Welcome to my second annual Splash review. Like last year, I found it extremely informative. Unlike last year, I found that I knew a lot more people. If last year was the first day of high school, now I'm a sophomore. It's starting to feel familiar.
This year had the added benefit of being in New Orleans, my college town. A place close to my heart. If you spoke to me at the conference for more than 2 minutes you would have heard all about this. I got a chance to visit a couple of the old hangouts, and spent way too much buying souvenirs at the Tulane bookstore.
Brass Tacks doubled our Splash attendance this year. My co-worker Mariel came with me. It was definitely interesting to hear her perspective on the sessions.
Day 1: Tuesday
My first thought is that I'm impressed by how many people are here. Far more than last year. I'm hearing that it's a 50% increase. Many first timers.
This leads me to the conclusion that this has become a really comprehensive user community. This many people here at the conference means that there have to be even more out in the field. It feels bigger and more comprehensive.
The international presence impressed me. I met users from Abu Dhabi and Australia. I got the chance to discuss my old Sydney client with someone who knows them, so that was interesting.
There's already a Splash in Europe, and I won't be surprised to hear that they expand. Next year's North American conference is in Toronto, which I hear is in a far off land called Canada.
Day 2: Wednesday
Today was the reveal of the new relational tool for OneStream. This is a tool that could replace Tableau or BI. Picture having your financial close, planning, operational reporting and dashboards with one tool. One that can drill back to your source system for real time reporting. Or load relational data overnight for a unified dashboard of financial and operation data. No more buying 5 tools and trying to force them to work. I thought this was a game changer for anyone on the fence about OneStream. I actually got the chance to say that to Bob Powers, CTO and co-founder of OneStream.
At a conference full of impressive ideas, this one just blew me away.
Day 3: Thursday
Today was the partner summit. I can't help but notice that there are a lot more partners than last year. Time to up my game. There's now the ability for partners to publish on the marketplace. I've always thought the marketplace was a great idea. One stop shopping for all your OneStream needs. I've got some ideas for my own additions....
Thursday night was the Party. I'm convinced that my purple, green and gold hawaiian shirt was the most authentic Mardi gras costume there. Not the best, just the most authentic. I thought the band was great, but the jazz band is more my style. Once again, it felt like a lot more people this year.
Day 4: Friday
I'm starting to drag, but great content today. Followed by another walk through old New Orleans with my co-worker Mariel.
Some closing thoughts; I've always thought that in this space we can't be just financial close or planning. We need to be focused on both of these and operations as well. To truly provide the best solution for a client, we need to understand all of the aspects of the software so we can focus on all the aspects of the business. The big picture understanding is what allows us to deliver the most value. Brass Tacks remains the small and scrappy OneStream partner. It's been a tough year, but we'll continue to scrap.
Coming soon! Our new website will be up in a couple of weeks and I hope you'll be back for that. Not just the website, but more content, updated more often.
Come back soon!
Frequent visitors to my blog (Hi Mom. Just kidding; my Mother’s eyes glaze over when I talk to her about what I do for a living.), know that Brass Tacks became a OneStream partner under a year ago. This was the first opportunity that I had to participate in the yearly Splash conference the company hosts.
Conferences can be challenging. They always seem to be at the busy times of the year when it’s difficult to get away for a consultant. As a result, I only attend one a year. This year’s choice was definitely a good decision. Splash was worth my time and investment to go.
It was held in Chicago at the Drake hotel. I’m a sucker for this type of historic property, and definitely prefer it to the usual conference hall. I didn’t get much other time in Chicago. They kept me busy the entire time I was there, and I was exhausted when I left.
There was an entire track for partners. I found it incredibly useful to help grow my business. Based on the customer track sessions that I went to, you can tell that OneStream cares about it’s clients and its partners. That was refreshing! Believe me when I say that some other EPM software vendors can be abusive to their partners.
I can start by saying that the sessions were informative. Isn’t that the minimum of what you expect from a conference? Informative sessions are the reason you go.
Splash went well beyond that informative minimum. It was well coordinated. They had double the number of people they originally expected but kept us all well-organized. The layout of the Drake hotel could be confusing at first but there were people to ask for directions. Yes, I’m admitting that I asked for directions instead of just looking things up on my phone.
It was the touches showing thought that showed me that the company really cared about this. My particular favorite; Colored lanyards. You knew who was an employee, partner or customer at a glance. So often you spend your time trying to read the fine print on someone’s stomach. I found their method to be incredibly useful.
I spent the conference speaking to as many people as I could. At Hyperion conferences, I find that after this many years they have the feel of a high school reunion. I run into old clients, industry people I’ve worked with before, and even old bosses. I love to see them, but as a result of catching up with so many people, I don’t stretch myself as much.
