During Quest Forum Digital Event: Cloud Week, Ramkumar Ramanathan, Manager of Application Architecture Information Technology at ATCO, shared the story of ATCO’s EPM Cloud implementation and deployment of Enterprise Planning and Budgeting Cloud. Learn more about:
- How out-of-the-box Enterprise Planning and Budgeting Cloud fit into ATCO
- Challenges of moving on-premise/Excel users to the new Cloud EPM Suite of Enterprise Planning and Budgeting
- Business benefits of the Enterprise Planning and Budgeting deployment
About ATCO Ltd.
ATCO was founded in Alberta just over 70 years ago by father and son S.D. & R.D. Southern. Fueled by the imaginations of nearly 6,000 people, global operations in more than 100 countries, and with assets of $22 billion, today ATCO is a diversified global holding company with investments in:
- Structures & Logistics
- Energy Infrastructure
- Ports & Transportation
- Commercial Real Estate
ATCO provides customers with innovative solutions in sectors that are fundamental to global prosperity such as housing, real estate, energy, water, transportation, and agriculture. ATCO has invested heavily in Oracle Cloud as part of its transformation journey to standardize the business process.
One of the different capabilities regarding Structures and Logistics is that Structures has three business lines:
- Space Rentals
- Workforce Housing
- Permanent Modular Structures
ATCO does some Logistics operations as well. As far as utilities within the Energy Infrastructure, ATCO has both the transmission and generation of electricity and natural gas, energy storage, and industrial water solutions. ATCO has joint ownership in South America on the port facilities, operation services, and transportation. ATCO also owns fuel real estate, comprised of sellable and leasable office and industrial space throughout Alberta.
Oracle EPM Cloud Licensing
Oracle’s new licensing structure has moved from Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service (PBCS) and Enterprise Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service (EPBCS) to EPM Cloud Standard and EPM Cloud Enterprise. EPM Cloud Enterprise gives you access to all modules and functionality while EPM Cloud Standard only gives you access to select modules with less functionality in each of those modules.
Customers who are still subscribed to PBCS and EPBCS can continue to use that structure; the two product lines still exist. However, customers subscribing to the new planning licenses would be given an option to choose between the Cloud Standard and Enterprise licensing. It is recommended to go through the following evaluation questions for choosing your licensing options:
- What are the EPM modules you are looking to deploy? And how many?
- What types of FP&A solutions are needed? How detailed are these practices?
- Is there a need for analytic storage and reporting?
- Is transaction matching for your account reconciliations process significant?
- Is metadata being sourced from external systems? How will metadata be maintained?
ATCO’s Key Considerations & Project Scope
Key considerations ATCO took when moving to the Cloud included:
- ATCO Cloud-First Strategy
- Improved financial process
- Operational cost savings
- Scalable infrastructure
- User effectiveness
- Speed of implementation
As part of its Cloud-First Strategy, there were various other transformations that were initiated as well.
One of the most transformations was from the Accounting organization. ATCO had multiple sets of Charts of Accounts and different sub-ledgers and a different number of currency ledgers. So, the Accounting organization took on the massive task of organizing three Charts of Accounts into a single Chart of Accounts, which is a baseline for another transformation on the Business Finance side moving to ERP Cloud Fusion.
Another transformation project, which ATCO underwent on the Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A) side, is the implementation of EPBCS. A majority of these transformation projects started in 2017, and this was a huge exercise for the organization. The timelines are crucial for each of the transformation projects. If you’re not able to meet the milestones, the impact is much higher. For example, if one of the project’s timelines is extended, it impacts the transformation projects to follow as well.
Why ATCO Chose Enterprise Planning and Budgeting Cloud
When ATCO was given the option and chose the Enterprise Planning and Budgeting Cloud, the selling point for Oracle was it is a commercial off-the-shelf product that needed minimal customizations that fit ATCO’s business solutions. For any customer, this would be a challenging option—do you want to go for an out-of-the-box feature, and what are the options if you choose out-of-the-box? There are actually three different options available when you choose out-of-the-box. You can either:
- Enable the functionality if it is available within out-of-the-box
- Take the out-of-the-box feature and try to enhance it with an advanced business and technical configuration
- Write your own set of rules, create your own form sets, etc. through manual procedures
Pre-EPM Cloud Implementation Analysis
After ATCO had chosen EPBCS, the first thing they did was analyze the existing state of EPM within ATCO. ATCO asked its vendor to do a strategic assessment on its Hyperion state, evaluating what the current state looked like, the different ways ATCO was doing planning, what was really missing, and what should be captured in the solution outcome. That was the first exercise ATCO did in 2017, and that helped in producing an EPM three-year roadmap in the timeline. This roadmap helped show what products ATCO should be looking at and what the other steps are ATCO should be looking at in the three-year roadmap. It is highly recommended for any customer to have a detailed plan before you start with EPM implementation.
