Smart View or Financial Reporting—Which One Should I Use?

Juan Porter

By
May 25th, 2011


Clients often ask the question: Can Oracle Hyperion Smart View do the same thing as Financial Reporting, or can Financial Reporting do the same thing as Smart View? The short answer is yes. The long answer is yes, but…

Basically, it comes down to understanding the implications between the two: Both Smart View and Financial Reporting can present the same data, the same financial reports. However, for data integrity, productivity and ease-of-use, it is critical that the right tool be used for the right purpose.

Let’s take a look at each option and then talk about when each is—and isn’t—a fit for the task at hand.

 

Smart View

Smart View is an MS Office ad-in that provides Excel with the unique abilities of ad-hoc analysis and formula-based data retrieval by providing a link from Excel back to HFM, Planning and Essbase. Since Excel is the standard for finance people, the comfort level with a worksheet is high. In addition, non-EPM based data or calculations can be incorporated. As a result, this reporting option is oriented towards financial analysts or power users.

While this sounds like a panacea, the downside of Smart View is that when retrieving data using the ad-hoc method, there is no way to determine if a given value in a cell is the retrieved value or something that someone has entered/changed—it’s just a number. Even using the formula-based method would require you to look at the details cell by cell to be sure. It is often overlooked that the openness and ability to make changes in Excel also brings risks. Some would argue that you can “protect” the worksheet, but this “protection” gives a false sense of security. As soon as you need to update the worksheet for new metadata or other changes, you have to unprotect the worksheet.

Speaking of metadata changes, it may also be necessary to manually update every worksheet that utilizes the changed dimension accordingly. For example, if you have a parent called TotCo with Americas, Europe and AsiaPac as children and you build the worksheet to show these members, you would have a row (or column) for each member. If you then decide to split Americas to NorthAmerica and LatinAmerica, you now need to update the worksheets.

  • If the worksheet is built using the ad-hoc method, you may be able to simply collapse TotCo and expand to get the new members. Then you will need to verify any formulas, formatting, etc. after the collapse/expand is performed.
  • If a worksheet is built using the formula method, you will need to change Americas to NorthAmerica (or LatinAmerica) and insert a row/column for the other member as well. Then you will need to update any formulas, formatting, etc.

 

Financial Reporting

Financial Reporting is designed to deliver standard financial reports by utilizing a reporting template. When you view the reports, none of the information can be modified. As a result, these reports can be used by all users.

With Financial Reporting you get an environment that is delivered to a browser, which is less intimidating for the majority of users. It uses templates based on the type of report you are running. While Financial Reporting does not have Excel options—i.e., users do not have the ability to edit or modify values—it  does have the advantage of offering drill-down in the hierarchy structure and investigations through related content to link a value to another report view.

In the Smart View portion of this blog we talked about what maintenance would be involved if a dimension changed. With Financial Reporting, you can build a report to take advantage of the hierarchy relationship. Using the example above, you might create two rows (or columns)—the first row could show the children of TotCo, and the second line would be only TotCo (this way you can use different formatting for the TotCo line). When the Americas region is changed, you would simply run the report since the first row will always show whatever the children are of TotCo and adjust automatically.

The downside (if you can call it that) of Financial Reporting is that any data to be displayed on a report or changes to data must be in the EPM applications. The upside is this restriction provides a key level of control over your data—i.e., the casual user can’t get in and make ill-considered changes.

 

Which Tool Do I Use When?

Smart View provides the ability to create ad-hoc analysis where you can move dimensions on the fly, re-pivot your view, etc. Basically, you can work in free form, pivoting dimensions between rows and columns. For example, you might start with a simple income statement on rows and time periods on columns. Then, you want to see department. To do this, you simply drag department into the columns. An example of a good use of Smart View would be when the CFO/controller sees a variance in the company numbers, and he/she would like to understand what is behind it. The financial analyst can use Smart View to dig into the numbers, run different scenarios, etc. And if the CFO/controller wants more data based on the output, the financial analyst can continue working the numbers, coming up with different perspectives and possibilities. This is a great use of Smart View.

Financial Reporting is best and most efficient when used for standard reports needed throughout the course of business. The biggest reason is that in maintaining financial reports, changes to dimensions and hierarchies are going to occur during the course of business. Financial Reporting is built using a function of the relationship of parent to child so it can dynamically present the child to parent every time a report is run. If one or the other is added or removed, Financial Reporting will automatically adjust to show the correct lines.

As Mike Arnoldy stated in his blog, “Smart View and Financial Reporting—Frenemies?” there is room for both Financial Reporting and Smart View. You have to understand that it’s not all or nothing. Rather it is about ensuring that everyone is using the right tool for the right purpose. By making sure the right delivery mechanism is in place, you can maintain a high degree of integrity of the value of data and presentation of that data as well as ensuring it is accurate and auditable.

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Please feel free to publish the above blog in full or in part with attribution according to the Creative Common license.

 

 


Juan Porter

About Juan Porter

Juan Porter, Chief Solutions Officer, founded TopDown Consulting in 2000. He has over 30 years combined customer, vendor, and consultant experience with Hyperion, which enables him to bring unmatched insight into the strategic impact of performance management solutions as well as in-depth understanding of the day-to-day realities of managing global applications while supporting users’ needs. Prior to founding TopDown, Juan managed all aspects of Hyperion applications, on a global basis, for ABB, Novell, and SGI. He is considered a visionary with an exceptional, proven ability to effectively address complex global business problems through EPM solutions. He has served as a member of the Oracle Hyperion Partner Advisory Council, was the chair of Hyperion’s national steering committee, and has led many Hyperion enhancement committees and user groups. Recognized as a thought leader, Juan presents regularly at various industry events, including Kscope, Budgeting and Finance Summits, and Oracle EPM/BI Days. He has also authored a number of articles and blogs for various industry publications.

4 comments on “Smart View or Financial Reporting—Which One Should I Use?”

  1. leo lee says:

    I don’t agree with you about Smartview vs. Report. Anything that HR can do, Smartview can do. But not vice versa. HR is good for non-power users and casual users. For any serious HFM/Essbase users, they would prefer to use smartview instead as long as you know what you are trying to do.

  2. Juan says:

    Leo – Looking at a single report I would agree that you could use either Smartview or Financial Reporting. However, Financial Reporting does include some features not found in Smartview such as:
    – Investigations using the Related Content option
    – Annotations which are pervasive across reports that reference the same intersection
    – Dynamic refresh of rows/columns without having to collapse/expand

    This is not to say that Financial Reporting is better than Smartview, but they are different tools and each brings a unique set of capabilities to the user.

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