Is Your Organization Ready for EPM?

Who it’s for

  • Finance leaders or change agents in the Office of Finance maturity
  • Executives seeking an understanding of where the organization is in its financial process maturity
  • EPM evaluation project managers

What you’ll learn

  • How ready your organization is for an enterprise performance management solution
  • Steps to take to ready your organization for EPM
  • Actionable tips for improving your finance processes today
  • Introduction

    Understanding where you stand on an EPM maturity map is a critical first step as you undertake your EPM evaluation and selection. A complete EPM solution covers all the areas of planning, consolidation and reporting. Where are you today, and where do you want to be?

    Benchmarking where you are in an industry-standard framework helps you understand the possibilities of EPM and plot the best course from A to B. Many prospective EPM buyers are aware of the pain they are experiencing in planning, consolidation, and reporting, that they’re drowning in spreadsheets, or making up budgets with educated guesses. Identifying pain points is essential, but it’s also important to understand the full evolution that can be achieved with EPM.

    Based on maturity models that Gartner creates for various categories, this model identifies four phases of EPM as Unaware, Opportunistic, Enterprise, and Transformative. Which phase is your organization in?

    Assess Your Readiness

    Level 1: Unaware Information Anarchy

    With siloed systems and information, finance in this level is trying to get to the right numbers. They spend valuable meeting time trying to figure out whose numbers are accurate, rather than making data-driven business decisions.


    • Heavy use of Excel or standalone point solutions
    • Little collaboration between finance and business units
    • Slow and manual processes
    • Lack of performance management, accuracy, and controls
    • Excel used for tasks that need a more sophisticated solution

    Action Items

    Appoint an EPM leader. A single individual to head your EPM transition is critical to move forward. This person is responsible for coordinating the effort and driving results.

    Benchmark pains and business impact. Benchmark your pain points and quantify the real and soft costs to the business in time, personnel, accuracy, and other metrics.

    Identify quick wins and goals. Focus first on a “quick win” to demonstrate benefits. Then, use that success as the foundation for goal-setting in the near term and beyond.

    Level 2: Opportunistic Drowning in Spreadsheets

    Some automation has been achieved with an EPM or point solution in this level, but in limited pockets and generally within finance. Data accuracy remains questionable and spreadsheet usage remains high.


    • Some automation achieved with EPM or point solutions, but many business issues remain unaddressed.
    • Planning, consolidation, and reporting still primarily a finance-driven exercise
    • Incremental improvements made in business collaboration and efficiency
    • Manual data management, limited performance management, and quality control
    • Excel filling gaps not covered by automation, but still used for tasks that require a more sophisticated solution

    Action Items

    Document benefits. Quantify the impact of the initial benefits gained and lessons learned from initial automation and collaboration.

    Identify priority focus area. Map out your next, larger initiatives to address opportunities and pressing challenges.

    Engage an executive sponsor. Up-level your initiative with the backing of an executive sponsor and look to expand EPM beyond finance.

    Level 3: Enterprise – See the Light, Want More

    EPM has expanded beyond finance in this level to include operational areas like sales, marketing, or manufacturing, but more remains to be done for EPM to be truly transformative.


    • Most financial processes are automated with EPM, accelerating planning and close cycles
    • Operational areas engaged, but finance continues to invest the most effort
    • Performance management processes and standards start to emerge; more end-users involved
    • More (but not all) data sources incorporated; data management and quality controls in place
    • Excel used in conjunction with the EPM solution to meet business requirements

    Action Items

    Quantify business gains and ROI. By now, you can track overall business gains vs. initial baselines and quantify the ROI you’re seeing from EPM.

    Refine and optimize. Target stubborn bottlenecks that remain and continue optimizing processes to heighten visibility and efficiency.

    Broaden business engagement. Scale EPM to operational processes like sales and inventory, linking them to finance.

    Level 4: Transformative and Driving the Business

    Finance has time for value-added work and is deeply involved in driving the business forward with comprehensive real-time analytics; process automation is pervasive across the enterprise.


    • Financial and operational EPM process automation provides speed and agility
    • Complete cross-enterprise engagement drives alignment; finance is instrumental in business strategy and goal-setting, a hub and a partner to the business
    • Performance management processes and standards are well defined; business partners fully engaged
    • Virtually all data sources incorporated; data management and quality controls in place
    • Excel used sparingly in the EPM processes

    Action Items

    Sharpen analytic insights. Finance now has more time and resources for real-time reporting and analytics, elevating its role in strategic growth.

    Continually optimize. With all relevant processes automated, it’s a matter of ongoing optimization through continuous review and feedback with operational areas.

    Adapt quickly to change. Whether entering a new global market or acquiring a competitor, you have agility to make informed, data-driven forecasts and decisions.

