Avoid Growing Pains with an EPM Integration Strategy

Summary:An EPM Integration Strategy is one of the most important factors to consider if you plan to grow your EPM environment. While it doesn’t seem important when starting your first EPM project, not having a solid integration strategy will result in significant problems thoughout the EPM life cycle. Unfortunately, EPM customers often overlook this and experience significant growing pains over time.

Here are three common excuses for the lack of an integration strategy. Take a look at which one applies to you. The answer will tell you if you should continue to read this blog:

  • “We don’t need one”

    OK, unless you plan on not using your EPM environment very much, you need to find another excuse – check the next bullet.

  • “We don’t have time to create one”

    Think twice: you will save so much time in the long run if you have a strategy

  • “We don’t know how to define one”

    Good news: you’re in the right place, this blog is for You. Please do yourself a favor and subscribe to it now!

You might not have heard about EPM Integration Strategy yet, so let’s understand what this is all about in this post. The next posts will discuss the various components of an EPM Integration Strategy, so you can understand step by step how to create a strategy that fits the exact needs of your organization.

What is an EPM Integration Strategy?

To clarify what we are talking about, let’s split this into two parts:

  1. EPM Integration
  2. Strategy

EPM Integration

Working with EPM, you are familiar with what EPM Integration means. In short: processing data between different applications and ensuring integrity. Your first thought here is probably around loading data, applying mappings and managing metadata (very true, but there are many other areas to be considered as well, like managing the application life cycle, migration, audit trail of changes etc.).

Strategy

This is how Wikipedia defines “Strategy”:

Strategy is a high level plan to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty. […] Strategy is important because the resources available to achieve these goals are usually limited. […] A strategy describes how the ends (goals) will be achieved by the means (resources). Strategy can be intended or can emerge as a pattern of activity as the organization adapts to its environment or competes.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategy

Let’s put it all together:

An EPM Integration Strategy is a high-level plan to build a sustainable integration solution for your EPM applications. It defines principles and techniques which can be set up within a reasonable amount of time. These significantly reduce your team’s effort throughout the entire application life cycle and free up resources to focus on other means to achieve your aspired goals.

Please note: an EPM Integration Strategy is not limited or specific to certain vendors or product suites. Its intention is to be agnostic and overarching because an organization can change vendors or product suites. That’s just one of the existing uncertainties, but a strategy will outlast any product you choose. Therefore a transition would be A LOT easier with an integration strategy in place.

Why do you need an EPM Integration Strategy?

There are many authorities that are predicting what will happen in this new decade. Despite many unknowns and whether we like it or not, the need to improve margins by becoming more efficient is always on the list. But with every challenge, there are also many new opportunities.

As for EPM, we need to consider that the future direction of your environment is uncertain. There are many questions, for example:

  • Will your environment grow substantially?
  • Which new applications will be added in the future?
  • Which new business cases need to be supported?
  • Which companies will be acquired?
  • Which other departments will start using and integrating with your EPM applications?
  • Are you going to migrate to a different EPM platform?
  • Will you need to improve your operating margins for EPM support/maintenance and become more efficient?

The origin of the word “Strategy” is related to warfare/military. In this context it basically says:

Without a strategy, you can still win a battle,

but your chances are slim for winning a war.

In the context of EPM Integration it means:

Without a strategy, you can still
integrate your data and metadata,

but you will experience more and more
problems as your environment grows.

Infrastructure is a fundamental part of an EPM Integration Strategy

One part of an EPM Integration Strategy is defining the design principles for building an effective infrastructure. It’s about creating the blueprints for managing your processes as your environment grows. They will prevent you from struggling with bottlenecks and inefficiencies in the near future which will negatively impact your ability to manage your applications.

One good way to think about this is comparing it to a highway system. Before cars became the primary means of transport for millions of people in a metropolitan area, the small roads were able to handle the traffic. But as more and more cars entered the roads, traveling by car became more and more frustrating: traffic jams, accidents, longer wait cycles at traffic lights to cross an intersection etc. The solution was to build a highway system, with wider roads, no cross traffic, and the ability to travel faster. Sure, it takes an effort to build a highway, but once it is set up, things will go much more smoothly. Also, traveling by car would be unbearable without highways and the constant stop-and-go would drive us crazy!

EPM Data Integration Strategy - Infrastructure
Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

Coming back to EPM, having an infrastructure in place has many positive effects, resulting in significant time and cost savings when it comes to:

  • Adding new source systems
  • Integrating with new applications
  • Changing existing processes to implement new requirements
  • Maintain mappings consistently
  • Manage metadata automatically
  • Complete development activities
  • Execute test cases
  • Troubleshoot errors and identify root causes
  • Provide knowledge transfer when someone joins or leaves a team (permanently or to take time off)
  • And much more!!!

It also reduces processing times, eliminates excessive stress and provides a better work-life balance. (Again, that’s the same for the highway analogy).

Conclusion

Whether you have an EPM Integration Strategy in place or not will have a big impact on how you manage your EPM applications. It will impact how quickly you can implement changes and how much effort is required for code modifications, reconfiguration, testing and migrating those changes to the production environment.

By implementing an EPM Integration Strategy, organizations achieve massive productivity gains as well as cost savings for managing their EPM environment.

The good news is: an EPM Integration Strategy can be implemented step by step. In this blog series, you will learn about all of the required components. We will provide you with use cases so you can decide whether a certain technique is relevant for you.

One goals of this blog series is to make it interactive, so please feel free to send in questions and we can discuss them here.


In the meantime, please follow us on LinkedIn and find out more about FinTech’s Integration and Automation Platform ICE Cloud. Let’s make EPM Integration and Automation easy!

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