Workforce has been out for a while now, but based on the number of implementations I’ve done (more than anything except financials) I’d say that it was still a perennial seller. What company doesn’t want to keep a close watch on their biggest expenditure?
Oracle promotes Workforce as an Out of box solution. I’ve definitely done many of them this way. It has the benefit of being fast and clean. The one thing it’s not is personalized.
Customization is not a problem for many companies. They can adjust their forecasting methodology to the out of box solution and with minimal customization it will satisfy all of their needs.
Many customers, especially larger ones, want highly customized models. When it comes to these, I like to start from the ground up. By this I mean that I start as if it was a non-workforce database and build all of the dimensions, forms and calcs myself (these come out of the box in the prebuild solution). This approach is usually faster than starting with the pre-built Workforce and doing extensive customization. This works particularly well for companies with different components; subsidiaries that run independently or foreign countries. Out of the box is looking for standardization, but this method allows each part of the organization to focus on what’s important to them (varying taxes and benefits, etc) yet still roll up into one workforce.
When you get to extremely large companies, Workforce gets interesting. I’ll compare two installations that I did at similarly sized companies. Both had about 30,000 employees. Company A insisted on naming every individual that worked for them. As you might imagine for a company this size, they had a lot of branches and constantly overturning personnel. The system worked fine, but updating it was a burden. Maintenance outweighed many of the benefits.
Company B used a position based system. Salaried employees were named and hourly were only in as position. So each branch would have one of two salaried employees and x number of hourly based off of sales. That way, the regional managers could forecast hiring. If an hourly employee left, you knew that they would need to be replaced.
Which brings us to one of the greatest benefits of workforce; approvals. In the situation above, it became much more straightforward for Company B to work with HR to add replacement personnel. For them, as well as smaller companies, approval of new employees is an important part of the process. For this reason I always include a comment field that must be filled in alongside any new employee requests. At the end of the budget process it can be printed out on a new employee report, alongside the details. The time savings is enormous from having to explain (often multiple times) why someone needs a new hire. Approval of new hires is streamlined, and a list can be provided to HR. This way, when HR receives a new hire request during the year they can save time and effort by checking the list they were provided at the end of the Workforce Planning process.
Speaking of Human Resources, their involvement and benefit in this process is often overlooked. The raw data is usually gathered from their systems, and they will benefit from the output as well. Finance might be overseeing the process, but HR is carrying it out day to day.
Brass Tacks is highly experienced at Workforce in many customized situations. From quick out of the box to the most customized of processes. What’s been mentioned here is only a few examples of what we’ve done. Please reach out to us for more information about your own implementation.
As a Hyperion architect, I am an admirer of the actual architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. This is my pompous way of saying that I am a great believer in “less is more” design.
A good architect should spend the time thinking about the end solution and build the simplest one. Not the easiest, but the simplest. For Hyperion design, this means building a smart solution that will give you room for expansion and improvement. Too often, I see Essbase databases that were built without a thought of how they should actually operate. Often there are time constraints on the initial build, but I believe that taking the time to think things through is vital. Of course, this approach also requires an experienced designer.
PBCS is a perfect example of this because PBCS is a great product. It can be implemented in a matter of weeks. That doesn’t mean that it should. Hopefully it doesn’t take six months either. I have found that there’s a balance between those fast solutions and one that takes six months. Cheapest isn’t always best, but neither is building a system that does everything on the wish list. Get the need to have done first, but build it flexible enough for future improvements once it has been field tested. Build it out over time.
Another way of looking at this is with Oracle’s prebuilt solutions. There are many great Hyperion out of the box products. I have built Workforce out over a dozen times, but I find it to be an imperfect solution. A certain amount of customization will always have to be done. Finding that right balance of customization is key. Sometimes the easiest answer is not the best, but the simplest will always exist areas for continued development.
While this blog is primarily focused on the finance user, Hyperion works as well for operational forecasting and reporting. Many clients are happy using it for financial data only, but as long as they’ve invested in the technology, why not do everything that you can with it? As a consultant, some of my most interesting Hyperion work has been done around operations.
Operational data affects a wider range of employees. Companies that use this will get more use out of the tool, and more importantly, better dissemination of information. Data comes in directly from the field in many places, making it far easier for the corporate office to manage the business. Reporting goes out to the field giving them a clearer picture of what is going on with the wider company. Often this can foster competition between field offices. In every instance, it gives corporate more insight to the business.
These systems have the ability to feed operational data directly to revenue. In many cases, if you forecast the operations, you can forecast revenue. If you know revenue, you can figure out your expenses between which part is variable and what is fixed. So get the data from the field and you have the bottom line of your company. Better yet, you’re forecasting based on information from people that are closest to your customer. Isn’t that the purpose of the software?