Budgeting and forecasting is often a stressful undertaking for FP&A as well as Oracle Hyperion Planning administrators. Preparation is key to ensuring you successfully complete your budgeting and forecasting on time and without errors. Having a “flight plan” is the best way to achieve this. The more you prepare the easier your Forecast should be.
Comparing a Hyperion Planning application to operating an airplane, we’re going to examine five key points Hyperion Planning administrators should review before any budgeting/forecasting undertaking. Of course, you probably already know all of these, but it never hurts to go over it again.
Fasten your Seatbelts, Hyperion Planning is About to Take Off
Let’s imagine that managing a Planning application is like operating an airplane. You are the Administrator, the captain of the vessel, and you work with your team to make sure your passengers (your users) in both first class (FP&A) and economy class (Budget owners) will have a safe and pleasant journey.
Have a (flight) plan
Before you fly, you need to know which route you are going to take, the cargo you will transport, and last, what kind of aircraft you are about to fly (type, manufacturing year, hours of flight, maintenance history).
Before departure, your passengers need to book their ticket, go to the airport and have a place to stay when they reach their destination. So let’s translate that in Hyperion Planning.
Work with FP&A and make your plans:
- Timeline: share all steps from the beginning of the budget season to the completion of the exercise. Do not forget to add testing and validation prior to the opening of the tool to end-users.
- Review: What went well /what didn’t go well during the past exercise—it is important to not have the same issues repeated from one exercise to another.
- Other checkpoints: Review any change you’ve made since the last exercise: make sure you have everything covered: review the changes you’ve made since the last exercise. Also make sure there is no need to work on Business Rules, Security, and Dimensions in general (new departments, acquisitions, Business Units, …)
Would you fly without making sure that the backup system is working properly? No, so do the same with Planning.
Restoring a backup after a failure happens more often that anyone can imagine. This implies having a backup routine (for Essbase, but also all Planning artifacts) and mastering the art of restore. I recommend verifying the backup process before every Forecasting exercise. Just like a good pilot who has sessions in a flight simulator.
Backups and the Transaction Replay functionality will be the subject of another blog entry.
Check Your Weather
Airlines always check the weather for an entire journey to determine they need to take a detour and keep the passengers informed about the weather and altitude during the trip.
In the case of your Planning application, your weather is the calendar. IT and system calendars are tight, and IT maintenance have a tendency to happen at the same time as a Forecasting exercise. Therefore, communicate your plan with IT and ask them to do the same; you will be in a position to mitigate from there or at least, give visibility to both IT and users.
Small bumps are OK when you travel; going through a violent turbulence is not acceptable and sometimes disasterous.
Be Ready for Late Arrivals
I hate to be delayed because the previous flight was late. I am always afraid that the crew will rush through their pre-flight inspection to make up their lost time. I would rather take another plane that is sitting on the tarmac.
Generally speaking, Forecast starts right after the close, which means that you only have a very limited window to prepare your system for Forecast (if any). The best thing you can have is a copy of your Production environment where you can practice your Forecast exercise. This environment is often referred as a failover, UAT, or Pre-production. It can act as a spare environment in case of a problem.
The last thing you expect from a captain is to see him panic under any circumstances. And the last thing the captain and the crew would like is to have anxious or unconfident customers.
A forecasting exercise is stressful for FP&A, they are between budget owners, management, and shareholders: the last thing they need is an issue with their system. Have a good system that is well designed, well maintained, and well tested. Proper preparation will increase user’s confidence and they will soon praise it.