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Advice and Information for Finance Professionals

You Wouldn’t Use Excel to Write a Letter…Or, Would You?

Guest Author

By Wayne Heather, Executive Director, EPM Product Marketing, Oracle

The other day I received the strangest thing via email. An agency I’m working with on a project sent me two Excel files. One was a quote documenting the services and costs in a structured table—typical of projects like these. The other caught me by surprise. They had written a cover letter in Excel.

This astounded me. Why didn’t they use Microsoft Word?

Now, I know it’s possible to build a table in MS Word, or to create a letter in Excel, but why do either? You lose the power of the word processor when using Excel for documents, and the control of the spreadsheet when using Word to create tables. There is something to be said for using the right tool for the job at hand.

When you buy Microsoft Office, you buy a suite of purpose-built tools. You get the market-leading spreadsheet application, word processor, and presentation program, all designed to work together, and all for one price. You’re not buying each application separately. For a single price, you are buying a suite, and you can use any or all the products. 

That made me realize that many customers I speak to today fall into the same trap, not with their Office documents, but with something a lot more serious—their enterprise performance management (EPM) applications used to guide the success of their business.

Some customers I speak to have either considered or embarked on a journey to invest in a “best-of-breed” or niche EPM solution that only manages one of their EPM processes—say, financial planning. They then fall into the trap of buying more best-of-breed solutions from additional vendors to address their other EPM requirements—such as financial close, reporting, or account reconciliation—over time. 

This approach is fraught with complexity, costs, and risk. First, when you have multiple “best-of-breed” applications, you have to play systems integrator and spend time, effort, and money integrating them. And don’t just think of this as a one-time effort involving data and metadata integration. That’s just the start. In the cloud, these multiple EPM solutions will be frequently updated, likely on different update cycles—so you have to keep testing them to ensure that an update of one app doesn’t break any of the others. Further, these solutions will likely be hosted on different cloud providers, often using different security models. So, you’re definitely signing up for an ongoing and significant overhead. 

Oracle EPM Cloud, containing a suite of best-in-class solutions, ensures a common update cycle, a uniform security model, and seamless integration to eliminate these issues.  

Some vendors will claim to offer a “unified platform” that can address all your EPM needs. Such an approach is sub-optimal except for the simplest of requirements. In most cases, you will end up with a monolithic application that is costly to deploy, difficult to evolve, and just a compromise all around. Why is that? 

When these “platform” EPM solutions started, they focused on being good at one EPM business process—say, financial consolidation. Later, these vendors noticed their customers also wanted planning, so they tried to layer planning functionality into their solution. Planning and consolidation have very different requirements, so this approach ends up being a massive compromise—just like using Excel to write a letter—lacking any real depth in functional capabilities. They often try to supplement functional shortcomings with “starter kits” or add-ons via a marketplace. These marketplace apps may look good in a demo, but are typically complex to implement, lack depth in functionality, and need to be updated and maintained by the customer. 

When I talk to customers about the value of Oracle’s complete EPM suite—with integrated, purpose-built business processes, like the MS Office suite—they immediately see the value. With Oracle’s EPM suite, you get comprehensive capabilities based on best practices addressing each business process, be it planning and forecasting, financial close and consolidation, profitability and cost management, or reporting. Customers don’t need to spend time trying to build functionality into a platform; instead, they configure the best practice capabilities to fit their specific needs. And because all the processes are delivered in a complete and connected suite, customers can deploy modularly, starting with one business process and expanding as they need to, without worrying about having to start again or reimplement the processes they have already implemented. 

Customers also tell me that they see the value of dealing with one vendor for all of their EPM processes in a true SaaS environment. And the pricing is clear and simple with no hidden or additional costs. They don’t need to pay another cloud provider for hosting, and don’t need to worry about upgrading or updating their EPM environment, because the updates are automatic and seamless.

The days of buying WordPerfect for a word processor, Harvard Graphics for presentations, and Lotus123 for a spreadsheet are long gone. Now, you can buy an Office suite with best-in-class modules that are designed to work together. So, next time you are looking to make an EPM investment, why would you consider a piecemeal approach, buying each application separately?  Instead, you can invest in an EPM suite that will address all your needs, completely and cost effectively, today and into the future.

Learn more about Oracle EPM Cloud.

Articles in this series:

  1. Don’t Be Fooled by Not-Quite-Complete EPM Solutions
  2. 5 Things a Comprehensive Planning and Forecasting Solution Always Has
  3. 4 Must Have Attributes of a Comprehensive Financial Close Solution
  4. You Wouldn’t Use Excel to Write a Letter…Or, Would You?
  5. How to Tame Enterprise (Master) Data with a Complete EPM Cloud Solution

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Comments ( 1 )
  • Greg Mills Thursday, February 6, 2020
    Great article, and I love the analogy.
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