GUIDE

How to Select an EPM Solution & Transform Finance

Who it’s for

  • Finance leaders or change agents in the Office of Finance maturity
  • Executives seeking an understanding of where the organization is in its financial process maturity
  • EPM evaluation project managers

What you’ll learn

  • Navigating the cloud FP&A and financial close solution space
  • Steps to take to build a plan for a successful EPM evaluation
  • Key features to look for and what to expect in an implementation
  • The ROI of EPM

Introduction

A key step in selecting EPM is recognizing the challenges that await a finance team in decision-making. A decade ago, finance would engage IT to evaluate solutions, and the purchasing team for the large capital investment needed for on-premise software and systems. The cloud has upended that model.

Today, business units have more autonomy in selecting and deploying software. Cloud subscription models obviate the need for huge upfront expenditures. Whether it’s EPM, CRM, marketing, or customer service, business teams are making software decisions, in many cases with little IT involvement.

It’s a double-edged sword. The new model means that business teams have to do the hard work of evaluating software — often an unfamiliar exercise for business users. They have to navigate an overload of information across vendor websites, analyst reports, user reviews, reference calls, social media, and more. Without a sound process, decision-making by committee can drag on for months and ultimately miss the mark. Read on to learn how to set yourself up for success and streamline your EPM selection process.

Ready to kick off your evaluation process?

Learn how to select a financial planning and close software solution and how it could benefit not only finance, but the entire organization.

Select EPM
the Right Way

1. Define Roles and Responsibilities

A selection team typically has five to eight members, with the core from finance and potentially several from operational areas. Clearly define their roles and responsibilities up front. A DACI model works well. It consists of:

Driver. The one person who will lead research of the options, assess implications and make recommendations. There can be two drivers, but it’s best to identify just one.

Approver. Ideally it’s an executive, and potentially the executive sponsor. Ensure this person has final purchasing authority. Otherwise, your team’s agreed-to decision could be routed to an executive outside the team, derailing your efforts.

Consulted. Often business users who provide feedback on pain points and what they need, and can make recommendations.

Informed. Though IT may not be directly involved, keep IT informed of your process. You can also leverage IT’s insights for purchasing and architectural considerations.

2. Get Alignment on Requirements

With your team in place, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and hammer out key requirements for EPM. These requirements should be diligently documented from the start in a shareable grid format.

A living document helps you guard against unexpected scope creep. And it’s easier to accommodate revisions as deliberation proceeds.

Another technique to consider is weighting your requirements. For instance, intuitive reporting may be much more important for you than multi-currency conversions. Weighting provides valuable context, and is also useful to help your prospective vendors devise demos and RFP replies. Requirements vary by organization, but some common considerations are reflected in the table. 

3. Get a Visible Executive Sponsor

Few factors can have greater impact on EPM selection and subsequent implementation than a visible executive sponsor who serves as a high-level coordinator and vocal champion of EPM to others across the organization.

Engage an executive as high up the ladder as possible, with the authority and influence to get things done. The sponsor should be an effective communicator with a genuine belief in the value of EPM. The right sponsor is a catalyst who can:

  • Keep the selection team on track and aligned with organizational goals
  • Enlist the support of other leaders in the organization
  • Ensure the EPM selection team has the resources it needs
  • Eliminate roadblocks involving delays and responsibilities

Why getting an executive sponsor is imperative to your EPM project:

4. Involve IT and Vendors the Right Way

Some EPM selection teams end up with blinders on and don’t properly engage with two parties instrumental to success — the internal IT team and prospective vendors.

Cloud-empowered business teams are increasingly bypassing involving IT in software deployments. Ease of deployment for a cloud-based solution is contributing to this trend as is availability of IT resources.

Don’t overlook the value that IT can bring to EPM selection. IT often has valuable techniques developed over many years of technology acquisition. It’s a sound practice to get IT’s perspective on a product’s security, integration, and architecture.

With prospective vendors, take control of the process. Be open and detailed about your needs. Sharing your requirements documentation ensures vendors address your specific needs, and allows you to hold them accountable. It also helps vendors tailor proposals to your requirements, rather than providing a generic demo and off-base proposal.

5. Make the Business Case

Ideally you’ve been benchmarking your pain points and inefficiencies with your spreadsheet or current EPM based processes. That gives you a good baseline to estimate your ROI as part of a documented business case.

Calculate the software, implementation, and training costs of a dedicated EPM solution, accounting for both hard and soft costs. Then outline your expected benefits. While these can be difficult to pinpoint in advance, focus on quantifying them as they are realized to highlight success and support future rollouts. Here are some examples:

Navigating the Cloud

Not all clouds are created equally – it’s important for you to know the differences. You’ll likely hear a lot of terms thrown around and it might get confusing. Here’s a breakdown of some basic definitions and things to keep in mind.

Hosted Applications

Host applications involve the software vendor, or a third party, installing a traditional on-premises application in its own hardware infrastructure and hosting the application on behalf of the customer. Customers still have their own instance of the software, but it relieves them of the need to set up infrastructure and install the software themselves.

