Automating Enterprise Planning with EPBCS: A Case Study Featuring Sims Metal Management

Enterprise Planning and Budgeting Cloud ServiceIn using Enterprise Planning & Budgeting Cloud Service (EPBCS) to support annual budgeting and forecasting processes, organizations are choosing solutions that allow them to leverage the financials, projects, capital and workforce business processes necessary to provide a driver-based solution that links expected intake to revenues and costs. In turn, they are able to more efficiently produce integrated income statements, balance sheets and cash flow statements.

Featuring Jim Clark of Sims Metal Management, Our Special Guest

 Our August 16, 2017 webinar, featuring Jim Clark, Group Manager of FP&A at Sims Metal Management, takes a detailed look at how one organization automated enterprise planning to streamline processes and produce better results.

Within a real-world scenario, this means that whether using EPBCS out of the box or as a “hybrid” of OOTB with customized extensions, companies like Sims are able to adjust sales forecasts—throughout the year and through sales cycles—to better match the actual costs and needs in areas such as raw materials and labor.

A Better Approach To Performance Management

Using this integrated approach to Performance Management, companies are, in effect, bringing actual performance numbers, on a monthly basis, into their models.

As a result, changes and adjustments can be fine-tuned and incorporated into the mix.  Forecasts can be based more on actual numbers and less on assumptions, thus leading to a balance sheet that matches projections. From a planning perspective, companies can be more nimble and, ultimately, create their models with greater accuracy.

Whether you are participating live or via a recording, this webinar will illustrate how organizations like Sims are leveraging EPBCS in ways that allow them to: 

  • Gain insight to increase efficiency and improve outcomes
  • Better understand how organizations like yours can make standardization and centralization a top priority
  • See how an integrated solution works not just in theory, but actually in practice
  • Follow the processes to results that include improved accuracy and increased efficiency across the enterprise

For More Information

No matter where your team or your organization is along your EPBCS journey, this webinar is certain to provide you with valuable insight and context that can help you to implement changes that lead to greater efficiency and a more streamlined forecasting process overall.

Register for our “Automating Enterprise Planning with EPBCS: A Case Study Featuring Sims Metal Management ” webinar:

Missed the webinar? View Recording Here.

 

Full Circle Planning, Cost Management, & Profitability in the Manufacturing Industry

This post corresponds to the webinar “Full Circle Planning, Cost Management & Profitability in the Manufacturing Industry.” You can access the recording here.

As we are all aware, today’s manufacturing industry faces multiple ongoing challenges, including:

  • Changing customer/consumer demands
  • Shrinking operating margins
  • Ever-changing compliance and regulatory pressures
  • Increasingly globalizing economy
  • Lowered availability and visibility of detailed information

Now more than ever, manufacturers’ focus is not just on growth, but, more specifically, on profitable growth.

 

Managing Profitable Growth

When it comes to profitable growth and insight into profitability, the first place to start is the consolidated P&L.

But while the P&L offers information on profitable growth, it does not help manage profitable growth. The financial P&L provides limited insight into costs, profits and their underlying drivers, from the perspective of their lines of business, products, customers, markets and channels. Cost bases are imperfect and are limited to legacy standard costing and unstructured cost extracts. Results lack a matching of costs and revenue to manage margins at the same strategic view as revenue.

 

The Need to Focus on Strategic P&Ls

To address and contend with these challenges, we recommend a greater focus on more strategic P&Ls for the manufacturing industry.

Strategic P&Ls provide insight into both direct costs and indirect costs.

  • Direct Costs include costs directly associated with:
    • The making of a product or delivery of a service
    • Parts for the product
    • Labor for Service Delivery
    • Costs directly attributed to the selling to a customer or client
    • Shipping and handling expenses
    • Customer processing expenses
  • Indirect Costs include costs that are not directly attributable to the making of a product, delivery of a service, or the selling to a customer:
    • Operating costs (e.g., Call Center, Distribution)
    • Selling costs (e.g., Sales & Marketing)
    • Investment costs (e.g., R&D, Initiatives)
    • G&A costs (e.g., IT, HR, Finance, Admin)
    • Finance charges for Cost of Capital Employed

Measurement of indirect costs in particular can be difficult.

 

What Would A Solution for the Manufacturing Industry Look Like?

With all of this in mind, it’s important to look at the big picture when determining what manufacturers can do to attain strategic P&Ls and overcome their challenges?

