An EPM Buyer’s Must-Have List
EPM solutions have now been around long enough that the list of must-have features shoppers should expect when they buy is well established. It is not that long a list.
Oracle defines Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) as software that “helps you analyze, understand, and report on your business.” So what does that mean exactly? The company goes on to say:
“EPM refers to the processes designed to help organizations plan, budget, forecast, and report on business performance as well as consolidate and finalize financial results (often referred to as “closing the books”). EPM solutions are primarily used by CFOs and the office of finance, while other functional areas, such as HR, sales, marketing, and IT, use EPM for operational planning, budgeting, and reporting.”
Strafford was selling and supporting Hyperion users decades before the term “EPM” was coined. And ever since the early 2000s we have been working with first Hyperion and then Oracle to help transition users from their siloed financial accounting appliances to the integrated enterprise performance management platform of today.
So we know what works. We also know how organizations can best minimize total cost of ownership and costly transition hiccups as they seek to leverage modern EPM technology. That starts with a checklist of EPM “must haves.”
- Must have a cloud option.
It is hard to imagine any organization that has not seriously considered moving its financial applications to the cloud for all the obvious reasons like reducing capital expenditures, easy budgeting, easy technology refresh, and easy scalability. But for purposes of completeness, we’ll include it anyway.
- Must have enhanced accounting and financial functions.
Another obvious must-have is simply the ability to do what financial accounting software is supposed to do: make the financial accounting job easier. Some examples: provide a unified chart of accounts across business entities, simplify complex reconciliations, facilitate intra-company transfers, and ensure a fast and accurate financial close.
- Must have insight into cost and profitability of investment options.
You can’t manage enterprise performance effectively if you can’t decide where to make investments. That role goes beyond helping you keep track of your money and where you used it in the past (the role of financial accounting), but also helping you decide how to use it now and in the future.
- Must have a complete analytical and reporting toolset.
Of course, it matters how your EPM software helps determine best investment options and supports other decisions for current and future action. To their credit, EPM solutions can provide massive amounts of information, so cutting through the fog is critical. Tools for doing that include support for ad hoc queries, stakeholder self-service, dashboards, scorecards, visualization, and advance OLAP analysis.
- Must have out-of-the-box templates for fast time-to-value and customization.
One of the reasons people don’t buy the latest software is they don’t have time to a) learn it and b) adapt it to their particular environment. But using out-of-date functionality or software that isn’t customized can seriously undermine the benefits of acquiring the software in the first place — reducing competitiveness and increasing total cost of ownership. That makes out-of-the-box templates a virtual must-have since they provide a jumpstart both for learning and easy customization.
- Must have robust ERP integration and support.
If you already have a substantial ERP investment for the ongoing operation of your business then it makes sense you want to leverage that investment where you can. For example, you probably don’t want duplicate general ledgers — one in your ERP and the other in your EPM. You want a single version of the truth and a seamless environment. On the one hand you want to leverage information from the ERP side to enable better insights on the EPM side. And on the other hand you also want to leverage the insights from the EPM side to execute decisions faster on the ERP side.
- Must have enhanced Microsoft Office integration and support.
You probably have at least a few Excel power users in your organization in addition to many other Excel users who are comfortable using Excel for basic ad-hoc analysis. Your EPM should leverage that knowledge by giving them an Excel-like environment along with easy integration into Excel itself. Likewise for effective collaboration you will also want to be able to easily communicate in Word and PowerPoint documents your EPM-powered insights.
- Must have real-time visibility into the performance of the business.
All this power is of limited use, however, if you can’t use it in real time — in other words, so that your EPM users see what is actually happening now across the business, with the ability to have impact now.
Like we said, it’s not a long list. But neither is the list of providers ready to deliver on it.