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Where Do You Begin Implementing Enterprise Performance Management?

By Gary Cokins, Founder of Analytics-Based Performance Management LLC

I’m half-way through my current blog series where last time I looked at the budgeting process, and just two-weeks away from appearing at the SAP Conference for EPM in Chicago, October 13-14, where I plan to expand further on some of the concepts and ideas I’ve been writing about. So far I have considered the constituent parts of EPM, what makes for good and for bad EPM systems, and pointed to some ideas for evolving and improving EPM. But as organizations embrace the full vision of enterprise performance management – not just the narrow financial definition of better budgeting, planning and control – they frequently ask, “Where should we start?” Some may be eager to begin with a balanced scorecard, others by measuring channel and customer profitability. Still others want to take it to the limit by redesigning their core business processes.

In fact, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. So where you start depends on which enterprise performance management methodology you consider provides the fastest significant return and gets the employee buy-in ball rolling quickest.

Enterprise performance management is not new. Organizations have been doing it for years, arguably even before computers arrived on the scene. The traditional version of enterprise performance management involved a weakly communicated strategy that was followed up by measurements of customer service, sales and order-fulfillment functions. There was no attempt to integrate the varied components of enterprise performance management or to develop proactive core processes. Today, top performing organizations realize they must integrate methodologies and their supporting systems, visually display measurements and apply predictive analytics to all their processes. This is the new version of enterprise performance management.

As organizations realize that enterprise performance management is really much more about improving performance rather than just controlling and managing it, they begin asking, “Where do we begin to take what we already do to a much higher level?”

Accept that enterprise performance management is about integration and speed

An organization attains the full vision of enterprise performance management when executive leaders expediently communicate strategy to managers and employees alike and are committed to providing continuous updates to their plans.


This allows everyone to act in sync and without wasted effort. Speed matters in communications. Performance suffers when managers and employees are forced to repeatedly react to unexpected changes. To realize maximum benefits, any of the methodologies – such as strategy mapping, customer relationship management, Six Sigma, lean management and anticipatory capacity resource planning – must be robust, seamlessly integrated and in sync. Because some organizations already have several of these methodologies in place but not necessarily connected, the “where to get started” question depends on identification of the key factors relating to the organization’s current situation.

For example, if a reasonably sound, activity-based accounting system already provides information on which specific combinations of products, services, channels and customers earn or lose profit, executives may want to focus on successfully incorporating this information into a strategy map and associated balanced scorecard implementation. Failure to execute a well-formulated strategy is a major frustration that frequently prompts executives to pursue a broad enterprise performance management initiative. On the other hand, the executive team might be receiving cost information that is either incomplete, for example, because the team is receiving only product- or service-line profit information and not the full-channel and customer-segment information or inaccurate, perhaps because of distorting indirect cost allocations. In this case the executives may want to upgrade their management accounting system by applying activity-based principles.

Again, determining where to start on integrating an enterprise performance management framework depends on the organization’s weaker links.

Any approach to enterprise performance management begins with the attitudes of senior leaders. If they launch into enterprise performance management with a Darth Vader attitude – seeking underperformers to expose and cut off their air supply – the process will be painful with potentially negative repercussions. Employees will experience fear. Enterprise performance management should focus on remedy not punitive measures; A trust-based approach involves a great deal of accountability from individuals for achieving desired results. Wise leaders see their role as setting direction and continuous redirection, clearly communicating their ideas, and empowering their managers and employee teams to determine the best methods for moving the organization forward in the direction communicated by its leaders. These fine leaders are coaches not dictators.

Assuming an enlightened leadership team, then what?

Organizations will not make speedy progress by focusing exclusively on one methodology, such as better forecasting, and taking a year or longer to implement these improvements. If you take this approach then in all likelihood your competitors will beat you, or your customers’ expectations will outpace you. Instead, you need to enact multiple methodology improvements simultaneously. An increasingly accepted best practice for such improvements is to apply the “plan, do, check, act” (PDCA) cycle. Start with rapid prototyping, followed by iterative remodeling for all of the relevant methodologies. Naysayers will argue that the organization can handle only a few projects at a time, but they underestimate the capabilities of people to work together when they are being guided by leaders, not just managers.

With these rapid prototyping techniques, an organization makes mistakes early and often, not later when more has been invested and it is more costly to make corrective changes. This do-it-quick approach accelerates learning and brings fast results that in turn gain buy-in from employees who by nature are naturally resistant to change. Iterative modeling allows for scaling each of the prototyped methodologies into repeatable and reliable production systems. Enterprise performance management is like gear-teethed cogs in a machine: The more closely linked and better meshed the methodologies are during implementation, the smoother and faster the organization moves forward Software applications are very relevant, but their purpose is to support all of the methodologies. They are enablers of processes, not complete solutions on their own.

Embrace uncertainty with predictive analytics

Gradually, managers and employee teams will begin to see and understand the big picture, including how all of the methodologies fit together. Those in commercial organizations will realize that creating higher profits and increasing shareholder wealth is not a goal but a result. For these organizations, the true independent variable is finely managing the innovation-based R&D and spending on marketing to focus on the desired customers to retain, grow, acquire and win back – and cut lose the unprofitable ones. Leaders in public-sector organizations may view funding as a scarce commodity; therefore, they need to maximize outcomes by increasing output or improving service delivery without the use of additional resources.

Executives are constantly on a quest for the next breakthrough in managerial innovation. My suggestion is to start by integrating and enhancing existing methodologies that have proved their worth. It’s likely that the organization has attempted applying already to some level of competence. However, integration deficiencies may exist in some areas, leading to time lags that cause excessive and costly reactions.

Successful organizations can gain much insight by performing much deeper analysis, such as better and more granular customer segmentation. This more detailed business intelligence can be utilized within the methodologies in use and supporting systems for better decision making. The next major task is to get in front of the wave, using predictive analytics to mitigate risk by making changes before the effects can occur. Predictive analytics may well be the next major competitive differentiator, separating successful from mediocre or failing organizations. The uncertainty of future demands or events should not be viewed as a curse, but rather embraced as something organizations can tame with the powerful and proven probabilistic tools that already exist.

So what to do? Start now – everywhere. Most organizations over-plan and under-execute. For organizations that have experienced recent upheaval, now is the time to regain some order. With a nurturing attitude from executive leaders who act more like coaches than bosses then organizations can move quickly towards completing the full vision of enterprise performance management. But it requires a willingness for executives to step forward, initiative and empower their organizations to embrace enterprise performance management as the new culture for how the business operates.

Next time I shall discuss why modeling is an essential capability within an EPM system.


About the Author: Gary Cokins, CPIM


Gary Cokins (Cornell University BS IE/OR, 1971; Northwestern University Kellogg MBA 1974) is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, and author in enterprise and corporate performance management (EPM/CPM) systems. He is the founder of Analytics-Based Performance Management LLC . He began his career in industry with a Fortune 100 company in CFO and operations roles. Then 15 years in consulting with Deloitte, KPMG, and EDS (now part of HP). From 1997 until 2013 Gary was a Principal Consultant with SAS, a business analytics software vendor. His most recent books are Performance Management: Integrating Strategy Execution, Methodologies, Risk, and Analytics and Predictive Business Analytics.; phone +919 720 2718 contact:

Hear Gary share some of his thoughts concerning EPM innovations and best practices at the SAP Conference for EPM in Chicago, October 13/14, 2014