Stakeholders know better than IT what tools, information, and insights will best serve their needs. That is why IT should give stakeholders the power to serve themselves.
There are lots of ways that modern, cloud-based enterprise performance management has enabled organizations to get smarter and move faster. Data is synthesized more quickly from a wider array of sources — operational, financial, and marketing. Routine tasks like financial reporting take fewer hours and generate fewer errors. Non-core tasks like data collection and IT maintenance are automated or eliminated. But perhaps EPM’s biggest economic leverage comes from stakeholder self-service — for two reasons. First, no one knows what a particular department needs better than the people who work there — so they’re more likely to get done what they need done if they can do it themselves. Second, self-service leaves IT with more time for strategic tasks. And few tasks have more strategic value than creating a self-service ready EPM environment.
What Is Self-Service EPM?
Self-service EPM is when someone, working without IT help, analyzes a relevant business dataset and derives insight. The most common self-service business analysis tool is, of course, Excel. Users like how Excel lets them perform ad-hoc analysis, which can include simple visualizations like scatter plots and pie charts. This is why Oracle EPM Cloud, for example, lets users optionally work in an Excel-like interface and easily transfer data to and from their offline Excel spreadsheets. However, Excel is not EPM.
EPM extends Excel’s self-service paradigm by letting users do tasks for themselves that Excel either can’t let them do at all or not nearly as easily. These tasks include analyzing bigger datasets (possibly mixing financial and live operational data), developing sophisticated models, leveraging highly interactive and rich visualizations, remotely collaborating with colleagues without breaking data models, and much more. EPM self-service means stakeholders can very often do these tasks without going to IT for help.
The basic reason for adopting EPM self-service is the argument that EPM stakeholders know best what they need. That argument applies even in the face of the counter argument that says letting IT handle IT work (like programming data models) gives stakeholders more time to focus on their own, non-IT, work. EPM defeats that counter argument so long as the particular EPM system is robust enough and has been configured well enough so that end-users don’t have to call IT in the first place. If they don’t, then lots of opportunities suddenly open up for improving both the speed and intelligence with which the enterprise performs. For example, there will be:
- Faster insights. The simple fact that a stakeholder doesn’t need to call on another department to meet a need can dramatically shorten the time until the need is met. IT departments typically work against a backlog of requests of different priorities — so stakeholders must wait until their request is reached in the queue. There is also the paperwork involved in actually making and justifying the request and then waiting for the request to be authorized. Further delays happen after IT does get to work on the request, given that there is typically some back and forth involved before the requester signs off on the work.
- Better insights. This back and forth between IT and a stakeholder signals another problem. That is the inevitable mismatch between what was requested and the eventual result. Hence, the typical iteration that goes on until the IT resource “gets it right.” But even after the IT work is done, the stakeholder will still usually want some tweaking — meaning there is always room for both improvement in the result and for improvement as well in whatever insight is gained from that result.
- Less Shadow IT. Shadow IT is what happens when stakeholders lose patience waiting for IT support and instead buy their own software (or subscribe to it as a service) without IT’s approval. Unapproved software can expose the organization to security threats and compliance issues. It can also create performance and stability problems since it is unsupported and may also be incompatible with other software the organization runs.
- Faster IT. Removing the IT bottleneck is also good for IT. More time then becomes available for IT to take on strategic projects — such as optimizing cloud for reduced costs, faster response times, and higher resilience, and also to help realize more innovative value propositions. Those projects should also include making EPM systems more self-service ready
Making your EPM self-service ready, both initially and going forward, does in fact take strategic focus. It requires both the right EPM software and the right EPM expertise so stakeholders get the service they’re looking for. And if what you’re looking for is maximum return on your EPM investment then what you want are stakeholders getting that service themselves.