Hosted services offer numerous benefits to businesses, not the least of which is the cost savings over owning the data center and IT infrastructure. Other than that, a hosted solution works much like an on-premises software system, including licensing, configuration, maintenance, upgrades, etc. Hosted applications are often the priciest option.

Single Tenant Cloud

With the single-tenant cloud model, the legacy software vendor sets up a cloud infrastructure and makes the application available to a number of customers, typically on a subscription basis. Customers are relieved of the infrastructure requirement, and they avoid the high up-front licensing associated with on-premises or hosted applications.

But since customers have their own “instance” set up in the cloud, the upgrade process is still painful and costly, and new releases aren’t rolled out automatically, or frequently. Also, in many cases, the features offered in the cloud version of the software are more limited than those available in the on-premises version.

Multi-Tenant Cloud

Multi-tenant cloud applications are built from the start to be deployed on a shared infrastructure, with a single application code base being shared by a large number of customers. Because the infrastructure and software installation process is eliminated, applications can be provisioned and configured rapidly for new customers.

The software is sold on a subscription basis, so it removes the up-front licensing costs of on-premises or hosted applications. And since there’s a single code base, all customers are using the same version of the software, which is upgraded automatically, on a frequent basis, at no cost.

The multi-tenant model is model is typically the lowest-cost approach compared to single-tenant cloud and hosted applications. And this is what really matters when it comes to evaluating SaaS and cloud-based applications.

What to Look For

By the year 2020, at least 75 percent of businesses will look at consolidating data from across the organization to improve the accuracy and accountability of financial planning and analysis, according to Gartner. And one way they plan to better manage that data is by adopting an enterprise performance management solution.

There is no shortage of EPM solutions on the market today. What’s tough is finding one that fits the needs of your organization and will help your business prosper. To help you better understand what you should look for when evaluating a new financial planning and budgeting solution, we’ve put together a list of some of the most important EPM features that can help your business make the best use of its data.

1. Intelligent Use of Excel

Departments in every area of the organization have depended on Excel to manage budgeting and planning for years. The interface is familiar, it’s simple to enter numbers into cells, and frankly, it’s always been done that way. But companies are finding that Excel has its limitations and shortcomings.

Emailing spreadsheets back and forth has become cumbersome. Unprotected documents allow users to change formulas, diminishing the integrity of the data. Multiple disconnected spreadsheets make it impossible to get a holistic view of your entire organization’s finances. And, as companies grow, juggling huge numbers of spreadsheets just isn’t sustainable.

But even if you’re ready to upgrade to an EPM solution, you still need to ensure that people will use it. That means adopting an interface that is familiar to employees, regardless of their business unit or role in the organization. An EPM that uses Excel intelligently is one that gives front-end users the familiar look and feel of their favorite spreadsheet program, while reducing the risk that comes with insecure templates and disconnected data.

2. EPM in the Cloud

Employee productivity was one the of the top 10 CFO concerns over the last quarter of 2018, according to a study by Duke CFO Global Business Outlook. But if your employees are spending all their time gathering, troubleshooting and emailing data instead of analyzing and strategizing, your productivity numbers are going in the wrong direction.

With a cloud-hosted EPM, you can increase productivity by simplifying your processes around budgeting, planning and forecasting. And since finance will no longer have to rely on IT for software implementation, maintenance and upgrades, you can lighten their load, as well, freeing that team up to develop and focus on more strategic initiatives for your entire company.

3. Designed for Collaboration

Across the Organization Gartner reports that by 2020, at least 25 percent of organizations will conduct more collaborative, continuous and consistent financial planning and performance management. By closely aligning financial strategies and processes across business units, according to analysts, finance can better manage the performance of the entire organization. Keep this in mind as you consider your EPM. Be sure it makes it easy for people across the business to use the tool to input their budget and forecast numbers at their convenience. That way, finance doesn’t have to spend the time gathering the information and going back later to ask questions if they find variances.

4. One unified platform

Protecting the integrity and accuracy of your data while keeping it secure has become a major challenge for today’s finance organizations. That’s why it’s so important to have a platform that provides you with a single source of truth. But you’ll never have it if you’re pulling data manually from lots of different sources. By copying and pasting even one number into the wrong field, you could put your entire forecast at risk.

By bringing together planning, budgeting, forecasting, modeling and reporting into one platform, you can keep your data secure, streamline your budgeting and planning processes, and give budget owners more confidence that the numbers they’re entering, comparing and reporting on are up to date and accurate.

In Summary

1

Select EPM the right way – get an executive sponsor and gain clear understanding of how IT will play a role in your evaluation.

2

Find the EPM solution that adheres to the 4 Pillars of a Top-Tier EPM solution: Excel-like functionality, Cloud-based, Collaborative, and Unified.

3

Ensure you’re choosing a solution that end users will love to use – you’ll experience ROI in spades.

Questions? We are only an e-mail away.