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07 February 2017

Smart View Survey Results

If someone asks you to, “Name an animal with three letters in its name.” you must answer, “Frog”.  Or “Alligator”.

Alas, in my laziness I could not find a good clip of Richard Dawson (surely at his best as The Scrounger in that laff-a-minute gag fest aka Hogan's Heroes*) saying, “Survey says…” so you’re going to have to be satisfied with possibly-not-very-bright contestants in the section title link above.  Never worry, Gentle Reader, your answers are valuable to us all.  

Way back when, seemingly forever ago but merely just before Oracle Open World 2016, Gary Adashek, John Booth, Natalie Delemar, and Yr. Hmbl. & Obt. Svt. asked you to comment on what you think of that oft-maligned but oh-so-necessary Excel (and other Office tools but they rarely seem to be used elsewhere) add-in, Smart View.

When the survey was announced on the Network54 Essbase board, we also said that sooner or later we’d release the results of the survey as shown below.  Sooner was quite a while ago; later is right now.  Sorry but I’ve been busy.

Here’s what the survey asked.

And the survey says

Of course Read The Whole Thing below but for those of you almost as lazy as I, here’s my take on the results.

NB – Where the survey provided a comment field, I’ve included all responses.

Interest

396 people responded to the survey.  That’s an awful lot of uptake for an on-line survey and proof if proof be needed that Smart View is important to all of us.

Longevity

Here’s an interesting (or depressing depending on your age and boredom with your career) note:  more than half of the respondents have used Smart View for more than 10 years.  Oracle EPM users are long time users.

Speed is good

Again, the results confound me.  Do you really think that Smart View’s performance is acceptable?  There are times when Excel goes into “white out mode” on a large retrieve that makes me want to Be a Danger to Others, Be a Danger to Myself.  Ain’t nothing like explaining to a customer that yes, that Essbase database I created is really fast but Smart View blows its brains out when it retrieves 20,000 rows so no, this system isn’t any good.  Fun times, fun times but apparently I am alone in this.  Lucky you.

I like it, I really like it

As someone who whines incessantly about Smart View’s shortcomings, I am somewhat discomfited to share that more people love it or at least like it than are fair to middling on Smart View.  That one was a surprise to me but as noted, I Am A Whiner.  Or a perfectionist.  Or both.

Whaddya use?

On this one I am in accord with the general public (so that’s at least one thing in my life where I barely line up with my peers – It’s Not Easy Being Green) in that Essbase and Planning are the top use cases for Smart View.  I note with interest that there are users of Oracle GL out there.  Given that Oracle GL analysis sits on Essbase (yes, it does – there’s a headless ASO database under the covers), I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised but this blog isn’t exactly aimed at ERP users.  I can only surmise that there are some who use Smart View for the more traditional EPM/BI data sources.  

I can tell you that of the two users of the Oracle GL they also use Essbase, Planning, FR, and HSF.  So yes, a comprehensive suite of Oracle products.  Somewhere there’s a happy Oracle sales rep or two.

Features

As might be imagined, ad-hoc and forms are the primary use cases for Smart View.  

Of note, Smart Queries and Smart Slices are used far more than I would have guessed.  I have never, and I mean never, seen either feature in use at my clients.  I can only attribute that to:  me completely not seeing what’s in use (likely), working with net new clients and so they haven’t gotten to the more advanced features yet (also quite likely), or blind prejudice on my part (they’re both intriguing but incomplete functions) makes me not see them (also quite likely).  Regardless, they are in use.

Comments

Read the comments and see if they jibe with yours.  The more critical (and funny) ones seem to be from those who have issues with the tool.  For your amusement, here are some of the best.

How would you rate Smart View?

  • It's clunky, it's slow, it's buggy. It isn't as good as a 20 year old product. Why?
  • whenever I am validating, I use the Excel add-in.  whenever I demo in front of clients, i force myself to use Smart View.  
  • Documentatino for SV is terrible, dull, boring and hard to understand.  Whey cant Oracle do a better job of communicating how to use SV and provide some examples.  

How do you find the performance of Smart View?

