February 22, 2010

#3. Purchase of Brio, Razza, Upstream…

Though everyone agrees that Oracle is much better at acquiring companies than Hyperion, Hyperion didn’t do such a bad job itself once it learned the lessons of the Arbor merger. Hyperion bought Brio in 2003, Razza in 2005, Upstream in 2006, and Decisioneering in 2007. Those acquisitions significantly expanded the Hyperion suite with products now called Hyperion Interactive Reporting, SQR Production Reporting, Data Relationship Management, Financial Data Quality Management, and Crystal Ball.

February 21, 2010

Star Finance Command Center Meets the iPhone

This past week, I got to play with one of the coolest iPhone apps I've seen in a long time. Why is it cool? Because to the best of my knowledge, it's the first generally available, Hyperion-centric application for the iPhone. Well, technically it's a web app that's optimized for viewing on smartphones, but it has all the look-and-feel of an iPhone app.

Sometime soon, Star Analytics is going to be releasing the newest version of their Star Finance Command Center and it's targeted for smart phones (UPDATE: press release is now out). Here's a shot of an iPhone taken with an iPhone (meta, I know) showing the new Star app:

For those of you who are not familiar with Star's Finance Command Center, I encourage you to check out their website (and don't confuse it with Star Integration Server). Suffice to say, it lets you manage all of your financial processes and data flows whether they're from a general ledger, Hyperion Financial Management, Oracle Essbase, a relational database or just about any other data source you can imagine. Until recently, you had to be sitting at a desktop to manage your processes, but the newest release should change all that.

In the interest of full disclosure, I got such a kick out of Star's smartphone app that I did agree to be quoted in their press release when it eventually comes out. I'm not being compensated for it: I just think that it's a really cool product and I can't wait to get it in the hands of all the finance departments I know. (I suppose that since I'm breaking the story of the app here before the press release comes out, it's possible that this will be the last press release Star Analytics ever asks me to participate in.)

I did manage to talk one of the developers into giving me a cleaned up picture since I know my pic above is a bit amateurish:

Finance Process Management?
Yes, there's finally a web app for that.

February 15, 2010

#4. Microsoft Analysis Services is Released

In 1998, Microsoft released OLAP Services as their first foray into competing with Essbase. It was enough to scare Arbor into merging with Hyperion, because they feared Essbase would turn into a commodity since Microsoft was now basically giving away “OLAP” with SQL Server. But it wasn’t until 2000 when Microsoft released Analysis Services that they had a product that even began to compete with Essbase.

Why is this the 4th most major event of the decade? Because it led to Hyperion taking its focus off Essbase (how could you compete with something free?) and moving its attentions to building applications that Microsoft didn’t have. The good news is that while Microsoft had a good run in the last millennium, companies now know that you buy the best product not the one with the Microsoft name. Like Microsoft lost the search wars, they lost the OLAP wars to Essbase, Cognos, and Business Objects. Simply put, companies would rather pay for a better product than use a free one. Essbase never became a commodity (despite Hyperion’s own attempts to marginalize it by renaming it Hyperion System 9 BI+ Analytic Services) and under Oracle’s leadership, it’s a flagship product again.

February 8, 2010

#5. Release of Hyperion System 9

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Through acquisitions, mergers, and a lack of forethought, Hyperion had developed several products that didn’t talk to each other, didn’t share security, didn’t look anything like each other, and in general looked like they were designed by several, independent companies. System 9 was supposed to solve all of that.

While it eventually did, the original release had three major flaws: it was so full of bugs that it was virtually unusable, it was impossible for anyone other than a trained infrastructure consultant to install, oh, and they thought it’d be a good idea to charge for upgrading to it. By the end of System 9’s lifespan (9.3), it was relatively bug free, easier (but by no means easy) to install, and the price of the upgrade went down. Love it or hate it, System 9 was definitely a game changer.

February 5, 2010

EPM Connection New Jersey - Agenda and Single Day Rate

The EPM Connection conference (also known as "OAUG Connection Point - Enterprise Performance Management") in New Jersey is less tha 3 weeks away (Feb. 23-24) and there are two developments of note.

