Cervello recently had the opportunity to partner with a large global financial services organization to provide assistance as they embarked on a multi-year initiative to standardize their existing ERP and EPM systems. As with many large organizations, lack of standardizations had resulted in limited access and visibility into key operational metrics and difficulty in reconciling information across the various financial systems. During month end closing for example the lack of timely and accurate financial data had become a major pain point for Finance stakeholders due to the challenges of integrating disparate sources of financial data across the organization in a reliable and timely manner.

Key Challenges
As part of this major integration initiative the client had to address many key challenges that included:

  • The integration of multiple ERP systems with plans to migrate over time to a standard ERP system – specifically the integration of multiple Oracle EBS R11 systems to a standard Oracle EBS R12 implementation
  • The standardization of EPM applications that included planning and financial management systems
  • The collection and integration of financial data across the organization (in fact a significant number of countries and business units) where no standard ERP system such as Oracle EBS was available
  • The implementation of a financial and reporting Data Warehouse to provide better visibility into financial information in parallel with key systems integration projects
  •  Reliable mechanisms for collecting  financial data from across the globe
  • Addressing Master Data challenges that existed across the organization (for example, different Charts of Accounts )

Managing Master Data specifically was a major success criteria for overcoming the complex data integration challenges. Implementing Data Governance technologies and processes was also critical to the success of this endeavor. With a significant investment across the Oracle ERP and EPM technology stack and with the help of Cervello, the client initiated a Master Data Management project leveraging the Oracle DRM (Data Relationship Management) product.  In addition, the client established a Data Governance organization with core responsibility for managing the distribution of Master Data across the organization. In support of this effort, Cervello continues to assist this client and optimize their DRM investment by implementing processes that improve the efficiency of managing Master Data on a project of such scale.

Oracle DRM
For those unfamiliar with Master Data Management principles, Oracle DRM helps organizations proactively manage changes in master data across operational, analytical, and enterprise performance management silos. Users may make changes in their departmental perspectives while ensuring conformance to enterprise standards. Whether processing financial or analytical information, Oracle DRM delivers timely, accurate, and consistent master data to drive ongoing operational execution, business intelligence, and performance management systems.

This client is currently in the process of implementing Oracle DRM to support the data integration initiatives across core applications that include Oracle EBS, Oracle Planning, Oracle HFM (Hyperion Financial Management) and Essbase for financial reporting.  In addition, Data Warehouse initiatives will leverage OBIEE to provide additional reporting capabilities.

Supporting approximately 50 Master Data sources (Accounts, Entities, Responsibility Centers, Currencies, Mappings and Reporting Hierarchies for example) the client will be able centralize the management of master data and eliminate data quality issues  by providing a consistent set of master data to subscribing applications.

Extending DRM Functionality for Agile Implementations
The Oracle DRM product is a powerful tool for managing hierarchies.  Creating multiple versions of hierarchies, managing properties and enforcing complex business rules are tasks that are all simplified within DRM. A major challenge faced during this implementation was not just the number of hierarchies that had to be developed and maintained but the extensive number of mappings and properties (in the 1000’s) that were required to support the subscribing applications. Having an efficient means to manage this information was critical given the dependencies and response expectations downstream.

During the Agile DRM implementation with this client we found that DRM resources were spending most of their time migrating changes the Governance team had agreed upon into DRM.  Looking for a faster, more intuitive way to handle changes from the Governance team, we began to manage large change volumes outside of DRM.  Once the Governance team approved the changes they would automatically be migrated into DRM.  We found that this process allowed DRM resources to spend more time on core development while reducing the lag time between Governance approval and the changes entering the system.  Over the course of the project the Cervello team expanded upon the original process and allowed users to interactively manage subsets of DRM data and push changes to one or more DRM versions from a custom web application.  Processing changes in this way allowed the team to take advantage of many of the strengths of DRM, while working against an Agile project plan.

Extending DRM Using Oracle ADF
Using Oracle ADF (Oracle’s Application Developer Framework – a powerful development environment for building robust Web Based Applications) Cervello is developing a secure and user friendly application that will allow one or more authorized users to (i) extract subsets of master data from DRM, (ii) make changes in a familiar and efficient excel based environment and then (iii) integrate and approve those changes back into DRM following predefined governance rules and with complete audit of events. This cycle of activities is illustrated below:

Oracle DRM Utility Cycle of ActivitiesWith the ability to operate in an excel environment the User has the ability to make changes to Hierarchies more efficiently than previously possible. Once comfortable with the changes the User can upload (via a user friendly interface) their changes back into one or more non production DRM versions. The application provides extensive audit capabilities in order to provide traceability at any point in time.

During the upload process, core data elements are validated according to a predefined set of criteria and uploaded templates are automatically converted into a series of DRM action scripts that provide the mechanism for integrating back into DRM (based on authorization and authentication rules the User can choose to promote changes into a DRM production version following rules set out by the data governance organization).

The result is an effective and efficient means to manage large scale DRM changes.

A Sneak Peek at the Application
The application is designed to be consistent with the client’s standards for web applications that provide a common look and feel of use across the organization. Through integration with Oracle Fusion Middleware the application provides seamless integration with the rest of the Oracle applications. With full audit capabilities the solution is in full compliance with data governance standards, and most importantly, is easy to use.


In Summary
When working on large scale integration projects it is critical to think of unique and innovative solutions whenever possible and constantly look to improve on existing processes.  In this case, creating a utility to compliment the strengths of a Master Data Management tool (Oracle DRM) proved to provide the most benefit to the client.  The development team from Cervello will continue to bring this innovative approach to future engagements, building custom solutions to maximize client success.


Brian SwarbrickPOSTED BY: Brian Swarbrick, with special thanks to Dan Sheehan at Cervello for his input to this blog.

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