On the Road with EPM

An excerpt from Frank Buytendijk's executive blog

Frank Buytendijk, Oracle vice president of enterprise performance management strategy, publishes a weekly enterprise performance management and business intelligence blog. E-mail him at frank.buytendijk@oracle.com.

In the strategy team of Oracle's Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) GlobaI Business Unit, we want to ensure that Oracle defines and leads the future of EPM. Where will the market, the technologies, and the business be in the next 5 or 10 years?

Strategy is a funny thing. Everyone has a strategy, to some degree, but it seems hard to articulate at times. The best way of looking at strategy, at least in my opinion, comes from Henry Mintzberg. In his excellent book Strategy Safari, he defines strategy not as an exercise done in the ivory tower, before tossing it over the wall to operations, but as a continuous process. We set out a high-level goal, more or less define the broad steps we would like to take, and fill in the details as we go. While we travel toward our goal, we will see the circumstances change and we need to take a shortcut or a detour. Organizations that take this view on strategy are more adaptive and, as a result, more agile. Being adaptive, instead of being hardwired toward our goal, helps us to reach goals earlier. But equally important, this means we learn more.

Contrast this to the grand plan we are forced to stick with. If the situation changes, tough luck—we can't. The program is in place. And only in the next big iteration of updating our strategy can we apply lessons learned in the meantime. Enter enterprise performance management.

In a sense, enterprise performance management is the driver for strategy formulation. Let's explore that a little by talking about an automobile "driver" in a literal way, using a navigation system. Continuous feedback through dashboards tells us about our mileage, the estimated time of arrival, and the system actively tells us how to avoid the traffic jam. It helps us to adapt to changes in the traffic. In business terms, our goal is clear, but we'll have to be on the road to see how to get there.

Gone are the days of monster-size strategy sessions, run by the strategic planning departments. Away with inflexible and disconnected annual budgeting cycles, dominated by Finance. Welcome to the days of the information democracy, where strategy is "consumerized," like so many other things. Embrace rolling forecasts based on the business drivers that continuously integrate operational agility with financial outcomes. Being in control is about driving change instead of resisting it.

Oracle's EPM strategy team is no ivory tower, either. Most of our time we spend on the road. Visiting you. Discussing what's on your plate, and on ours, for that matter. We'd love to speak to you as well.

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