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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What's the right level of detail to include in Hyperion Planning

When facilitating design sessions with clients, the question that invariably comes up is what level of detail should be included within their Hyperion Planning application.

Often, a clients first instinct is to include the level of detail that exists within their ERP system for actual data. When confronted with this desire/requirement, I like to encourage spirited conversation between project sponsors and subject matter experts by having them address the following two items.
1) Does a desire exist across the majority of the user base, to plan/budget at the same level of detail for which actual data occurs?
2) Does this level of detail for formulating a plan/budget coincide with management’s performance management objectives?

I have found that the best practice for the level of detail contained within a planning application or applications is that it should reflect management’s performance management objectives. Detail for detail’s sake wastes resources, but arbitrarily limiting the level of detail is not a best practice if it limits analysis against important factors that must be controlled.

If the driving desire to include this level of detail in the Planning application is only to facilitate analysis against actual data and business owners have no desire to perform data entry to each and every travel expense account for example, then other alternatives exist that will not encumber the Planning application(s).

Successful Planning implementations provide the level of detail within the planning model that business owners are accustom to and desire to formulate their Plans/Budgets. Meaningful reporting and analysis often may require further details then what users desire to plan to. This disconnect can be addressed through properly architected reporting applications, partitioning, or drill through.

When addressing the level of detail that is to be included within a Planning application, answering the two fundamental questions above has lead me to successfully architect and implement in excess of 30 Planning applications. More often than not, most clients when really pushed to consider what is really necessary from a Plan/Budget perspective versus what is necessary from a Reporting/Analysis perspective will arrive at a Planning application that is more summary level.

While meeting management’s performance management objectives for Reporting and Analysis shouldn’t be ignored, encumbering users with unnecessary levels of detail within a Plan/Budget only introduces potential for issues with performance, maintenance and end user satisfaction.

The mantra that I as well as many other seasoned EPM professionals subscribe to when asked to architect a Planning application is that, “Provide the level of detail necessary to formulate the Plan. Planning should be used as a means to facilitate Plan/Budget vs. Actual analysis, but if the level of detail that this analysis occurs at is beneath the level of Plan formulation then this analysis should be done outside of Planning (i.e. Essbase, partitioning to a reporting app, drill through).”