn't let anymore people in. The Reports presentation had so many people that couldn't get in, that Katie Miknis from OAUG asked me to repeat the presentation on Thursday at 9:45AM in room 302. Glutton for punishment that I am, I agreed. I'll regret that, I'm sure.

While I'd like to claim that my presentations were huge draws, the real problem is that the rooms were tiny. Two of my presentations had rooms that only held 175, and one of them held around 130. I have no idea why these rooms are so small. Maybe there are more Hyperion people here than they planned? My only other complaint about the presentations is minor: there were no wireless microphones. I hate being tied to a podium. I like wandering through the audience (and on a related note, I want to be Oprah when I grow up).

Lunch today was horrendous. It was the cheapest, classless, tasteless meal I've ever paid for at a conference. First of all, it was a cold box lunch, for crike's sake. Each person was only allowed one box and one soft drink. There wasn't water or ice tea at the tables. I asked about water and was told that only soft drinks were available. The "meal" consisted of a small sandwich (all bread and no middle), 3 Oreos, and an apple. Solutions gave out a boxed lunch, but it was only on the final day so that people could take it with them to the airport. Honestly, this is the most low-rent conference I've ever seen. It's not like they don't charge enough per person to pay for decent food! It's obvious that someone's trying to make a profit on COLLABORATE.

These people could really learn something about putting on a conference from the Hyperion Solutions people.

About 3PM, I went to visit our interRel booth (963, if you're at Collaborate). While our booth is complete, the exhibit hall looks like a construction zone. As of 4:15PM, carpet wasn't even finished being put down. We're supposed to have dog prints (yes, dog prints; it's a long story) leading from the entrance to our booth. It's hard to lay dog prints, though, on non-existent carpet. The hall opens at 6PM, so I'm anxious to see how they're going to pull it off in time. Speaking of, I should head to the booth.
Smart Space can now run on XP with the latest patch to .NET. It was previously only Vista.

What the hell? The presentation just suddenly ended without any mention of release dates aside from a vague comment about "this summer." Argh.

In the middle of another "vision for blah, blah, blah" slide, Paul mentioned that Planning is being enhanced (made into an "integrated planning framework") to allow adding modules for cash flow planning, long-range strategic planning, and strategic operational planning. No word on when these are coming.

The first guy just walked out. Everyone else is waiting with baited (abated?) breath.

Ah, Paul claims to be about to present on the "EPMS Product Strategy & Roadmap." I'm giddy as a schoolgirl on Ritalin.

To sum up Oracle's EPM Strategy in 4 bullets or less: Extend market position, lower customer TCO (Total Cost of Ownership), increase competitive differentiation, and support/migrate existing customers. Paul has a bullet under "Lower customer TCO" that says "New functionality to reduce complexity." In other words, adding more stuff to the applications makes things simpler. There must be something deep there, because on the surface, that comment comes across as nutty.

Four more people gone. Quitters. I have a presentation at 9, so I may end up in the "quitter" category, myself. Hurry, Paul, hurry! We need new features and release dates (that you won't make any attempt to stick to)!

Ah, an "EPMS Release Roadmap" slide. He just said that Kennedy (11.1.1) will be a Windows-release only. This is shocking. Other platform support will be coming out "later in 2008." Hyperion NEVER (well, with the exception of Linux and 64-bit) released a new edition not supported across all platforms.

Hyperion is being localized to 13+ languages later in 2008.

For the next part, Paul has separated the 2008 initiatives into a few different themes.

The first theme for 2008 is "Reduced TCO." In the upcoming release, EPM Architect will be enhanced to include an integrated "Calc Manager" that will be used to build calculations across ALL Hyperion applications in a visual fashion. This means that you can write rules that work for Planning and HFM without having to do Essbase calc language for Planning and VBScript for HFM (though you still can, if you'd like, for performance/control reasons).

A "Lifecycle Management" capability will be added to Shared Services to allow ease of migrating apps from dev to QA to prod. This has been a remarkably difficult, manual process for years, so I'm glad they're addressing it.

Oracle also has committed to simplified installation and configuration (which Paul acknowledges has been a problem area under System 9) for 11.1.1. (Kennedy). There will also be diagnostic information added to verify configuration and status, detect non-functioning components, and generate a diagnostic display. Also under the "Reduced TCO" them, the key new feature in Essbase 11 will be "Essbase Studio." It's a single graphical UI that spans all Essbase apps. It looks like EIS (Essbase Integration Studio) sort of combined with EAS (Essbase Administration Services).

