Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Building interactive charts and tables in Power Point with Smart View

Do you get tired of recreating the same PowerPoint decks each month when your numbers change?  Wouldn't it be great if you could just push a button and have the numbers in your ppt slide update to what is in the database?  Wouldn't it be even better if the data was used in visually rich MS Office objects such as tables and charts?  And, wouldn't it be awesome if you could interact with the data in real time during your presentation?

Well, did you know Smart View for Power Point does all of that?  That's right I said Smart View for PowerPoint; Smart View is not just for Excel.

Smart View has had the functionality to work with the MS Office suite for some time, but frankly the functionality outside of Excel has been limited and challenging to work with at times.  While the Power Point and Word functionality are not 100%, they have come a long way and with some patience you can make some really nice PowerPoint slides that are interactive with your underlying EPM data sources.

At Kscope18 I did a presentation with fellow Oracle Ace and GE colleague Gary Adashek.  We did a Shark Tank style pitch to "investors" on why they should help us "Save The Beverage Company".  If you don't know what The Beverage Company is, your Essbase street credit is going to take a serious hit.  Of course I am referring to the fabled bottling company made famous by the Essbase Sample Basic database.  Gary and I figured we could use our Smart View skills to create some really slick ppt slides to convince the investors to help us save this favored institution that had been around since the Arbor days.  Besides having some fun trying to convince our panel of investors (see the Photoshop pics at the end of this post) while the audience watched, we wanted to convey the very real message that you can do some interesting things in PowerPoint with Smart View.

In my effort to communicate useful EPM tips across various mediums, this seemed like a good topic for a blog post.  In this tutorial, I am going to walk through how to create interactive Smart View objects in PowerPoint.  I am working with Essbase 11.1.2.4, Office 2016, and Smart View 11.1.2.5.800.  I suggest using this latest version of Smart View since it has some fixes in it specifically associated with PowerPoint.

The first thing you will need to decide is how you are going to link your source data to your ppt.  You have three options to create what is referred to in Smart View as a 'function grid'.  You can base your function grid on

  1. A Hyperion Financial Report (HFR) grid
  2. A Data Form (Hyperion Planning, (e)PBCS, and HFM-presumably-I have not tested)
  3. An ad hoc Smart View retrieve in Excel.

Each one of these have their pros and cons PBCS data forms seem to have the most functionality while also being the most stable.  HFR grids are stable, but they lack the ability to change the POV after they have been turned into a function grid.  Excel has the most functionality in terms of different objects, but it is less stable since you are creating the function grid from an ad hoc report in Excel.

Forms

So to start off let's take a look at building a ppt slide using a PBCS form as a source for a chart.

First step is to either create a form or select one that has the data you are looking for.  Keep in mind if your goal is to make a chart, not all forms are set up correctly to make a nice chart.  In my experience so far, I have created a separate folder for forms called 'Forms for PPT' where I save the ones I have created specifically for this purpose.

This is the form I created for demonstration.  You can see it is pretty straightforward, but note that I did add a dimension to the Page section of the form; you'll see why in a little bit.



When working with a Data Form or HFR report as a source you can begin directly from Power Point; there is no need for Excel.

Steps

  1. Open Power Point and start with a blank presentation
  2. Connect to your data source, in this case PBCS, and navigate to Forms folder and select the form you created as the basis for your chart

  3. At the bottom of the Smart View panel, click on 'Insert Chart'
    1. Be patient this step may take a minute or so while Office renders the object
    2. It may also be a good idea to ensure Excel is closed before doing this.  I have found that if Excel is open prior to inserting the chart it times out.  Technically they are using the Excel chart engine to render the chart and insert it into Power Point
  4. Once the chart is rendered you can resize it and move it around your slide to desired location.  I do not recommend trying to move it to another slide, if you want it on another slide it seems best to repeat the steps.

  5. Once the chart is created you can now make changes to it as you would a typical Office object.  You can go to the chart designer and change the chart type or the color theme or various other options.  Smart View does provide some of the options in a pop-up menu you will see if you click on the chart, but the options there are similar to the ones on the chart design ribbon, with the exception of the filter function, which allows you to filter out certain members.  The filter function gives the option to potentially use a large form with a lot of data and then filter it in ppt, rather than having to create multiple forms.  You can also insert your regular ppt content and wind up with something that looks like this.   
      1.  
  6. Now that I have a nice chart I can take it one step further and make it interactive.  Remember before when I mentioned I put a dimension in the page section of the form?  Let's go back to the Smart View panel hit the drop down next to the little house icon and select 'Document Contents'.  Click on your function grid and then at the bottom of the panel click on 'Insert Reporting Object/Control'.  Now, click on the POV object

  7. You will see a grey box inserted onto the slide.  Note that this POV box will not become active until you enter Power Point presentation mode.  While in presentation mode you can hit the drop down next to the dimension member that was placed in the Page section of the form and select a different member; hit the refresh button and your objects will re-render with the new data.  