  • Just a bag of hurt in almost every production scenario.
  • extra hop through APS causes pain.
  • Planning needs to be 1 to 1 to web or SUI
  • It is like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, there are pure Essbase/Planning only shops where Smart View is really a sledge hammer
  • Planning connection performance, particularly with ASO cubes, is horrific.

What Smart View features do you use?

  • I just want to kill myself when I see folks look at HSGET as "The Secret Weapon" because SV is a freaking nightmare at screwing-up layouts as compared to the Classic Ad-In and the easy of layout therein.
  • I don't use any of Smartview features because I don't like it.  
  • It keeps checking this box.  (ed.  Is this some kind of existential angst or is the survey just not working?  I prefer the former as it speaks to the futility of man.  And surveys.)

On with the numbers

Presented without further comment, below are the numbers as reported by SurveyMonkey.  Read ‘em and weep.  Oops, that was a comment.  Sawry.

Q1 – How long have you been using Hyperion or Oracle BI

Q2 -- How would you rate Smart View?

Comments

  • it is buggy
  • Nice for Excel, but Not good enough for other Office Products.
  • Bug bug bug bug. Slow. APS.
  • It's clunky, it's slow, it's buggy. It isn't as good as a 20 year old product. Why?
  • With Office 2013, it crashes consistently when we have multiple files open.
  • Smart View was and remains the stupidest name for this "thing"...  Calling if Stupid View would be more accurate.
  • Very much appreciate Planning forms in Excel format.  Like the ability to toggle between products.
  • We have some trouble with the send data feature at times. 1. when I connect and lose the data I want to send.  2.  thinking the worksheet is connected but it really isn't. 3. not being able to send #missing or 0s  and sending data at the same time
  • the essbase addin look and feel, navigation, # of clicks to get to your destination is better
  • Like it, still using both the add-in and smartview
  • Smartview has had stability issues and I would like more VBA support for R&A
  • Definitely do not like the POV concept.  I like the old add-in where you could have actual "page" dimensions and didn't have to repeat every member at the top of the column, or put it in a POV.  Also the fact that you can't copy sheets and have the "connection"  information automatically come with it.   
  • I am not a fan and I want the add in back.   I do not use HFM because of Smartview
  • quirky with rows disappearing, connection set up is clumsy.  I do like refresh all.  No one I knows uses Smart View in Power Point.
  • Used to preform better, but now it freezes and I often have POV issues
  • could be better
  • Has came along way but needs to close some gaps.
  • Great idea in concept being the all in one tool and allowing users to directly access forms within Excel (many of our users like to extract Planning forms into Excel so this skips that). Also found that having the Excel add-in was helpful when our EPM was down (different boxes for each in our enviornment), while Smartview goes down with EPM which means users can't access essbase even though it's still running.
  • whenever I am validating, I use the Excel add-in.  whenever I demo in front of clients, i force myself to use Smart View.  Smart View still has challenges.  It also obviously has capabilities that the Excel add-in does not have, namely connect to planning for forms.  
  • essbase excel add-in is the best to retrieve data from essbase
  • My customers LOVE it
  • Love it for simple web forms; please support composite forms on one Excel worksheet
  • I wish the cascade feature for Essbase would cascade based on your sheet options, not your default options.
  • ONLY if it does not time out and have the HSF entities in a stall state, otherwise i like the product.
  • Essbase adhoc needs option for ancester at top or bottom when zooming
  • would also like access to the dimension properties
  • want to see better member search not having to be so precise
  • Version control of the many different versions of SV is problematic as a System Admin.  Documentatino for SV is terrible, dull, boring and hard to understand.  Whey cant Oracle do a better job of communicating how to use SV and provide some examples.  Our Essbase Excel Add-in users hate SV and I am having a difficult time getting them to move to SV.
  • It is a piece of junk.  Terrible.  I will refuse to use it as long as the old add-in still works.
  • Love it for Essbase and for some Planning (forms, outline)
  • Have learned to work within the limitations
  • Compared to SAP BPC addin, Smartview lacks may features that could make SV even more useful (formatting, member names pick lists, auto complete member names, etc)
  • Smart View needs to be rebuilt from the ground up, and possibly split up into multiple products.  
  • Excel crashes too often due to Smart View
  • But have a lot of problems with VBA API in Excel, not all spreadsheet add-in functions were created in SmartView VBA (es. EsbCalc)
  • Really love it. But would be nice to use old school ie AddIn
  • If direct connections could be established to Essbase from SmartView the same as you could in the classic add-in and achieve comparable speed I would be happy.
  • Some days I love it, other days it is a pain b/c it just doesn't perform the way that I think it just should
  • Dodeca

Q3 – How do you find the performance of Smart View?

