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Excel to App - a journey beckoning finance world to the future of technology? A view from the Oracle Analytics Cloud Consultants' Lenses

Around last thanksgiving there were two interesting articles in Wall Street Journal both concerning the finance world, one mentioned the diktat given out by CFOs across companies to get rid of the spreadsheet-based finance analysis and reporting within the finance organizations, and the other from the finance analysts and planners rebuking that the Microsoft Excel continues to be their one powerful tool for analysis and reporting of financial numbers.

For an Oracle BI-EPM consultant like me implementing Essbase, planning and other technology solutions predominantly for Finance organizations of my clients both articles throw an interesting perspective on the transition that is imminent, from a conservative macro based analysis to the futuristic app based analysis, and I wanted to write about the possibilities that organizations can draw a balancing line with Oracle's latest offering in the cloud to ensure none of the goodies of spreadsheets are lost and at the same time an organization can plan to have a nimble, and efficient solution that can bring value to the CFOs table.

In the first article "Stop Using Excel, Finance Chiefs Tell Staff.", Adobe Inc.'s finance chief Mark Garrett says that it takes days for his team to put together the job fulfilment report across the organization and to get the numbers to analyze the impact of salary on budgeting. Garrett wants his finance staff to focus more on the analysis than spending time on getting that data from disparate systems into the spreadsheets.

As a direct opposite to this view, the second article carried the view of Finance professionals who say "You'll Have to Pry Excel Out of Their Cold, Dead Hands". This shows the comfort level of maintaining and analyzing huge amounts of data for most of the professionals in finance as well as analyzing the data for insights following cumbersome ways without utilizing the features that modern technology solutions provides. The article opines that finance analysts spend a good amount of time trying to develop a Point of View (PoV) from the spreadsheet and carry a sense of pride around it and take ownership of the analysis.

There is technology supporting Spreadsheet

In FP&A systems specifically Oracle Essbase has gained so much user base due to its ability to combine the best of the worlds in terms of executing complex calculations using hierarchical data model and be able to showcase specific Points of View (PoVs) using Excel Add-in - SmartView. This tool has so much flexibility in the hands of the end users that it enables them to actually not worry about data or its integrity and actually gives ample flexibility for end users to perform business analyses needed for their organizations.

Excel is my favorite 

Despite the fact that a small formula error could lead to large differences in the value reported through spreadsheets, excel remains the favorite choice of analysts. One of the reasons that I think the reason behind this strong conviction is that all the business logic applied and all the calculations are visible to the analysts right in front and they do not get any surprises to say that logic was applied but the value came out wrong. Whereas, in a system there is a set standard as far as data entry, business logic configuration, and expected output. If junk is fed to the system, junk comes out. So, this encapsulation in a system in terms of backend data processing becomes a bigger hindrance in embracing such a system by financial analysts.

Oracle Analytics Cloud (OAC)

Essbase in Cloud is perfectly suited to give best of the two worlds in terms of calculation performance and flexibility to end users as well as be able to define business calculations and dimensionality by the actual end users / consultants. It gives power in the hands of the right people. It does not stop at that, OAC perfectly aligns to the technological future state that top level executives across organizations are looking forward to, a tech savvy futuristic state where finance data is available along with insights and commentary at the "Hi" of a voice command and seamlessly across different types of corporate and personal devices for the financial analysts' of the millennial generation.

Transformation leads to Transition

Oracle Analytics Cloud (OAC) in my opinion will emerge as a fusion arena where it brings the solid features of being a PaaS offering combined with the SaaS features in the FP&A domain. In relation to the existing on cloud applications for financial planning and consolidation (EPBCS & FCCS), OAC comes up with a good packaging option along with PaaS advantages of performance, scalability, and to serve not only the finance community but also the ability to incorporate the needs of corporate reporting across the organization through its DVCS, Data Lake, and BI packages combined with power punching, number crunching Essbase.

What's ahead?

As transformation progresses from on premise to cloud, demand for app based, real time insights with commentary can be enabled through Oracle Mobile applications such as Synopsis, Oracle Mobile HD, and the uber-cool Oracle Day-by-Day is sure to transform the consumption of data from spreadsheets to insights on-the-go through futuristic apps in finance.

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