So you can see that I was able to very quickly create a presentation quality image based off my PBCS data.  Next time my data changes, I can open this ppt file, go to Smart View refresh and the object will pull in the new data and update the object accordingly.


HFR Grid

Next, let's look at how to insert a HFR report

The steps for inserting an HFR report are similar but there are a few differences.  First, like the data forms, you need to start off with a report that has the data you want.  I created an HFR report similar to the data form in previous example.



Steps

  1. Open Power Point and start with a blank presentation
  2. Connect to your data source, in this case we are still using PBCS but we are going to choose the Reporting provider instead of the EPM provider.  Navigate to the folder where you saved your report and select it.  Then hit the Open link at the bottom of the Smart View panel 

  3. When you click Open, the Import Workspace Document window will open.  By default you can import the report as an image, but we want to hit the drop down and select Function Grid instead
  4.  Click Finish
  5. You will be taken back to your slide and the Document Contents pane will be active in the Smart View panel. Click on the Insert New Reporting Object/Control link
  6. A new window pops up, scroll down and select Chart (note there is no option for POV).  Your chart is inserted and associated with the function grid, same as above with PBCS form.
You can now work with the chart the same way you did in the steps above.  So now, let's take a minute to explore some of the other objects (note these work the same if you are using a form).
  1. Return to the Document Contents pane, select your function grid connection and insert another object 
  2. This time let's add an Office Table
  3. Once the table is inserted, click on the table and then go to the PowerPoint Design Ribbon and select a format for the table; you can then repeat for the chart.  You may also want to increase the font for the table. 
  4. Insert a new slide into your ppt
  5. On slide 2, insert a new reporting object/control, select Function Grid
  6. Note that unlike the Office table, the function grid inserts multiple text boxes, some with labels, and others with active data links to your data source.  You can arrange these objects anywhere you would like and again click on the design ribbon to alter the way the object are formatted. 

There are a number of options to play with to get the format the way you would like.  Note that from time to time I have encountered a few bugs and some inconsistencies in behavior between data sources.  I encourage you to log an SR with Oracle for any you come across to get this product working as well as possible.


Excel


For the last data source, let's look at an ad hoc from Excel.  Note I will use PBCS but this works for other data sources such as Essbase as well.


Steps

  1. Open Excel and start with a blank workbook
  2. Connect to EPM data source via Smart View
  3. Using ad hoc analysis, create a basic retrieve 

  4. Select your data range by dragging mouse over the cells with data
  5. Go to Smart View ribbon and click Copy (note this is not the same as Excel Copy or ctrl + C)
  6. Open Power Point blank presentation
  7. Go to Smart View Ribbon and click Paste (note this is not the same as Paste on the Home ribbon or ctrl + V)
  8. At this point you will see that the function grid is actually placed in the slide.  Go ahead and run the refresh 

  9. Now let's add a chart and a POV slider: go to Smart View panel and go to document contents, select your Smart View link, and then click on Insert New Reporting Object/Control.
  10. Select chart
  11. Go back to Document Content, select your Smart View link, and then click on Insert New Reporting Object/Control.
  12. Scroll to bottom and select Slider
  13. Select the dimension you want the slider for, I am going to choose Years, with members FY18, FY17, and FY16.
  14. Now when I enter presentation mode, my slider becomes active.  I can use my mouse to slide to different year selections 



Conclusion

There are an endless number of combinations and examples I could show, but I think this is a good stopping point.  If you were able to follow along and complete the steps you now have the basic understanding of how to create Smart View Power Point objects that are linked to your EPM data source.  Experiment with different objects, and different data sources; I think you will find some very cool features.  Don't be discouraged if you run up against something that doesn't work right, the Oracle team has been very responsive and you just need to log an SR so they become aware of the issue.  Sometimes it is what we are doing, sometimes it is bug, but as I said at the beginning of the post, the product has come a long way and I believe it can be very useful in the hands of the right users.

Best of luck, let me know your thoughts in the comment section.


Post-Conclusion

Pics from Kscope18 Save The Beverage Company presentation

1. Meet The Sharks, The Founders, and The Presenters!





Thursday, June 28, 2018

Implementing PBCS at ODTUG

As a Director on the ODTUG Board, I have the privilege of serving as the organization's Treasurer.  Some of my duties include overseeing the organization's financial reporting as well as budgeting and forecasts.  When I took over the role two years ago I did an assessment of our reporting capabilities and I was unhappy about our dependency on Excel as our primary reporting and analysis tool.  Our controller did a fantastic job of pulling the data each month for our close and finance review, but we were limited to the reports that were created and any follow up questions or curiosities that required digging deeper posed a challenge and required someone to go off and manually work on it.

