Last week I was chatting with an ex-colleagues about our HFM experiences. After 10 years, we both have a lot of stories to share but as always in life she told me something that I was never expecting to hear. In one of her roles, Smartview was not permitted all users!!!
Based on what she told me the policy did not allow users to use SmartView for office. They can open the browser and copy paste any values for their reports but they are not allowed to download the values directly to the excel file.
Initially, I was quite surprised. My experience says that accountants and financial analysts are proud for their Excel based reports and since SmartView is the only way to refresh an excel file, SmartView is crucial on the life of a user. But then I thought that there must be a reason.
- Maybe the specific users are not using HFM as much as required to justify the installation of SmartView? Automation dictates the use of SmartView to refresh data in an excel file.
- Or maybe the cost of licence and the cost of maintaining SmartView?There is not cost.
- Or risk of additional permissions to use SmartView? No additional permissions are required.
- Or the requirement of training in order to use SmartView? 30 minutes training is enought to allow a user to retrieve data.
SmartView is a great tool for all the business analysts and reporting users. As any tool, it adds value to the business only when the user maintains a balance on how this tool is used. For SmartView, the balance is between what you calculate in HFM, what data you download from HFM and how you process the data in the excel.
The worst scenario that I have encounter with SmartView was when the users were Excel reports to simulate the consolidation. In this case, HFM was used as a big expensive database and Excel files had been transform into personalised consolidation tools. After a few months of having this situation, each excel file was creating its own consolidated results and the reporting process became complicated due to the multiple reconciliations. To be honest, this scenario was a result of the non-existing communication between users and the administrator. It was obvious that the administrator was not properly maintaining the HFM application to align the consolidation calculations with the group’s reporting requirements and as a result the users found a way to override the “problem” by building their own consolidation calcs.
The optimum approach that I have in mind is:
- Use FDMEE to integrate values from the ERP systems to HFM.
- Use HFM to do all the calculations, translations and consolidation journals.
- Use Excel files for reporting during the close of the period (review the values of accounts, create journals, verify the data etc).
- Use proper reporting tools for presentation (CXO cockpit, MS Power BI, SAP BO, Tableau, QlickView etc)
1. consistent data for all the entities
2. trackable data changes
3. auditable calculations
4. centralised reporting
5. enhanced security and data protection
Such a close process will allow users to change their focus from a data-management to data analysis.
1. Data issues due to inconsistencies will be fixed by FDMEE mappings.
2. Data queries will not arise due to the tracking and audit functionalities for FDMEE and HFM.
3. Centralised reporting will automate the refresh of the reports.
4. File distribution will not be part of the process due to the new reporting portal
5. The data protection will be increased since the data will not be in an excel file stored in a USB but will be available on the company’s internal portal.
However, the reality is slightly different for most companies. Due to different priorities or insufficient funds, most of the companies have not managed to have a centralised reporting tool yet. As a result, HFM is the tool that they use to consolidate and Excel files are used to prepare the presentation documents (ppt or pdf) in order to complete the close process. Consequently, excel still remains the best friend of the accountant (after the calculator) and SmartView will still be around as it is the best way to refresh excel reports.
What are your experiences?