The ideal solution for the manufacturing industry would:

  • Design, support and evolve to an integrated financial process
  • Leverage operating metrics and key assumptions to:
    • Link business drivers behind financial performance
    • Modify drivers and assumptions to plan future performance and attain strategic P&Ls
    • Drive accountability to Lines of Business
  • Offer a consistent and transparent framework to support indirect cost attribution
  • Use integrated applications and tools to support and adapt to changing business processes
  • Provide robust reporting to business for transparency into causal factors

A true full-circle planning, costing and reporting solution that aligns and adapts to an integrated financial process includes the following:

  • Driver-based revenue planning and departmental expenses leveraging the actual financial data, operational metrics
  • Integrated costing capabilities that can allocate indirect expenses to lines of business by leveraging the same actuals, plans and drivers used in the planning process
  • Robust and real-time reporting to surface strategic P&Ls by Customer, Product and other Lines of Business

 

Some Solutions are Ineffective and Unsustainable

Our team at Ranzal has seen many manufacturers attempt to piece together a solution using various combinations of spreadsheets, ERP, custom and packaged applications.

Typically, spreadsheets are the most common ingredient given their flexibility and accessibility. But spreadsheets tend to be error-prone, highly manual/labor-intensive and prone also to risk regarding controls and governance. We’ve also seen customizing the ERP as a common solution-oriented approach, but this can be too expensive, overly IT-centric and can also be somewhat of a “black box.” And lastly, custom applications are slow to adapt, can promote high effort and cost and also function like a “black box.”

 

Oracle’s EPM as the Foundation for Full-Circle Planning

We recommend Oracle EPM’s packaged applications to be the foundation to configuring the right full-circle planning, costing and reporting solution that avoids the constraints and risks other avenues bring on.

The specific Oracle EPM offerings that support a full-circle planning, costing and reporting solution involve:

  • Planning & Budgeting Cloud Service (PBCS)
    • Best-in class solution for financial planning, budgeting and forecasting
    • Align top-down and bottom-up processes
    • Consistency of assumptions, calculations and methodologies
    • And many more features here
  • Profitability & Cost Management Cloud Service (PCMCS)
    • Computes Profitability for Units, Segments and Services
    • Pre-Built Framework for profitability modeling: Dimensions, Support for Multiple Cost Allocation methodologies, Validation reporting
    • Graphical Interactive Traceability Maps & Dashboards
    • Measures, Allocates and Assigns Cost and Revenues via User-defined Rules
    • And many more features here
  • Tightly integrated with the Oracle EPM Cloud
    • Consistent Administration with EPM Cloud Offerings
    • Shared Reporting Tools like Financial Reports & Smart View for Office
    • Proven Technology Stack

We believe a comprehensive solution focused on a “Technology Trio” of Integrated Business Analytics, or the convergence of: EPM, BI and BD solutions. Experience and results have shown us that this combination provides the tools and answers needed for improved business performance, increased innovation, better vision, and increased business value.

For more information or to request a demo, email us. Be sure to ask about our complimentary one-day Profitability and Cost Management assessment and how the newly-released Oracle Profitability and Cost Management Cloud Service (PCMCS) can help modernize your solution.

Oracle Business Intelligence Cloud Service (BICS) September Update

The latest upgrade for BICS happened last week and, while there are no new end user features, it is now easier to integrate data. New to this version is the ability to connect to JDBC data sources through the Data Sync tool.  This allows customers to set up automated data pulls from Salesforce, Redshift, and Hive among others.  In addition to these connections, Oracle RightNow CRM customers have the ability to pull directly from RightNow reports using Oracle Data Sync.  Finally, connections to on premise databases and BICS can be secured using Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certifications.

After developing a customer script using API calls to pull data from Salesforce, I am excited about the ability to connect directly to Salesforce with Data Sync. Direct connections to the Salesforce database allows you to search and browse for relevant tables and import the definitions with ease:

blog

Once the definitions have been imported, standard querying clauses can create the ability to include only relevant data, perform incremental ETLs, and further manipulate the data.

While there are no new features for end users, this is a powerful update when it comes to data integration. Using APIs to extract data from Salesforce meant that each extraction query had to be written by hand which was time consuming and prone to error.  With these new data extraction processes, BICS implementations and integrating data becomes much faster, furthering the promise of Oracle Cloud technologies.

Announcing PowerDrill for Oracle EID 3.1

If you had distill what we at Ranzal’s Big Data Practice do down to its essence, it’s to use technology to make accessing and managing your data more intuitive, more useful.  Often this takes the form of data modeling and integration, data visualization or advice in picking the right technology for the problem at hand.

Sometimes, it’s a lot simpler than that.  Sometimes, it’s just giving users a shortcut or an easy way to do more with the tools they have.  Our latest offering, the PowerDrill for Oracle Endeca Information Discovery 3.1, is the quintessential example of this.

When dealing with large and diverse quantities of data, Oracle Endeca Studio is great for a lot of operations.  It enables open text search, it has data visualization, it enriches data, it surfaces all in-context attributes for slicing and dicing and it helps you find answers both high-level, say “Sales by Region”, and low, like “My best/worst performing product”.  But what about the middle ground?

For example, on our demo site, we have an application that allows users to explore publicly available data related to Parks and Recreation facilities in Chicago.  I’m able to navigate through the data, filter by the types of facilities available (Pools, Basketball Courts, Mini Golf, etc.), see locations on a map, pretty basic exploration.

