Ensuring data quality with Oracle Planning: a guide

Ensuring data quality with Oracle Planning: a guide

It is estimated 10-30 percent of a company’s revenue is spent on data quality issues according to the UK Government Data Quality Hub. But as we head into a recession can your company really afford that figure? The good news is that starting the process to improve your data quality is easier than you think.

So how do you get started? When considering Oracle, my advice is always to start with the product that can both provide the fastest impact and which was born in the cloud, and which is straightforward to implement gradually and can integrate with any other solution: Oracle Planning.

The advantage with this approach is it allows you to understand the vendor with your standard finance processes, i.e. solve the last mile data issues, before committing your mission-critical ones. Because signing up with a cloud vendor for an application means you are ‘all-in’, they provide the infrastructure and the networking as hosts for your application, as well as the usual software and licensing.

Oracle EPM Cloud Planning application is a platform for growth. Sitting above your ERP solution, Planning takes care of the essential processes of management reporting, budgeting and forecasting, pulling together your company’s data at a push of a button. In addition, its scenario modeling capability allows you to plan for certainty in an uncertain world.

Sharing the Oracle EPM platform gives this application the ability to integrate with anything, including native integration with Oracle applications, and near real-time integration with non-Oracle ones. With an enterprise license users receive additional access to the other applications within the Oracle EPM Suite, including financial consolidation, account reconciliation and narrative reporting in a centralized reporting hub.

Born in the cloud, Planning needs only data pushed to it and users with an internet connection to operate its platform. It benefits from monthly feature updates, test and production environments managed by Oracle, and best-in-class integration with Microsoft Excel. All customers are on one code base, meaning product problems are quickly identified by the community and Oracle development teams can focus on delivering their roadmap instead of hot fixing individual customers. This roadmap has delivered in the last two years, delivering a product far ahead of its on-premises Oracle Hyperion precursor.

Assessing apps in the cloud

Here are some of my key considerations when assessing a cloud application: partner capability, feature updates, application support, infrastructure reliability, and cost of ownership.

Partner capability is important as with most applications you will need a certified partner to implement the software for you. A good partner is the difference between happy users and unambiguously failed implementations. What you should look for in a partner is process experience and cutting-edge solutions. On the vendor side you need evidence of a large and vibrant partner community.

Features and security updates are important in this new world as they are pushed automatically, avoiding delays which influence security and compatibility, and ensuring users have access to the latest features. Because updates can literally break your application, cloud world vendors mitigate this risk by pushing out smaller updates more frequently. As all customers receive the same version, vendors are incentivized to focus their resources on testing and any post-update issues are quickly identified by the customer base. In practice, done right this means your application is always up to date, allowing you to avoid expensive upgrades.

Support for your applications needs to be proven with documented escalation paths. Looking at this function end to end means your team providing first line support with your partner providing second line support, with the vendor supporting product defects and new features. Under this arrangement the aim is to resolve issues under your control the same day. Support for product defects, where you need to hand over responsibility to the vendor to fix, requires you and your partner to manage the vendor’s service level agreements effectively.

Infrastructure on the cloud is the responsibility of the vendor.  It is a big step to hand over the keys to your servers and therefore it is critical to be comfortable with your chosen vendor’s cloud. Therefore, I recommend moving multiple applications to a new vendor cloud piecemeal, conducting thorough due diligence after each application migration before moving to the next. Also, the first application allows you to check most of the connectivity and integration required between clouds and to on-premises applications for the subsequent applications.

Cost in the cloud needs to be calculated based on the total cost of ownership and cash-flow over the term of your agreements. With a true cloud application, you pay monthly for the application licenses, feature upgrades, vendor support and cloud infrastructure. With Oracle one can also finance partner implementation costs so that these can be paid monthly as well. The usual metric is number of users and the minimum term is three years. Starting with one application means experiencing the full lifecycle of an application procurement process. I recommend you negotiate an advantageous rate for additional users too, as they can be easily provisioned as required during your first term as the benefits of using the application become accepted.

Ultimately the Oracle Planning solution implemented by a capable partner in weeks, not months, is a sure-fire platform for growth. Finance processes, which every company has, can be aligned to Oracle best practice honed over a large customer base, and challenges in these processes can be settled and ideally automated.  Achieving success here means solving your data quality issues and returning your teams’ precious weekends to them at month end!