A Safe Step into the Cloud: The Argument for Account Reconciliation Cloud Service (ARCS)

Before forecasting models, before fancy dashboards and pretty reports, before a data point is even considered “Actual” comes the age old question…

                “Does this number even look right?”

Bulls*#!

Account reconciliations – the means by which this question is answered – are a fundamental part of the financial close process. Imagine you are trying to build a sandcastle. Now imagine your “sand” is harvested from a cow pasture. You *could* continue to build this “sandcastle,” but you will likely finish with a pile of…bull-sand. In the same way, if your account balances and transactions have an integrity equivalent to “bull-sand,” this will inevitably lead to problems down the line.

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The shift to the Cloud has complicated the decision-making process when considering new enterprise-wide application tools. The choice of whether to go with a known “on-premise” solution or take a bold step into Cloud solutions is a daunting one, particularly when considering moving high-visibility cycles such as forecasting or financial consolidations into this brave new world.

A Justified Recommendation

Take the measured move instead. If you feel hesitant to go “all-in” on Cloud offerings, here are four reasons why you should consider entering the Cloud through the arch of ARCS…the ARCSway (Get it?…archway…ARCSway…never mind – just keep reading…)

Safe Bet on a Strong Foundation

Oracle introduced Account Reconciliation Cloud Service (ARCS) as the “one stop shop” solution for managing and streamlining the reconciliation cycle in the Cloud back in 2016. While it’s not uncommon for some EPM products to lose functionality during their initial transition into the Cloud space, ARCS retains the “good bones” of its on-premise counterpart – Account Reconciliation Manager (ARM). ARCS builds upon the clever functionality and customizability of ARM, released in 2012, yet with the slick look and feel of the Oracle Cloud experience.

Since its release, ARCS has become the “golden child” of the reconciliation product family, receiving not only “first dibs” on refinement of existing capabilities, but also benefiting from the newest components such as Transaction Matching (note: this has separate licensing than the Reconciliation Compliance component of ARCS).  As the product continues to gain steam, this trend is expected to continue. Between utilizing the tried-and-true foundation of the ARM tool and having Oracle’s watchful eye, ARCS is a safe bet.

No Mistakes with Modularity

Unlike some applications, ARCS is easy to implement in pieces. While good design will certainly prevent future heartache, there are no decisions made on Day 1 of a project that cannot be modified or enhanced in the future:

  • Want to manually enter data for reconciliations today, but automatically load them from a source system tomorrow? We can do this.
  • Missing fields for additional detail you would like users to include? Can be ready for next period (or the current one even!)
  • Only want to rollout in one country to start? No problem – go ahead and make the other entities jealous!

While some changes are “cleaner” than others (I am looking at you, Profile Segments!), ARCS welcomes you to “test the waters” and see what works in your company without needing to go “all-in.” For example, a current client has a live ARM application that provides a viable solution for its reconciliation process needs given the initial project timeline and budget. Although the client wasn’t able to fully utilize the available functionality at the time, the modularity of the reconciliation tools (both ARM and ARCS) allows the opportunity for enhancements without punishing this design decision – we are now revamping the client’s auto-reconciliation setup to further streamline the process. For Partners, this means additional project phases; for clients, this means not biting off more than you can chew (win-win!).

Fast Implementation Cycles and Rapid ROI

Relative to other EPM project lifecycles, ARCS is typically a quick implementation. As with all projects, there are certainly exceptions, but with Ranzal’s “Quick Start” methodology, we have stood up applications in just six weeks! A strong inventory of project “accelerators” – custom tools and scripts that Ranzal has developed based on common requests across multiple clients – allows sophisticated deployments in a timely manner. Couple this with the inherent time saving benefits of Cloud technology (i.e. lack of infrastructure setup, etc.), and ARCS shines as the first step in a Roadmap, producing tangible metrics for evaluation (ex. completion percentages per period, timeliness per Preparer/Reviewer, reconciliation accuracy, etc.) and giving users a taste of the Oracle Cloud experience in a short period of time.

You Don’t Have Anything Today and It’s Costing You

I know that may read like a presumptuous fear tactic, but hear me out:

Account reconciliations ARE being completed in your company – one way or another. Whether that means your CPAs are *click*click* clicking away on their keyboards to manually update Excel spreadsheets or – heaven forbid – actually printing out recons to hand sign, if you cannot name the system that is comprehensively handling your reconciliation cycle, it’s because there isn’t one.

And this is normal. But there are costs associated with this normalcy.

Reconciliation cycles aren’t sexy (well…personal taste…) and often have low visibility to upper management. And yet (!) the reconciliation process is often widespread across the company spanning business entities, departments, and corporate ladders (I see you, Mr/s. Director signing off on recons). ARCS is an attractive option when considering enterprise-wide Cloud solutions to “test run” because everyone can try it. A successful ARCS implementation paves the way for easier adoption of future projects – it gets everybody onboard.

Step Through the “ARCSway” and Ditch the Bulls*#!

The shift to the Cloud is disrupting the traditional market of on-premise EPM solutions. As you look at the new strategic options available to your company’s roadmap, consider ARCS as a “first step.” Of note, it is important to have an accurate understanding of the tool – ARCS is first and foremost a management tool, and although it can provide helpful information in troubleshooting account variances, it does not replace actually performing a reconciliation in an ERP system. Additionally, customizing reports can be difficult (unless you are familiar with BI Publisher), although the out-of-the-box reports and strong dashboarding capabilities largely make up for this limitation. All-in-all, I strongly recommend this product as an introduction to the new Oracle offerings. ARCS’ “low risk, high reward” nature provides real company value quickly while presenting you with a good picture of life in the Cloud. Now is the perfect time to ditch your “bull-sand” reconciliation process and update to a more solid foundation in the Cloud through the ARCSway.

