Oracle Expands Its Performance Management Offerings - InformationWeek

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Oracle Expands Its Performance Management Offerings

Oracle Enterprise Planning and Budgeting gives businesspeople control of processes but little Excel integration

PROS
•Leverages Oracle Applications development framework in conjunction with Oracle OLAP
•Relational schema provides application foundation enabling data to be loaded with standard tools such as SQL Loader
•Designed to be managed and configured by business users, reducing reliance on IT staff and consultants
•Business-process driven: After business users design the processes, EPB then builds, runs and manages them under workflow control
•Automatic exception alerts and notifications
CONS
•Limited integration with Excel; no Excel budget upload or add-in
•Lacks hooks for customization and extension
•Version one product
The new Oracle Enterprise Planning and Budgeting — EPB — is the hub of Oracle's corporate performance management offerings. You'll want to look at this product if you need to control the business processes of planning, budgeting, forecasting, monitoring and analysis, especially if you're already using the Oracle e-Business Suite or Oracle Financial Analyzer (OFA). EPB enables definitions of business drivers and models to be shared across the enterprise, providing consistency, control and accountability.

Architectural Advantages

EPB is the successor to Oracle's analytic applications, OFA and Oracle Sales Analyzer (OSA). EPB includes OFA and OSA features but also provides new capabilities such as report and worksheet annotations, allocation, and additional calculation templates.

Being part of the Oracle e-Business Suite gives EPB two big advantages: It can be presented in 28 different human languages, and it leverages the Oracle Applications development framework. This framework provides a set of standards and components for the user interface and middle tier, ensuring compatibility with other Oracle-based applications. This is a benefit for existing Oracle e-Business Suite customers, who will find it relatively easy to learn. E-Business Suite organizations can run EPB in the same instance or separate from other e-Business Suite applications. Organizations without the Oracle e-Business Suite can install EPB as a stand-alone application.

EPB is the first Oracle application to utilize Oracle OLAP. EPB stores all data and structures in a multidimensional Analytic Workspace that facilitates fast and sophisticated multidimensional calculation and query capabilities required by planning and forecasting applications. Oracle OLAP is the next generation of the Oracle Express multidimensional OLAP Server; the Express technology has been integrated into the Oracle Database kernel. EPB is deployed using 100 percent HTML, and Oracle BI Beans technology enables EPB to provide end-user business functionality such as reports, graphs, queries and calculations. (For more about these functions, see "Ad Hoc Express" in the May 31, 2003 issue, online at www.intelligententerprise.com/030531/609products1_1.jhtml?_requestid=683622.)

EPB is built on the unified Enterprise Performance Foundation (EPF), which amalgamates financial and operational data. EPF is a relational schema comprising predefined and user tables that store business facts (such as monetary balances and statistics), general ledger balances, dimensions, hierarchies and attributes. Open interface tables, with a predefined layout, act as a staging area. The interface tables are populated by the schema administrator (typically a member of the IT organization) using relational tools such as Oracle SQL Loader or any tool that can load data into Oracle RDBMS tables. This approach lets organizations take advantage of accessible expertise rather than having to learn a vendor-specific programming language or data loading interface. The Schema Administrator uses EPF's Loader Engines to make data available to EPB. Directly integrating EPB with Oracle General Ledger obviates the loading step.

What You Get

At the core of an EPB implementation lies one or more business processes. (See the screen capture below.) A business process is a defined set of tasks that generates data for analysis and reporting. When you run a business process, EPB gives you a logical "view," which is a representation of the physical data, shielding you from having to know how and where the data is stored.

Business users are the ones who define the processes, and they do so in terms of tasks and schedules. Examples of tasks are loading data, generating and distributing worksheets, solving data and alerting to exceptions. Oracle Workflow, which is integrated into EPB, automates these processes.

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