Building Agility in EPM: a New Approach to Technology Implementation

By Nilly Essaides
September 2, 2018

Digital technologies are playing a crucial role in improving the performance of the FP&A/controlling organization.

We see AI-enabled solutions improve forecast accuracy and enable more sophisticated analyses. Cloud-based tools integrate data from multiple sources to create a single version of the truth and encourage greater collaboration with other parts of the company. Robots prepare and distribute standardized reports. Self-service BI tools empower business managers to conduct their own insight discovery and run self-directed, ad-hoc analyses and reports.

The outcome is a more agile EPM capabilities. That means the enterprise can more quickly figure out how its performing and how it must change to meet evolving demands of its internal and external customers. The Hackett Group research shows that more finance teams are adopting digital tools like RPA and AI. And they expect a substantial uptick in adoption over the next two to three years.

Executing in “Spurts”

The requirement to become customer-centric has put pressure on companies and finance organizations to move faster to keep up with customers and competitors. That means they cannot wait long for new functionalities to help drive performance analyses. The good news is that it take less time to implement digital tools.

The traditional (“waterfall”) approach to technology development and deployment methodically and linearly followed a long and strict series of steps. This often took a lot of time. Users didn’t get to experience the solution until the very end, and the queue for changes quickly clogged up.

In contrast, the increasingly popular “agile” methodology delivers functionalities in “spurts” based on an iterative process with users. With users getting access to new functionalities more quickly, they can provide invaluable feedback, enabling developers to adjust quickly and move forward.

It’s important to note that digital implementations are typically not 100% agile. Most respondents to The our 2018 ERP in the Cloud poll reported they use a hybrid approach. They start with a more traditional assessment but the switch to agile to quickly develop and roll-out solutions the “minimum-viable” product, then leverage users’ input to improve..

One leader of an EPM center of excellence (COE) told us that her company had traditionally used a waterfall methodlogy. But with a new CIO, it switched to agile in the past six months. The new approach has been a lot more effective. It fostered an open and candid dialogue between users and the project team. As a result, the conception-to-launch time of new technologies has now been reduced to only three months.

Adopting an agile methodology is not just about the technology. It’s also about people. The approach demands that users and project teams work closely and actively provide input. To successfully make the transition requires the support of senior management. Changing the way we work is always difficult. A mandate from the top enhances compliance and eliminates pockets of resistance.