Explore Solution Hub - our brand new library of pre-built solutions and interactive tours

Learn More →

What is Enterprise Performance Management (EPM)?

These competing terms include BPM (Business Performance Management), CPM (Corporate Performance Management) and FPM (Financial Performance Management.  We prefer the term EPM since it signifies enterprise-wide application.  We’ve touched on the definition of EPM in a number of other posts, but I thought this would be a good time to define EPM from the Planful perspective.  So here goes.

What is EPM?

Enterprise performance management (EPM) is a process and software system designed to help organizations (i.e., companies, government entities, educational institutions, and non-profits) link their strategies to their plans and execution.  Sounds easy right?  As anyone who has worked in a business enterprise knows, this can be challenging as an organization grows and evolves beyond its roots.  To support this, EPM includes the following management processes:

Organizations execute these processes in a “management cycle” (figure 1).  This cycle is run at least annually and, in most cases, quarterly or more often.  The objective of EPM is to ensure strategic goals and objectives are clearly communicated and understood by managers, and are reflected in their budgets and plans.  Getting all of the various departments of an organization aligned around goals and objectives is a critical starting point.

But effective EPM also requires periodic revisiting to ensure the organization remains aligned over time, especially as the business world has become more volatile and unpredictable.  This is handled through the periodic reporting and reviewing of results by internal stakeholders (i.e., the management team) and external stakeholders (i.e., board of directors, investors).  This typically occurs monthly, quarterly, and annually.  But some organizations do this more frequently, such as weekly in retail or CPG manufacturing.  The EPM process is even run daily in fast-paced industries, such as financial services and transportation.

management cycle.png

Figure 1 – The Management Cycle

The EPM process also typically includes the monitoring and managing of key performance indicators (KPIs) that let managers in various departments and divisions of an organization understand key market and business trends on a regular basis (i.e., hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly).  Ultimately, this allows manager to respond quickly when the business or department is not performing to plan and to make adjustments to ensure they meet business objectives.

The Evolution of EPM Software

The concept of EPM and the management cycle has been around for many years, going back to the early days of the industrial revolution.  In the early years, EPM processes were managed manually, via paper, in meetings, and via presentations and discussion.  In the 1970s, as commercial software applications began to take hold in many organizations, accounting packages began to support the collection of budgets and financial results for reporting purposes.

In the 1980s, the availability of spreadsheet software such as VisiCalc and Lotus 123 allowed accounting and finance teams to automate the creation of budgets and reports, and replace manual worksheets.  This was further enhanced through the availability of email in the 1990s, which made it easier to share spreadsheets and support collaboration across departments in the collection and dissemination of budgeting and reporting data.

The 1980s also saw the emergence of the first dedicated EPM software packages.  Although they weren’t labeled as such, software packages such as IMRS Micro Control (which later became Hyperion Software) and Hyperion Enterprise (moving the concept from DOS to Microsoft Windows) attacked the financial consolidation and reporting process.  Packages such as Hyperion Pillar helped manage the process of budgeting and planning across the enterprise.

In the 1980s, we also saw the emergence of executive information systems (EIS), which were designed to deliver graphical reports and KPIs to senior executives via their personal computers.  This concept later evolved into software-based, visual dashboards and scorecards, which can deliver KPIs and metrics to executives, as well as managers across the organization.

Since the 1980’s, EPM software platforms have evolved from mainframe systems to Windows-based client/server systems, then to internet-enabled, web-browser-based applications.  Today there’s increasing demand for software as a service (SaaS) (a.k.a. cloud-based software) that allows Finance to take control, deploy the solution quickly, and receive automatic, low-cost upgrades.

Business Benefits of EPM Software

Each generation of EPM software has brought new benefits to users and organizations.  Spreadsheets helped accounting and Finance staff speed the process of capturing, recording, and calculating data. Then email made it easier to share that data.  Packaged EPM software helps organizations increase efficiency by eliminating or augmenting spreadsheets, and improving planning and reporting processes through centralized databases, workflow, and process control.  This helps drive accountability across the enterprise by aligning strategic, financial, and operational goals, broadening budgeting participants, and empowering managers with more timely information.

Cloud-based EPM software, builds on the benefits of traditional EPM software, making it easier and faster to deploy, reduces the cost of ownership, increases innovation speed, and supports enhanced collaboration across the enterprise.  It helps organizations automate manual tasks, accelerate key finance processes, and drive better alignment between Finance and operations.

EPM Software Complements ERP and Other IT Systems

While EPM software provides a great deal of value to organizations, it can’t do this alone.  It relies on data captured and generated in other systems, such as GLs, ERP, HCM, CRM, and others.  The power of an EPM platform is that it’s designed to collect and consolidate data from multiple sources to support key EPM processes, such as budgeting, forecasting, financial reporting, and modeling.

So while managers sometimes get confused about the role of EPM vs. ERP software, they’re actually quite complementary and work better together.  ERP systems focus on automating transactional processes, while EPM systems focus on automating management processes.

There may sometimes also be confusion about the role of EPM software vs. business intelligence (BI) software.  EPM and BI software are related, and both are part of the broader software segment known as business analytics.  I think the simplest way to explain the relationship is as follows:

  • BI is a set of tools or a platform focused on information delivery, designed mainly for IT departments, and deployed to line-of-business users for general-purpose reporting and analysis across the enterprise.
  • EPM software supports a set of processes typically driven by the Finance organization and that extend into lines of business. It helps with processes such as modeling, planning, consolidating, reporting, and analytics.
  • Many modern EPM platforms include embedded BI and analytics tools, which can be used to report and analyze data from the EPM applications and other sources.

To Learn More

I hope this article has helped clarify the definition of EPM.  In summary, EPM is a process designed to help organizations link their strategies to plans and execution.  EPM software is designed to support the EPM processes, including budgeting, planning, forecasting, financial consolidation, reporting, analysis, and modeling.

EPM software has evolved over time and is now moving to the cloud, bringing new benefits to Finance departments and the broader enterprise – automating and accelerating management processes and helping to improve alignment across the enterprise.  And EPM software is complementary to other IT investments, such as ERP, CRM, and BI systems.


Latest Posts


Interviews, tips, guides, industry best practices, and news.

Get Started with Planful

  • LinkedIn
    How much time will you save?
  • LinkedIn
    How will your finance team evolve?
  • LinkedIn
    Where will technology support you?