This time it was the first day of high school. There were about five people that I knew, and all the rest were ones I introduced myself too. As a relatively new partner, I was very interested in how other people’s implementations have gone. Just as interesting was hearing the viewpoint of the prospective clients. I appreciate everyone (and there were many) who took the time to tell me about theirs.
As usual, I regret the sessions that I didn’t have time to see. I only had time for two sessions by Cameron Lackpour but they were great as always.
There was fun to be had as well. I Dressed up for the 80’s party in a shirt that was mine from that time. The best part? Mother’s Day was just before I left so I showed the shirt that
I wore to my mother. She declared it horrible, which was when I reminded her that she was the one who bought it for me. It fit me a lot better back in college.
Speaking of college, next year Splash will be held in New Orleans. I went to school there and love that place, so I’ll take any excuse to get back.
Any comments or feedback is appreciated.
This wasn't an easy decision for us. Oracle Hyperion has been good to me for many years. We spent a lot of time evaluating the direction that Oracle is taking and it's competitors before deciding to become a OneStream partner.
We have been very impressed with the capabilities of OneStream since our training. It has all of the tools in multiple Hyperion products in one place without added purchases. Financial Close, budgeting, dashboards and reporting. All of it. I’m someone who has worked across the entire Hyperion portfolio for years. Not new to this, or specialized in one or two of their products. I feel very confident in comparing them both.
The customization is key for us. Most of my clients have preferred that kind of specialization to their business needs rather than adapt their business to the software. Oracle is on the path of having you adapt to them, where OneStream will adapt to you. OneStream is a consolidated product that does all of this. OneStream runs the same software in both cloud and on-premise environments. I think the cloud environment is great for clients who need it, but I prefer to see customers given a choice.
I haven’t found a familiar feature in Oracle that OneStream isn’t doing as well or better.
Brass Tacks is still installing Hyperion products. We have years of experience in a wide variety of them. But I don’t think Hyperion is acting like the future. In their push to the cloud, they are slowly stopping support for the on-premise systems. That’s a mistake. The change goes deeper than the difference in the interface. Oracle has been the standard, but they are moving towards standardization of experience. That means less flexibility and on the cloud exclusively. While that out of the box solution is a cost saver to many clients, others need software that adapts to their business needs. Oracle’s goal is to have less work done by developers and more by an in-house client team that can maintain it after development. Their reasoning behind comes from clients with problematic Oracle implementations. As I have said here often; choosing the right team is key. I’m proud of leaving my clients self-sufficient when the development is done. Oracle should be encouraging customers to choose the best consultants instead of hobbling their software.
Which do you need? The key service that Brass Tacks provides is our financial knowledge that we can use to translate your needs into actions. Brass Tacks is composed of consultants who have experience in implementing all of these tools across a variety of clients.
What are your needs as a client? How do you know the pros and cons without being sold? Contact us for an informed and impartial evaluation
This week I had someone make an emotional argument to me. This person was trying to get me to make a decision in their favor, but I didn’t buy it. It was a mathematical decision.
Their initial argument was based on gambling. The entertainment value is worth the money. Having worked in a casino for three years, I can tell you the big thing that I learned; the house always wins. Everyone believes me, but no one ever listens when I say that. Players claim to have “systems”. What they have are experiences that they weight emotionally. I have facts and math.
As a business person implementing EPM software, it should be all about your organization’s needs. What gives you better delivery?
This extends from the software to the consultant. There are logical arguments to make here. Is the consultant experienced? Did they help me to prepare for the implementation?
Or is it emotional; are they cheapest on hourly rate? This is an emotional argument because you’re not considering the cost overruns or the experience. Instead of the whole project, you’re focusing on one aspect of it. It looks logical, but is emotional. Lower hourly expense costs means that you can claim to the CFO that you’re controlling costs. This will hurt you in the long run. It will take more time and give you a less thought out solution.
How do you use logic to choose consultants? Offshore is cheaper by the hour, but more expensive in the long run. Big firms have big reputations, but they also will staff you with younger people learning on your dime. Are you getting the experienced people to do your work?
Do these lower costs save you money? Are you buying a good piece of furniture or shopping at IKEA? Both have their uses, but what do you want this implementation to be? Choosing a prebuilt solution can be the result of an emotional decision. If you choose prebuilt even though you need something customized but want to save money.
Brass Tacks isn’t a huge firm. That means that each and every client matters to us. We will bring you more personalized attention.
Bring us in to discuss the solution. We will compete on our merits. Then you’ll be getting us to do the right work for you.
One of the areas that Brass Tacks specializes in is improving currency translation. Multinational companies not only rely on accurate translation, they often need it fast and agile. Look what’s been happening with UK rates and the risk that brings. Smart financial analysts need to be able to quickly present all of the risk factors involved.
