Transform Finance with Cloud-Based EPM Solutions

What are the risks and rewards of applying new technologies to our company’s financial processes?”  In a recent webinar sponsored by Planful, several experts discussed how cloud-based EPM platforms are helping organizations transform critical Finance processes – namely budgeting, forecasting, consolidation, and reporting.

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EPM Helps Align Strategies to Plans and Execution

As all organizations grapple with how to align enterprise-wide goals and objectives amidst changing market conditions, many are seeing the value of enterprise performance management (EPM) platforms in improving alignment.  EPM platforms help organizations link their strategies and goals to their plans and execution by integrating key financial management processes:

  • Planning and modeling
  • Financial consolidation and close
  • Reporting and analytics

Status of Enterprise Performance Management in 2017

So how are organizations doing with EPM in 2017?  To get a sense of this, Planful sponsored a recent CFO survey with Argyle.  When asked, “What are your 3 biggest performance management challenges in 2017?” here were the responses:

  • 73% cited planning and forecasting in volatile business conditions
  • 67% said aligning Finance and operational plans
  • 67% said defining the right KPIs for the business
  • 50% said closing the books quickly and delivering results to stakeholders

Then we drilled into some of these topics in more detail.  When asked, “What are your 3 biggest challenges in budgeting, planning, and forecasting?” the top responses included the following:

  • 67% cited accurately forecasting revenue
  • 50% cited managing too many spreadsheets
  • 47% cited setting initial goals and targets
  • 43% cited getting participation from LOB managers

We asked the same question regarding the 3 biggest challenges in financial close and reporting, and found the following:

  • 73% cited collecting and consolidating data from multiple systems
  • 73% also cited delivering the right KPIs and reports to internal management
  • 40% cited packaging results for external stakeholders

In the financial close and reporting area, there is clearly more pain in internal management reporting than in external stakeholder reporting.

Finally, we asked what new technologies CFOs are leveraging in Finance. Here are the top responses:

  • 83% cited cloud-based applications
  • 40% cited mobile technology
  • 30% cited big data
  • 17% cited predictive analytics

It was great to see such strong support for cloud applications.  Finance is clearly becoming more comfortable with the cloud.  It was also encouraging to see the growing use of mobile technology.

Transform Planning, Consolidation, and Reporting via the Cloud

cloud-based finance.pngWhile it was encouraging to see cloud-based applications usage increasing in Finance, our experience in the market, as well as other surveys, reveal that adoption of cloud-based applications for planning, consolidation, and reporting is at roughly 25% and growing rapidly.

Why are organizations replacing spreadsheets and legacy applications and moving to the cloud?  There are many reasons, including speed of deployment, faster innovation, lower cost of ownership, and autonomy from IT.  But a big driver is also the efficiency gains on key processes, such as budgeting and planning, financial consolidation, and reporting.

For example, reducing reliance on spreadsheets and moving to cloud-based applications enable organizations to automate manual steps, accelerate Finance processes, and improve alignment between Finance and Operations by gaining more participation, ownership, and accountability from line managers regarding their plans and forecasts.   

Leveraging the Experience of Practitioners

The last segment of the webinar featured a panel discussion with Tim Brown – CFO at Motus, and Ben Tang – VP of Finance and Operations at Planful.  During the panel, both executives highlighted their performance management challenges and how they have leveraged cloud-based EPM applications to address these challenges and streamline their Finance processes. 

Here are some of the key benefits they cited from using a cloud-based EPM platform:

  • Ability to perform more iterations and arrive faster at a final budget
  • Flexibility and speed in modeling different scenarios
  • Ability to implement rolling forecasts and seed the 2017 budget earlier
  • Rapidly integrating data from multiple sources
  • Delivering more timely results to management, including flash reporting
  • Having a single version of the truth for reporting and analysis
  • Providing self-service information access for Finance and LOB staff

They also cited the benefits they achieved in improving alignment between Finance and Operations by empowering managers with direct access to information, gaining more accountability and ownership for plans and forecasts.

To Learn More

In summary, today’s market requires a dynamic approach to planning, consolidation, and reporting.  Many companies are still relying on spreadsheets, manual processes, or legacy applications, and as a result, they struggle with long, tedious Finance processes.  Leading companies are doing the following:

  • Adopting cloud-based EPM platforms
  • Putting less focus on and effort into annual budgeting
  • Using regular, rolling forecasts to update budget assumptions
  • Accelerating financial close and reporting
  • Improving Finance–Operations alignment

This leads to better business agility and overall competitiveness.  To learn more, watch the webinar replay “Unlock the Secrets to Finance Transformation with Cloud EPM.”

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