Under the "Improved Integration" theme, Oracle will be linking EPM to Oracle E-Business Suite (Oracle Financials and what not) through FDM. In other words, FDM will allow direct drill-down into the financial side (and the BI side) of Oracle. This is going to be done through "Oracle EBS Source Adapters." The intention is also to do this for SAP in the future as well.

Crystal Ball ("Predictive Planning") will be integrated with Strategic Finance to perform scenario analysis using Monte Carlo simulations. I'm not sure what that means exactly, but if it's based on gambling, I'm in.

Essbase is now a source for OBIEE+ as of OBIEE In the upcoming release, OBIEE will be a source for Essbase. This confuses me more than anything. Shouldn't one of these support the other and not have them both supporting each other?

Oracle will be integrating with other Oracle products like Oracle Enterprise Manager (oh, I'm thrilled), Patch Installer, Lifecycle Management, Application Server, Internet Directory, Virtual Directory, and Identity Manager.

Under the "Transparency and Alignment" theme, there will be a new application released in 2008 called "Profitability & Cost Management." I've written about this before since they've been promising it for more than a year now.

In Financial Reporting 11.1, users will be able to annotate directly on a report (for things like variances) including adding textual commentary, file attachments, and URLs. Notations can be a single comment or full-fledged threaded discussions.

Under the "Pervasiveness" theme, OBIEE dashboards will be exposed in EPM Workspace (formerly Hyperion Workspace). Smart View will have personalized data slices (make a cube look like a smaller cube with fewer dimensions for specific users) and stylized output (formatted tables and charts and multiple sources on one page which lets you make something dashboard like in Microsoft Office).

Paul mentioned Smart Space even though it's already released. They're "desktop gadgets" that let a user access data sources pervasively (always on). I should probably do another entry on this since not that many people know about Smart Space. Tim Tow probably has a lot to say on this, because I know Applied OLAP has been doing some Smart Space development. I'll ask him later.

It's a brand-new day, and I'm up entirely too early. It's 8AM, and I'm sitting in the back of an 8AM presentation "Strategy for Hyperion EPM Products." It's supposed to be a detailed roadmap presentation of what's coming in the next year or two with Hyperion. It's put on by Paul Burrin (VP of EPM/BI Software Development rolling up through Robert Gersten, I presume). The room is entirely packed. Every seat is filled, people are standing two deep all around the outside of the room, and there are even people sitting on the aisle. We're definitely violating fire codes. Fred Richards and I both plugged this session during the Hyperion SIG yesterday, so if everyone dies in a fiery tragedy, I think Fred is at least partly to blame (I was just following Fred's lead).

It's starting with a general disclaimer that this is all basic product direction and Oracle isn't committed to actually doing a single thing they think they might want to do.

Paul is starting off by talking about Oracle's EPM Vision. You know, I've seen these slides tons of times (yesterday at the Hyperion SIG, for instance) and though I could lip sync along with the presenter, I still really can't articulate Oracle's EPM Vision. Why? Because it's frakin' confusing. They've got Oracle OLAP, Siebel Analytics, Essbase, OBIEE (which includes a bunch of other products including some of the Siebel stuff) and a ton of other applications that seem to overlap, and that's just in the Business Intelligence area. Rather than admit that they have multiple products that do the same thing, they've got some convoluted series of diagrams that try to explain why they're all helpful and necessary. Essbase seems to be a key tool, but I'm tired of hearing that "Essbase isn't a database: it's an OLAP Server." What Dr. Codd put together (the OLAP category of databases), let no marketing group rip asunder.

This doesn't even begin to cover the confusion that occurs on the other side of EPM: the end user-oriented applications like Hyperion Planning, Financial Management, Strategic Finance, and so on. Again, Oracle makes multiple products that do the same thing. At least on the front-end side, they seem to be directing people away from products like OFA (Oracle Financial Analyzer) and PeopleSoft EPM and towards the Hyperion apps.

If Paul doesn't get to the actual roadmap soon, there's going to be a revolt. I must commend the people around me for all wearing plentiful deodorant. That may postpone the coming revolution for an extra 5 minutes, but the temperature is definitely rising in here. No one has walked out as of 8:18AM, but people are starting to swoon (i.e., check watches and fiddle with papers).

