Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) software helps you analyze, understand, and report on your business. EPM refers to the processes designed to help organizations plan, budget, forecast, and report on business performance as well as consolidate and finalize financial results (often referred to as “closing the books”). EPM solutions are primarily used by CFOs and the office of finance, while other functional areas, such as HR, sales, marketing, and IT, use EPM for operational planning, budgeting, and reporting.
While often tied to enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, EPM software complements ERP by providing management insights in addition to top of operational data. In other words, ERP is about operating the business—the day-to-day transactional activity—and EPM is about managing the business—analyzing, understanding, and reporting on the business.
Today, EPM software is considered to be critical for managing all types of organizations by linking financial and operational metrics to insights—and ultimately driving strategies, plans, and execution. With EPM software, managers can drive improved performance across the organization by monitoring financial and operational results against forecasts and goals and using analytics to recognize key trends and predict outcomes.
In an environment of constant change, new competitors, and economic uncertainty, EPM offers a tool for organizations to manage their agile businesses. With finance at the helm, EPM business processes (strategic modeling, plan, consolidate and close, report, and analyze performance) can help organizations understand their data and use it to make better business decisions.
The key to surviving disruption is flexibility. Whether the disruption comes from outside forces (such as new regulations or global weather events) or market realities (one product skyrockets to success while another flops), organizations that respond quickly are able to stay ahead of the curve. A modern EPM solution enables you to understand how, when, and where to adjust to disruptions.
The concept of EPM has been around for decades. Before computers, EPM processes and solutions were managed manually via meetings, phone calls, and discussions. In the 1970s, the first EPM software applications became available and accounting solutions began collecting budgeting and financial information for reporting purposes. Spreadsheets were introduced in the 1980s with software such as Lotus1-2-3 and VisiCalc. Spreadsheets allowed finance teams to automate budget and report creation and replace manual worksheets. The availability of email in the 1990s allowed people to share spreadsheets, which led to better collaboration and collection of budgeting and reporting data. Around the same time, the first EPM software packages began to automate the financial consolidation and reporting process. These products included: IMRS Micro Control (which later became Hyperion software), Hyperion Enterprise for financial consolidation and reporting, and Hyperion Pillar for planning processes.
Over the past couple of decades, EPM software platforms evolved from Windows-based client/server systems to internet-enabled, web browser-based applications. Today, there’s an increasing demand for cloud-based EPM software, also known as software as a service (SaaS). When EPM software is “in the cloud” it simply means that the application is housed on a network of remote servers, instead of at a company’s location.
The cloud offers a more affordable alternative for EPM that lowers both operational expenses (OpEx) and capital expenses (CapEx), because it eliminates the need for companies to purchase software and hardware or hire additional IT staff. With no costly infrastructure to support, resources can be invested in growth opportunities, while employees can focus on more value-added tasks instead of managing IT.
Lotus 1-2-3 and VisiCalc to automate budgeting.
Hyperion, one of the earliest successful EPM software companies.
EPM software moves from Windows-based to web-browser-based.
Cloud-based EPM becomes the new standard.
Historically, EPM systems have focused on transitioning finance from spreadsheets to more robust solutions that let teams spend less time on low-value tasks such as data manipulation and reconciliations and more time on high-value tasks like analysis. But even after making the move from spreadsheets, there’s still too much time between analysis and action.
Enter the next generation of EPM, which has new capabilities that incorporate emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. These technologies are powerful decision-making tools because they close the gap between analysis and action. They help improve the quality of decisions made by finance managers and executives by detecting hidden patterns and insights in historic data. The impact on decision-making is widespread, from tactical (which vendor to pay first) to operational (budget reallocations) to strategic (mergers and acquisitions).
Beyond decision-making, these technologies can automate routine tasks to eliminate manual labor and reduce the likelihood of errors. There are many tasks in the financial close and reconciliation process that fall into this category. This type of automation will free up valuable time for finance professionals to engage with operations and spend more time providing the forward-looking guidance that management needs to capitalize on the next opportunity.