November 29, 2017

The Biggest Change to Reporting & Analysis in 2018 Won’t Be the Cloud

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Companies spent most of 2017 either preparing their journey to the Cloud, getting started on moving their applications to the Cloud, or hoping the whole Cloud thing would go away if we just ignored it long enough (like my late fees at Blockbuster). But in the end, the Cloud isn’t revolutionary: the Cloud just means someone else is managing your server for you. While it’s nice that your servers are now someone else’s problem, there is an actual revolution happening in reporting & analysis and it’s a technology that’s been around for decades.

The Future of Reporting & Analysis Can Also Take Selfies

Up to this point, mobile has been an afterthought in the world of reporting & analysis: we design for a laptop first and if something ends up mobile-enabled, that’s a nice-to-have. The commonly held belief is that mobile devices (phones, tablets) are too small of a footprint to show formatted reports or intricate dashboards. That belief is correct in the same way that Microsoft Outlook is way too complex of an application to make reading emails on a mobile device practical… except that most emails in the world are now read on a mobile device. They’re just not using Outlook. We had to rethink of a smaller, faster, easier, more intuitive (sorry, Microsoft) way of consuming information to take email mobile.

Reporting & analysis will also hit that tipping point in 2018 where we ask ourselves simply “what questions do I need answered to make better business decisions faster?” and then our phones will give us exactly that without all the detail a typical report or dashboard provides. Will mobile analytics kill off desktop applications? No more than the desktop killed off paper reports. They all have their place: paper reports are good for quickly looking at a large amount of formatted information, desktops will be good for details (Excel will live on for the foreseeable future), and mobile will take its rightful place as the dominant form of information consumption.

Forget the Past and Pay Attention to the Present

The greatest thing about mobile is that everyone has their phone less than six feet from them at all times [you just glanced over at yours to see if I’m right]. But would you ever look at your phone if your screen took a month to update? Traditional reports are very backwards-looking. Your typical Income Statement, for instance, tells you how you spent the last year, it sometimes tells you about the upcoming forecast, but it rarely tells you, “am I making money at this moment?” Just like the dashboard of a car would be awfully useless if it gave you last month’s average gas tank reading – hey, I was 75% full in December! – mobile reports won’t be for looking at historically dated information. Instead, we’ll look to mobile to give us just the information we need to take physical actions now.

But Why is 2018 the Year of Mobile Analytics?

Quite simply, we didn’t have the technology to support our decisions until now. While we could take reports or dashboards and interact with them on mobile devices, we don’t want to actually perform analytics on our phones. We want the computers doing the analysis for us. While we’ve had data mining for years, it was relegated to high-priced data scientists or not-so-highly-paid analysts.

We now have artificial intelligence that can look through our data 24/7 and with no guidance from us, determine what drivers correlate with which results. Machine learning can then determine which information it delivers do we truly find useful. And so we don’t have to dig through all the results to find out what the system is trying to tell us, the mobile analytics apps in 2018 will convert complex information into natural language. It will simply tell us in plain English (or your language of choice), “I looked through all your information and here are the things you need to be aware of right now.”

While that may seem like distant promises to many people, it’s here now. At Oracle’s OpenWorld 2017 conference, there was an amazing demonstration of everything I mentioned in the last paragraph. The audience was even more amazed when told that all that functionality would be in Oracle Analytics Cloud before OpenWorld 2018. I’m sure the employees of Microsoft, Tableau, QlikView, and others are either busy working on their own technological magic or they’re busier working on their resumés.

Am I Ready for the Future?

Start finding out at EPM.BI/Survey. Each year, I conduct a global survey of Business Analytics. Last year, I asked over 250 companies how they were doing in the world of reporting, analysis, planning, and consolidation.  To participate in this year’s survey, go to EPM.BI/Survey and spend 15 minutes answering questions about your State of Business Analytics that you maybe haven’t thought of in years. In exchange for filling in the survey, you’ll be invited to a webcast on January 31, 2018, at 1PM Eastern, where you’ll learn how your BI & EPM (Business Intelligence & Enterprise Performance Management) stacks up against the rest of the world.

If you have any questions, ask them in the comments or tweet them to me @ERoske.

May 1, 2017

Top 5 Quotes from Oracle’s 2017 Modern Finance Experience

Three days of Oracle’s Modern Finance Experience set my personal new record for “Most Consecutive Days Wearing a Suit.” Surrounded by finance professionals (mostly CFOs, VPs of FP&A, and people who make money from Finance execs), I came prepared to learn nothing… yet found myself quoting the content for days to come.

The event featured top notch speakers on cutting edge concepts: the opening keynote with Mark Hurd, a panel on the changing world of finance with Matt Bradley & Rondy Ng, Hari Sankar on Hybrid in the world of Oracle EPM, and even one of my competitors (more on that in a second).

For those of you who couldn’t be there (or didn’t want to pay a lot of money to dress up for three days), I thought I’d share my top five quotes as best as I could transcribe them.

