Gone are the days when CEOs were celebrated for trusting their gut. In the digital era there is data to crunch, vizzes to look at, algorithms to apply, and enterprise performance management (EPM) solutions to help managers link their strategies to their objectives and execution, all in an attempt to improve business results.

What is Enterprise Performance Management (EPM)

Gartner defines EPM as "the process of monitoring performance across the enterprise with the goal of improving business performance." An EPM system, according to the analyst, "integrates and analyzes data from many sources, including, but not limited to, e-commerce systems, front-office and back-office applications, data warehouses and external data sources."

Reports and insights based on analyzed data can inform companies so that they can make decisions in areas like strategic and operational planning, forecasting, financial consolidation, financial and regulatory reporting, budgeting, workforce planning and optimization, among other things. EPM tools often leverage advanced BI (business intelligence) technologies for periodic reporting and have traditionally, and primarily, been used by C-Suite executives, corporate board members and investors to manage assets, revenue and costs over the long term, typically five or more years. But there is a newer generation of software-as-a service solutions that use modern, advanced analytics, promise real time information and integration,  and are increasingly being used by both executives and management in various functional areas.

It's worth noting that EPM combines information, people, process data and actions and often draws on transactional data from systems such as ERP, CRM, and Finance, as well as BI and Analytics.

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Moving to the Cloud

According to Constellation Research vice president and principal analyst Doug Henschen, CPM (Corporate Performance Managemen term is interchangeable with EPM) solutions initially became prevalent at large companies as on-premise systems in the 1980's and 1990's. Over the last decade small and mid-sized businesses have adopted cloud-based EPM solutions. “Now, cloud-based CPM options are scaling up into enterprise deployments, and they are seeing double-digit annual sales gains,” wrote Henschen in the Constellation ShortList Cloud-Based Performance Management report.

While EPM solutions were initially designed to serve the finance function, today's solutions often provide information and insights for marketing, human resources, and sales as well. Moreover, the newer breed of solutions not only help companies with financial consolidation, reporting and disclosure, but they also help managers measure against key performance indicators in the present and plan for the future via predictive analytics and modeling flexibility.

Like most everything else, EPM solutions are increasingly moving to the cloud. According to Forrester, as of October 2016, 80 percent of EPM solutions are on premises (last reported in 2016). Gartner predicts that by 2020, 80 percent of EPM will be in the Cloud.

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5 Enterprise Performance Management Vendors

With digital transformation well underway the C-Suite, and even line of business owners, are demanding access to the latest technologies to drive business growth and capitalize on investment. The general consensus from Gartner and Forrester is that more than 75 percent of EPM will be cloud-based by 2020. Needless to say, solution providers are trying to game Google so that their product appears at the top of the list. 

Learning Opportunities

We’ve examined research from Gartner’s MQ for Cloud Strategic Corporate Performance Management (CPM is interchangeable with EPM) Solutions, Constellation Research’s Shortlist for Cloud-Based Performance Management, and Forrester’s Wave for Enterprise Performance Management. Here are 5 strong choices in alphabetical order:

Adaptive Insights is a cloud-only EPM that claims to be the "world's first business planning cloud" so you can make smarter decisions faster." Its Business Planning Cloud hosts two products. "Adaptive Insights for Finance" provides modeling and reporting software. "Adaptive Insights for Sales" was created to help enterprises increase sales performance, predictability, and sales intelligence with quota, capacity and territory planning. In its Magic Quadrant for Cloud Corporate Performance Management Solutions report, Gartner said that the vendor has 3300 customers in production. Adaptive Insights lists big brands like Boston Scientific, P.F. Chang, Papyrus, the University of Arizona and many others among its clients.

Anaplan is a cloud-based solution that aims to "connect data, people, and plans across your business" and offers a platform for various process areas such as sales, marketing, finance, IT, workforce and supply chain. Its customers are primarily larger enterprises. Anaplan not only offers pre-built solutions across business functions, but it also offers a "build apps" capability which makes it easy for you to build your own app — from modeling and predicting, to planning and forecasting with zero coding.

Host Analytics calls itself "the Enterprise Performance Platform. It is a scalable, cloud-only solution that supports planning, modeling, consolidation and reporting. It offers industry-specific offerings for technology, manufacturing and life sciences clients and supports financial corporate performance management (FCPM) as well. The vendor offers dashboards for budgeting, planning and forecasting as well as tools for modeling, analysis and collaboration. Host Analytics' technology partners include Socialcast and Slack for collaboration, Dell Boomi for data integrations, and Box and Google G Suite data loading. Its customers include NPR, the Boston Red Sox, and Abbott, to name a few.

Oracle has done an impressive job taking the best of its on-premises EPM and creating "built for the cloud" Oracle EPM offerings which include Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service (PBCS), Oracle Profitability and Cost Management Cloud Service and Oracle Enterprise Performance Reporting Cloud Service for narrative reporting. It earns high marks from analysts — Forrester said that Oracle's Enterprise Planning Cloud offers the "fastest time to value" among its offerings and Gartner credited its aggressive release update and sales support as key factors in the "ability to execute" area of its MQ.

SAP offers three different EPM products- SAP Business Planning and Consolidation (cloud, on-premise, hybrid), SAP Analytics Cloud and SAP's widely acclaimed SAP Digital Boardroom. Perhaps the most interesting and differentiating aspect of the Analytics Cloud is that, for SAP users, it is simple to embed its analytics into business processes and turn insights into action. The SAP Digital Boardroom allows executives to gain live insights and simulate actions before taking them. These tools encourage active collaboration.

It's worth noting that there are many other solid EPM solutions available for on-premise, hybrid and cloud deployment and, as every analyst says, buyers should weigh solutions against their specific circumstances and needs.