Financial Systems

4 Thoughts on Moving to a Cloud-Based EPM System

In corporate finance offices, growth inevitably reveals the limitations of the status quo. Perhaps you find you’re spending too much time reporting and not enough time analyzing. Maybe you and your office mates are tired of maintaining massive Excel files. Or maybe you just want to open a forecasting budget module without a 15-minute load time.

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If you’re faced with those or similar frustrations, then the logical next step is to explore cloud-based EPM systems. In order to help your exploration, let’s take a look at some common fears and important considerations when thinking about moving to the cloud.

1.  Changing the status quo doesn’t mean you’ll lose control.

When we work with companies on implementation, we often see a lot of aversion to change. It’s understandable. Financial and accounting professionals find comfort in known processes. They know how to create pivot tables and match-join in Excel, so the prospect of starting fresh in a new enterprise performance management (EPM) platform can be paralyzing.

There are often three primary concerns at the onset:

  1. Security: Today’s EPM systems have layers of security and modern encryption. After moving to an EPM system like Anaplan, you can even restrict access to user types and implement data storage measures to enforce compliance without user frustration. Additionally, you won’t have to worry about the security concerns of Excel files and versions on multiple machines.
  2. Uptime and Access: EPM solutions often offer 24/7 access, with almost zero downtime. Best of all, users can log in and immediately get to work, rather than waiting for files to open. Multiple users can also access the system at once.
  3. Space and Storage: Cloud-based solutions typically charge by the number of users and the storage space used. Based on experience, it’s likely you need less space than you think. For example, financial teams often build Anaplan models like they did in Excel, but in time, the platform teaches them how to better organize their space and approach.
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2.  Before you balk at price, remember it’s not a direct comparison.

You’ll see a drastic increase in costs when you move to a cloud-based EPM solution. But as I’ve noted, Excel’s low overhead comes with limitations that don’t apply to modern systems.

It’s difficult to quantify just how much time you can save with a modern system. You won’t have to deal with breaks in formulas, multiple spreadsheets, or slow load times. In a very short period, your team can transition from hours spent on maintenance to mere minutes.

The time savings means you can spend less time reporting and more time performing actual financial analysis. Mistakes often stay mistakes in Excel. Today’s cloud-based systems quickly reveal any mistakes in your reporting formulas—and show you best-practice approaches for using the new technology. For some companies, the move to an EPM system like Anaplan is almost like adding a body.

3.  Think about the operational impact of being able to leverage data across departments.

We’ve seen that companies experiencing massive increases in scale often have trouble communicating and identifying systemic issues. It’s not uncommon that a single department will buy a cloud-based system, dump its data in, and then ask other departments to update their data to be able to leverage the system.

But in following the data across departments, a much bigger problem is discovered: the lack of a strong master data plan. Each department might be tracking different metrics—finance might be tracking for PNL, marketing for promotion and sales, and operations for inventory management. But they’re unable to track across departments, because of different Customer ID Number formats or Product Codes.

Because the problems don’t manifest themselves the same way in smaller companies, departments don’t always think about how a tiny change (e.g., editing a contract name) can impact other departments. Scale reveals these systemic problems, and the silos become apparent.

Automation means that you can’t have individuals reconciling differences or translating data across departments. The systems need to do that instead. So the organization needs to learn to communicate across departments, and their data has to be clean and universal across the entire lifecycle.

Flexible EPM systems can do more than offer more improved financial reporting. They can also teach people to rethink the way they approach problems and consider data. In other words, they can help you truly improve the way you do business.

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4.  Don’t let bandwidth dictate whether you implement an EPM system.

We’ve worked with many companies to help select the right platform, and we’ve helped them through the nuances of EPM system implementation. It’s very common that employees are so busy with their day-to-day work that the prospect of new financial systems—which involves training, new ways of approaching problems, and forgetting a lot of muscle-memory—is too much to think about.

If you’re thinking about moving to an enterprise performance management system, you have reasons. Maybe you need more complex models to support growth, or you need to reorganize your data. Maybe your needs and requests are growing, and you need to evolve the way you’re managing them.

Whatever the case may be, it means your current tool isn’t working anymore.

Working with EPM system implementation specialists through a firm like ours is a great option if bandwidth is a concern. A specialist can help you work through the operational nuances of implementation and even serve in a variety of roles depending on needs. Whether you need support with selection, knowledge of best practices, master data definitions, training support, or assistance with automation, a system consultant can help. To learn more, you can click on the button below to learn about our financial system services. You can also contact us directly. We’d be happy to hear from you.

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