As an Oracle Hyperion Planning and Oracle Essbase  consultant for nearly a decade, I grew up with the Excel Add-In. I have used it on a daily basis for my entire career, and consider myself one of its most loyal devotees. I loved that it was simple to install and easy to learn. I have also appreciated the blistering speed and efficiency one could achieve after learning the keyboard shortcuts (Alt-X-S will bring up all of the shortcuts in Office 2007+). But as they say, all good things must come to an end, and that end came via Oracle Support Document ‘ID 1466700.1’:

 oracle logo

“As of January 1, 2013, Oracle Essbase Spreadsheet Add-In will no longer be available for general distribution with new releases of Oracle Essbase.  Releases prior to January 1, 2013 should be considered a terminal release for Essbase Spreadsheet Add-In and customers should make preparations to migrate to Oracle Hyperion Smart View for Office.” 

For years, Oracle Essbase Add-In loyalists like me feared this day of reckoning. I had given Smart View a try in the early 9.x releases in 2007-ish. I was intrigued by the promise of further Office integration beyond Excel and hopeful for fixes to long-time Add-In annoyances like orphaned EXCEL.exe processes and the universally adored “disabled add-in” issue.

Excel adin

Well, the grass is not always greener, and Smart View included a whole new host of annoyances to meet and greet (Let’s hear it for KeepAliveTimeouts and registry edits). It’s been about 6 years, and that is plenty of time for Oracle to improve Smart View, but I remained hesitant to give up my beloved Add-In.

Then along came the 11.1.2.3x release that launched this past spring. Along with this update came something called the ‘Planning Admin Extension for Smart View’, which ended up being the catalyst for my switch. While I love the Add-In, the opportunity to manage Planning hierarchies via Excel seemed too good to pass up. I find the process of manually adding members to Planning via the Web to be tedious and error prone, so significant improvements in this area was an offer I could not refuse.

Hyperion Planning Admin Extension

Anyone who has added SUI Rates to Workforce Planning knows how brutal that process can be via the Web Client, so I wanted to see if Smart View made that process easier (it absolutely did).

When you add a new member to Planning, the Web Client screen isolates you from other nearby members. This can make it difficult to keep Planning properties consistent as you need to constantly update myriad dropdowns, not to mention the annoyance of constantly changing the ‘Data Storage’ property inherited from the parent. In the example below, it would be very helpful to see what property settings the other SUI Rate accounts have for comparison.

3 - Discussions

Smart View makes this a lot easier. Firstly, you can see the properties of nearby members and even copy/paste properties amongst members. You can also use Excel formulas to quickly concatenate new member names and even use freeze panes or auto filter functionality. In the example below, I can quickly create SUI accounts and easily paste all of the account properties from a previously created member to ensure they are all in sync. If you collect taxes in 50 states, this will save a significant amount of time compared to adding accounts via the Web Client. Also, changes are highlighted in yellow and are not pushed to Planning until you hit ‘Submit Data’, which adds a level of comfort when making significant changes.

4 - POV

I can even refresh Essbase via Smart View:

5 - Hierarchies

If you are currently managing hierarchies manually in Planning, this will be a huge win and an efficiency boost to your process. I found it to be a massive time savings and less tedious process as compared to the Web Client.

Hyperion Planning

The newest Smart View versions are a game changer for anyone using Hyperion Planning. The ability to Plan in Excel while still leveraging Planning Security, Forms, Smart List drop downs, Task Lists, etc. significantly improves the Planning experience for users. Finance lives in Excel, and now we can bring Planning to them in their preferred medium. In the example below, we are looking at a Workforce Planning input form and can see the Task List in the panel on the right.

6-patrick

Smart View even has the capability of running business rules and supporting user prompts, allowing the user to never have to leave the comforts of Excel. In the example below, we are adding a ‘to be hired’ to Workforce Planning which has a series of prompts and a corresponding business rule. All of these prompts are supported in Smart View as well as the ability to execute a discrete business rule.

7 - Prompts

I have even found that large forms load faster via Smart View than the Web Client, but that may not be true for everyone. When upgrading from prior versions of Planning, take time to see if Planning in Excel via Smart View might address pain points in your current process. In my experience, users love the Smart View Excel planning functionality.

Essbase

From an Essbase standpoint, Smart View achieved functionality parity in the long anticipated 11.1.2.1.102 release. One of the best features is the new Ribbon with large buttons for different functions. This is a big win for the non-hot key crowd.