    Three Critical Phases

    Now that you’ve determined how mature your organization is, how do you determine what work your finance team needs to do to improve further? There certainly is a significant opportunity for finance to play a more expansive and value-added role within the organization, but it requires an investment in the structure of the finance team itself, specifically in people, process, and technology. Let’s explore how the deployment of this structure, and by extension the value that FP&A can provide to the business, is an evolution, and why organizations find themselves at different stages of development. We identify the three phases as:

    • FP&A 1.0: Reactive
    • FP&A 2.0: Proactive
    • FP&A 3.0: Optimized
    FP&A 1.0: Reactive


    Companies in Phase 1.0 do not have an EPM system installed. They use Excel spreadsheets for all of their budgeting, forecasting, modeling, and reporting activities. As a result data collection and validation is completely manual. The team shares the spreadsheets via email. The file sizes are so large that they often crash the program. When the file finally does open, it is riddled with formula errors, requiring the team to double-check all of the formulas and links before they can trust the data. There is minimal security, audit trail, or version control on the spreadsheets so nobody knows who has the most current version or what changes have been made.

    Finance teams in Phase 1.0 typically have limited forecasting capabilities because the manual and tedious nature of the cycle is far too inefficient and time-consuming to perform monthly or even quarterly. They are lucky if they do two forecasts per year. Reports are static and Excel-based, and the quality of the data is never fully trusted because of the error-prone nature of Excel. The FP&A team lives in constant fear that the CFO will spot one bad number and subsequently question the validity of all of their work.

    Effect on the Business

    As a result of these issues, the team is constantly in a reactive state. The value provided to the organization in Phase 1.0 is limited. The team never has enough time to analyze performance and provide quality insight back to the business.

    While the team delivers the basics – an annual budget, a required set of monthly reports, and a periodic snapshot of performance – the data isn’t current when it gets into the hands of decision-makers and therefore does not give them many actionable insights to run the business better.

    Because the team spends all their time producing the basics, there is no time left for more value-added activities like monthly forecasting, what-if modeling, and strategic partnering with line-of-business owners.

    Do you find you or your team is in a constant reactive state? Learn how moving off of spreadsheets could put your team on the offense.

    FP&A 2.0: Proactive


    Companies in Phase 2.0 have a finance-owned EPM system installed, which means finance has control over the system and does not require other groups such as IT to manage the system for them. They are realizing quick wins and core benefits from the system. This represents a substantial leap forward in their ability to add value to the business. Key characteristics include:

    • Automated data integration, collection, and validation with the general ledger system
    • Cloud-based planning templates that are governed by formula integrity, audit trails and version control
    • Real-time, self-service reporting
    • Streamlined collaboration with guided workflow
    • Shortened budget cycles (6 weeks instead of 6 months)
    • Monthly forecasting
    • Some degree of operational modeling

    Effects on the Business

    The finance team is in a proactive state. Finance is agile and can respond faster and in more impactful ways. Many of the time-consuming, manual processes are now automated by the EPM system. Data automation and self-service reporting mean that the finance team has faster access to accurate data. Budgets, forecasts, and reports are more meaningful and timely, and the team is forward-looking in everything they do. They now have more time available to engage in enhanced data analysis and decision-making conversations, and can also participate in more collaborative discussions with business owners on how to improve business performance. They are becoming a trusted, strategic business partner.

    However, while the team is deriving some critically important benefits from the EPM system, they have not fully maximized all that it has to offer. While you can forecast on a monthly basis, you have not fully embraced a rolling forecast concept where forecasts are updated constantly by the business. While you have deployed some operational modeling capability outside of finance, you have not fully connected and automated the models across departments and within finance.

    FP&A 3.0: Optimized


    Companies in Phase 3.0 have a finance-owned EPM solution installed and are using it for optimizing these key activities:

    • Continuous planning – rolling forecasts where data is updated constantly by the business
    • Connected planning – connecting operational models across functional teams and with the corporate financial plan so that updates in one model (i.e. the number of leads in the sales funnel) automatically flow through all of the other functional models and ultimately into the corporate financial forecast
    • Collaborative planning – empowering budget owners to be engaged, accountable, and accurate in the budget process by giving them a simple, task-oriented planning tool built in the language of their business Effect on the Business

    Effects on the Business

    The team is in an optimized state. In addition to enhancing its business agility, insights, and accuracy, with FP&A 3.0 the big leap in value comes from the ability to drive innovation, revenue growth, and value creation.

    In this optimized state, budget owners benefit because they have the ability to run their business better (e.g., fully utilize all allocated resources), have access to more accurate and timely data in a context that means something to them, and save time and get tasks done faster. Finance owners benefit because there is more participation and accountability in the planning process, reduced support and training required by finance personnel, more accurate forecasts, and fewer surprises.

    Finance also engages in high-impact, strategic conversations with business owners about how to drive the business forward. For example, they can distinguish profitable customers from non-profitable ones and partner with sales and marketing to target prospects with similar profiles to drive new growth. They can also analyze high-margin product lines and markets and recommend added investment in those areas. Finance becomes a true business partner and innovation driver in this optimized state.

    In Summary

    Optimized finance teams are change agents of innovation, growth, and value creation in the business, because they optimize business collaboration and agility across all business users in the organization.

    Identifying pain points is essential, but it’s also important to identify how mature your organization is before you can understand the full evolution that can be achieved with EPM.

    Proactive finance teams are true business partners and innovation drivers within an organization.

    Get Started with Planful

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