Comments

  • Except for large pulls of data - too slow.
  • At times it is slow, but most of the time it is fast.
  • Especially on large retrieves, even though we have the latest version.
  • Just a bag of hurt in almost every production scenario.
  • Between acceptable and slow...Many crashes cause users to not like tool, and retrieval time is much slower than older Essbase add-in.
  • It is good as long as template is small and clean, SV is very slow on client side if template is large or other large Excel files are open.
  • There is definitely overhead compared to the old add-in.  However, the advantages that SV brings counterbalance this drop-off in performance.
  • for large retrievals the snmartview addin requires pc setup the essbase addin doesn't.
  • The R&A refresh has a memory leak which can drive Excel memory past 1GB
  • extra hop through APS causes pain.
  • the interface is poor and it is difficult to maintain connections and copy ad hoc sheets to continue working
  • Not as fast as the add-in, but since we moved to Office 2016 the performance is awful.
  • It still buggy sometimes where you have to tinker with it.
  • Planning needs to be 1 to 1 to web or SUI
  • It is relied on Excel, we find some issue when Excel at VM desktop which negatively impact SmartView performance
  • lots of odd errors...lose the add in on occasion
  • It depends, the larged dimensions are slow to retrieve.
  • multiple work sheets impact performance considerably if not careful (refresh all).
  • Hard to connect to, throws errors and will disable itself so you have to go back to Options an reenable it.
  • Times out
  • Fast in Excel 2010; acceptable to poor in Excel 2013-16
  • Does not work with any of my spreadsheets that use the old add-in.
  • Formulas seem to be slow in newer release.  Ad Hoc very fast
  • Planning Ad-hoc is not acceptable.  Far too slow.  Essbase is great though
  • When compared to the addin
  • A properly designed application will perform bad no matter the tool
  • It is like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, there are pure Essbase/Planning only shops where Smart View is really a sledge hammer
  • The last version is not as good as the one before
  • too many bugs for a much to long period of time still open
  • with HFM 11.1.2.4.xxx
  • I miss the easy access to hot keys. With the move to Excel 2013 and beyond we lost the ability to do a "alt-e-r" for instance. Now the hotkeys aren't as easy to use.
  • Underlying cube more of factor with speed
  • comparing with Spreadsheet addin
  • MDX queries executed with SV are abnormally slow.
  • New version is very buggy
  • Essbase Excel Add-in blows Smart View away in speed and dataset size.
  • Some days I love it, other days it is a pain b/c it just doesn't perform the way that it just should
  • Planning connection performance, particularly with ASO cubes, is horrific.


Q4 -- Which products do you use with Smart View?

Q5 -- What Smart View features do you use?

Comments

  • None
  • Should have functionality to broadcast messages, highlight incompatible POVs, confirm data loads
  • Formula-based workbooks with HFM
  • I just want to kill myself when I see folks look at HSGET as "The Secret Weapon" because SV is a freaking nightmare at screwing-up layouts as compared to the Classic Ad-In and the easy of layout therein.
  • essbase addin allowed for easier use of vba with essbase features than smartview.Smartview hardcodes in...with formulas...
  • Function Builder
  • I don't use any of Smartview features because I don't like it.  
  • I prefer HFR for budget book
  • Multi Grid
  • Please support attributes in Planning ad hoc and metadata maintenance.  Please support security access assignments in Planning SmartView
  • We use the vba toolkit extensively
  • Predictive Planning Ext
  • Would love to use VBA Toolkit, but it has never worked for me.
  • They are all terrible.  I continue to use the add-in with version 11.1.2.4.
  • connection to reports
  • MDX
  • Need hsdescription function for planning provider to support pbcs
  • Keep SmartLists in SV, I find it very useful.
  • Planning Only
  • Planning metadata editor is horrible
  • Other add-ins
  • Some direct MDX queries
  • It keeps checking this box.
  • OBIEE
  • Mdx queries

Well there you have it

To everyone who responded to the survey, thank you from John, Natalie, and myself.  The somewhat-humorous definitely-snarky comments are mine, not theirs.  

