January 11, 2009

#3. Financial Reporting, Smart View, and Workspace Live on!

I'm writing this entry from a Carnival cruise ship in the Caribbean.  This demonstrates that 1)I am amazingly dedicated to my job; and 2) I have no idea how to relax.  (Is it strange to find blogging enjoyable?  Discuss.)

I am known as a betting man.  This is mostly because I regularly make fearless predictions and am normally willing to back them up either with my reputation or more commonly, with money.  If someone asked me at in the summer of 2007 to predict the Hyperion products that would not be long for this world now that Oracle was in charge, I would have said:
  • Hyperion Pillar, because it's an antiquated product that Hyperion had already all but replaced with Hyperion Planning.
  • Smart View, because Oracle already had their own Office add-ins.
  • Workspace, because Oracle already had their own BI portal front-ends.
  • Financial Reporting, because it's fundamentally an "End User Driven Report Writer" and Oracle had a ton of report writers that better fit with Oracle's philosophy that reports should be IT created.
And I would have been wrong on 3 of the 4 counts.  Based on public comments by Oracle in 2008, we now know that 3 of those products are Oracle's strategic direction (which is a polite way of saying that they're going to continue enhancing them and not just let them wither on the vine).

Smart View
Back in olden timey days, Hyperion had an Excel add-in for everything: Essbase, Planning, HFM, Reports, Analyzer, heck, Enterprise even had two.  With the release of System 9, they decided to combine to a single add-in: Smart View.  When Oracle and Hyperion joined, Oracle's BI products also had their separate Excel clients.

So the story goes, when the Oracle execs saw Smart View, they reliazed it had two strong things going for it.  1) It was designed to plug-in additional products making it easy to add things like OBIEE into Smart View.  2) it worked across all Office products, not just Excel.  Next thing we knew, not only was Smart View not going away, but it became the strategic direction for an Office add-in for all BI/EPM products.

Prior to System 9, web front-ends for Hyperion were like Excel add-ins: every product had a different front-end.  Hyperion came up with the great idea of a web-based "portal" (and I do use that term loosely) that would easily enable developers to plug in additional products.  Oracle, like pre-System 9 Hyperion, was in a similar boat: while their different products had similar web looks-and-feels, each one was really a separately coded front-end.

Like Smart View, Oracle realized that the product that was more extensible, Hyperion Workspace, was the best go-forward front-end, and thus Hyperion Workspace became Oracle EPM Workspace.

Financial Reporting
When Oracle development first saw the user interface for Financial Reporting (FR), they actually laughed out loud.  This looks like stripped down version of Excel, they cried in between their howling cackles of cruel laughter.  Hyperion defended themselves: but financial users like Excel; they know it, love it, and want more of it!  Oracle countered by pointing out that users don't write reports, IT developers do, so what the users wanted was irrelevant.

Well, at least that's the way I heard the story and so the rumor began circulating that Financial Reporting was not going to be further enhanced and the strategic direction was OBIEE+ Publisher... until someone realized that there was one major, major difference between Publisher and FR.  Publisher is meant for banded reports whereas FR was designed for detailed, line-by-line, formatting.  At first, some questioned the need for this until it was correctly pointed out that financial-minded reports (and many other types, to be honest) were line formatted and specified.

While I don't want to take the time to explain what all that means (suffice to say that individual rows need individually different formatting in many financially minded reports), suffice to say that once everyone at Oracle realized the value, Financial Reporting was suddenly here to stay.

Of course, all of the above is subject to change by Oracle, and Oracle probably will.  For the moment, though, I take comfort in knowing that Financial Reporting, Smart View, and Work Space are not only still here, they being embraced into the Oracle fold.

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