Traceability is the word of the day in any system, but especially in regulated industry. Being able to prove the numbers is crucial to all businesses but can be very time consuming and complex for companies who operate across diverse lines of business, with a large pool of Channels, Services, Customers or Products.
An example of a business situation when transparency is key would be Shared Services implementations, which require a clear understanding of the flow of costs.
- Where is this cost coming from?
- Why have I been charged so much more this month compared to last month for the same service?
These questions should be easy to answer… just as easy as finding x in a simple algebra equation. Unfortunately, not all profitability analysis technologies are able to support a quick turnaround for providing the required level of detail.
PCMCS has more than one option to easily provide much-needed answers.
The Rule Balancing report is one of the multiple Out-Of-The-Box (OOTB) features included with your Oracle Cloud Service subscription able to support data traceability and transparency. If you want to learn more about what type of information the Rule Balancing report provides and how easy it is to set it up for your application, review this comprehensive blog post on the topic.
Besides Rule Balancing reports, PCMCS OOTB features support transparency within allocations and/or profitability models with Traceability maps.
The focus of the current post is how to access, build and use Traceability maps. The contents of this blog are based on the standard Bikes (BkML30) demo application, so you can follow the step by step information without having to go through an app setup from scratch. You can load and deploy this application directly from your PCMCS Instance through a couple of clicks via the Application menu using the + / Create button.
Traceability – Intro
The traceability maps, whether in PCMCS or in On-Premises HPCM, allow users to graphically visualize the allocation flow. A chosen business segment can be traced through the allocation steps, either backwards or forwards, starting from a predefined point. Images make up the map of a data point either flowing into the selection of members an end user chooses to troubleshoot or flowing out of that selection into subsequent allocation steps.
Traceability is a great tool for troubleshooting specific intersections of detailed data, such as base level accounts against a specific department. However, when there is a need to identify patterns or troubleshoot allocation results at a higher level, the Standard Profitability (the first On Premises version of the Profitability module) Traceability maps are not geared to handle such requests. In order to perform a high-level analysis in Standard Profitability models the users would have to revert to Smart View or Financial Reports.
Being able to trace data at a summarized level of detail is the key difference between traceability in Management Ledger applications and traceability in Standard Profitability. Management Ledger allows the end users to select the level within the hierarchy where they desire to launch or generate traceability, whether base level or otherwise.
Traceability – Setup
The starting point of any traceability map in Management Ledger is via Model Views. If you are interested in learning how to build and use Model Views take a few minutes and reference this prior post.
List of steps necessary to launch a traceability report in Management Ledger applications:
- Select a valid Point Of View (POV). The POV must contain data in order to display any traceability results.
- Choose a prebuilt Model View – example: IT Support Activities.
- Select a tracing dimension, which will represent the detail that is the focus of your analysis (Accounts, Departments, Entities, Business Units, Segments, etc). The selected tracing dimension determines the focus or scope of your analysis, and therefore, will be the one dimension that is displayed at base level detail or any other generation within the hierarchy.
- Trace Forward and Use Generation Selection boxes are selected by default.
Not selecting “Trace Forward” will allow users to perform a “Trace Backward” action – in other words – figure out how the model arrived at a data value for a selected intersection, rather than how a data value was allocated out from that intersection to other recipients.
A report with the “Use Generation Selection” filter disabled will display the data at the base level for the Trace Dimension (in this example, Entity).
Note: If a message is received indicating the Flash Player version is not up to date, check that pop-ups are enabled on the page to allow the download of the required update.
If the traceability report does not generate any results, check that the allocation rules were successfully completed for the referenced POV. Alternatively, if the POV calculated is successful but data is not displaying on the Trace Screen, check that the application variables are correctly setup for Current Year, Period and Scenario. Also ensure the Account dimension maps are specified in the Dimension Settings screen.
Traceability – Display options and filters
Traceability screens have 5 display options:
- Vertical (Top Down)
- Horizontal (Left to Right)
Within the traceability analysis the users can focus on a single rule. The tracing dimension in the previous example is Entity. The tracing dimension is the focus of the traceability reports – following how data was allocated into or out of a base level Entity.
To isolate a specific rule and separate it in a standalone diagram, click Shift+Enter, or select the graphical option on the top of the Rule ID box.
