October 19th, 2011 by Venkatakrishnan J
If you had watched the announcements in Open World this year, one of the products that got silently released was HFM Analytics. Basically this is an Analytics Suite under the umbrella of BI Applications but without any ETL. This suite provides comprehensive set of pre-built reports/dashboards for customers who have Hyperion Financial Management (and Close Management) and Oracle Business Intelligence 11g. This is a very interesting analytics application in many ways.
1. This does not have a ETL layer – Basically this is the second time i am seeing a BI Apps suite without a ETL layer (last time being the CPM Analytics which is no more available). So the reports/dashboards directly go against HFM & Close Management. Interestingly there is also a Single Sign-on support. So essentially we can start using this as an alternative to Hyperion Financial Reporting (functionality is still behind when compared with HFR – but at least to some extent wherever possible) that has been the standard & only reporting tool available so far on HFM.
2. This has support not only for data but also for HFM Process Management. Essentially we can not only report on the data but to an extent on the process management. This has been the sore point in HFM considering there are no built in tools outside of HFR that can leverage this (but of course there is always the API). Even ODI or HyperionDIM(based on Informatica) cannot extract Process Management related details out of HFM. So, we always had to rely on external adapters or direct API calls to do this. That is not the case anymore.
3. This has support for the newly released Close Management suite. Considering the fact that HFM & Close Management go together, it makes sense to have these 2 together supported out of the box.
4. The entire integration is based on the connector that i had blogged about earlier here. So, no extra configuration/setup (in terms of binaries – though there is a install process which just sets up the reports/dashboards) is required for this to work.
The architecture of this suite is given below
As mentioned in the earlier linked post, this suite uses the ADM driver to connect and extract data out of HFM. So, there are 2 things to keep in mind
1. This suite requires you to be 188.8.131.52.102 version of EPM(earlier releases are supported though – 9.3.3 and 184.108.40.206) – That is you need to apply one more patch on the HFM side to basically add a new feature to the HFM driver (for process management).
2. You need to be on BI EE 220.127.116.11.1 MLR patch set for this to work without any issues. More than the above EPM certification, 18.104.22.168.1 patch is very critical for the connectivity to work. But interestingly this MLR patch is not recommended for all customers. I am not sure why it is this way but looking at the Readme of this patch, it looks like 22.214.171.124.1 patch is meant only for customers who require HFM connectivity and Fusion integration. But for other customers who don’t need this, the patch recommends not to upgrade at all which is interesting as you would expect any latest patch set to be valid for all customer environments.
Once you have both the above, download the HFM Analytics suite from Edelivery. The install itself is straight forward.
Ensure that you are using a Custom install. Looks like there is a bug in the installer. If you do a full install, the installer does not seem to install the web catalog.
The installer basically installs a RPD, Web Catalog and a configuration utility. One of the advantages of using HFM is, we will always have a constant set of dimensions (8 system dimensions + 4 custom dimensions). So, oracle has basically fixed the RPD but the web catalog structure will vary based on the number of custom dimensions used. That is where the configuration utility comes into play. The default password of the repository is welcome1. Let’s open this RPD and take a look at the contents
Basically FCM is modelled using the relational metadata directly. But the HFM one uses the ADM Driver. To complete the configuration, we need to run the configuration utility which gets installed along with the software.
We start with specifying the connection details of both the BI instance and HFM instance. In addition we need to provide the RPD and Web Catalog location details that comes along with the software. Interestingly the configuration utility injects new content into the web catalog dynamically based on our selection. We start with selecting the Entity values that we are interested in for reporting.
Then we need to provide the following account grouping details
1. Balance Sheet Accounts
2. P & L Accounts
3. Cash Flow Accounts
4. Performance Indicator Accounts
Actually there are more groupings but at a high level the above are the basic classifications required.
If we have any Custom dimensions configured then those values need to be configured as well. Basically the values chosen for custom dimensions (along with default values) will be used for the web catalog prompts and filters. Initially it might be a bit confusing but once we have web catalog, it sort of makes sense how the grouping actually works.
Though it works and does give a high level complete picture of the HFM financials, there still are certain grey areas in this suite (atleast for me). I will list them below. If anyone has any other insights in this, i will be interested in hearing them.
1. License – This is one area of the product that i am not able to understand. Based on what i heard in Open World, this requires an extra license. But again if you look at the underpinnings of how this works, there is nothing that stops a customer to build the same set of reports and dashboards with just a HFM and BI EE 11g license. In fact, to make this work (on my demo data sets), i myself had to understand the reports and make the requisite changes to the filters. So, anyone can build the same set of reports and dashboards all by themselves without having to license this(i.e. just use the BI EE 11g-HFM connector). Or i am hoping i am just wrong in this case.
2. Journal Entries – As far as i see ADM driver is pretty limited in its functionality. There is no way to just create a report with just the journal entries. For that we still have to rely on Hyperion Financial Reports.
3. Active/Inactive Entities – IC Transactions etc – Same comment as above. The connectivity does not support reporting for Active/Inactive entities of a period, or for just creating a report containing just the Inter Company transactions etc.
5. Custom Dimension names – Somehow the connector is sort of hard-coded to use Custom1, Custom2 etc dimension names. If we had used a different name in the Aliases field then the connector throws an error. This looks more to be a bug in the connector. So, if you have a custom named dimensions then revert them to Custom1, Custom2 etc until this is fixed.
6. BI EE 126.96.36.199 – If you are using this without the MLR patch, the reports will work. But none of the custom attribute columns will work. I guess that is due to the ADM client driver that is bundled as part of the BI EE 188.8.131.52. But hopefully once you upgrade this issue should go away.