Before embarking on an Oracle HFM implementation or upgrade, do a little homework and understand what you are about to get into. Some business teams and IT folks see a Oracle Hyperion Financial Management (HFM) product demo and say I need that. However, before you write a check and start piling up papers and creating project plans, speak with someone who’s has successfully done this before.
I’ve been part of over 50 HFM implementations and upgrades over the last 27 years and want to share the lessons I’ve learned. Below are the Top 3 Things to Consider When Considering an Oracle HFM Implentation or Upgrade. If you think about these 3 items and address each one, your likelihood for a successful project is almost guaranteed. If you can think of others, please feel free to comment below.
Dave’s Top 3 Things to Consider Before Beginning an Oracle HFM Implementation
- Partner with the right Oracle Hyperion consulting and advisory team.
- Select the best implementation team.
- Never forget change management.
1. Partner with Right Oracle Hyperion Consulting and Advisory Team
There are many Hyperion Financial Management (HFM) consulting companies and independent consultant who are always looking for their next HFM project. But, be very careful when you make your selection. Begin by asking yourself, “What do I expect from this outside person or team?”
Here’s what to consider:
- Oracle Hyperion Product Knowledge and Expertise
- Implementation Experience
- Project Management Services
- Leadership – Are they willing to share success and war stories?
I’ve worked with many different types of consultants over the years. One of my favorite stories was from a person whom I’ve known for years from back in the Micro Control days. We were working together on a new HFM upgrade project and she told me, we must do it my way because I know it will work. I took the time to explain an alternative way and she listened, but in the end didn’t want to do it. The reality is, using Oracle HFM has many benefits but you need to understand the entire consolidation and close process, not just one part, in order to and make it work best for you. Talk to someone who not only understands your current process but also knows how a Hyperion solution will help you achieve your goals. Always make the best decision based on your situation – not based on the situation of others before you.
Make sure the consultants you choose are flexible and that they understand the ins/outs of the product, and that they will take into account the entire consolidation process - from front-to-back and from end-to-end.
2. Select the Best Implementation Team
This one seems simple but can be challenging for many companies. You need to make sure you have the right team in place to get the job done quickly and successfully. Picking the wrong team will lead to a longer implementation time and possible cost over runs.
In the classical organized structure for an implementation team, you may have planners, followed by the team builders, followed by the team testers, and followed by the user acceptance team. Each team must do their part before moving on to the next phase of the implementation (or Hyperion upgrade) process. This is a classic example of a phase gate project.
Image: Think "Front-to-Back" when selecting your HFM implementation team.
When selecting your implementation team, I want to change your classical thinking, and ask you to structure a team with a diversity of skills, forward thinking and technical experience.
The HFM implementation team should be cross-functional and involved from start to finish. The team you choose should not be more than 3-8 people. Based on my experience, very large teams often lose velocity when getting tasks completed. I’ve actually seen smaller teams function at higher level.
Picking the Team Members
First, identify who the Product Owner is. This person is the one with the HFM vision of what you are going to implement.
Next, pick the Team. These will be the people doing the hands-on work. The team needs to have all the skills needed to take the Product Owners’ vision and make it reality. Generally, pick someone from the Business team who is going operate the application once the implementation or upgrade is completed. It also helps if you pick someone who is going to help on the technical side.
Lastly, you pick a Project Leader. This is the person who will coach the rest of team, help remove any roadblocks, and eliminate anything that is slowing the team down.
3.Never Forget Change Management
Change Management is never easy. When the team first sits down to map out a project, there is often excitement in the room - a sense of possibility or “the sky is the limit.” Don’t simply replicate the consolidation and close process you have today without a vigorous discussion first.
For those of you contemplating a new HFM consolidation system implementation, replicating what you have today without a healthy discussion of what should change, be added or deleted is a recipe for a migraine headache down the road. Talk to your accounting and consulting team to compile a list of the things you’d like to see changed or improved. Just implementing a new HFM application may help with some of your pain-points, but the devil is in the details. We don’t want to blindly do what’s already in place - garbage-in, garbage-out.
In addition, some companies have a methodology that they like to use, such as a very detail waterfall implementation approach. This approach will increase your implementation time. For the purpose of this article, I won’t go into details, but I have a lot war stories on this topic.
How many times do you hear about some massive HFM implementation costing a lot of money only to miss its target dates multiple times, not only due to cost overruns, but because it simply doesn’t work the way they want it? It won't happen if you rely on Strafford.
I’ve had the pleasure of being brought into one these situations a few years back. I was called in to review a HFM project and assess the current situation. The implementation was going on for over 1 year. The problem was the client wanted, no demanded, to use every feature in Oracle HFM and consultant team didn’t say, “not so fast.” As a result, the HFM application was being built with all new account structures, new dimensions, new complex rules for both intercompany and foreign translations, etc. The problem was that nobody could load in the data at this new detail and validate it. Why? Because the first consulting team didn’t stop and think about the entire consolidation and close process – from front-to-back, from end-to-end.
Fast forward six months, this project was saved and they did go live with HFM, but they did it in phases instead of trying to do the big bang approach.
Change or Leave
Once, a client said to me, “We been doing things this way for nearly 100 years.” I told them that they can cling to the old way of doing things but this will ultimately bring failure, and I didn’t want not be a part of it. I nicely explained how the HFM implementation project is going to help them with their day to day activities, especially during in the month end close cycle. The whole purpose of a HFM implementation is to make the Finance teams work more efficiently and smarter. At the end of the day, their quality of life was much better. Change is hard for some folks, but you need to get there. We did with this client.
Plan for Reality, Not Fantasy
This is a tricky one for some project managers. I’ve seen many times where a project manager will take a similar project plan and use it for a new project. They thought they could plan everything ahead of time. They spend a day or even weeks making the sort of detailed plans that seem doable, but 99% of the time, it's fictional reality.
The HFM Project Team along with the Project Owner need to have input into the project plan. This can’t be a one-person job. The team, along with Product Owner and Project Leader, must document and validate the tasks, then prioritize the tasks and identify who’s doing what and when. Weekly or daily SCRUM-style checkins will allow the team to determine what they can accomplish and when it will be accomplished.
As teams continue to work and complete tasks, they will be able to determine the velocity at which they can complete the tasks, and the team will be able to better estimate the actual go-live date. Once the team figures out its workload velocity, they can figure out the most important thing - what’s keeping them from going faster? Once they determine that, it’s up to the Project Manager to remove the obstacles.
Make Work Visible
Daily stand-ups (15 minutes – 3 daily questions)
- What did you do yesterday to help the team?
- What will you do today?
- Are there any obstacle blocking you from achieving your goals?
That’s it. Everyone on the team must be in attendance and everyone knows exactly what everyone else is working on. It’s fast and simple, but effective.
Every HFM project has its own unique challenges and there is not one perfect solution for all HFM implementations or upgrades. At Strafford, our approach is to establish a partnership with our clients by presenting a consistent view of project success, however, everything we do is unique to our clients’ goals. We deliver an implementation methodology along with the technical and finance leadership needed to implement a successful HFM project.
Strafford Technology has been delivering successful Hyperion implementation and upgrades, projects, including product assessments and roadmaps, for over 20 years. If your Hyperion environment is stale or you are looking to introduce Oracle EPM into your finance organization, let’s come together and talk. We will come up with right plan that aligns with your strategic goals. You can sleep well knowing your company has a right game plan in place and that we are executing against it.