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Advice and Information for Finance Professionals

Top 3 illusions to watch out for when choosing your EPM solution

Guest Author

By Dan Smucker, Senior Principal Product Marketing Manager, EPM, Oracle

Viewing a magic show can be enchanting. The magician tells a story, builds suspense, and effortlessly shows an incredible feat—an illusion that leaves the audience wondering, “How did he do that?” The question is never answered, because crafty magicians never reveal their secrets. They let the illusion be the star of the show.

A good magic show can be fun, but when it comes to finance—particularly enterprise performance management (EPM) solutions—the goal is to uncover the truth. Watch out for vendors that create illusions and hide the truth. We’re here to reveal the secrets behind the top three illusions that some EPM vendors perform.

1.  Back to the future: The future card illusion

Be skeptical of vendors that create the illusion their EPM solution is forward-looking, when it’s really backwards-thinking and firmly rooted in the past.

There are several EPM vendors whose product vision is not aligned with the future of finance, let alone the present. Such a vendor simply cannot support your finance transformation efforts.  Finance is moving from a traditional bookkeeping role to one where they are actively collaborating with operational functions as a strategic advisor to drive critical business decisions. Some EPM vendors have traveled back to the future to find their vision; they are delivering solutions to problems that were the top priorities 10 or 15 years ago. Their thinking is stuck in the past, where FP&A is preparing budgets in a silo disconnected from operational plans, and the controller’s team is just focused on consolidating numbers every quarter. Of course, the budgeting and consolidation processes are still very important, but the finance function today has a broader and more strategic charter.

Vendors that are not investing sufficiently in game-changing technologies such as AI/machine learning, predictive analytics, and automation are flashing a warning sign that they don’t understand the future direction of finance and won’t be able to address your changing needs.

Ask the questions:

  • How is your solution different than what I could get 10-15 years ago?
  • How do you support operational planning? Does your planning solution align functional plans with financial plans on a continuous basis?
  • In what EPM areas can your product help automate tasks to free up my finance team’s time?
  • Where are you making major investments with AI and machine learning?

2. Demoware: The multiplying apps illusion

More than a decade ago, Apple trademarked the slogan, “There’s an app for that.” The phrase was so catchy that it became a part of everyday conversation. In the world of business software, downloading a slew of apps is often used as a clever ploy to hide a product’s lack of functional depth and breadth.

Look out for vendors that demo their EPM product as solving a broader set of problems by simply downloading apps from their marketplace.  These apps are often just solution templates and are typically a red flag that the vendor has large gaps in EPM functionality.  The vendor is using separate apps to disguise its product as an all-encompassing solution.

This multiplying-apps illusion is usually just demoware that will dazzle you for 15 minutes, but once the glitter fades, it doesn’t really do much. Look closely to see if it will meet all your requirements, or if it needs complex and expensive custom development work to bridge the gaps.  

EPM solutions that rely heavily on templates or custom code—due to a lack of packaged application functional depth and breadth—will result in high initial implementation and ongoing rework costs.

Ask the questions:

  • That’s a nice demo, but I see a number of gaps relative to our requirements. What kind of custom development costs will I incur to bridge these gaps?
  • How does your product support specific EPM processes such as cost allocations and profitability management?
  • Can it handle rules-based transaction matching in account reconciliations without needing custom code?
  • Can it support in-depth modeling of strategic business scenarios?

3. Monolithic: The integrated platform illusion

Be wary of a monolithic EPM application model that lures you up front with the promise of a common application model across multiple EPM processes (such as planning and consolidation). This one-size-fits-all approach is disconnected from the reality of business needs.

Planning and financial close, for example, are very different processes. Planning is generally forward looking while financial close looks back at actuals in order to consolidate and report on results. The application model, data granularity, time horizon, and analytics required for planning are very different from those of the financial consolidation process. Force-fitting these into a single 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. In addition, any changes you make to the business down the road will require substantial and costly rework.

Ask the questions:

  • Does the product have a flexible architecture so that I can deploy each EPM process in a modular fashion, on my schedule?
  • If I make changes to my planning model or create rolling forecasts, how will that affect my consolidation process?
  • How long will it take to rework the model?
  • What will be the costs?

Slick demoware and magical feats can distract you from the proven solutions you need to effectively and efficiently run your finance function. There are substantial cost and business implications to the decisions you make around your EPM solution. So, be sure to do informed due diligence and choose your EPM solutions (and the providers that support and build those products) very deliberately.

Oracle Cloud EPM is the real deal. We continue to build for the future of finance with a vision that includes substantial investments in connected planning to align finance and operations, predictive analytics, AI and machine learning to improve decision-making with data insights, and intelligent process automation to help finance teams focus on value-added activities. 

Oracle Cloud EPM provides the flexibility to deploy and configure each EPM process independently—not the same way and not at the same time. You can start with the consolidation process, add planning 6 months later, and then 3 months later add account reconciliations. With Oracle’s approach, these modules are linked seamlessly to achieve connected data and process flows as well as integrated reporting and analytics.

Oracle Cloud EPM delivers the full breadth and depth of EPM capabilities with packaged application content based on best practices. These modules can be easily configured to fit your needs and quickly deployed.

Not all products and vendors are alike. The old expression, “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” aptly applies in the context of EPM applications. Don’t judge an EPM solution only by the salespeople, the demos, or the surface appeal. The illusions can dazzle, but the products can end up costing you a lot of money and leave you stuck in the past. Do the research, dig a little deeper, and ask the important questions that will lead you to say, “I trust this EPM solution to meet the needs of my business, today and into the future.”

Get an exclusive look behind the curtain in this infographic.

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