March 25, 2008

Collaborate - Hyperion SIG Agenda

Kristin Newman from Hitachi forwarded on the Hyperion SIG agenda for Sunday, April 13th at Collaborate in Denver. It's basically a 2-hour agenda (room 407) followed by a cocktail reception (room 108). I have no idea why they're changing rooms for the reception. Maybe the alcohol is better in the lower numbered rooms?

OAUG Hyperion SIG Meeting Agenda

1:00 - 1:15 OAUG Hyperion SIG Welcome and Introductions
- SIG Board members
- Domain Leads
- Web Cast Series
1:15 - 2:15 Oracle Key Note Speaker:
- Rich Clayton, Oracle VP of EPM
2:15 - 2:30 OAUG Board Member Speaker:
- Ray Payne, OAUG VP of Global Outreach & Transition
2:30 - 2:45 Collaborate Hyperion Presentations Overview
2:45 - 3:15 SIG website overview and Q& A for ideas
3:15 - 4:15 Cocktail & Appetizer Reception

March 24, 2008

Collaborate 2008 Has 1,000+ Hyperion Attendees

I'm tempted to rename this blog from "Look Smarter" to "Updates on All the Hyperion Conferences and User Groups" because it seems like that's all there is to write about these days. I just found out today that the number of people registered for the Hyperion track at Collaborate 08 has surpassed 1,000, so it seemed like a great opportunity to give an update on the conference. Though Collaborate as a whole attracts over 7,500 people, I'm amazed that they have over 1,000 Hyperion registrants. 1,000 was their goal and the conference is still weeks away.

If you haven't registered yet, make sure you do it by April 3. After that, the price goes up from $1,495 to $1,695 (and you're basically paying the on-site rate). The easiest way to register is here:

It will give you two options. If you're a member of OAUG, IOUG, or Quest, it will direct you to register through their links. If you're just a common Hyperion user who doesn't belong to one of them fancy "citified" user groups, you'll be instructed to click here:

No matter which route you take, please use discount code INTERREL08 when you register (we get credit for pointing you in the right direction).

There's a tremendous amount of information available on-line about the conference. There's an overall agenda for the conference in a nicely printable PDF. If you prefer a PDF just listing the Hyperion presentations there's one of those too. There's a search page pre-filtered for Hyperion sessions if you're looking to find specific presentations. OAUG also offers a personal agenda builder to create a schedule of just what you want to see.

As far as Hyperion presentations go, they were originally hoping to offer 100-150 Hyperion sessions. (I mentioned this on a blog posting back in February.) Due to the lack of quality presentations to choose from, they only ended up selecting a little over 80 presentations (hey, quality is better than quantity). Of those ~80 presentations, ~30 are being delivered by Oracle staffers (mostly the high-level intro presentations or the product direction presentations). interRel is delivering (either alone or with interRel clients) 25 or 26 presentations. That leaves around 25 sessions that non-interRel clients and other partners of Oracle are presenting. I'm wondering if the Collaborate folks should say "The Hyperion Track is brought to you by Oracle and the good folks at interRel"...

Since they spread the ~80 presentations over 19 timeslots, a couple of the timeslots are pretty sparse. Some hours have as few as 2 presentations while other slots have up to 7 presentations. There are a few time slots where interRel isn't presenting anything and then there are weird times like 2:15PM on Monday when 3 OUT OF 4 presentations are by interRel.

Of the interRel presentations, I'm delivering 9 or 10 of them. Tracy McMullen is doing another 8 or 9 and we have another 13 people coming to the conference to help deliver the remainder. Oh, and they're staffing the booth too. If you want to come by and visit us at Collaborate, we're in booth 963. You can also visit Tracy and me at our book signings. Apparently, there will a bookstore at Collaborate selling books on Oracle topics (including copies of all of the different Look Smarter books we've written). On Tuesday and Wednesday from 12:30-1:30, they've asked us to come by the bookstore and sign copies of our books for our adoring fans (if any actually exist). If you wish for me to deface your book with my signature, please free to stop by.