End users have the choice of displaying the aliases/descriptions of the Entities rather than the code member names. If aliases have not been uploaded in the metadata of the application, then the report will still reference the member name codes, regardless of this choice.
The following traceability report will display how operating expenses are reallocated /redistributed from each support entity (like IT, Facilities, IT, etc.) to the production entities using predefined driver configurations referenced in the Rule box.
Select the “Trace Forward” filter and keep constant all other prior selections in the initial traceability screen to display IT Support Activity charge out.
The “forward tracing” of IT allocations represents how data is allocated out to consuming departments such as Finance, Marketing, Outside Sales, Assembly, etc. Remember the focus of the trace screen depends on the “Tracing dimension” selected. In this example, Entity was the tracing dimension.
The top box, R0009, shows us the Rule Name relevant for IT allocations, the ruleset reference, the Driver used to allocate data to Targets – in this case : Desktop Laptop Users, regardless of Activity performed (NoActivity reference) as well as the amount / dollar value of the allocation : Allocation Out 1.338.000.
Users have the flexibility to allocate data partially (to allocate only a % of the total value instead of 100%). That is what the Contribution % reference in the R0009 box represents. In this rule the administrator/rule designer decided to fully allocate the IT cost to the consuming department, rather than to allocate it partially. Therefore the 100% reference is displayed.
In the case of the Bikes ML (Management Ledger) application, the Entity dimension has 4 generations. When talking about generations, the larger number, in this case number 4, represents the lowest level of detail. Generation 0 represents the Dimension name, Generation 1 represents the first set of children, Generation 2 represents the Children of Children, etc.
Below is a radial display of the contribution charge out at base Entity level, when no generation selection was made prior to launching the traceability report:
We can see in this diagram how much each Target Department was charged for their IT bill. The contribution from the IT department to each target is displayed as a %.
Replace the generation reference from 4 to be 3. The higher the number of the generation the more summarized the detail. The change of Generation reference will result in a summarization the members of the Entity dimension to one level higher than seen previously.
Notice how there is no longer an Entity breakdown at base level as we had in the previous screen where the Generation 4 was selected, and the contribution percentages have been summarized to display the contribution % at a node level.
In situations where a dimension has many levels within the hierarchies or an increased volume of base level members, the generation selection proves useful as it allows users to group data sets and display them in the same diagram without compromising on level of detail.
Traceability – Customization
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, PCMCS comes with several features to support traceability and troubleshooting, one of these features being the Rule Balancing report. In situations where the traceability maps are insufficient to support a meaningful conversation regarding bill out values and deeper dive into an individual rule is necessary, the Rule Balancing report will cover such a request.
While the traceability report has evolved in comparison to the Standard Profitability model, its usage is limited to situations where there is a need to troubleshoot specific data points, while also having a visual representation as support.
The most common alternative to graphical traceability reports are Ad Hoc reports in Smart View, either built from scratch of launched via the Rule Balancing report (described in detail in a previous post).
Conclusion on OOTB features
Business segment profitability analysis represents the analysis of operations and profitability of individual segments (e.g., Lines of Business, Products, Channels, Customers, Services) within a company. Business segment reporting requires all costs be divided into the following categories:
- direct /traceable costs or
- indirect/nontraceable costs
In PCMCS all costs are transparent and fully traceable. An indirect cost value can easily be traced throughout the flow of the allocation model all the way down to the business segment being analyzed. The indirect allocated volume can be explained through step by step analysis, high level traceability maps and OOTB reports listing out the rules impacting the distribution of such cost.
Using a combination of Model Views, Rule Balancing reports combined with Traceability analysis and Smart View Ad Hoc retrievals should leave no room for doubt regarding the source of a data value within PCMCS. Metric data validation – situations where the intersections for each metric are customized to such extent that building a Rule Balancing report or an individual Model View is not efficient nor effective- are mostly performed via Smart View.
In a nutshell, traceability provides significant benefits:
- users can trace both revenue and cost based on predefined model views
- traceability can flow forwards or backwards from a starting point
- users can review the final contribution %. (driver details are not displayed on this screen)
- users can toggle between different display options and focus on specific rules for focused analysis.
If you found this post valuable, watch this blog for more information covering PCMCS Queries, KPIs, Model Validation, System Reports, Data Integration using Cloud Data Management as well as the OOTB Application Backup and restore functionality in future posts.