April 13, 2008

Collaborate 08 Hyperion Track - Sunday

I just got back from the Oracle ACE dinner at Panzano. It's a Northern Italian restaurant, and the vegetarian food was remarkably non-tasty. They had a fixed menu which offered a choice between steak and salmon. I asked for the vegetarian option, and the server brought me spaghetti with red sauce. It wasn't as good as Chef Boyardee. I did have a nice time mingling with the other Oracle ACE attendees at COLLABORATE.

Before I forget (since I forget it earlier), between the OAUG Hyperion SIG reception and the Oracle ACE dinner was an "OAUG Welcome Reception." I heard from someone that it was the fun highlight of the week. To put it politely, if this is the highpoint of the week, then this week is doomed.

Maybe my expectations were too high because I was comparing it to the Solutions opening night receptions? At Solutions, there was always copious food, live music, and an overabundance of alcohol. At this event, the food consisted of cheese, crackers, and grapes. Alcohol was limited to wine that Michael Manes told me costs $2 a bottle retail. The music was not live and barely audible which is actually a blessing in disguise since they were playing, I kid you not, elevator music. A fun time was not had by all.

I have just adjusted my expectations for the remainder of the week very much downward. They're subterranean at the moment.

Now, I'm now sitting here in my hotel room at the Hyatt Regency looking over my presentations for tomorrow. There's a Hyperion presentation at 8AM that I'm hoping to attend on the revised Hyperion roadmap. Assuming I finish reviewing my presentations in the next couple of hours, I should be in bed by 1AM.

Just as I was about to post this entry, I got a call from the irreplaceable Tracy McMullen, interRel Director of Special Projects. Tracy is supposed to deliver 9 presentations this week. Her call was to let me know that due to a delay on American Airlines, she was stranded in Dallas until Monday morning. Right now, she's supposed to land at 7:30AM on Monday. Her first presentation is not until 10AM on Monday, so I'm not going to panic. Yet. I'm not going to panic yet.

Now I'll never get to sleep.

The reception (with cheap liquor, I might add, even though I don't drink alcohol) was interesting. It started off about evenly split between partners and clients. By the end, I counted 4 remaining clients and over 30 partners. That's just crazy.

They held a raffle for attendees during the reception. The five consulting companies that sponsored the reception each bought a $50 gift card. I also donated a signed copy of each of my 3 books.

They decided to draw for one of my books first. The first winner was... Danielle White of interRel. She opted for a gift card instead. Some clients won copies of my book and they seemed generally appreciative. Gary from Vanguard in Pennsylvania actually won a $50 gift card and asked if he could please exchange it for one my $29.95 copies of Look Smarter Than You Are with Essbase: An End User's Guide. I think I'm blushing. Due to the huge quantity of interRel employees at the reception, interRel people one 3 of the 5 gift cards, but after the second of our employee's won, we decided to throw out any further interRel winners.

I'm going to run back to my room and change before heading over to a dinner for all the Oracle ACEs.

There's kind of a fun Q&A going on right now between the OAUG Hyperion SIG board members and the audience. Allow me to paraphrase as best I can.

How many members are there in the Hyperion SIG?

How many would you like to have?
500-1000. The problem is that [the Hyperion SIG] can't directly ask people to join the SIG per the OAUG rules.

That seems like a strange rule. You also mentioned that OAUG limits how many can be on a webcast to 25. What actual advantages are there to the Hyperion SIG being a part of OAUG?
They're actually getting the software upgraded to handle more people and they let us post them on-line in the meantime so people can download them. Those are two advantages right there. [Editor's Note: I cry foul with that answer, because those aren't advantages to OAUG, but rather how they're going to solve some of their shortcomings.]

Are the Hyperion User Groups going way and if so, why isn't Hyperion SIG being touted as the replacement for them?
[Editor's Note: I can't do justice to the debate that occurred around this question. Suffice to say that no one has a good answer from OAUG Hyperion SIG and the entire room is confused about what the future state is.]

When will elections be held since the current board seems to have not been elected?
The bi-laws aren't finalized yet, but should be by Spring of 2009. We'll have elections for some of our 5 board members in 2009 at OpenWorld, but we'll need to stagger them. [Editor's Note: the current board and domain leads are very much dominated by partners. I see a credibility issue arising if they don't get a better balance of clients and partners on the board. I'm not sure this can wait until 2009.]

