In my posts ERPi – The Future of Data Integration and ERPi – A Deeper Dive, I introduced you to the new Enterprise Resource Planning Integrator (ERPi) module. Well Oracle has done it again. With the most recent patch (.501) to the 126.96.36.199 release, ERPi has taken a major step forward. Here are a list of the major highlights:
- SAP integration to the FI & CO modules
- Open Source Adaptor
- Flat File Processing
- General Usability Enhancements
Let’s take some time to drill into – no pun intended – these highlights. The SAP integration into ERPi is significant. The SAP source system adaptor for FDM was a good first step but lacked the ability to connect to the CO module. With this release of ERPi, data from both the FI & CO modules is available. This allows actual or plan data to be sourced from the General Ledger (FAGLFLEXT or GLTO), Cost Center COSP/COSS) & Profit Center (GLPCT) modules in Company, Group or Transaction currency. With this integration, both statistical and monetary data is available for consumption. The integration also supports processing multiple periods of data. As with all ERPi integrations, drill through to source data is a core component and value add.
This greatly enhanced integration to SAP represents, in my humble opinion, a significant competitive advantage to Oracle and its integration tool set.
The Open Source adaptor delivers one of the most requested pieces of functionality that I have seen in the data integration space – that is the ability to connect into any source and then drill through to that source. While some have developed capabilities to do this with custom solutions, generally the draw back has been that these solutions are A) not supported by Oracle and B) sometimes will void your support warranty of FDM due to customization of the FDM components. With the new Open Source adaptor, ERPi can be configured to integrate with a virtually unlimited number of data sources – including sub ledgers! This capability definitely requires more “back-end” setup (read ODI configuration) but that is a one time setup per system. The time & expense required is easily justifiable given the benefits of this functionality.
This release is the first time that ERPi has been able to process data (in flat file format) that the product itself did not directly source. This ability combined with the general usability enhancements shows the clear direction that the FDM and ERPi products are converging. Let’s take a look at the aforementioned enhancements and see how the best of both product combine to offer a world-class data integration option.
As most know, ERPi is integrated into the EPM Workspace. This extends often overlooked but important features such as setting preferences or the default point of view (POV – Location, Period, Category) at a system, application or user level as well as locking the POV to prevent additional processing. These are features that have been added in the .501 release.
One of the truly exciting features added to ERPi in this release is Lookup dimensions. Lookup dimensions are currently available FDM and are often used to drive complex data integration requirements. Lookup dimensions allow complex mapping to be applied without impacting the target system – i.e., the information in the Lookup dimension is never exported to the target application. This is significant and is something that I use in my current FDM integrations very frequently. The extension of this functionality to ERPi addresses a previous shortcoming of the product.
Along with Lookup dimensions, ERPi now includes a robust cross dimensional mapping capability. For those of you familiar with FDM, this is varValues in Wildcard maps. For those of you for which my last reference has no meaning, cross dimensional mapping is the ability to define the target member to which 1 dimension will load based on 1 or more other dimensions. For example, the account to which data will be loaded is also based on the cost center and product on the data record.
As I mentioned above, ERPi is integrated in the EPM Workspace. For all of the pros, let’s be honest, web-based also has cons. The biggest complaint I hear from many clients is that inputting information via a web interface is inefficient. This was easily addressed in FDM since maps can be loaded from an Excel workbook. Prior to this release ERPi included mapping capabilities but the defining of those maps could only be done via web input. With this release, users now have the ability to export ERPi maps to Excel and import from a CSV file. This new capability will streamline the initial development and/or the redesign of maps. Moreover, ERPi has the ability to merge or replace maps. This is a significant improvement over the map loading capabilities of FDM which are currently append only.
Finally, the lights out/batch capabilities have been simplified. In the About Me section, you may have noticed that I was learning JAVA. A non techie may have thought, why would you ever want to do that? Great question to which the answer is, ERPi. In the earlier releases, automation was managed through JAVA web services. In this release, command line (Windows & UNIX) capabilities have been added to execute data load and metadata load rules. This is a nice enhancement that enables a wider audience to create and manage ERPi automation.
In closing, one of the key questions new software faces is, why should I move to this when I have a proven product? In this case, FDM is the proven solution with substantial capabilities. So what is the answer to that critical question. For me and I think most others, the new software must give you all of the existing functionality and more. With this release, we are already seeing additional functionality – merging maps, direct link into *any* source system. I am excited about how ERPi continues to develop and the pace at which it does. I look forward to the continued enhancements that will easily answer the question, why should I move to this new product?
I encourage you to explore how ERPi can be of benefit to your organization.