We presented the results of this survey at Open World.  There was much head nodding and “Hmmm”ing which I take to mean that many of these issues are known to Oracle.  The cynic/idealist in me wonders why they haven’t fixed each and every one of the problems, the realist in me notes that actually there are an awful lot of people who like Smart View so maybe things aren’t as bad as thought.

As always, there’s a comment section in this blog (see below).  Please let us know your thoughts.  The comments can be anonymous or, if you’re foolhardily brave, with your own name.  Oracle does read this blog (oh, how I pity them) so your comments will be read.

Cameron’s Guide to Really Good Movies

* One might argue that Richard Dawson was at his best in Hogan’s Heroes but that’s only in comparison to Family Feud.  If you want to watch a good war movie about the not so fun life of a PW, watch Billy Wilder’s Stalag 17.  Any movie with Otto Preminger, William Holden, and Peter Graves has to be brilliant.  I love the line about the curtains.

If you’re looking for something in color, see The Great Escape.  To name just a few of the stars:  Richard Attenborough Steve McQueen, Donald Pleasance, David McCallum,  and of course James Garner as The Original (movie edition) Scrounger.

And when watching The Great Escape, ask yourself:  if you needed a Scrounger, is Richard Dawson as Cpl. Peter Newkirk your choice?

Or is James Garner’s Flight Lt. Robert Hendley?

Thought so.

If you really want to watch a brilliant film on the escape from Stalag Luft III you simply must watch The Wooden Horse.  You can watch bits of it here.  The book’s not half bad as well.

Do as Sgt. Schulz says and see nothing to do with that TV show.

I’ll be seeing you even if Sgt. Schulz won’t.

4 comments:

Trey D said...

Since you need to have Smart View in order to use PBCS with MS Office, hoping they could add Multi Grid (since it's a Planning connection) and speed up large retrieves/submits (maybe a "traditional" option that goes through APS and the normal Start/End Period, other Planning validations + a "direct" option that acts more like a direct EAI Essbase connection only for pulls & without the APS connection and validations).

While agree EAI has lots of benefits, IT hates it because it keeps the FPA group off of 64-bit Office, Office 2013/2016/future versions, etc. Feel like Oracle will be pulling the rug from under EAI shops as well by essentially disabling it with future on-prem versions.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Cameron for doing this survey and distributing the results. Here are a couple of my thoughts...

The almost 400 respondents use SV for a long time, on many different products and all product features. Also from the comments we can conclude that they know what they are talking about.

Less than a quarter love it. This is rather low for the major front end tool on EPM.

Cameron, you are surprised about the high number of answers that rate the performance as acceptable. Like the header "speed is good" the answer is showing no real satisfaction. When users are asked what is important then retrieval performance is always in the top-5. Also not everybody looks at the server log to see how fast Essbase gave the answer. Is there a way to track the lag between response time in SV and Essbase? Would be interesting, maybe there is much more to tune on that side as well.

SV is coming from far and it has improved a lot. As it is the most important front end tool provided, it should become much better. A front end tool is the major interface with the customer.

Like me, there will be many of us who like to help Oracle in this.

Regards, Philip

Anonymous said...

Regarding performance, if you have the option enabled for 'move formatting on operations' (or whatever it's called), performance is crushed!

I will never understand why when so many customers still complain about Smart View, and want the Add-In back and supported, and Oracle pretty much says, "nope, Smart View has reached parity, it's just as good. You're all wrong, and we're right."

I get that SV uses TCPIP (which cannot connect to cloud services over HTTP), but that's a pretty weak excuse, IMO, because it couldn't be that difficult to recode the network protocol layer.

Cameron Lackpour said...

Anon,

I agree with everything you say. But it could be worse: try Planning ad-hoc vs. Essbase and you'll learn to love SV's Essbase connection.

One correction I think: It's not SV that uses TCPIP but the add-in. As to it being possible to mimic the add-in's functionality, look no further than Applied OLAP's Essbase add-in which is http/Java all the way.

Regards,

Cameron