By Hari Sankar, Group Vice President, Oracle
Enterprise performance management (EPM) solutions should have the functional breadth and depth as well as the scalability and flexibility to address all your EPM needs across the enterprise. But this isn’t always the case, and many solutions, despite their tall claims, fall well short.
It’s important to be able to identify these “EPM imposters” because otherwise, your investments will deliver sub-optimal value—due to functional gaps, undue implementation costs and risks, or both. If you are already experiencing these imposter penalties, know that it’s not difficult to switch to a truly comprehensive solution like Oracle EPM Cloud.
Let’s take a look at what you should expect from a complete EPM solution and how to identify and stay away from imposters.
A modern EPM solution needs to have functional breadth to support your needs across the enterprise. Planning is a core EPM business process. Within planning, enterprise needs go beyond financial planning to cover the operational planning needs of functions such as sales, marketing, IT, supply chain, and human resources. EPM includes financial consolidation, close process management, and account reconciliation. Profitability and cost management, internal and external reporting, and tax reporting are also key aspects of EPM. And finally, the management and alignment of master data across EPM and other applications is an important need as well. Breadth of capabilities to address all these areas is one hallmark of a complete EPM solution. Many solutions fall short as they just target a subset of EPM processes. Several vendors just focus on planning, while others target account reconciliations or reporting.
Another hallmark is depth; you don’t want a solution that’s a mile wide and an inch deep within each area, so don’t compromise on functional depth. Be wary of using a solution that was originally built to cover one area within EPM, such as financial consolidation, and is now stretched thin to cover more. Often, customers discover they only have a “solution template,” typically available from an app marketplace. These may look nice in a demo, but they will fail closer scrutiny and the customer will end up paying for complex and expensive custom development work to bridge the gaps. At Oracle, we deliver the full breadth and depth of EPM capabilities in a purpose-built solution that can be easily configured and quickly deployed.
You may ask, "Why can’t I go with multiple best-of-breed solutions?" Disconnected EPM applications add risk and complexity. If a customer goes with one solution for planning, a different solution for consolidation, and a third for reporting, they will end up playing system integrator to make these solutions work together. Remember, this is not a onetime effort with cloud applications because they are updated frequently. Updates will likely break these integrations, so this is an ongoing overhead.
A cloud suite of connected business processes that refresh regularly on the same schedule eliminates these issues. You can reduce risks and costs while benefiting from continuous innovation so that your processes are more streamlined to support agile business operations.
A connected EPM suite also is a more secure solution. How many different clouds do your EPM applications reside in? Having one hosted in Microsoft Azure and another in Amazon Web Services, for example, complicates security management because standards differ with each vendor. You will run into operational issues related to security definitions and processes—whereas with Oracle, you define a common security model and processes across all of EPM. We run Oracle EPM Cloud in Oracle data centers with enterprise-class security standards.
Furthermore, Oracle’s unique offering for enterprise data management brings together master data in a consistent, aligned way across EPM and ERP solutions—ensuring alignment, governance, and agility in all your business processes today and into the future.
Some solutions make tall claims of being an EPM platform; however, they force you to fit all EPM processes into a common model. This one-size-fits-all approach is disconnected from the reality of business needs; for example, planning requirements in terms of application model, data granularity, time horizon, and analytics are not the same as those of the financial consolidation process. Force fitting these into a common application may initially sound appealing from an administration point of view, but it will result in a solution that is optimal for neither planning nor consolidation.
This issue demonstrates another key attribute of an enterprise-grade EPM solution—flexible deployment. You need the flexibility to deploy and configure each EPM process independently—not the same way, not at the same time, but you need to be able to connect them seamlessly to achieve connected data and process flows as well as integrated reporting and analytics. Oracle EPM Cloud is very modular and allows for flexible deployment based on your timeline, your needs, and your priorities. These modules are designed to integrate and work well together, but it's not a monolithic one-size-fits-all application.
In summary, what questions should you be asking to separate real EPM solutions from the imposters?
Don’t settle for the complexity, risks, and pitfalls of imposter solutions. Evaluate the EPM solution against these key attributes—breadth and depth, integration, built-in capabilities and flexible deployment—to establish a benchmark. The imposters just won’t measure up!
Further articles in this series will take a closer look at what planning, financial consolidation, enterprise data management, and other EPM capabilities need to deliver in a truly comprehensive, future-ready EPM solution.