The key to this is to have an efficient currency translation. Today I’d like to give some examples of how we’ve done this in the past. Both of these clients were not only operating in multiple countries and continents, they had data rolling up several ways. There was never time for an overnight process because these businesses ran around the clock. You can’t run a calculation for two hours in the middle of China’s day just because you’re asleep.
My first example told me that they had a reporting problem. Turns out that the problem was that they couldn’t report in foreign currencies. They exported all of the data, translated it in spreadsheets and then re-imported it back into the database. It took days (i.e. more than just a reporting problem).
They were US based and reported in Dollars, they also had European headquarters in the UK and needed to roll up in both Pounds and Euros. Then it really started to get complicated. Europe would buy (in dollars) supplies from the US and then sell them to the countries that reported up to it (in Euros or Pounds, depending on the type of transaction)
We created a highly focused translation that calculated everything in to every other currency. It would run every time a user saved data so the countries could always have translated data. We had a more complicated one that ran at the end of the budget process and did everything. Triangulating the currency allowed us to meet all of the needs that they had at the moment they had them.
Fast forward a couple of years, and my most recent client had a similar problem but was more complicated for one reason; the need for multiple ad hoc currencies. An around the clock business like client one, but with far more locations and data submitters. They also wanted extensive and immediate aggregation. We had put in some focused aggregation in Client one, but had to do a lot of tuning.
The difference this time is called Hybrid. The newest type of Hyperion database. Hybrid is the best of both BSO and ASO. It uses BSO for all the familiar functions, but ASO for lightning fast aggregation. In a nutshell, BSO is the classic Essbase that’s been around for decades. Easy for finance people to use. ASO is fast and powerful, but more difficult for finance users. Hybrid combines the ease of use from BSO with the speed of ASO.
Using Hybrid, we were able to do base level translation fast using a BSO methodology and then let ASO do instant aggregations. This led to a very happy field where they could act independently.
Like most companies, you roll out the budget once a year. It’s a hassle to update it. You’re hopefully reporting against actuals every month, but you’ve got to remind your users what to do. Given the pain involved, why do it more often? It’s actually less painful that way. More finance organizations are doing it as best practice. More frequent updates lead to better information going to your field, and more importantly, coming from them. As a finance or operations group, you’re getting more detailed information from the front line on a timely basis.
Sounds great! How do we do it? Are you doing a forecast at all? Start there. Roll your budget as a starting point for your forecast and update it through the year. When I was in finance, I would compare the forecasts made in the later part of the year to the budget at the beginning. Who was sandbagging me? If you’re a CFO, can you find a way to reward accuracy? Who knows their business well enough to make accurate predictions?
The best way to get started on rolling forecasts is by considering the level of detail. Many organizations want to do their budgeting on the GL level. This is not something I recommend. As a statistician, I know that the perfect is the enemy of the good (But that’s a totally different blog post). To make it easier and less time consuming to input, forecast at a higher level. Start by creating holding accounts-places where you don’t need as much detail. These can be allocated down if they need to be.
One method I’ve found very popular is to have different amounts of detail by time. Say you’re doing this quarterly or even monthly. For the first six months have as much detail as the budget. For the six following that, less detail (like the forecast described above) and for the final six it’s best guess. As it rolls forward, you have increased visibility into the future and therefore better information. At this point it’s not a once a year process, but a continual look forward. Less time consuming because once it’s established, you’re adding to what’s already there.
Brass Tacks has used our financial knowledge to guide companies through this process. Contact us to let us talk about how we can help you.
I’m going to start this by saying that this ends with a cliché: “You get out of things what you put into them”. Now that that’s out of my system and I’ve lost half of you, I’ll continue.
Everyone wants a fast, painless, process. Even with out of the box implementations, that’s not always the case. Building a good system takes time. Your time as well. You can minimize this by hiring the right consultants and having a clear vision (if you don’t have a vision, work with your consultants), but the investment I’m referring to is your time.
What’s the alternative? It is far easier to keep pumping out the same spreadsheets. They are unwieldy. Full of bad information. Spreadsheets provide limited communication to and from the field. Accumulating them for reporting takes time better spent on analysis. Anyone in a managerial role who is reading this; it is a poor use of highly skilled (and paid) resources time.
Many of you will think that your company isn’t organized enough for enterprise software. Or that your budget process is always changing. Change is a constant in life and in work. How much time do you have for spreadsheets? Can anyone disagree that time spent organizing pays dividends?
Getting back to out of the box solutions. The popular option these days is to have software that is largely pre-built. This works well for companies that will adjust their budgets to the process inherent in these systems (usually small or mid-sized companies willing to adjust). Hyperion and competitors both have these quick starters. They are fast to install, but not as fast as you think. The closer to complete they are, the less flexible and scalable. When it comes to installation, it’s easier to get a technician to do this. The software company is doing the functional side for you. Doing this is still better than a spreadsheet driven process. This is ideal for companies that don’t have a clear vision for their budget and forecasting process but want to move to an enterprise system.
