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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Oracle Data Visualization for Strategic Analytics

The world of analytics and data visualization continues to change at a rapid pace. New tools, processes, buzz words (Cloud anyone?) have penetrated our industry and can become overwhelming.  Most of these changes, though, are for the better – one of them being self-service data visualization. Solutions like Tableau, PowerBI, and Qlik have been around for several years, earning reputations as leaders in the self-service, easy, and sexy exploration of data.

Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE), although a great tool and long-time market leader, lacks ease of deployment, maintenance, and connectivity, and the freedom from “IT tyranny” access to data craved by business users – attributes already addressed by Tableau and others. For many years, I’ve listened to IT describe OBIEE as its enterprise Business Intelligence (BI) solution while business users use Tableau to connect to their own databases and spreadsheets because Tableau doesn’t require them to enter a ticket and potentially wait weeks for that new column to be added to their report.

Today, there is an Oracle tool – Oracle Data Visualization (DV), an Oracle Analytics Cloud (OAC) component,  that exceptionally meets the needs of business users.  Because it is part of a suite of products, Data Visualization also provides enterprise and financial reporting capabilities, advanced analytics and big data, mobile access, what-if scenario modeling, ingestion, preparation and transformation of data, and yes – you guessed it – Cloud.  Some highlights include:

  • Dynamic visualizations that can be organized into stories to be shared across the organization
  • Consumer (drag and drop) style with easy uploads, mashups, and exploration
  • Mobile authoring and consumption, device agnostic, and with dynamic design optimization
  • Connections to dozens of different sources, including SaaS, relational databases, big data tools, NoSQL, and others through JDBC/ODBC
  • Cloud and desktop versions with identical features

The full Oracle Analytics Cloud suite is a comprehensive solution that offers analytics and reporting tools to effectively address business requirements as well as accommodate different users within an organization (analysts, consumers, admins, etc.). Also included with OAC is Business Intelligence Cloud Service (BICS), a tool that is essentially “OBIEE in the Cloud.”  Data Visualization and BICS complement each other and address different needs, summarized in the following:

BICS vs DV

With continued rapid changes inevitable in technology, the future of Oracle Analytics Cloud will likely be promising as additional components are added. After seeing and supporting clients as they “take the plunge” into Cloud analytics, it becomes clearer that Data Visualization is Oracle’s strategic future of analytics.

See an overview of the history of Oracle DV and OAC as well as a demonstration of the products’ main features and wide array of possible sources in this webinar: The Strategic Future of Analytics…Starring Oracle Data Visualization

The True Power of Oracle’s Enterprise Planning Suite Unleashed at POET: A Case Study

Enterprise Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service“If you are going to change the world, you need a system to help get you there. For us, it was… about strategic opportunities. POET was at a crossroads. We needed a system that we could grow with and that could grow with us.”
Lezlee Herdina, Director of FP&A, POET

A privately held corporation headquartered Sioux Falls, South Dakota, POET LLC is a U.S. biofuel company that specializes in the creation of bioethanol. The 1,900-employee company produces 1.8 billion gallons of ethanol annually and has been granted 90 patents in the U.S. and abroad.

In this webinar, Edgewater Ranzal’s Managing Director and HSF Practice Director Ryan Meester speaks with Lezlee Herdina, POET’s Director of FP&A, to give us a behind-the-scenes look into POET’s Enterprise Planning Solution journey, from realizing that significant change was needed to an extensive evaluation process to the ultimate solution and, finally, to the company’s enduring vision going forward.

The Right Tool for the Right Job (RTRJ)

While Lezlee and the POET team were open to the insights and recommendations generated by their Ranzal analysts, they also had some specific goals in mind from the outset:

  • Provide seamless integration of financial and operational data
  • Create a platform for process improvement, including implementing greater automation in monthly processes improving efficiency and increasing time for value-add analysis
  • Achieve better communication, including ease of reporting
  • Reduce reliance on Excel models and associated version control issues
  • Improve data governance, with clarity of data model with common definitions to facilitate planning and reporting processes
  • Integrate operational and financial dashboards for performance measurement
  • Use of scenario analysis to drive M&A and strategic business decisions
  • Increase emphasis on cash perspective
  • Understanding when to use SmartView, Financial Reports, and Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE), as well as take full advantage of the strengths of each of the Reporting Tools
  • Keep it simple, and trust in the higher level nature of HSF
  • Recognize the important nature of the user experience
  • Ensure that data integrations are seamless for the end-user

To learn more about the POET team’s initial ongoing business challenges, the lessons learned, and the ultimate results, view a recording of True Power of Oracle’s Enterprise Planning Suite Unleashed at POETwebinar.

To learn more about our Enterprise Planning solutions, visit www.ranz.al/epbcs-webinars

Missed the webinar? View Recording Here.

Data Governance in the Cloud: An Integrated Strategy; A Unified Solution

Are you tasked with making organizational decisions that have placed you in a major dilemma? As a decision-maker in today’s fast-paced economy, you must wonder how you can cut costs, improve the bottom line, and still maintain the data quality necessary to make strategic decisions.

Take heart because it IS possible to achieve a balance of on-premise and off-premise Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) software while maintaining integrity and control of your data to provide the quality and data assurance needed for success – AND benefit financially from new Cloud technologies.

Success is a combination of understanding what each data tract requires and creating an integration strategy consisting of the necessary business processes and software tools that deliver consistency and integrity of your EPM strategic data.

Past trends called for a tight on-premise coupling of all EPM software to achieve the best results. This strategy required maintenance of a large hardware and software infrastructure and related personnel to keep everything running smoothly.  The new Cloud “POD” subscriptions are geared toward reducing the high costs of infrastructure which is a financial benefit. As in all things in life, there is a consequence of moving to Cloud technology.   An unexpected consequence of Pod technology is the creation of isolated silos of information, but there is an easy resolution!  The key to overcoming this limitation is to gain an understanding of what each component offers and demands, and creating an integration strategy to bridge that gap.

If you are interested in learning how to create this strategy to bring the various pieces together as a unified solution or if your organization plans to migrate to the EPM Cloud platform in the future, this whitepaper helps to define a process to pre-build the integration strategy and make moving to the Cloud easier with reduced time to migrate.

Download our whitepaper: Data Relationship Management (DRM) for Cloud-Based Technologies:  Using DRM for Data Governance in the Cloud