5 Questions that Need to be Answered Prior to Implementing EPM / BI tools

Business analytics and enterprise business applications continue to be a top investment initiative for senior financial executives – creating an EPM / BI cloud revolution.

It’s changing the role of finance in technology and empowering the everyday finance user to take control over their analysis. Smaller to midsize organizations are adopting cloud technologies more rapidly with almost half moving to the cloud within the next 3 years.

While implementing a large organizational change, like an EPM / BI tool, it is important to remember preparation is the key to success.

So before you become another company joining the EPM / BI Cloud revolution, you need to be able to answer these 5 questions:
1. Are your operational processes following leading practice?

Fixing inefficiencies in your operational processes is a prerequisite for any tool implementation. Technology does not fix bad processes all by itself. In many cases, you could spend a lot of time and money implementing a brand-new technology only to corrupt it with inefficient processes. New implementations provide the opportunity to redesign how you operate. Take advantage of this and spend time refining how things are done.

2. What are the information sources?

How will data be populated within your new tool? Is the data going to be input manually by end users or loaded from an external source system? Data is the most overlooked component of any EPM implementation. Unless you have data integration subject matter experts with you during the sales pitch, you might not even realize that this question should be discussed from the beginning.

A well-defined list of source systems specifically mentioning what KPIs are coming from each system is a must to ensure there are no surprises to derail the implementation. Also, never assume a source system has the data you need. We have seen situations at past clients where upon further review, we find out a specific system does not have what we need, and it ends up making everyone’s life a little painful. Do the due diligence up front and you won’t have to worry about being in that situation.

3. What is the quality of your data?

Having a list of your source systems is the starting point. Knowing what needs to be done to the data to get it into the correct format for your new tool is the next step. A common misconception is data quality is a “technical” problem for IT to solve. In many cases, the issue is functional in nature and should be fixed in the source system prior to extract.

A prior client wanted to implement a new tool to consolidate revenue from multiple systems. After development started, we discovered one of the sources for revenue data produced incorrect results due to differences in how revenue should be calculated. If the issue were identified at the beginning of the project, there would have been enough time to fix the source system without impacting the project timeline. Instead, there was a delay and a manual process was put in place to ensure revenue results aligned with other source systems.

4. Can you dedicate sufficient resources to the implementation?

We cringe every time we see a core team member (non-SME) allocating less than 100% of their time to the project. When this happens, you increase the risk of missing important milestone deadlines or negatively impacting the work-life balance of the project team.

Neither situation is ideal since it will impact the quality of your solution.

If it is not realistic to have 100% of team members time dedicated to the project, then the question becomes whether your resources can manage their day-to-day job and project tasks while maintaining the project timeline.

5. How does your organization react to change?

At the end of the day, new technology is meant to help users work more efficiently. After a successful implementation, there is no reason why this shouldn’t be the case. However, more often than not, change management introduces a new tool in the form of an overwhelming 100-page user guide coupled with high-level training courses. It is important to invest in engaging and comprehensive training to prepare a team for using new technology and updated processes efficiently.

Thinking ahead and getting solid answers for these questions will set you forward on the right path.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” -Benjamin Franklin

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