Sure, moving to a cloud EPM solution should save money, make IT more efficient, and better synchronize cash flow with expenses. But the real benefit is better finance.
The move to cloud is very often prompted by IT (as a way to streamline IT’s internal operations) and also by top management (as a way to cut and control costs). But the cloud's “hidden” or “unintended” benefits for the finance team should also be considered — benefits that not only make the finance team more effective and efficient operationally, but in doing so also enhance the finance team’s impact on the company’s strategic performance as measured by its security, compliance, profitability, and the timing and targeting of investments.
These benefits happen when you shift your perspective, and expectations, about cloud EPM solutions from doing things you’ve always done (just better, faster, cheaper) to doing things you haven’t done — and which may have never even occurred to you because the opportunities to do so did not exist. But those opportunities exist now in four key areas: Autonomy, Best Practices, Compliance, and the Relationship with your cloud EPM provider. By leveraging those opportunities the finance team can achieve the ultimate benefits: to shift from merely tracking enterprise performance to actually driving it.
According to Oracle Cloud Predictions 2018, by the year 2020 over 50 percent of all enterprise data will be managed autonomously and 80% of application and infrastructure issues will be resolved autonomously. Autonomous technology applies machine learning and automation to eliminate human labor, human error, and manual tuning of cloud compute infrastructures, such as the databases and applications that provide EPM. Benefits include:
- Automatic upgrades and patches (on agreed schedule) — no downtime window required;
- No human error with SLA guarantees of 99.995% reliability and availability;
- Automatic performance tuning, with no intervention, no interruption, and now slow downs.
That means that EPM stays optimized around finance based on a particular finance team’s needs — including the need to respond to change quickly. In other words, teams get to actually manage enterprise performance instead of the EPM’s performance.
Finance Best Practices
The next step beyond the ability to manage enterprise performance is the ability to manage enterprise performance correctly — in other words, to determine best practices and enforce them consistently. Finance best practices answer questions in areas like:
- Backup and Recovery: For example, what data should get backed up, how often, and when? What’s our requirement for data recovery? For example, can we selectively recover data from a particular time period?
- Performance Tuning: For example, what level of system response should users expect? How should resources be balanced across workloads? What’s mission critical?
- New Application Feature Utilization: Which features should users have now (based on need, not on IT’s ability to deliver)?
- Functional / Operational Excellence: For example, how what reports and dashboards should be produced, what data should they contain, and what workflows should be enabled (or enforced).
Consulting is more than giving advice, it’s about setting and exceeding expectations. When you partner with Strafford, you get best practices for the business, application performance (benchmarking), team efficiency, and for data and system security and compliance. Learn more about our Advisory Services.
The area in which finance teams are required to always apply best practices is compliance. So, once again, an autonomous EPM solution — one that makes best practices the organization’s “default state” — is a finance advantage. Compliant recovery practices and schedules are automatic, as are compliant security audits (both user and system), and so too are compliant upgrades and patches. Autonomous cloud EPM also automatically detects and mitigates system vulnerabilities — again, boosting compliance. In addition, compliance also requires an EPM cloud to be integrated directly with source systems, thus eliminating the burden of proving data’s “chain of custody” in the case of an outside security audit.
Your Cloud EPM Provider Relationship
There is one more shift a cloud EPM has in store for the finance team: the paradigm shift that occurs when the cloud EPM provider transforms from consultant to finance team member. This transition is both a natural result of, and a benchmark for, the successful migration to an EPM cloud. (Conversely, if your EPM provider is not a finance team member that could be both an indication and a cause of problems.)
The issue here is financial leverage. Now that the finance team has all this automation under its control, along with built-in finance best practices (including compliance), the issue is what are you going to do with it? How will you make the most of that power and direct it toward finance team goals. That means talking with an cloud EPM provider about the team’s priorities, which is more than a conversation, and gets deep into the details of how the finance team can best be supported over time. Without this type of deep, long term, and financially tuned relationship, the finance team will need to reproduce and nurture an EPM provider’s specific type of financial expertise in-house — an unintended consequence that defeats why you would implement cloud EPM in the first place.
Strafford offers consulting, cloud hosting, EPM support and staffing services for finance teams looking to improve their budgeting, planning, consolidation, and reporting processes. We know finance. We know technology. Strafford partners with forward thinking technology leaders to deliver enterprise solutions that will improve finance productivity and team efficiencies. We approach every project with the goal of delivering a fast, reliable and supported environment that allows finance teams to spend more time analyzing results and less time managing their financial ecosystem.