I'm looking forward to seeing you in Denver!

March 22, 2008

OAUG Hyperion SIG - How Essbase Thinks webcast

In an effort to reach out the Hyperion User Groups around the world, last year, the Oracle Application User Group started a Hyperion SIG (Special Interest Group). Anyone who's interested in joining should go to

Membership in the Hyperion SIG is free (to existing members of OAUG).

As you've all heard by now, OAUG is one of the forces beyond the Collaborate conference in April. On that note, the Hyperion SIG will be meeting at COLLABORATE 08 on Sunday, the first day of the conference (1PM-3:15PM in Room 407), so make sure you arrive in Denver in time to attend.

One of the more interesting aspects of the Hyperion SIG is that they hold a free monthly e-learning webcast (similar to our interRel webcasts except ours are weekly). I'm the Essbase Domain Lead for the Hyperion SIG (along with Tim Tow) so they asked me to give a presentation on Essbase for their March e-learning session. I decided to deliver "How Essbase Thinks" since when we hold it for our interRel webcasts, it usually attracts 100+ people. Here's the abstract:

Would you like to know some of what the Hyperion developers know about the Hyperion Essbase engine? Join the OAUG Hyperion SIG for an informative hour designed to give you a thorough understanding of what actually happens behind the scenes and underneath the covers. Go beyond "laboratory theory" and learn what Edward Roske, author of "Look Smarter Than You Are with Hyperion Essbase" actually gathered from 10+ years of real-life experience at Hyperion Essbase customers. You'll learn how Essbase handles different formulas and commands during a calculation, how data is compressed, and how internally data is loaded into memory. For a true Essbase "insider's perspective," this is the e-Learning event you don't want to miss!

It's a bit fawning, I know. Hey, it's not like I wrote it. Anyway, my "How Essbase Thinks" webcast is Thursday, March 27, and as of right now, the 5PM Eastern timeslot has space left. I'm also delivering the same webcast at 9AM Eastern, but that's one at capacity. If you're interested in registering, I'd hurry because each presentation timeslot is limited to the first 25 people to sign up (apparently, there's a limitation in OAUG's webcasting software).

March 18, 2008

Best Essbase Conference Ever?

Life is funny sometimes. Just when you think you know what's going to happen, you suddenly find yourself dragged in an entirely new direction.

If you read my post from February, I basically advised everyone to attend Collaborate because it was, frankly, bigger than the Oracle Developer Tool Users Group Kaleidoscope conference. There's no way, I said, that a conference with fewer than 10 presentations [note: I was off by a factor of 3] on Hyperion could do justice to all the products that Hyperion historically produced (60+). Mike Riley from ODTUG wrote me back (and commented on my blog entry) and he disagreed with my point that variety equals quality. To quote him exactly, "From an individual attendee's perspective, if I only had 17 sessions that I could attend, and each of those sessions had 10 tracks, does that mean I could see 170 presentations? No, I'm still limited to 17 presentations."

My e-mailed response to him started off with "You make a good point: if I had to choose from 150 mediocre presentations or 10 good ones, I would definitely choose quality over quantity." I then went on to say that his conference would need some serious help to achieve the quality that would make me go to it instead of a larger conference. I said that Kaleidoscope would have to have top-notch keynotes from the top Oracle brass, panels from recognized Hyperion gurus and developers, information packed presentations (not those horrible hour long infomercials) on topics people really wanted to learn about, and most importantly, a narrowed focus so that one product could be handled well rather than multiple products handled inadequately. I suggested they focus just on Essbase and leave Hyperion Planning, Hyperion Financial Management and the rest for another year.

I have to admit that I was being rather vocal to Mike about what I feel he should do with his conference, and I was pretty sure he was going to punch me (or the 21st century equivalent: flame me in a blog comment) for stepping on his turf. Mike turned out to be a much bigger individual than I am. He came back to me and said, basically, "you made some good points, so how would you like to head up the Hyperion track at Kaleidoscope?" In other words, "put your money where your mouth is, buddy, and let's see if you can really make something out of this!"