ATCO’s strategy after the assessment was to implement One ATCO for EPBCS moving from 12 different planning applications to just one planning application. As part of the business requirements, ATCO captured 325 plus line items in terms of the requirements from the business. At that point in time, the FP&A business process was more on principal with Hyperion applications, and it was not fully refined or document ready. This is one of the key things ATCO found out early. The key to be noted here is that all the FP&A business process has to be well refined and documented before you begin an implementation.
As part of the strategic assessment shown above, ATCO focused on the following:
- Disparate Reporting
- Multiple Planning and Close Systems
- Payoffs from Investing in Human Resources
- Modernization & Innovation
In the chart, you can see that the way in which ATCO was doing the planning in the earlier system was more manual. The loads were pretty manual; most of the stuff was done through Excel, and the reporting was done at a minimal rate.
As part of the assessment, ATCO also identified the key risks and concerns as well. Moving to EPBCS from Hyperion was not an easy task; there is a lot of change management required, and it was too much change for the business users to move from different planning applications/different user interfaces to a cloud interface. Also, the information is loaded from different applications to one application, so how the user interacts within that one application will vary. Historically, if users aren’t comfortable with new ways of doing things, they tend to go back to their old methods.
ATCO’s Key Design Principles
Moving on, ATCO will shift the conversation to ATCO’s key design principles. The adoption of a few fundamental principles guided ATCO’s design to enhance the planning capability. The benefits of these principles are operational efficiency, cycle time reduction, and one source of the truth.
The first principle is the implementation of One ATCO. This represents standardization and simplification to the way in which planning, budgeting, and forecasting are delivered across ATCO. This will be delivered by the adoption of leading practices and the deployment of a purpose-built cloud-based technology, Oracle EPBCS. Implications for said principle include:
- The movement towards one common integrated planning process across all GBU’s while changing the way the business delivers future plans
- Adoption and training on technology to deliver a service
- Defining the adequate level of altitude to build a plan
The second principle involves reducing the effort spent on assembling results and focus on being a business partner to predict performance, anticipate risks, and develop management actions that support growth and success. Implications for this principle include movement from planning stretches to planning management actions and the development of meaningful, accurate forecasts and management action plans in collaboration with the business stakeholders.
The third and final principle focuses on developing processes and technical capability to integrate top-down enterprise planning with operations and functional planning, where senior leaders agree on overall targets and key initiatives as an input of the planning activity. This will also align with a continuous planning mindset. Implications here include:
- Simplification of planning with reduced iterations and duration
- Meeting regulatory needs using a value-based proposition
- Development of continuous planning behaviors
ATCO’s Future Planning
What should future planning look like? Using the image below as a reference, what you see on the left side are the different frameworks that EPBCS offers – Scenario Modeling, Financials, Workforce, Capital, and Project Framework. How will you fit your source systems to your target planning systems? What are the key design principles you want to achieve in this outcome? ATCO wanted to move a single chart of accounts to the planning system, have a rolling forecast, and have a summarized long-range planning application. ATCO also wanted to have a Center of Excellence for FP&A support and a simpler, more efficient integration system that operates in an automated fashion.
On the cloud, you will have your own set of benefits of scaling in and scaling out; the major benefit is that it’s going to be much easier than on-premises. Expected benefits are things like having one source of the truth on the planning side. Other expected benefits include supported IFRS and Regulatory reporting, improved employee confidence, quick forecasting cycles, self-service, and always-on forecasting.
ATCO’s EPBCS Project Charter
The EPBCS project charter data seen above is a relevant example of how any other project is going to look structurally. In a project charter, typically you capture project benefits, project goals and objectives, success criteria, project assumptions, project constraints, and dependencies.
It was previously mentioned that ATCO had several transformation projects going on simultaneously—the key is this is not just another project. When you have key dependencies and constraints happening in parallel, you should plan well in advance for if one of the milestones of your dependencies is missed. What is Plan B? Should you wait for that dependency project to be completed or not? What does your timeline look like? There are many key considerations that should be taken into accountability before beginning a cloud project. This is a key factor, which really haunted ATCO since they had a key dependency on its ERP Fusion Project.
Shifting gears to the prototyping approach, let’s take a closer look at what that entails. The prototyping is to demonstrate evolving capability within EPBCS while exposing the system to the stakeholder community well before go-live. The approach described below begins with the validated requirements considers how ATCO will show the capability, and how will the testing be conducted to ensure quality.
- Begin with the Requirements Traceability Matrix (RTM)
- Requirements grouped by module are sequenced into logical solution steps
- Logical solution steps include screens, calculations, rules & reporting
- Establish Prototype Plan & Timeline – The POD
- Progressive capabilities are planned and developed within each module
- Business teams will be scheduled for weekly checkpoints and prototype validation sessions
- Develop technical solution and refine with stakeholders
- Validate and reconfirm key design decisions and develop solution and functionality
- Develop detailed future state process, change during building activities
- Test, Refine, Deploy and advance to next POD
- Business and project team will conduct testing, defect management and validate the solution
- Deploy the solution and move to next POD
In the image above, you are able to get a better idea of what the EPBCS Dimensionality Design looks like. ATCO enabled Finance and built its own custom module projects for the Capital Projects and Fixed Assets. The OEP stands for the “out-of-box” feature in EPBCS. OEP_FS stands for Financials, and the OEP_FS is two custom dimensions, which you can configure. For OEP_CPX, ATCO enabled three custom dimensions – Projects, Reg. Category, and Data Element.
ATCO had close to 1,000+ projects, 1,800 asset classes, 1,000+ activities, and 350 entities. As part of the Transformation Project, there was another exercise that happened, which ATCO did to reduce the numbers of call centers as well as other dimensions being considered.
For Financials, ATCO enabled Revenue Planning, Expense Planning, Balance Sheet, and Cash Flow. For Workforce, ATCO enabled EPBCS Workforce Framework for the pre-built content that will be utilized but was configured to meet specific requirements. On the project side, ATCO didn’t enable the Projects Framework, which was available with EPBCS. ATCO built its own custom model for Capital Projects and Fixed Assets. For Strategic Modeling, ATCO was one of the earliest adopters as it became available in late 2017. They were the first ones to go-live with Strategic Modeling. ATCO had a lot of issues with Strategic Modeling, and the article really helped them with the go-live. ATCO worked closely with the Oracle development team for three months, and they did a wonderful job in assisting ATCO with the Strategic Modeling go-live.
ATCO enabled Revenue, Expense, Income Statement, Balance Sheet, and Cash Flow Statements. That is typical for the Financials, but if you recollect on the Future State of Planning Design, Ramanathan did mention a Rolling Forecast. However, ATCO did not enable that feature here, the reason being ATCO continues to use the same FP&A process. So, in order to do a rolling forecast, ATCO needs to completely redo its FP&A process. There wasn’t time for that; therefore, ATCO continued with Monthly Forecast and will continue to do the same in EPBCS as well.
Ramanathan briefly highlighted the issues ATCO encountered during EPBCS implementation. The following list serves as a reflection of these instances:
- EPBCS is only available as a Pair—Production (Planning) & Test (Planning-Test)
- Difficult when multiple developers request for restart of a development instance
- Adequate cloud training & awareness required for business users before UAT cycles
- Business users must be aware- Hyperion Planning is not identical as EPBCS
- Data is not ready when needed the most
- EBS R12 and EPBCS was mapped due to delays in readiness of “New Chart of Accounts”
Advice & Lessons Learned
ATCO found that you should have your Chart of Accounts ready, even if you are doing a transformation independently. The reason for this is because EPBCS has the feature of bringing your own Chart of Accounts. When ATCO went to EPBCS, that feature was not available.
Data readiness is also another must before you begin a project. As far as a business process, it is key for any cloud implementation. It is key in the sense that it has to be document ready, and it has to be tested against solution capabilities as well. Your business process can be much more efficient if you are able to bring the process to your solution outcomes as well.
Another important factor is estimating realistic implementation timelines. Recently, you may have heard customers confirm cloud implementation in varying timeframes. Realistically, timelines for product implementation are just going to depend on your business and your level of preparedness at that point in time.
Availability of Business Resources
Another key factor ATCO found was the availability of business resources. Yes, the business resources are connected to the project, but what if the timeline is extended? Does ATCO still have their commitment and availability? Even that has to be planned during the Project Cycle as well. In ATCO’s case, what happened was that ATCO had business resources committed and available for the project lifecycle only. Once ATCO had the timeline extension, they moved on to different commitments.
In regard to the project team, many key decisions have to be made, and really, you need the business representation in the steering committee and operational committee. As previously mentioned, ATCO didn’t have the Chart of Accounts or ERP Fusion data ready on a key milestone. It was a key decision to be made, and really, you need all the business representation in your committees to be available to evaluate the current state and make key decisions.
Ramanathan also laid out some advice that he would leave with anyone exploring the cloud product. He recommends taking your core team of users and sending them to training to understand what the product offers and so they have the opportunity to be knowledgeable about the product before it is deployed. It allows them the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the product, and once the implementation begins, they will be much more comfortable handling the product.
Currently, every ATCO customer is following a different training method. The method it depends on the organization and how the business really wanted to have the training. Some users can learn it quickly, and some would like to have a hand-held manual. Some users really want to learn hands-on, and some like to learn via methods such as video recordings, which they can go back and revisit at any point in time.
One factor to take into consideration is that the cloud is an evolving product, meaning the training has to be a continuous journey. Ramanathan suggested that since every functionality is getting enabled on the cloud on a monthly basis, even though you may not enable that functionality, your organization should have a continuous training process. You should keep updating your training manuals, and you should keep updating your users with refresher training in addition to monthly Q&A sessions so they are up to date with the product and its functionality as well.
The governance process is very important. If you don’t have one, you are going to be in trouble. In terms of security, a lot of implementations lack security. ATCO found setting up security difficult because it was not the same as Hyperion Planning. ATCO ended up with the highest level of security; ATCO didn’t have time to look into the final details of security. So, please do spend time setting up your security and the levels of security you want to define as well.
Other things to keep in mind are:
- Accountants should not be service administrators
- Automation is crucial to reduce testing cycles
The final key lesson for us was maintenance participation by the business users after go-live. An EPBCS patching cycle is typically deployed by Oracle on the first Friday of every month on Test and the third Friday of every month to Production. ATCO has a business interface lens where they have application owners, power users, and cloud analysts review the patch update to the instance and evaluate its impact on existing artifacts and functionalities. It should be kept in mind, the farther you go with customization, the patching really isn’t going to impact you. More of the patching would be applied to the existing out-of-the-box features. In other words, the more you customize, the more you lose out on the features of the new functionalities.
Oracle does its own nightly backup; however, it’s incremental, meaning it gets overwritten on a nightly basis. You should have your own scripting features to move that nightly backup to a different instance, so when you have data issues or other migration issues and you want to go back to your earlier backup, it will be easier moving from the backup to the cloud.
EPM Automate is a really great tool, and it helps ATCO with migration and other security tasks. Oracle has been adding more access to EPM Automate, and ATCO is very happy with it. Currently, ATCO doesn’t have any automation in place for the integrations or for the basic testing. IPs have been enabled, and the working process automation is getting more popular these days and it’s being used for EPM Cloud as well. Ramanathan strongly suggests that customers look into the IP feature, as they will really reduce your testing cycles
To learn more, check out the Quest Forum Digital Event presentation and additional resources below.
Join us next month for Quest Experience Week (QXW) as Quest celebrates its 25th anniversary with a FREE week of digital learning! QXW offers four jam-packed days of practical Oracle product learning for users of JD Edwards, PeopleSoft, Oracle Cloud apps, and Oracle Database solutions. There’s something for everyone: strategic insights, practical product how-to sessions, customer case studies, and best practices.
- PeopleSoft Day: Monday, December 7
- JD Edwards Day: Tuesday, December 8
- Cloud Day: Wednesday, December 9
- Database & Technology Day: Thursday, December 10