8 - Essbase ribbon

Another big change is the beloved ‘Lock and Send’ has been replaced with the ‘Submit Data’ button. One cool new feature is that Smart View for Essbase keeps track of what cells are changed by turning them yellow (similar to Planning), which makes it easier to keep track of data changes before submitting.

9 - Lock and Send

In a touch of irony, I really do not have a lot more to add on the Essbase experience in Smart View, and that is a good thing. It replicates 99% of the Add-In experience, which is exactly what I was hoping it would do. Sure there are small changes here and there, and while I miss my hot keys, it replicates what people love about the Add-In, and a lot more for other products like Planning.

Back to the Future

In summary, I am now fully converted to Smart View. I’ll miss the Add-In and look back fondly on our time together, but Oracle Hyperion Smart View is the future:

10 - Oracle

“Oracle Hyperion Smart View for Office is the strategic Oracle direction for office add-in for EPM & BI.”

Well, I guess there is only one thing left to do…

11 - Disable AddIn


essbase excel add-in

 

 

POSTED BY: Patrick Caruso

 

 

Cervello CloudExpress

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5 comments on “Breaking up with the Essbase Excel Add-In – It’s not you, it’s me.

  1. Hi Patrick, did you check the performance of the new Smartview compare to Essbase Addins? We’re using Smartview 11.1.2.3 and it can not cope with large queries. Some take 30 mins or even hang, while the same queries only take a few seconds in Essbase Addins. I guess the only good thing is the ability to manage metadata in Smartview. But its performance is still very bad. We are looking at Dodeca at the moment.

  2. Toan,

    The Add-In and Smart View fundamentally differ in how they communicate with Essbase. There is always a level of variability in performance from environment to environment, but there are certain settings you might want to try out in a development/test environment to address the large queries.

    I would start with the following general troubleshooting steps to isolate the problem:

    -Is performance stable across multiple PCs in the same location?
    -If not, are they on different versions of Windows, Office, hardware?
    -Is one particular location performing poorly?
    -If so, does that location have worse bandwidth? Are intranet sites rendering slowly as well?
    -Are particular queries running poorly?
    -If we re-create from scratch in a new workbook, are they faster?
    -If we split a large workbook into multiple smaller workbooks, do they speed up?

    If there are no obvious causes coming out of the above troubleshooting, I would look at one setting in particular:

    These are only suggestions, and should only be applied in a non-Production environment after appropriate backups have been taken.

    -Review the Smart View compression setting in the essbase.properties on the Analytic/Hyperion Provider Services Server
    -In 11.1.2.3.x it can be found in Oracle/Middleware/user_projects//aps/bin
    -smartview.webservice.gzip.compression.disable=
    -Time your query with the default setting (false)
    -Change to true, and restart the Analytics Provider Service
    -Try your query again and compare the results
    -NOTE: This setting turns on compression for ALL queries, so make sure to test some smaller queries as well to ensure it does not degrade performance for those.

    If all else fails, I recommend opening up an SR with Oracle Support about the issue. They will typically ask you to install some network traffic monitoring tools and send some additional logging information.

    Hope that helps.

  3. Hi Patrick,
    Thanks for your response. Our smartview installed on production terminal server which is a lot more powerful than the window 2003 server that we has essbase addins installed. We did log an SR with Oracle complaining about the smartview performance and they sent some good references for tuning up the smartview. We did go through all that. But the result is not much improved. The fact is Oracle already confirms that Smartview can not compete with Essbase addins when it comes to performance on large queries. Smartview is a great tool and it can do lots of things, and very efficient when doing small queries. But because of its overhead, it is terribly slow compare to Essbase addins. We really dont know how to tell the users stop using Essbase addins when the performance is so critical. The reason why we look at Dodeca..(to be confirmed) is because our window 2003 terminal server where we have Essbase Addins is about to be decommisioned and we are struggling to find a better replacement for it..

  4. Hi Patrick,
    Regarding the Lock and Send moving to Submit Data – wondering if you’ve seen this and have any comments – the spreadsheet will refresh itself when you hit “Submit Data” and overwrite all your intended Lock/Send data. We’re on Smartview 11.1.2.5.210.

  5. My users are revolting in adopting SV. In many cases, it does not load data using ‘Submit’ when the cell is a formula or link to another cell.

    Is anyone experiencing the issue? How can I fix this?

    Thanks!