The agenda is ready in PDF form (ignore the fact that it says Dubai in the page header). The festivities kick off at 8:30AM on Tuesday, February 23 with a keynote from John O'Rourke on "Smart EPM Strategies for 2010." It then breaks into 5 different tracks covering a range of mostly business topics until 3:30PM. There's a vendor-paid commercial from TUSC that afternoon and a reception that evening.

I'm doing one presentation on the first day along with Steve from Pepsico titled "Achieving a Common Goal: Creating an Oracle EPM Center of Excellence." Tracy McMullen from interRel (Best. Co-author. Ever.) delivers "Day in the Life of a Planning Admin" on the second day. I'm also doing "Finding Profitability in 8 Weeks or Less: An Intro to HPCM" on day two.

Speaking of the second day, John O'Rourke kicks off with another keynote at 8:45AM on what's coming in Oracle EPM in 2010. There are then three more breakout sessions until 1PM. There are a couple of general session things happening from 1-2:30PM before the event wraps up, but I honestly can't tell at the moment what's really going on during that 90 minute period.

The agenda seems to cover a lot of products (though Essbase is woefully underrepresented at about 3 presentations) and a number of good business topics. Total, there are 35+ sessions to choose from which for $495 is a pretty good deal.

The conference is two days long, but there's definitely more content on Tuesday, so some might only want to go for the first day. Realizing this, the kind folks at OAUG added a one-day pass for a reduced charge.

The rate is $350 which is around 30% less than the two-day rate. Since Jersey City is nicely located near New York City, I expect that this one-day pass will allow some regional Hyperion users to go who otherwise could not break away for a couple of days. I hope to see you at least one of these days at EPM Connection.

February 4, 2010

Oracle - Best Ability to Execute Among EPM Suites

Gartner has released their annual "Magic Quadrant" report on CPM (Corporate Performance Management also known as EPM) suites. To the shock of almost no one, there are only three vendors in the "Leaders" quadrant which means they have high ability to execute and completeness of vision. Those three are IBM (with the Cognos products), SAP (with the Business Objects and OutlookSoft products), and of course, Oracle (with the Hyperion products).

Oracle EPM scored higher in "ability to execute" than any other vendor although SAP did rank higher in terms of "completeness of vision." The "ability to execute" category is determined largely by a customer survey, and it's interesting to note that Oracle had the largest improvement in execution of any vendor Gartner surveyed.

One might wonder why Oracle didn't fare above IBM and SAP in terms of vision, considering those vendors seem unsure as to what they're doing with their long-term EPM strategies. A clue can be found in the comments at the end of the article where Gartner mentions that no major increases in functionality were released in 2009. Further:
...There has not been any major advancement in product vision during the same time frame, and Oracle needs to show evidence of thought leadership in CPM to maintain its position relative to other megavendors and some of the CPM specialists. Its IP functionality and planned financial-close functionality partly address this.
In other words, Oracle had better keep advancing (rather than focusing on just integrating Oracle EPM with the existing Oracle products) or risk falling significantly behind on the vision front. The release of 11.1.2 (Talleyrand) and hopefully, OBIEE 11g will surely help.

February 1, 2010

#6. The “Invention” of Essbase ASO

Essbase 7.1.2 provided a new method for storing data: Essbase ASO (Aggregate Storage Option). Whether the idea came from Hyperion or was borrowed from HyperRoll (Patents? We don't need no stinkin' patents.) was a matter of speculation and a court ruling or two, one thing was for sure: no one (Hyperion included) quite knew what to do with ASO.

It was not only a new way of storing data, but it was also a far faster method of aggregating data. It even allowed both more dimensions and larger dimensions than traditional Essbase block storage databases. At the start of the decade, people were asking themselves “should I convert this application to ASO” but by the end of the decade, it was the default method for building cubes in Essbase 11x. With most of the R&D and new features going to ASO, block storage is definitely the way of the past.