Oracle recently commissioned a survey of CFOs to determine which key performance indicators (KPIs) matter most in a world where intangibles like customer satisfaction increasingly drive brand value. The survey forms the basis of a white paper titled, “The Digital Finance Imperative: Measure and Manage What Matters Most.”  What’s surprising is how many of the survey results – and the resulting prescriptions offered by the paper – actually end up exposing some inherent weaknesses in Oracle’s own Hyperion Planning platform and Essbase analytics.

When you dive into the survey data, there are some interesting results. For instance, back in the industrial era of 1975, 83 percent of the market value of S&P 500 businesses was determined by tallying up tangible physical and financial assets, with intangible assets (such as human capital, brand reputation and intellectual property) accounting for just 17 percent of value. Fast-forward to today, and the tables have turned completely upside down: 84 percent of S&P 500 market value now is driven by intangibles.

This puts pressure on finance organizations to wrangle data about those intangible assets and integrate that information into business processes that help every part of the organization. That requires new KPIs able to measure the things that matter most. It also requires new software capable of tracking and managing those KPIs derived from across the organization; something Oracle users know all too well isn’t actually possible in Hyperion.

We explore those shortcomings in detail in a complimentary new white paper from Tidemark: “Sifting Through the Hype(rion): Why Enterprises are Abandoning Hyperion Planning and Essbase.” Download the complimentary research paper to get all the facts, but for now, let’s touch on three areas where we readers can better understand what is hype or reality.

1.     Analyzing external data.  A key finding from Oracle’s survey reveals that businesses need to find new ways to measure the intangibles that drive business value today. The top value driver, by a long shot, is customer satisfaction (76 percent of respondents recognize its importance). Yet measuring factors like customer satisfaction requires businesses to analyze not only the structured data generated by their internal enterprise platforms, but also “complex, often unstructured digital data such as social media streams.”  That can be a problem for Essbase, which extracts data from the source in a process known as ETL (extract, transform, load). Note where “transform” appears in this sequence. Because data is transformed before it’s loaded into the analytics system, it can be inherently dated – which is not desirable when tracking and analyzing a real-time KPI like customer satisfaction. In contrast, Tidemark uses an ELT approach, which brings data closer to the user by extracting it from multiple sources, loading it into the Tidemark computational grid in the cloud, and then transforming it on the fly, and only when business users are asking questions (at runtime) and performing modeling and analytics processes. So when it’s time to ask questions about customer satisfaction, users want fresh insights based on the latest data. Former Oracle customers tell us Tidemark delivers in this area where Hyperion and Essbase did not.

2.     Exploring new paths to insight. It’s a given that the point of establishing and tracking new KPIs – as Oracle’s paper endorses – is to achieve data-driven insights that help grow profit, sharpen efficiencies and improve competitiveness.  But with the multidimensional database (or cube) architecture that underpins Hyperion Planning and Essbase, users are subject to strict limitations that are imposed by cubes and that -- as a result -- actually hobble an organization’s ability to explore new paths to insight. The inherent rigidity of cubes means business users generally can’t explore new avenues, compare data side by side on the fly, or ask questions they haven’t previously considered – unless these tasks have been enabled ahead of time by IT. (And even for IT, the process isn’t straightforward.) Compare this to Tidemark, whose grid-based applications feature varying dimensionality that allows for far greater flexibility. For instance, when you add a new dimension, instead of reconfiguring the cube and reloading the remapping data, you simply configure new relationships among objects in the application. Those new paths to insight are just a few clicks a way – with no help from IT needed.

3.     Modernizing finance. Much is made in Oracle’s paper about the need for finance to modernize, and a key part of this is taking a partnership role with LOBs and other functions, which includes engaging business managers in “collaborative conversations.” While I agree wholeheartedly with this concept – in fact, making finance a participation sport is a core design principle of Tidemark – our experience with former Hyperion and Essbase users suggests that, for Oracle at least, this notion remains much more of a future goal than a current reality. One user calls Hyperion “ridiculously outdated and clunky to use.” Others note the unintuitive Hyperion interface, which requires users to access the application through a series of folders. And they complain that Essbase’s Excel spreadsheet front end is fine for highly trained analysts but isn’t well suited to the stakeholders at the edge of the business who executives hope will participate in modern finance processes. Upon seeing the Tidemark user experience for the first time, however, Hyperion and Essbase users remark on Tidemark’s natural, consumer-grade interface. That’s intentional: Tidemark apps are built to deliver a self-service experience; they’re designed around recognized business processes and workflows, not folders.  This makes Tidemark far easier to understand for the average user.

These three examples alone suggest that the vision laid out in Oracle’s new white paper is just that: a hyped vision of the future. And while it’s reasonable to believe Oracle will ultimately get there, a growing number of businesses aren’t waiting around for that “someday” to arrive. Can your business afford to wait while the competition moves forward?

To find out why more enterprises are abandoning Hyperion and Essbase, download our complimentary new white paper