Making the commitment to reduce reliance on Excel, or legacy applications, and moving to packaged enterprise performance management (EPM) solutions for processes such as budgeting, planning, financial consolidation, and reporting is a step in the right direction.
However, some organizations fall into the trap of selecting an EPM solution that only meets their immediate needs and doesn’t support future requirements. By thinking about current and future needs when evaluating and selecting EPM solutions, organizations can avoid costly replacements and get a higher ROI from their EPM investment.
Making the Leap From Excel
Many organizations currently manage their EPM processes using Excel spreadsheets and email. This may work in the early stages of an enterprise, but as an organization grows and expands, running the business on Excel spreadsheets will no longer suffice. It becomes too challenging to collect and share budgets, plans, and reports with large numbers of managers and staff in different functions and across multiple locations.
Then there’s the complexity of doing business in different countries, with different currencies, intercompany transactions, and maybe even non-controlling interests. The workflow and data volumes can explode quickly – beyond what spreadsheets can handle.
The next step is to adopt a packaged EPM software solution that can work with the organization’s accounting/ERP system and provide specific support for the EPM processes.
Selecting an EPM Solution for Today – and the Future
For organizations selecting EPM software for the first time, industry experts are now recommending cloud-based EPM software as the preferred approach. Why? Because cloud-based EPM solutions offer faster time to value, lower the cost of ownership, and provide Finance with more autonomy from IT vs. using on-premises solutions.
The mistake many organizations make at this point is selecting an entry-level cloud EPM solution that meets current requirements but quickly runs out of gas. What I mean here is the solution provides limited functionality and scalability to meet future requirements. It’s quickly outgrown.
Some examples of key requirements include the ability to support the following:
- Robust, multi-entity financial consolidations
- Flexible reporting and analysis
- Advanced planning and forecasting, modeling
- Integration of real-time data from multiple internal and external sources
- Scalability to 100s or 1000s of users
A better approach is to accommodate your current business needs, but also consider future requirements over a 3-5 year period as your organization grows and evolves. To use a hockey analogy, you need to “skate to where the puck is going, not where the puck is now” – this is what made Wayne Gretsky a great hockey player. This concept also applies in business. So what attributes should your organization look for as you evaluate cloud-based EPM software solutions?
4 Key Attributes of Cloud-Based EPM Software
Here’s our recommendation on the top 4 things to look for in cloud-based EPM software:
1. Complete EPM functionality
2. Scalable, cloud platform
3. The familiarity of Excel
4. Powerful, user-friendly reporting
Let’s explore each of these in some more detail.
Complete EPM functionality – Even through your immediate needs may be in one area – such as financial budgeting – as your organization grows and evolves, additional needs may arise. Look for an EPM solution that supports common requirements, such as budgeting, planning, forecasting, modeling, management reporting, and financial consolidation and reporting. Ensure the solution can meet both your immediate and long-term needs – with no compromises in any area.
Scalable, cloud platform – As your organization grows and evolves, more users will likely need access to EPM capabilities. Make sure the EPM platform you select can meet your immediate and long-term needs in terms of number of users and volumes of data required. This will help you avoid outgrowing your EPM solution and needing to migrate to another solution, re-implement the software, or support multiple EPM vendor solutions to meet all your needs.
The familiarity of Excel – When you’re looking to EPM applications to replace or reduce your organization’s reliance on Excel spreadsheets for planning, reporting, modeling, and analysis, being able to use Excel-like formulas and Excel for reporting can be a huge benefit. It eases the transition from an Excel-based solution. It also helps users quickly become productive by leveraging their existing skill sets.
Powerful, user-friendly reporting – Different users have varying needs, from senior executives who want graphical dashboards to power users in Finance who need to perform ad-hoc analysis, to the creation of board books and regulatory filings. Having all these abilities in one suite is important. Otherwise, you’ll need to license other tools to fill the gaps.
Making the decision to stop abusing Excel and moving to packaged EPM software is a positive move. But don’t get stuck selecting an EPM solution your organization may soon outgrow. This can put limitations on your Finance organization and your ability to meet the growing needs of the business. It can also result in a re-implementation within a few years, which will cost your organization time, money, and resources.
To learn more, check out our free white paper “Introduction to EPM in the Cloud.”