At its recent users' conference, Hyperion demonstrated that it is stepping up to the plate with new technology developments and technical messages that resonate with IT organizations. Long known for its financial applications, Hyperion has struggled to penetrate IT, which is the primary buying center for business intelligence (BI) technologies - an area where Hyperion previously has underperformed. Now, however, Hyperion presents new BI capabilities that should appeal to IT while still benefiting its base in Finance. Ventana Research believes that, particularly with its metadata management roadmap, Hyperion is on a trajectory to be considered a serious enterprise BI player.
Although it has product portfolios similar to those of its competitors, until now Hyperion has taken a different approach to the performance management (PM) market than Business Objects and Cognos. Hyperion has focused almost exclusively on finance organizations, while Business Objects and Cognos have focused primarily on IT to support the sales, supply chain and HR functions with their BI tools. Of course, that began to change two years ago with the acquisition of Adaytum by Cognos (which led to Cognos' Enterprise Planning product) and more recently Business Objects' acquisition of SRC Software. These vendors all realize that they need to branch out from their comfortable niches, particularly as Microsoft, Oracle and SAP loom ever larger in their markets.
At Hyperion Solutions 2006, Hyperion emphasized the technical underpinnings of its recent System 9 release, and indicated future developments that should address IT architecture concerns. Among the notable developments is progress in integrating Hyperion Master Data Management (MDM) Server with its financial applications. Hyperion's MDM is of the type that Ventana Research classifies as analytic master data management (A-MDM): it maps and rationalizes differences in dimensional hierarchies utilized by multiple applications and multiple users. This is a particularly critical requirement of finance organizations (and thus users of Hyperion's financial applications), which need to analyze alternative planning scenarios and to resolve organizational inconsistencies or discrepancies for financial reporting purposes. Cognos and Business Objects do not offer this capability, and it provides a compelling reason for finance organizations to consider migrating from Microsoft Excel. However, while Hyperion is making strides in integrating MDM Server with its native applications, its MDM Server still utilizes a manual, error-prone flat-file transfer mechanism for coordinating dimensionality with other enterprise systems (for example, the ERP-based chart of accounts). Moreover, Hyperion has yet to communicate a specific product roadmap for integrating MDM Server with its BI products (although it has indicated it intends to do that).
With a new management tool, Hyperion BPM Architect, Hyperion has extended some of the capabilities of its MDM Server as a common modeling environment for its financial applications, specifically Hyperion Planning and Hyperion Financial Management.
Perhaps the most encouraging news is that Hyperion is finally realizing the value of metadata integration. Hyperion System 9's semantic metadata layer (called Business Information Views) is on a par with Business Objects' Universe, Cognos' Framework Manager and Microsoft's Unified Dimensional Model. However, as in all BI vendors' metadata managers, there is potential for report errors and inconsistencies if best practices are not followed and enforced. Indeed, the lack of enterprise metadata management is one of the critical factors standing in the way of enterprise BI deployments. Hyperion indicated, though, that it sees the value of a single metadata/dimension repository. Users should watch the evolution of this important architectural element, which is critical not only to integrated performance management but to enterprise BI as well.
Hyperion also indicated several upcoming developments in these promising areas:
" time intelligence: Time periodization is perhaps the most difficult dimension to rationalize across applications and organizational functions. Hyperion will deliver a common calendar catalog to provide time-based calculations across its applications.
" search: Hyperion is working on a business language search capability specific to performance management and BI. However, it gave no indication whether this will integrate with the popular enterprise search engines.
" decision audit: Hyperion discussed a decision management capability that would make possible the tracing of BI-supported decisions through its applications.
On the downside, notably still missing from Hyperion's radar screen are integration with business process management (BPM) and operational intelligence (OI) technologies; architectural integration resolution of its BI product line with its financial applications; and relationships with enterprise information management technologies from vendors (such as IBM and Oracle).
Hyperion's new attention to BI makes Hyperion a serious BI contender, and will increase the challenge to competing BI/PM vendors to penetrate the finance organization. One result will be that enterprise BI standardization pushes by BI vendors will continue to be met with resistance. With a more robust BI underpinning to its financial applications, Hyperion will also be more effective in convincing finance organizations to migrate from their use of siloed spreadsheets.
Ventana Research recommends that organizations that use Hyperion's financial applications but have ignored its BI products for operational applications take another look. A common architecture for metadata and data access across Finance and Operations can provide these functions significant help in achieving or reconciling a "single version of the truth."
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2006 Ventana Research