“IT currently spends 80% of its budget on maintenance. Boards are demanding increased security, compliance, and regulatory investment. All these new investments come from the innovation budget, not maintenance.”
-          Mark Hurd, Oracle, Co-Chief Executive Officer

Mark Hurd was pulling double duty: he gave the opening keynote at Oracle HCM World (held at a nearby hotel) and then bolted over to Oracle Modern Finance Experience to deliver our keynote. He primarily talked Oracle strategy for the next few years which – to badly paraphrase The Graduate – can be summed up in one word: Cloud.

He gave a compelling argument for why the Cloud is right for Oracle and businesses (though server vendors and hosting providers should be terrified). Now let me be clear: much of this conference was focused around the Cloud, so many of these quotes will be too, but what I liked about Mark’s presentation was it gave clear, concise, and practically irrefutable arguments of the benefits of the Cloud.

The reason I liked the quote above is it answers the concerns from all those IT departments: what happens to my job if I don’t spend 80% of our resources on maintaining existing systems? You’ll get to spend your time on actually improving systems. Increased innovation, greater security, better compliance … the things you’ve been wanting to get to but never have time or budget to address.

“The focus is not on adding lots of new features to on-premises applications. Our priority is less on adding to the functional richness and more on simplifying the process of doing an upgrade.”

-          Hari Sankar, Oracle, GVP of Product Management

I went to a session on the hybrid world of Oracle EPM. I knew Hari would be introducing a customer who had both on-premises Hyperion applications and Cloud applications. What I didn’t know is that he would be addressing the future of Oracle EPM on-premises. As most of you know, the current version for the on-premises Oracle EPM products is What many of you do not know is that Oracle has taken future major versions ( and 12c) of those products off the roadmap.

Hari spoke surprisingly directly to the audience about why Oracle is not abandoning EPM on-prem, but why they will not be pushing the Cloud versions and all their cool new functionality back down to the historical user base. To sum up his eight+ minute monologue, the user base is not requesting new functionality. They want simplicity and an easy path to transition to the Cloud eventually, and that’s why Oracle will be focusing on PSUs (Patch Set Updates) for the EPM products and not on “functional richness.”

Or to put it another way: Hyperion Planning and other Hyperion product users who want impressive new features? Go to the Cloud because they’re probably never coming to on-premises. To quote Hari once more, “create a 1-3 year roadmap for moving to a Cloud environment” or find your applications increasingly obsolete.

 “Hackers are in your network: they’re just waiting to pull the trigger.”

-          Rondy Ng, Oracle, SVP of Applications Development

There was an entertaining Oracle panel led by Jeff Jacoby (Master Principal Sales Consultant and a really nice guy no matter what his family says) that included Rondy Ng (he’s over ERP development), Matt Bradley (he’s over EPM development), and Michael Gobbo (also a lofty Master Principal Sales Consultant). While I expected to be entertained (and Gobbo’s integrated ERP/HCM/EPM demo was one for the ages), I didn’t expect them to tackle the key question on everyone’s mind: what about security in the Cloud?

Mark Hurd did address this in his keynote and he gave a fun fact: if someone finds a security flaw in Oracle’s software on a Tuesday, Oracle will patch in by Wednesday, and it will take an average of 18 months until that security patch gets installed in the majority of their client base. Rondy addressed it even more directly: if you think hackers haven’t infiltrated your network, you’re sticking your head in the sand.

Without going into all of Rondy’s points, his basic argument was that Oracle is better at running a data center than any of their customers out there. He pointed out that Oracle now has 90 data centers around the world and that security overrides everything else they do. He also said, “security is in our DNA” which is almost the exact opposite of “Danger is my middle name,” but while Rondy’s line won’t be getting him any dates, it should make the customer base feel a lot safer about letting Oracle host their Cloud applications.

 “Cloud is when not if.”

-          David Axson, Accenture, Managing Director

I have to admit, I have developed a man crush on one of my competitors. I wrote down more quotes from him than from every other speaker at the event put together. His take on the future of Finance and Planning so closely paralleled my thoughts that I almost felt like he had read the State of Business Analytics white paper we wrote. For instance, in that white paper, we wrote about Analysis Inversion: that the responsibility for analyzing the report should be in the hands of the provider of the report, not the receiver of the report. David Axson put it this way: “The reporting and analysis is only as good as the business decisions made from it. In finance, your job starts when you deliver the report and analysis. Most people think that's when it ends.”

The reason I picked the quote above is because it really sums up the whole theme of the conference: the Cloud is not doing battle with on-premises. The Cloud did that battle, won with a single sucker punch while on-prem was thinking it had it made, and Cloud currently dancing on the still unconscious body of on-prem who right now is having a bad nightmare involving losing its Blackberry while walking from Blockbuster to RadioShack.

David is right: the Cloud is coming to every company and the only question is when you’ll start that journey.

“Change and Certainty are the new normal. Combat with agility.”

-          Rod Johnson, Oracle, SVP North America ERP, EPM, SCM Enterprise Business

So, what can we do about all these changes coming to Finance? And for that matter, all the changes coming to every facet of every industry in every country on Earth? Rod Johnson (which he assures me is his not his “stage” name) said it best: don’t fight the change but rather embrace it and make sure you can change faster than everyone else.

"Change comes to those who wait, but it’s the ones bringing the change who are in control."

-          Edward Roske, interRel, CEO

To read more about some of those disruptive changes coming to the world of Finance, download the white paper I mentioned above.