As an EPM professional, I knew there were better tools out there and my colleagues on the board agreed.  Of course this wasn't news, previous boards had also thought about this, but they were impaired by infrastructure requirements.  As a not-for-profit organization ODTUG runs on tight margins; an investment in servers to support an on-premise implementation of EPM software was not practical.  However, our board now had something our predecessors did not have, we had access to EPM in the Cloud.  Running a SaaS application in the cloud would eliminate all the obstacles such as not having a data center or hardware.  We also would not have to carry assets on our balance sheet; with a subscription service, EPM cloud would be a monthly operating expense.

About a year ago we began discussing this during a board meeting, we wanted to take our FP&A activities into PBCS and we put a plan in place.  Working with our partners at Oracle we obtained a small lot of PBCS licenses to build out our application.  I knew there would be a number of benefits if we could successfully implement PBCS at ODTUG.  We would be able to run the organization better, and we could share the experience with our members as a training opportunity.

My role on the board, along with the other board members, is a volunteer position; pretty much everyone at ODTUG is a volunteer, so embarking on a full scale implementation did make me a little nervous.  "Would I have enough time to work on this?", "Am I biting off more than I can chew?" were a couple of the thoughts that went through my head, but having prior experience with PBCS I had some confidence that it could be done in a reasonable amount of time.  So with the help of our controller from our management company, YCC, and some advice from fellow board member Jake Turrel, I jumped into the project.

I've been in EPM for a long time, and I have implemented a number of Hyperion Planning applications.  While PBCS may be considered by some to be "Hyperion Planning in the cloud", it's really so much more.  I was able to have the basic construct of the application up in a couple of hours and was already beginning to load some test data.  When I look at the length of the implementation, which lasted a couple of months in total (working part time on weekends and evenings), the least amount of time was spent on PBCS activities.  It was really all the pre-work at the ledger that took the bulk of the time.  Early on in the process I discovered I was going to have some issues loading data because our ledger, which is managed in Quickbooks, did not have rigid rules around master data.  I quickly found multiple accounts with similar or same name and I knew this was going to be an issue that would haunt us if we didn't deal with it.  I discussed with Jake and we agreed the first step to making the project a success was to clean up the ledger and implement a real chart of accounts.  I brought it up to the finance committee and we voted unanimously to approve the project.  A couple of weeks later I was on a plane to Wilmington, NC for a two day workout with our controller, Nancy.  We spent two days recoding the chart, extracting the data, and loading it into PBCS.  By the time we were done we had an enterprise class COA in place and all of our history was tied out in PBCS.

Over the next couple of weeks I continued to work with the data and took full advantage of what PBCS has to offer, most notably the dashboards.  As the Treasurer it is my job to report to the board each month how we are doing financially.  Prior to the board meeting the finance sub-committee meets to review the financials.  Both of these meetings would take a considerable amount of time as we combed through Excel reports; if we had any questions we would sometimes have to adjourn and reconvene at a later date after the information was collected.  With the PBCS implementation underway, I was able to create various dashboards to show quickly and clearly the financial health of the organization.  The dashboards showed more content than we had available in the past and with features like drill down enabled, we are able to explore the data more fluidly.  Finance reviews now take about 5-10 minutes each month and board members have the ability to login and look at the data anytime they want.

In addition to making life easier for the board and other ODTUG leaders and volunteers, we have also tried to identify where this project benefits our members.  One thing the board has discussed is how can we be more transparent with the inner workings of ODTUG.  We have discussed what financial information is appropriate for us to disclose to our members.  In the past this would have incurred additional cost to ODTUG to prepare the information, but now that we have PBCS we can easily add some reports with various metrics for external consumption.  This is an enhancement I am currently working on and will be disclosing in the near future.

Overall our PBCS implementation has been a huge success and I am happy to be able to share this information with you.  As mentioned above, I want to seize this moment and turn it into a learning opportunity for the EPM community.  Since the implementation, I have shared this information at a few events and I plan to continue doing so in various formats.

Back in May I did a presentation at a NYC meet-up on PBCS that focused on many of the learnings from the ODTUG implementation.  At this year's Kscope I did a presentation: Happily Ever After: ODTUG and Oracle Enterprise Planning and Budgeting Cloud Solution (EPBCS).  If you were unable to attend Kscope, the presentation was recorded and is available to ODTUG members.  I will also be doing a webinar on Aug 21 at 12pm EDT; you can register here.  I am also presenting this topic at OOW in October.

For those of you who prefer to get your content from a blog, I am planning a multi-part blog series on the ODTUG PBCS implementation.  I plan to write about the technical approach to building the PBCS app and touch on various topics such as:
  • How to create a new EPBCS application
  • How to customize PBCS settings to personalize the look and feel of the application
  • How to build and update dimensions using both the web interface and Smart View
  • How to import data
  • How to build forms, dashboard, and financial reports

I hope you will follow this series to see all the interesting content, you can follow this blog to get notifications when the posts are added.

Thanks for reading and please check back soon.


P.S. - here are a couple of other references on this subject to take a look at if you are interested.

ODTUG PBCS press release
DevLive interview with me discussing ODTUG implementation of EPBCS