Well, I semi-accepted the challenge. Knowing that chairing an entire track was more than one man could handle, I volunteered my good friend, Tim Tow, to be co-chair along with me (although I'm pretty sure that Tim will no longer be my good friend once this is all over). Our first decision was to focus exclusively on Essbase this year since it's the most developer-oriented tool that Hyperion makes (that's widely used) although we briefly entertained the possibility of two Hyperion tracks (Essbase in one track and the Hyperion apps in the other).

The next 4+ weeks were hell. Putting together an entire track in less than a month is always difficult, and we weren't just aiming for a pretty good track (or even a "Hyperion Solutions conference" quality track). Proving that dreamers are alive and well in the Hyperion world, we decided to create "the greatest Essbase conference in the history of the world." If you're going to dream, dream big. We'll let history decide if we succeeded, but here are the basic facts:
  • Keynotes. We wanted to have a headliner to kick the week off. We have two: John Kopcke and Robert Gersten (both SVPs from Oracle in the BI/EPM areas) will both be delivering keynotes.
  • Presentations. We wanted to have at least as many hours of presentations as Solutions (timeslots, not total quantities of presentations). We ended up with 30+ hours of content starting on Sunday morning at 8AM and going until noon on Thursday. Some days have presentations until 6PM at night. 30 hours is more than double the number of hours that Solutions used to offer.
  • Quality of presenters. Instead of waiting for the speakers we wanted to come to us, we went to them. We didn't see a single presentation submitted by Essbase developers, so we invited them to attend and they said yes. We asked the leaders from some of the Essbase forums (like Jeff McAhren from Health Markets) to attend and they said yes. We asked the top people at the largest Hyperion partners to speak, and they said yes. Of all of the people we invited to speak, only three declined the invitation.
  • Themes. We wanted each day to be not just a high-level hitting of topics but rather a deep-dive on one key area of focus. As such, we have entire days devoted to optimization, the future of Essbase, programming, and more.
  • Panels. We have panels with the Essbase development team, panels with Essbase optimization gurus, panels with large-scale implementation customers, and more. We have more panels than I've seen at all the Hyperion Solutions conferences in the last 5 years put together.

Have a look at the final agenda at Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it? Is it practically perfect in every way? Well, there is one disconcerting issue. The current ballroom that's hosting the Hyperion Essbase track at Kaleidoscope can only hold 150 people. Based on the expected demand for the track above, they're expecting more than 150 people. While they're actively looking to get a bigger room for us, they may be limiting attendees to the first 150 people to register. My advice is not to delay or you might be told that all spaces in the Hyperion track are full.

If you're responsible for multiple products and you can only afford to go to one conference this year, you might want to consider Collaborate. If your job is to build or maintain Essbase cubes, though, you want to be a part of Kaleidoscope. Who knows if we'll ever be able to pull this off again? Early bird registration is up on March 25, so get over to the Kaleidoscope site and register now to get the cheaper rate (and guarantee your space).

Keep reading this blog for further updates as we get closer to the start of the Kaleidoscope conference. See you June 15-19 in New Orleans!

March 4, 2008

Look Smarter Than You Are With Essbase: An End User's Guide

Tracy McMullen and I co-wrote a book on Essbase almost exactly one year ago. At the time, it was called Essbase for Mere Mortals until our trademark attorney identified some issues with the title which just goes to show you that trademark attorneys are worth every penny. We went through 6 or 7 different titles only to have every single one of them rejected by our trademark attorney on infringement grounds which just goes to show you that trademark attorneys are very frustrating. We finally got approval for the name Look Smarter Than You Are with Hyperion Essbase.

Sales in the first year have been phenomenal. At last check, we were one of the top 25 best selling books of all-time on (our publisher) and they publish over 10,000 titles. Normally a computer book has big sales shortly after the release but then sales die down over the lifetime of the book. Our sales last quarter were the biggest yet. Instead of an overnight bestseller, does that make us an overyear bestseller?