The meeting is now breaking up as the attendees wander clear across the convention center to a reception sponsored by 5 partners (most of whom don't even have booths at COLLABORATE 08, but I digress).

I just finished explaining how to find all the Hyperion presentations at the conference. There are 98, but since they're spread across so many different schedules, it's impossible to find a complete list. Kristin Newman introduced me by plugging all 3 of my books, which was very nice. After reviewing the layout of the convention and walking everyone through all 98 presentations in less than 15 minutes, I concluded with a slide about my 10 presentations. If you want copies of any of the 10 presentations, send an e-mail to info@interrel.com. Here's the complete list:

April 14

  • 9:15 AM, Korbel 1A, How Essbase Thinks
  • 1:00 PM, Korbel 1A, Hyperion Planning and Essbase at Pearson
  • 2:15 PM, 113, Financial Reporting for Mere Mortals

April 15

  • 11:00 AM, Korbel 1A, Essbase for Non-Financial Applications Advertising and Marketing Analysis
  • 3:30 PM, Korbel 1A, Real World Optimization: Hyperion Essbase
  • 4:45 PM, Korbel 1A, The Power of 64-bit Essbase

April 16

  • 9:45 AM, Korbel 1A, Hyperion Calc Scripts for Mere Mortals
  • 11:00 AM, 103, Ask an Essbase Guru
  • 11:00 AM, 113, Tips, Tricks and Best Practices for Planning

April 17

  • 11:00 AM, 201, Best Practices in Budgeting and Forecasting

There's an obvious conflict at 11AM on April 16 since I'm giving a Hyperion Planning tips and tricks presentation while simultaneously chairing an "Ask a Guru" panel. Something's got to change about that.

I'm now listening to Ray Payne who's the guy from OAUG that tries to convince people/groups to join OAUG. From the way he's talking, it seems that it's a foregone conclusion that the regional HUGs (Hyperion User Groups) are disbanding. That's probably a subject for a blog entry in and of itself.

Ray's main point about joining OAUG is that OAUG is big and bigger means "carries more weight with Oracle." He also mentioned something about a big knowledge base that OAUG is starting called the "OAUG Knowledge Factory." I was going to ask about the cost for a company to join OAUG, but Ray just concluded his presentation by not taking any questions. That's too bad because I heard that far from free (like the regional HUGs), it actually costs $395 to join OAUG and that's per year.

The guy next to me just saw me typing "$395/year" and corrected me. He says it's $595 per year (thanks, Guy Watching Over My Shoulder). Almost $600 per year for advocacy? There must be more advantages than he listed for all that money. Did I mention that the regional HUGs don't normally charge any dues whatsoever?

I'm at the OAUG Hyperion SIG. Fred Richards is giving a presentation on Oracle's vision for EPM. Nothing that I haven't seen before for the most part. The most interesting tidbit is that the "9.5" name for the next Hyperion release seems to be dead. Fred keeps referring to it as "Kennedy" which has been the code name for a while. Wait a second: on the overhead is a slide referring to the new Hyperion version as 11.1.1. He's now saying that the version may change. Well until you hear differently, I guess start referring to Oracle Hyperion 11.1.1.
I'm in the air somewhere between Dallas and Denver. The plane seems to be traveling in a Northwesterly direction and the MD-80 seems to be staying in the air remarkably well. In all seriousness, I actually respect American Airlines for grounding their planes before the FAA forced them to. I'm putting together my presentation for the OAUG Hyperion SIG. I'm currently trying to circle all the rooms at the Denver Convention Center that are hosting Hyperion sessions. There seems to be no order to the rooms whatsoever.

April 12, 2008

Collaborate 08 Hyperion Track - 1,300+ Attendees

I just uncovered that the Hyperion track at COLLABORATE 08 now has around 1,300 attendees. It's kind of difficult to determine the exact number, because Hyperion attendees could register under OAUG, IOUG, Quest, or through a special Hyperion link. Unless they registered through the Hyperion link, they had to mark that they were interested in Hyperion presentations. If they forget to do this, they're not counted in the ~1,300. Suffice to say that COLLABORATE won't be the size of the Hyperion Solutions conference, but it will most likely be the largest "Hyperion" conference of 2008.

I'm supposed to leave for the
COLLABORATE 08 conference first thing Sunday morning. The only potential problem is that I'm on an American Airlines MD-80, so if I don't make it to Denver, please tell my family that I love them. Assuming my flight isn't cancelled (and that I land safely), I will be writing about all of the significant Hyperion events at the conference. Since my days are pretty full (I have 10 presentations to deliver), the blogging will usually happen daily between the hours of 3 and 5 AM, so check back then!

