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’:
“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.
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 126.96.36.199x 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.
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.
I can even refresh Essbase via Smart View:
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.
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.
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.
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.
From an Essbase standpoint, Smart View achieved functionality parity in the long anticipated 188.8.131.52.102 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.
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.
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:
“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…
POSTED BY: Patrick Caruso