Feedback on the book has been mostly positive. People tend to like the humor and the step-by-step approach (as opposed to the more "look up specific stuff" method that the Essbase Database Administrator's Guide follows). My mother complained that the book cost too much, but she was the only one I heard that voiced that concern (Mom's exact quote was, "do I really have to spend $49.95 just to prove I love you?"). The only recurrent complaints were that the index page numbering was slightly off (fixed in the newest release) and that the book was too administrator-oriented to give to, say, an entire finance department.

Frankly, that last criticism was correct. While we built the first third of the book to be geared towards end users, it was immediately followed by a few hundred pages of material about building and administering cubes. While the information wouldn't harm an end user, it seemed silly to make people pay $49.95 for a book and then tell them not to read two-thirds of it. In a fit of (retail) inspiration, Look Smarter Than You Are with Essbase: An End User's Guide was born. It's primarily the same content as the full-blown guide, but with the administrative content removed (and with a new retail price of $29.95 to entice companies to buy in bulk for entire departments).

The book is in the final proofing stages and should be available on our publisher's site by end of March and it'll be on in late April or early May. The point of the book is to give end users of Essbase everything they need to know to slice and dice Essbase cubes from Excel, Word, PowerPoint, or whatever.

The last part of the book to be written was, oddly, chapter one. As readers of our other book
can attest, chapter one is the story that sets the tone for the entire book: this won't be your average, boring computer manual. In my last book, the first chapter was the completely true story of how I blacked out the entire city of New Orleans using only the power of Essbase (or so I thought). I finished chapter one of "An End User's Guide" at three o'clock this morning, so I thought I'd share it with you. It's humorous in a dark, dry sort of way (or at least I think it is after staying up until 3AM writing it). Subject to proofing revisions, here's Chapter One of Look Smarter Than You Are With Essbase: An End User's Guide:

Chapter 1:
How I Almost Killed a Man

In the worst of times, desperate men can be driven to commit acts of desperation. Case in point, I'm sitting in my cubicle at this moment, trying to figure out how to kill my boss with only the power of my thoughts. I've come to the conclusion that it would be much easier to kill him if 1) he was here at the office with me instead of home asleep in his bed; and 2) my brainwaves weren't reduced to brainripples since it's 3AM and budgets are due in six hours. I'll have to abandon the mental murder idea. On to Plan B: how to kill my boss using a luke warm Starbucks venti vanilla latte.

This isn't getting me anywhere. Murder probably isn't appropriate in a business situation and normally I wouldn't attack any of my coworkers with cold, milk-based drinks. How in the name of Odin did I end up like this? As best as my sleep-derived memory can recall, it started with a phone call from my boss, Mr. Deadman. The phone rang; my heart sank.

"Sorry to bother you on such a lovely day," he said. I knew he was looking out his window at the sunset as I stared at my graying, windowless cubicle wall. At least I have a picture of a kitten clinging to a branch with the inspirational quote "Hang on... help is coming" to keep my morale up.

"No, no bother. Any questions on the consolidated budget? They're due tomorrow, so there better not be any questions. You know how I like to leave every day by 5." Since I hadn't left before 6 in this millennium, I laughed at my own semi-joke until I noticed that I was the only one laughing. He didn't say a word.

The silence stretched on like... something that stretches on for a really long time. As I stared at my kitten poster for salvation, he said, "That's actually why I'm calling. I just need you to increase the IT hardware budget by 10%. Rising cost of servers, don't you know? No hurry, because I'm leaving for the day in just a couple of minutes. I won't even be able to look at the revised numbers until morning."

I could feel the anger rising as my morale deflated. I threw a pencil at the stupid kitten picture. Through gritted teeth, I managed to stammer, "Sure... no... problem..." and in my head I continued 'you jerk.'

