Better Business Decisions by Automating Redundant Tasks

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I started my career as an accountant and never had any aspirations of doing the same thing all day, every day.  While I struggled through what I considered monotonous job functions, I developed a knack for finding ways to automate my job.  As a result, I didn’t have to do repetitive tasks and I had more time to learn the business. Don’t get me wrong, accountants possess a unique set of skills and talent that I respect trumendously. It is a critical function of any business.  So, kudos to you accountants!

When I get involved with building new applications with Hyperion, or updating existing models, it pains me to see accounting, finance, and the staff who support Hyperion continue to perform repetitive tasks that dominate their time.  It can drive talented people to look for employment elsewhere.  It inflates salaries and jeopardizes credibility with an increase in human error. It also deteriorates the quality of business analysis, introducing a greater risk of poor decisions.  Inflated expenses and poor management decisions can be catastrophic to any business.

Automation in accounting and finance areas is critical to productivity.  Being able to support the constant push from management to become better and faster with less resources is always challenging.  If your Hyperion environment is supported outside of finance, IT areas are under just as much scrutiny.  How much of your time, or staff, is spent generating reports?  How much more time could be spent helping analyze the business and adding value to management decisions?  From an IT prospective, how much of your time is spent supporting the environment and responding to requests where answers could be automatically generated?  If 20% of your reparative tasks were eliminated, how much more effective you would you be?  How much more experience would you gain?  How much more marketable would you be both internally and externally?

Many of the possibilities for automation are never discussed.  Most people don’t even realize how much time they spend performing repetitive tasks that could be automated. Some think it would be impossible to automate and others think it would be too expensive.  The examples below were both accomplished in a matter of weeks.  The investment had a positive return within months.  The non-monitory gain was felt immediately.

Don’t think of why it can’t be done.  Think of a solution without constraints and ask, “How can we get there?”  With the proper guidance and background, massive improvements can be accomplished with minimal effort.

To spark some thought, think about these situations.

Monitoring Essbase jobs and keeping users informed of system status

Are you responsible for managing all the jobs that run on Essbase server(s) and are constantly asked if something has completed, or when something will complete, by your users?  Some organizations have a person dedicated to managing this information flow.

I implemented a solution at a large financial institution to conquer this problem.  The result was a solution that required zero effort to maintain and provided a summary of over 50 processes in one web page.  It gave the status of the process, when it last executed, if there were any errors, and a link to the log and error files if they were required.  Access was granted to all the Essbase administrators.  Another page was available for all users that displayed the status of the application, when it was last loaded, when it was last calculated, and several other useful sources of information.

The days of searching through folders on multiple servers are now long gone for system administrators.  Users are more informed and support tickets diminished substantially.  The estimated time savings was 4-6 hours per day.

This solution was built using existing technologies, limited to Maxl, Windows scripting, ASP.NET, and access to an IIS Server to host the website.  It was 100% maintenance free and built dynamically enough so that new applications could be added and applications could be renamed or deleted.  All this is possible without changing any code or processes.

Distribution of reports

A large international organization distributed over 150 reporting templates to an equal amount of people in the US and abroad.  These templates were distributed daily through the monthly close of business.  The daily adjustment cycle finished updating the reporting Essbase application around 2 AM.  When a finance staff member arrived around 8 AM, the work began.  The template was refreshed and saved for each of the 150 business entities.  Emails were then sent to each of the 150 people with their respective report.  This process took about 6 hours every day it was performed.

Using existing technology, a process was created to traverse through a spreadsheet that had 2 columns, which was maintained by finance.  The first was the business unit, followed by the email the report was to be sent to.  Using the Essbase toolkit and Excel, a process was initiated as soon as the database was updated that opened a spreadsheet that included the template, changed the business unit, refreshed the template, saved it, and emailed to the intended recipient.  This process took less than 1 hour and all the reports were distributed before 4 AM.  Customers received their reports earlier (those in Asia a day early), no human errors were made, and the finance staff now had an additional 6 hours to add value.

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