I think this is a silly question, but for me it's a challenge. I'm a HFM implementation resource, so I usually follow the project plan and build the application according to the client's needs. However, this time my boss has asked me to do an assessment for a client who has already HFM up and working. I am supposed to understand the business, the application and recommend some improvements... For a technical resource like me, it's kind of difficult.
So here's my question:
How would you start the assessment? What are the suggestions you can make for a working (good) application? More calculations (I'm afraid it could impact the performance of the application)? Ratio Analysis (this is more related to business)?
I know it sounds that I need some self-help group, but trust me... For me, it's a huge challenge!
Sounds like you'll want to review the infrastructure (which should be easy for you) as well as the application design. I think the first thing you'll want to do is to ensure you're meeting with the right people, those who have a stake in the application and processes. If they have a good administrator, he/she might be a place to start. Next thing is to ensure you're asking the right questions. There are plenty, but essentially you'll want to identify current pain points.
Is the infrastructure physical or virtual?
Is the infrastructure up to date?
How many environments are set up (prod/qa/dev)?
Is moving from prod to dev and vice versa easy?
Is there a disaster recovery plan and has it been tested?
Is the IT department capable of handling issues?
Are there any pressing IT issues?
Are there any upcoming initiatives that would impact HFM/tools (rollout of Office 2010)?
Do end users have a process to report issues, especially during critical times like close?
What version of the application are they on?
Is there a reason to update (new features, 64bit performance)?
What inputs are there to HFM (FDM, ERPi)?
How does the data flow from source systems?
What outputs are there and for what functional groups (who are the customers, how is data extracted, is it meeting their needs)?
How is training and could it be better?
Are the end users comfortable with their processes (SmartView, FR)?
Is there a power user group and routine calls?
What are the existing major pain points?
Is the consolidation slow?
Could metadata be cleaned up?
If designing the app today, what would be done differently?
How were the custom dimensions utilized?
Is there too much data in the consolidation system?
Could additional data be added (tax, cash flow, by product/customer)?
Are all high level reporting requirements being met?
Do eliminations and currency translation currently work properly?
Are they taking advantage of all the app has to offer (tasklists, process management, batch reporting, topside journals, i/c matching, etc)?
Would any new hierarchies be of benefit? Could some be removed? Would there be benefit to rebuilding the app and cleaning some things up?
I'm sure you could go on and on for days with questions like these. As for the rules file that does the calculations, you'll want to just dig in and understand it (it's a vba file and the admin can provide you an extract or help you with it). There may or may not be ways to drive some efficiencies and decrease consolidation times. There are some third-party tools to help with this, but taking some time and walking through it in entirety works very well.
this might be obvious - but first take off your techie-hat and look at the client from a business perspective only.
Meet the Finance guys and see where their pain points are. Check the close process of whether Excel is used to do calculations outside of HFM.... etc.