Contact us today for details about a custom Cloud solution for your business needs.

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Cloud Data Management (CDM) and Financial Data Quality Management Enterprise Edition (FDMEE): A Case Study in Working Together

Why buy Financial Data Quality Management Enterprise Edition (FDMEE) when Cloud Data Management (CDM) is free?  As outlined in my recent white paper – FDMEE vs. Cloud Data Management – there are myriad factors that can drive the decision.  This blog post highlights how one customer gained a highly flexible and automated solution for data and master data management with an on-premise deployment of FDMEE in conjunction with Cloud Data Management.

This customer adopted a pure Cloud strategy as it relates to Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) procuring subscriptions to Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service (PBCS), Financial Close & Consolidation Cloud Service (FCCS), and Account Reconciliation Cloud Service (ARCS).  A diverse business, the customer has many unique operational systems with varying formats and charts of accounts.  So far, no reason why Cloud Data Management (CDM) can’t handle this requirement, right?  This is what CDM does – uses import formats and maps to consume and transform data – right?  Sure, but with caveats.  Notice that I used the word consume and not extract.  CDM does not provide the ability to link with on-premise systems to extract data.  Additionally, flat file data extracts that lack a consistent structure often cannot be natively consumed by CDM.

In this case, data needs to be loaded each day from numerous sources to support daily operational reporting.  The systems are a blend of on-premise, hosted, and Cloud applications.  The customer requirement dictated that any on-premise system should be connected directly to eliminate the need for a flat file extract to be generated daily.  Additionally, the hosted and Cloud applications are very industry specific and, in some cases, provided by very niche vendors.  The ability to modify extract formats was cost prohibitive or simply not supported.  As a result, several of these data feeds were not consumable by CDM without preprocessing/modification.

In light of the above requirements, the customer procured and deployed FDMEE on-premise.  The power of FDMEE allows a solution to be deployed that provides a direct connection to multiple on-premise systems as well as consume the flat file extracts from hosted and Cloud applications including Excel files (not in the required FDMEE/CDM format) and XML.  Because FDMEE on-premise supports scripting, we were able to greatly enrich the data integration cycle with full end-to-end automation including FTP downloading of hosted data, enhancement of the data integration cycle to detect data mapped to members not yet in PBCS or FCCS, dynamically setting substitution variables based on the processing day, running calculations in PBCS, and sending email status alerts to outline the success or failure of a data load cycle.

Although I am a huge FDMEE advocate, I recognize the value of Cloud Data Management and the benefits it provides in a case like this one.  This customer was one of just three participants in the Oracle Enterprise Data Management Cloud Service (EDMCS) program.  This means that they were able to use the software before it was publicly available – otherwise known as GA.  To participate in this program, one must recognize the absence of certain features and functions with the software.  The program allows the customer (and partner) to offer Oracle development and product management valuable input about the software and in some ways drive what features are prioritized within the product roadmap.

EDMCS currently lacks native connections to FCCS, but this will change over time.  So how does CDM help with loading metadata to FCCS?  In a recent update to CDM, Oracle included the ability to import a flat file into CDM and load metadata to a registered target application such as PBCS or FCCS.  John Goodwin gives a detailed overview of the technical setup.

FDMEE and CDM have come together in this case to provide a fully automated data integration process and an automated master data integration process.  Within EDMCS, a Custom application type was created.  The required properties for FCCS were built and attached to the multiple dimensions being mastered, and flat file exports were generated for FCCS.  We knew we were going to use CDM to manage the master data load process, but we had a decision to make – do we leverage EPM Automate or FDMEE as our automation hub?

We chose FDMEE.  Why?  Simply because a lot of automation assets had already been developed in FDMEE that could readily be reused for this process including execution of EPM Automate commands, a framework for leveraging the REST API (for PBCS and FCCS), and email alerting.  Additionally, we found the capabilities of EPM Automate to be somewhat limited.

For example, when you execute a CDM data load rule from EPM Automate, the process ID associated with the execution is not returned.  Why is that important?  Because in the event of a failure, I’d want to download the process log and attach it to the email so the user has information to address the issue.  Could I use the ListFiles command of EPM Automate to get the process log? Possibly, but it doesn’t account for potential concurrency, and I am not doing my job as a consultant if I build a process that can’t handle concurrent operations.  For reasons such as these, we leveraged EPM Automate when possible and the REST API as needed, and we wrapped it all together with an FDMEE process that could be executed on a scheduled basis or on demand simply by using the Script Execution functionality.

Let’s review the end-to-end solution.  In EDMCS, metadata is maintained for PBCS and FCCS.  The metadata is extracted to a flat file (.csv) after maintenance is completed and saved to a network folder.  From FDMEE, the master data integration process is initiated to upload the metadata files to FCCS and PBCS.  Cloud Data Management data load rules are initialized to process the metadata extracts.  In the event of an error, the CDM process log is downloaded.  Finally, an email is generated to alert the administrator of the data integration process status.

There you have it – EDMCS, FDMEE, and CDM working in concert to provide a seamless and elegant solution to data and master data integration for a customer that adopted a Cloud EPM strategy.  If you want to learn how you can enhance your Oracle EPM integration processes, contact us and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.