The title above may have you wondering what business software and jungles can possible have in common. In a strict sense, the answer is very little, but a close look at the ever-shifting IT landscape and the analogy pretty well explains itself. I’ve been working with IT infrastructure, and in particular ‘Hyperion’ infrastructure, for the past 20 years. In all of that time, I really cannot think of the IT world being less settled than it is today. We’ve had changes in the Hyperion world over the years. We’ve moved beyond simple consolidation software (those Enterprise days) to analytics (Essbase and Arbor) to multi-server and Java based technology (I’m looking at you Hyperion System 9) and then into virtualization and hosting. But all of those states of sea-change were gradual, and in many respects the EPM world was behind-the-times. What we are seeing now is a game of catch-up in EPM world, and in all of the business facing systems that feed EPM or that EPM feeds.
Did you know that by 2017, 50% of IT's budget will be spent on new technology?*
The modern CIO or IT executive has to deal with a wilderness of technology that has hit the market in just the last three to five years. This array of technology and services includes: Cloud technology, advanced 3rd party or managed services offerings, ITT (the internet of things), Big Data, and In-Memory Machines. All of the previous items can be encapsulated in ‘Digital Transformation’ which is an industry term for completely transforming the IT world from an internal-only service (and a typical red-line on the budget sheet) to a business partnering, customer facing and revenue driving entity. As most readers will instantly recognize, that will be a substantial and destabilizing amount of change. The way IT leaders tackle all of this change in the future will decide the fate of their companies in the digital economic jungle that is ever-changing.
So how does any of this relate to EPM?
Complexity, uncertainty, and volatility are on the rise. The need for analytics may be the only sustainable long-term competitive advantage. I’ve created some ideas around three key areas for consideration: time, place and source; my own little TPS report.
- Time: From an EPM perspective, the first thing to realize is that many companies are on a hardware-software life cycle of about 3-5 years. Essentially that means that when a company last upgraded (say in 2012), that upgrade and its accompanying options and decisions looked a LOT like the upgrade from three years before that. Now in 2016 that company is looking to upgrade again and the landscape is dramatically different. For starters, the strategic goals IT for many companies have shifted. Previously it was enough for many IT organizations to ‘keep the lights on’ as it were, and to keep the data flowing. Companies of this nature operated on a model where software improvements and changes mirrored hardware replacement cycles that were based on hardware capitalization, and not driven at all by changes in the market or technology itself. That model is shifting as IT CIOs are tasked with moving their organizations at the speed of the data and business. For EPM this means that companies need to get more fleet-of-foot and move to quicker development and upgrade cycles.
- Place: EPM has historically been housed in the IT server room or data center and it has typically been sourced from similar systems located in similar places. Obviously the ‘where’ of IT is rapidly changing. Everything from the location of hardware to the source of ‘viable’ data is changing as companies tackle digital transformation. Companies are rapidly changing traditional capitalization models as they move into cloud services, and they have been steadily moving back to a model closer to mainframe servers (virtualization being nothing more than the slicing and dicing of large hardware sets) than the client-server model of recent years. The leap in computing power available in smaller and smaller systems (In-Memory machines take center stage here) allows companies to store and analyze volumes of data never before contemplated. All of this means that a company’s IT has the power to be more flexible, and less tied to operational tasks. Those items are steadily being sourced to other places (cloud vendors, managed services partners, hosted sites, etc.) and the focus for IT departments will be on developing business driven strategies and solutions that move companies in the right direction. As with the time element, the focus will be on flexibility and an open-mind to change.
- Source: A final piece of the pie for EPM systems will be the source of data. The volumes of data companies are now looking at is increasing well beyond the traditional boundaries. For some parts of EPM like consolidation, not a lot of that data is valid or impactful. However, for systems like budgeting and forecasting and other analytical systems, the change will have enormous potential. Data sources are expanding rapidly as non-traditional data sources are becoming more prevalent. Big Data is not just a buzzword and more and more companies are looking to capture data from Social Media sources, machine information sources and other feeds of data. As these expand, the ability to analyze and make sense of that data will be dramatic, and EPM has a key role to play here. Additionally, more data means more areas for overlap and confusion as data sources create conflicting streams of information. This is another key area where EPM can help with products like DRM providing the opportunity to setup and understand governance early.