Brass Tacks will be happy to do this type of installation quickly and inexpensively. If you’re looking for something further, we provide value to companies that are looking to get something greater out of the system. As I said at the beginning, you get more out if you put more in. We believe in the investment of a long term relationship with our clients. It’s a partnership and we provide a continuity of resources you can’t get at larger firms. We’re there when you need us, and gain a deeper understanding of your process.
Many of our clients have put in a basic system and call us when they are ready to upgrade to something more substantial. Often at this point, the enterprise system is paying dividends and the company wants to expand on it.
I interviewed someone this week who told me that their last job was at the US House of Representatives. It was a qualified applicant, but one thing really bothered me; he was an H1B (foreign visa worker). Putting aside all of the politics here, I’d like to focus on the company that the government contracted to do this. They’re looking to maximize their profit margin. I’m fine with that. What I dislike is that they want to maximize it by giving their client a bad experience. I spoke here about companies with dishonest practices. H1B's aren't necessarily inexperienced, but many are. I have run across too many who flat out lie about their experience. They certainly don't have the US Finance/Accounting experience.
Why does this bother me so much? 1. It gives the field a bad reputation. If a client is expecting someone experienced, they shouldn’t have people who are learning on the job. 2. It doesn’t help the software’s reputation. I make my living off of this.
Why should you care? Let’s say it’s your first time doing this. You’re moving off of spreadsheets. You want the best value. You will have a much more painful experience. The cost that looks cheaper now but will be more in the long (or even medium) run
Why is it difficult to get quality Hyperion people? Being good at it takes years of experience. The good people have a background in both IT and Finance.
It can be difficult to tell who the impostors are. IT consultants can have 10 page resumes and talk like they know what they are doing…until they can’t get the work done. Like a lot of other things in this world, you get what you pay for. If you don’t want to pay the going rate, you will end up spending more in the long run. By hiring cheaper hourly resources, you will end up spend more by paying in project time and opportunity cost. Many times we've come back to "fix" a cheap, crappy implementation. The client ended up paying twice because they were saving money the first time.
Travel is another factor. When I was on the finance side, I wanted my consultants on site. At least until I knew who they were. Then with regular check ins, I saw no need to go to the expense of having someone in a cubical to talk to once a week. With regular demos, you should know the progress that they are making. We spend a lot of time on the road and enjoy doing it. It’s interesting to meet new people and see new places. I liked feeling like a New Yorker and taking the subway to work. I learned to commuter train systems in Boston and DC as well. When I was in Sydney, I took the train to work past the opera house every day. But. I hate being onsite when it’s the middle of the project and no one from the client has time to talk to me. It’s 10 hours of travel time and I have no reason to be there.
Brass Tacks EPM prides itself on quality resources. It will save you money and give you a much better experience. We’re committed to getting things right the first time and doing the work the smart and honest way.
I see this at clients frequently. The big questions are about how to do the implementations and who to hire to do them.
The confusion over how to implement is similar to any new experience. Many clients say “just take this spreadsheet and make it a database.” It’s the most straightforward thing to do and someone has already spent the time developing the spreadsheet. There are a great many implementation teams that will do this exact thing. It’s fast and competitive with other software in terms of time and money.
The downside is that in many cases, you’re not getting the full value out of the system this way. It takes a better implementation (aka money), cooperation (aka time) with the implementer, and a desire for change. These are in short supply. In my experience it’s worth it to spend both. If you’re having enough pain in your business to spend the money on the system, spend the money to do it correctly. Don’t do it in halfway measures.
This doesn’t mean that it should take six months and cost far more than you expected. Find a Hyperion implementer who will educate you at the start and provide you with options.
I wonder if this is why people choose the software competitors? Any out of box software, either Hyperion or a competing product can convert a spreadsheet this way. But competitors don’t have the ability to customize as much as Hyperion. Will you adjust your business to do things the way the software is set up? Then do it out of the box. I’m hearing a lot of buyers remorse from companies that have been with the competitors for a while. Fast implementation, but they get stuck with it over time.
So how do you know the right way? Start by asking who do you trust. Find a good Hyperion implementer. I gave some tips on choosing the right person in this blog post.
Starting out on the right foot is less expensive than changes later. A solid foundation is something you can build on. I often hear from companies that need extensive changes, or just decide to go to the expense of implementing a totally new system rather than doing it right the first time.
If you don’t have the time or money to invest? Stay with your current system. Even if it is spreadsheets. This is an investment in your business. As my father says, and job worth doing is worth doing right.