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Latest Oracle CPM software integrates Excel, extends to new users

Oracle’s latest corporate performance management (CPM) release includes better integration with Excel to increase user adoption.

Oracle this week unveiled the latest version of its corporate performance management suite, with a focus on extending financial planning and budgeting capabilities to more business users.

Among the upgrades in Oracle Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) 11.1.2 are improved workflow capabilities, better integration with Microsoft Excel, and a new module for the public sector, according to the vendor.

“Our goal is to make it dead simple for those constituents [business users] to be part of the process,” said Hari Sankar, vice president of Oracle's EPM product management division.

The upgrades to Oracle’s CPM suite are the first since 2008. In a recent Magic Quadrant report, Gartner estimated the CPM market stands at around $2 billion but still has significant room for growth, particularly among workers outside financial departments.

Oracle CPM software opens up capabilities to non-financial employees
To give organizations better visibility into the often chaotic financial close process, EPM 11.1.2 includes a new application called Oracle Hyperion Financial Close Management. Rather than manually rounding up reports and emails, finance departments can use the new app to track the financial close process at the end of each month, quarter or year via real-time dashboards, Sankar said.

The dashboard allows users to spot bottlenecks in the financial close process and identify who is responsible. The software can also be configured to send automated alerts to workers in the field to let them know when a financial close-related task is due or if it is late.

In a bid to extend the use of CPM software deeper into the enterprise, Oracle also improved the suite’s integration with Microsoft Excel and Outlook, according to Sankar. With deeper Excel and Outlook integration, non-financial users can access the suite via tools they are comfortable with, he said.

Dave Kasabian, founder of the Pervasive Performance Group, said there are significant benefits for companies to including more frontline workers in the financial budgeting process. It creates greater accountability, he said, and increases the chances that errors will be caught before the books are closed at the end of each budget season.

“From a client's perspective, when you control these things just within finance, there are a lot of things that the finance department doesn’t know about that the business might,” Kasabian said.

A salesman brought into the budgeting process, for example, would be more likely to catch delinquent accounts in near-real time than the finance department, which just consolidates and reports on the numbers at the end of the quarter, he said.

New Oracle CPM software release integrates with MS Office tools
Merv Adrian, consultant with IT Market Strategy, said Oracle’s decision to better integrate its CPM suite with Microsoft Office tools was “a smart move.”

“We’ve always had desktop tools that become the interface of choice for the end user to connect to the data,” Adrian said. “Making that work for the customer is a little bit counter to Oracle’s reputation, so kudos for them.”

Both Kasabian and Adrian also applauded Oracle for attempting to bring some order to the financial close process. “That traditionally has been a very manual process,” Kasabian said.

With its latest EPM release, Oracle has also introduced a module specific to the public sector. Public sector organizations must adhere to strict financial filing guidelines, Sankar said, and the new module will help them meet those requirements right out of the box.

Another new feature automatically transforms financial filings into eXtensible Business Reporting Language, or XBRL, as required by the federal government, a task that many companies now perform manually or outsource to expensive third-party providers. “It’s a great value proposition,” Adrian said.

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