With the perky voice of someone about to leave at 5:05PM, he said, "excellent, and since it's no problem, can you do me a favor and analyze the IT budget growth since last year? I'd do it myself but I have a doctor's appointment first thing in the morning and I won't be in until right before the budget review meeting."

I imagined that I was the one hanging from that kitten's little tree branch. He took my moment of wondering in entirely the wrong way. "Oh, don't worry, it's nothing serious. It's just a routine check up but I figured I'd do it before year end when things are going to get really hectic. Well, have a great one. Don't work too hard."

He chuckled as he hung up the phone. Yes, he actually chuckled. I ripped the kitten poster off the wall and got to work.

Updating the IT budget itself wasn't what took forever: it was consolidating all of our spreadsheets together. With over 200 Excel spreadsheets, I have to open up each one off the network share drive in exactly the right order, press F9, and then on to the next worksheet.

I ran into a frustrating situation around 11PM. After the initial submission of the budget sheets, someone had opened up his sheet and decided that things would be a bit prettier with one fewer column, so he deleted it. My summary workbook, of course, wasn't smart enough to pick up on this change, so my formulas were adding in the wrong column. I noticed around 11, but it took me until 3AM to find the problem and correct it.

Now we're back to where our story began. Budgets have been consolidated, all errant formulas have been corrected, and I haven't even started on the analysis my boss requested. It's at this point that I realize that there's virtually no way to kill someone with a latte (even a really tasty and worth every dollar Starbucks latte) so I'd need find a better plan. My eyes search my cubicle for implements of destruction.

My eyes wander past my red Swingline stapler and to my monitor where Excel is staring at me: mercilessly mocking me with its unnaturally straight gridlines. The numbers seem to be running across the screen and that's when I realize that I really need to take a nap. Wait. What is this menu item I see between Window and Help? Is this some form of salvation in the form of Essbase or is it just a mirage in the desert that is my existence?

Choirs begin to sing as I realize that the key to my getting a few hours of sleep lies in the hands of a little Excel add-in and its good friend, Essbase. No, they aren't real choirs but rather my iPod playing Beethoven's Ninth, but surely this must be a sign. Remembering everything I learned in that best-selling Essbase book I read, I raced to the Essbase menu and within minutes had resubmitted my budgets, consolidated them, and performed some pretty amazing analysis. I finished everything just in time to sing along with Ode to Joy in gleeful gibberish German.

I must have fallen asleep, because the next thing I knew, my boss was standing at the entrance to my cubicle wearing golf attire. Doctor's appointment, my ass. He spoke as I wiped the drool from the corner of my mouth.

"Wow, that outfit looks great on you. It looks even better on you today than it did yesterday. Say, what happened to your cat poster?"

It was balled up in my trash can at the moment, but I knew just where he should stuff it. I started to suggest it when he said, "I got the analysis you sent me at 4AM. I don't know how you got it done in time. It was wonderful."

Clearing thoughts of relocating my poster into one of his orifices from my head, I managed to eke out, "thank you?"

He smiled and put his hand warmly on my shoulder. I didn't immediately try to break his wrist which meant that my thoughts of death by mind/coffee were gone only to be replaced (momentarily) with thoughts of a sexual harassment lawsuit.

"While I'd love to take the credit, Mr. Deadman, I have to say that I couldn't have done it without Essbase. It saved my life last night" and yours to, I didn't add out loud.

He smiled from sunburned ear to sunburned ear. "Well, I always knew that buying Essbase was a good idea. I guess this proves it. You owe me one!"

He skipped off as I grabbed my copy of Look Smarter Than You Are with Essbase: An End User's Guide and threw it at his head.

Note that the authors of this book do not condone in any way killing people with your thoughts, your venti latte, or your copy of this book. While the story above is false, similar situations occur all the time. We hope that you learn from this book so that you don't do something you might regret after 5-10 years of hard labor. Don't wait until 3AM to recall your Essbase teachings. Read this book, learn how to use Essbase to your advantage, and please, get a good night's sleep.