The first Hyperion event of note is at 1PM on Sunday: the OAUG Hyperion SIG meeting. Ed Delise was going to be heading up the meeting, but since he's home anxiously awaiting the birth of his new baby, Kristin Newman from Hitachi is going to be chairing the meeting. My role in the event is fairly minor (I'm reviewing the Hyperion presentations that are going to be delivered at the conference), so I should have time to write about anything else interesting I hear. Kristin and I went through all the lists of COLLABORATE Hyperion presentations we could find and came up with 98. We'll be handing out the complete list of ones we were able to find at the meeting.

I did hear that Rich Clayton will no longer be the keynote speaker. He's been replaced (but not in our hearts) with Fred Richards, Oracle's Senior Director of BI Product Marketing. Fred's a friend of mine: we gave a joint presentation on Essbase successes at OpenWorld in 2007. I swapped e-mails with Fred, and he said he's going to be presenting on the new vision of EPM/BI at Oracle and how Hyperion integrates that vision. Time permitting, he'll talk through some of the recent Hyperion roadmap changes (there will be an in-depth Hyperion roadmap talk at 8AM on Monday).

Well, it's time now to go pack. Hopefully, I'll get to nap a little too in advance of the sleep-deprivation exercise that is a software conference. Usually these events are so busy that I plan on not sleeping from the time I arrive until I leave. This is why my presentations are far more lively at the start of the week (and why I tend to fall asleep while talking towards the end).

April 9, 2008

Advanced Copies of New Essbase Books

I mentioned before that Look Smarter Than You Are with Essbase: An End User's Guide was going to come out soon. While it's not officially available yet (the big launch event is going to be at a book signing at Collaborate), you can buy a copy now direct from our publisher for $29.95:

This book focuses just on the end user-side of things like the Essbase Excel Add-In and the Hyperion Smart View Office Add-In. If you're interested in buying 5 or more copies (enough for every one of your end users!), you can e-mail info@interrel.com and we'll give you a 30% bulk discount.

Speaking of books, we've gotten a number of requests recently for a 'System 9' edition of Look Smarter Than You Are with Hyperion Essbase. Bowing to the voracious demands of the book-buying public, we have an updated version of our last book which focuses entirely on System 9 content. We have also added more than 40 pages of additional content, because we noticed some areas (like security in Shared Services) warranted an entire new chapter in the updated book. The price point is the same (screw you, inflation) at $49.95 and like the "End User Guide", it's right now only available directly from our publisher. Here's the link for Look Smarter Than You Are with Essbase System 9: The Complete Guide:

If you want a signed copy of either of the two new books, come to Collaborate (there, now you finally have a good reason!), and attend one of the book signings. Tracy McMullen (my wonderful and irreplaceable co-author) and I will be signing copies on Tuesday and Wednesday from 12:30-1:30 at the bookstore. It's not that I think our signatures will actually add value, it's just that this gives you a chance to heckle/question Tracy and me directly while we smile and make illegible scribbles on the front page of your brand-new, pristine book.

Also at Collaborate, you'll be able to browse preview copies of three more books Tracy and I are releasing before the end of 2008 (if God, our families, and most importantly, our interRel editors allow). I don't want to spoil the surprise about the exact three titles, but suffice to say they're all about Hyperion and none of them are about Essbase (since we've now officially done that topic to death).

April 6, 2008

Kaleidoscope Conference - Early-Bird Registration Extended

The early-bird deadline for the ODTUG Kaleidoscope conference (the one in New Orleans in June with an Essbase-focused track) passed on March 25. That said, the Executive Director of ODTUG, Kathleen McCasland, was kind enough to extend the deadline until "at least April 7" to give time for all the Essbase junkies to get approval to attend who didn't even hear about the conference until after March 25.

The extended early-bird deadline is only for Hyperion attendees, so they had to make a special link. Make sure you go here to get the cheaper rate:

I think I've blogged more times in the last 2 weeks than I have since OpenWorld. It's not that I've had particularly a lot of free time on my hands, but rather that there's been a lot of news happening. Don't be surprised if we get to August and the only post I make for the entire month has to do with what my cat ate for breakfast. [Note to self: get a cat before August, so I have something to blog about.]