The Parks of Chicago

The Parks of Chicago

Now, let’s say I’m looking for parks that fit a certain set of criteria.  For example, let’s say I’m looking to organize a 3-on-3 basketball tournament somewhere in the city.  I can use my discovery application to very easily find parks that have at least 2 basketball courts.

Navigate By Courts

Navigate By Courts


This leaves me with 80 potential parks that might be a candidate for my tournament.  But let’s say I live in the suburbs and I’m not all that familiar with the different neighborhoods of Chicago.  Wouldn’t it be great to use other data sets to quickly explore the areas surrounding these parks quickly and easily?  Enter the Power Drill. Continue reading

Fun with Shapefiles: The Two Utahs

A little midweek enjoyment, courtesy of our Advanced Visualization Framework.  Below, you can see a county-by-county map of Utah and all of its Oil and Gas Fields.

http://branchbird.com/utah.html

You can wave over counties and fields and get some basic statistics related to the county or field that you are inspecting.  For fields, we have the oil/gas field status, the year it was opened and other basic information such as whether or not it was merged with another field.

We had to “dumb it down a bit” and put it in to an iframe (WordPress!) but you can still some of the detail.  It’s obviously not as flexible as our “real visualizations” (no zooming, no refining, etc.) that render inside of Oracle Endeca Studio but gives you a sense of how quickly and easily our technology incorporates advanced GIS data into a Data Discovery application.

Endeca Performance Optimization

Ranzal launches the first of our Performance Analysis Tools: Phoenix

So, you’ve got this great Endeca Commerce implementation powering your online sales  and delivering a world-class experience to your customers.  Or you’ve got a terrific Data Discovery application built on the Oracle Endeca Information Discovery (OEID, for short) platform and it’s enabling your users to unlock all kinds of value from your structured and unstructured data.  Things are humming along and life is grand.  However, one day, you decide to implement some changes.  Maybe you’re rolling out a second business release or a whole new set of data sources or products.  Maybe you’re enabling record-level-security.  Post-rollout, you start to get the dreaded emails from your users:

“Hey Andy, the system seems really slow this morning.”

“This chart loads for me but not for Gireesh, can you help?”

“Your site used to be lightning-fast, now a search for ‘handbags’ takes 30 seconds!.”

Performance testing, forensic analysis, system troubleshooting.  For most people, these are not tasks that set one’s pulse racing with excitement.  However, monitoring performance and understanding where the bottlenecks are is a crucial element of maintaining a valuable Endeca application, be it Commerce or OEID.

Since we’re all about efficiency and helping people work on the fun stuff, we’ve spent some time over the last month building Phoenix, our performance analysis tool for Oracle Commerce and OEID.

What does it do?

Phoenix harnesses the entirety of Endeca system metrics that are tracked throughout the platform, from the back-end MDEX Engines for OEID/Endeca Commerce to the front-end OEID Studio application, and produces clear and concise HTML reports.  Our application breaks down and summarizes your system performance by Date and Time (down to the hour), Feature (Navigation vs. Search vs. Charting vs. Sorting vs. Everything), Portlet Instance (for OEID) and more, surfacing where your implementation is experiencing problems.

In addition, it identifies your worst performing operations and queries, taking a holistic view of the entire system, not just the back-end MDEX.  It surfaces the key information necessary to figure out which parts of your stack (Network, Front-end, Back-end) are acting as a bottleneck and which parts are cruising along performance-wise.  If you’re troubleshooting an OEID application, it can find your worst performing charts or visualizations.  For a Commerce application, it can find out which cartridges and features are contributing to your most expensive queries.

If you’re a long-time Endeca expert who has used the Cheetah tool before, it provides all the functionality that the Cheetah tool provided and goes way beyond.

What questions does it answer?

Which Endeca features are performing poorly?
What times of the day/month/year is my application taking on the most load?
Is my application returning too much data in its responses?
Do I have enough threads?
Are my requests “queueing”?
What are my worst-performing queries?
Is my network a bottleneck for responses?
Does my application tier read the MDEX responses too slowly?

How does it work?

Phoenix is written in Java following a modular and extensible pattern that allows new “parsers” to be plugged in to work with any version of the MDEX and EID Studio request logs, past or present.  With Perl no longer shipping with the OEID product, Java and the extensibility it offers, was the obvious choice for writing this utility.  The “default” version we ship is designed for v2.3 of the OEID platform and the latest version of Oracle Endeca Commerce but if you’re on an older version and looking to use it (Endeca Infront, Latitude 1, MDEX 5, etc.), let us know and we can make it available to you.

How do I get it?

If you’re interested in better understanding the health and performance characteristics of your Endeca implementation, contact us at ranzal.com to see what Ranzal and Phoenix can do for you.

What’s next?

Our plan is to continue to build out a suite of analysis, performance testing and optimization tools to help the Oracle Endeca community get the most out of their Commerce and Data Discovery applications.