The recent Financial Service Network (FSN) survey on Planning, Budgeting and Forecasting (PBF) showed two key characteristics for those organisations that produced the most insightful finance forecasts. First, was the ability to leverage non-financial data. Second, was the application of advanced analytics. We will look at how the most successful organisations expand their vision beyond the narrow financial view of the future to produce more valuable foresight in their PBF processes.

Finance: The Home of Truth

The financial component of enterprise resource planning, whether part of a full-fledged ERP system or a mom-and-pop shop running Quickbooks, has historically been the ‘home of truth’. Finance was where everyone turned for answers, since the only quantitative test of performance and sustainability was the P&L and the balance sheet. Finance largely birthed the IT function in a bid to automate the production of some of these answers. Most famously, in the production of payroll. Despite this, finance has now lagged in technology investment for some years, being overtaken by marketing, sales and operations.

With new technology at their fingertips and an increasingly scientific approach, other functions in the business have begun to answer their own questions, collecting and analysing their own data. The numbers in marketing may still be a little hazier than in finance but marketing has begun to offer insight into things that finance cannot, or has not. Market trends and consumer behaviour tell leaders not just about what is but what might be. This forward-looking insight has often contrasted with finance’s view of the future.

The Past, Give or Take

Finance’s view of tomorrow has, by contrast, been rather singular in its source – the past. Predictions of tomorrow have been based on the evidence of the most recent year, with management’s desire for growth most often being the biggest factor steering the positivity, or otherwise, the forecast for the year ahead. Only negative macro factors have dissuaded forecasters from positivity about the bottom line and all the pressure that brings to bear on sales for revenue growth and operations for ever greater efficiency.

The figures from FSN’s report might suggest this had changed. 72% of finance leaders say their forecasting processes are now inclusive, drawing on sources from across the company but dig further into the figures and this starts to feel more like an aspiration than a reality.

78% of the senior finance executives surveyed agreed that greater use of non-financial data is the best way to improve their PBF process and outcomes. 76% recognised the importance of connecting with more stakeholders from outside of the finance function to improve the accuracy of forecasts. The need to connect with other functions and share data is clearly acknowledged.
But 74% say they are struggling to identify all relevant non-financial data sources. Why? Over 55% of respondents say that the lack of involvement of non-finance personnel is amongst the greatest barriers to forecast accuracy.

The obvious conclusion is that the connections between finance and the rest of the organisation just aren’t there.

Additional Barriers

The lack of cross-cutting relationships through the business is not the only issue blocking the better application of non-financial data for improved forecasts. A quarter of respondents say their senior managers do not appreciate the value of non-financial data. And surprisingly, 23% delegate non-financial data tasks to more junior staff despite 43% of respondents ranking it in their top 3 sources of ‘most insightful data’.

Insightful it may be but there remain concerns about the quality of non-financial data when compared to the sources with which finance professionals are more familiar. 41% of CFOs are concerned about its integrity and believe it is less reliable than financial sources. This may well be true but these issues can be addressed, with appropriate weighting and analysis. The potential value of the data is clear, to ignore it would be nonsensical.

Taking Steps

So, how do finance leaders address these issues in order to improve insight into their planning, budgeting and forecasting?

Relationships across the business rely on reciprocation and communication, not just shared goals. Finance has to be able to bring value to the other functions of the business if it is going to extract value back.

That value comes from the insight finance can bring. Most functions in the business are seeking better analysis of their situation and environment, and finance should have the skills to deliver that.

That comes with a time penalty of course but increasing automation of the base functions of finance should be releasing resources. This is a great way to apply the released resources to improve results.

Relationships will be hard to build without the soft skills of communication, and this is another area where finance has historically fallen down. In our interactions with younger members of finance teams, we consistently find a lack of training on offer in anything beyond technical skills. This frustrates the ambitious and leads them to move on. Training then offers a two-fold benefit to the business: better collaboration and a greater chance of retention.

This isn’t to say technical skills aren’t important. Finance leaders need to be constantly up-skilling their teams in planning and analysis, and equipping them with the right tools to apply their learning. Then, they can efficiently integrate non-financial data into their models, improving forecasts and returning value to the other business functions.

As FSN says in its own report, “Mastering non-financial data is the key to being able to forecast accurately and further into the future.” The only way to do this is to enhance the relationships that finance holds across the organisation, by investing in the skills of its people.

For more information on ERP and the future of financial systems, read the FSN report on the topic – HERE

About Prophix

Prophix develops innovative software that automates critical financial processes such as budgeting, planning, consolidation and reporting — improving a company’s profitability and minimising its risks. Thousands of forward-looking organisations in more than 90 countries use software from Prophix to gain increased visibility and insight into their business performance.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions is a business and software consulting firm that specializes in ERP systems, EDI, and Managed Services support for Manufacturers and Distributors. Serving small and medium-sized businesses since 2001, Encompass modernizes operations and automates processes for hundreds of customers across the globe. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. By identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.


Insights 2019 is the annual Epicor user and partner conference that convenes each spring. It is a place where users and partners can experience first-hand training and education on the latest Epicor software and tools to empower businesses. Keynote speakers deliver insights on industry trends and where the company is directing efforts over the coming year. The manufacturing solutions being developed have a lot of users and partners excited for rollout. Read more about the biggest Epicor ERP developments in our Insights 2019 Recap below.

Insights 2019 Recap Epicor Virtual Agent  (EVA)

AI is a buzzword on the tongues and in the minds of many involved in manufacturing industries. in fact, Gartner predicts that by 2020 80% of technologies will be driven by artificial intelligence in some form. Epicor has answered that call with the rollout of the Epicor Virtual Agent, aptly named EVA. A Microsoft Azure-powered virtual assistant, EVA leverages AI to deliver insights and data in real-time to empower workforces wherever they find themselves.

Virtual assistants are nothing new. However, their ubiquitous nature has yet to be fully realized, and appropriately utilized, among traditional manufacturing operations. Gartner also believes that by 2022, enterprises utilizing Industry 4.0 technologies will have some form of a virtual assistant within the organization.

With built-in artificial intelligence, EVA is able to simplify user interactions with the ERP system and automate manual tasks to speed up operations. Text and voice cognitive skills enable EVA to transform data into visual representations. The result is an intuitive experience that allows users to complete actions on native devices with ease. The technology is powered by Natural Language Processing (NLP), a human-computer interactive technology that users can leverage from mobile devices with requests and tasks that will be addressed by the Epicor Virtual Agent. Targeted information and data to enable faster, better decision making is then delivered in real-time.

Insights 2019 Recap Epicor ERP 10.2.400 Update

Epicor ERP 10.2.400 has also been announced and will receive its full production update on the weekend or May 11th, 2019. Now it’s the time to be testing end-to-end for those customers keeping in pace with the Epicor ERP software update cadence. Among the changes coming with the Epicor ERP 10.2.400 update, users can expect to enjoy full use of and coming functionality that includes:

Experiences

Industry

  • Enhanced Project Management
  • Epicor Mobile Warehouse
  • Supplier Portal
  • MES Expansion
  • Epicor IoT

Analytics

  • Epicor Data Analytics Expansion
  • Epicor Data Discovery Expansion

Future (2019-2020)

  • UX Uplift (ongoing) Mobile Apps
  • ISV Partner Ecosystem
  • