EPM Cloud, EPM Cloud Reporting, EPM Reporting, EPRCS, Financial Reporting, Hyperion Financial Reporting, Narrative Reporting, Oracle, Oracle EPM, Report Books

Narrative Reporting: The Series – Episode 1: Books

What it is folks?!

Happy football season, happy Fall, and happy Open World week! Wow, it has been a minute, glad to be back in cyberspace. The problem with being on projects is I don’t have time to work on blogging, tweeting, and sharing my love and knowledge of Oracle EPM Cloud with all of you. The good thing, however, is I come up with some great ideas to share, like taking a look at Oracle’s Narrative Reporting (formerly known as EPRCS) and reviewing new features along with how-to’s, tips, and tricks. In this episode, we are going to take a look at the new Books feature in Narrative Reporting that was included in the September update.

Now, for those Hyperion Financial Reporting (FR) fans, Books is nothing new. We always had the capability to build a book of reports, complete with a table of contents, which we could generate as a PDF output. But let’s be real, how many of you hate FR?

I know I do, so the sooner Management Reporting reaches full parity, the better! And in the words of William Shakespeare, “Better three hours too soon, than one minute too late.”

Differences between the two versions

Here is a list of some of the differences between FR’s Books and Narrative Reporting’s Books:

  1. Customizable Table Of Contents (TOC) using a Word template (similar to PDF report package). There is a customizable display of each inserted report, book, and section in the TOC using text functions. In FR, you can’t customize the TOC look and feel, beyond picking member names vs. aliases, etc.
  2. Users can set a page header and footer (again, similar to PDF report package). Users can display common page numbers, page titles, logo, etc. FR uses page numbering from the reports and Word documents in the book.
  3. Insert Word, PDF, reports, and other Books into a Book.  FR allows reports, text, Word/Excel/PPT, and PDF.
  4. Narrative Reporting’s output is a single PDF file, and there’s no HTML or PDF preview like FR where you get a page with the TOC and can launch reports/documents from it.
  5. In Narrative Reporting, there are limitations of one data source per book and report prompts must be answered at design time. Multiple data source support and run-time prompts, including prompt aggregation as FR does, is forthcoming (safe harbor).
  6. Narrative Reporting provides the use of sections to navigate through dimension hierarchies and run different reports for different levels in the hierarchy.  Sections can be used to group reports under one title header in the TOC. They are also used for cascading reports or books for the same group of members.

I am now going to focus on a few specific areas and provide a compare and contrast between Books via FR and Books via Narrative Reporting and then rate, which I think is the better option. Ready? Let’s Begin!

Creating a Book

Creating a book in both solutions is fairly simple. Planning offers a simplistic and easy to understand user interface to select reports and artifacts. In FR, navigate to Select Files, select reports and other artifacts, and then click the arrow to move them to the Selected Items column. Easy enough!

In Narrative Reporting, we find the same interface with the same idea, but with a fresher look and a few new additions.

Notice the Datasource drop-down. This section displays the data source for the selected reports and Books. You make the change here, not in a completely different section in the repository. As I mentioned before, one limitation in Narrative Reporting is only one data source can be used in the Book. Additionally, in Section Details, you can create a default section to group all the selected documents and select the desired POV dimensions for the Section. Sections can be used to group multiple documents under a common Table of Contents entry and run reports for a common Point of View.

Safe to say since FR doesn’t offer the ability to create a default section and to select a POV for the section in the early stages of creating the book, advantage Narrative Reporting!

Winner: Narrative Reporting

Book Editor vs. Book Designer

In my opinion, this is where we start to see some major differences between the two versions. In FR, you have a lot of options to work with from the Book Editor. For instance, you can:

  • Set the Book POV by selecting members.
  • Add a document.
  • Select members for a document in a book.
  • Make changes to the book’s general properties.

Everything is front and center in the interface, making it easy to set the book up, create the TOC, and generate the output.

On the other hand, while you can do the same things in Narrative Reporting’s Book Designer, you find a more minimalist approach.

Here are the things you can do from the designer:

  • Select members to run for the Book POV.
  • Add, delete, and move documents, as well as define the POV for Sections and Reports.
  • Insert the following document types into a Book: Management Reporting reports, other Books, Microsoft Word, and PDF documents.
  • Switch between edit and preview modes, save the Book, open Page Setup, and Validate the Book’s content.
  • View the document or section information and set the TOC display for a document or section.

Whereas the look is cleaner in Narrative Reporting, I actually have to give the slight edge to FR only in that I felt it was a little easier to navigate and quickly set the Book and document POVs, despite the cluttered feel. Narrative Reporting’s Book Designer takes a little time to navigate, but once you do, it is a great interface.

Winner: FR (by a hair)

Table of Contents

The great feature of Books is that the system generates a TOC based on the reports, POVs, sections, etc. Narrative Reporting’s Books is no exception but takes it one step further. Using the same framework associated with PDF Report Packages, users have to upload a Microsoft Word document with an inserted TOC to define the formatting and layout. Additionally, the Word document can also contain additional pages with content, such as a cover page and blank pages before or after TOC. In other words, no more system-generated TOC!

Winner: Narrative Reporting (by a landslide!)

And the winner is…

Despite me choosing the Book Editor over the Book Designer by a very, minuscule margin, it is with no question that Narrative Reporting’s Book feature is the clear winner. The tool is more robust, offers a few more bells and whistles, and really incorporates Narrative Reporting’s functionality to make a solid report book. One big thing that is missing is batching and bursting, but that similar functionality is in the pipeline (safe harbor).

Sidebar: Maybe time to think about switching?

I know current Cloud FR customers do not want to hear this, but if you have an Oracle EPM Cloud product such as Planning (EPBCS or PBCS) or Financial Consolidation (FCCS), it’s time to let go of Financial Reporting and move to Narrative Reporting. The good news is that if you are a brand new customer, with the revamping of Oracle EPM Cloud, you already have Narrative Reporting! And while Narrative Reporting isn’t perfect (it’s getting pretty close), it’s the more flexible and robust reporting option. Sure, there is the occasional bug, but Oracle is always patching things quickly and constantly offering enhancements with their monthly updates cloud updates.

There are plenty of reasons for FR customers to hold on to their trusty reporting tool. But in an Oracle world where things are moving to the cloud quickly, going with the more strategic cloud option is the better bet now rather than later. 

Till Next Time!

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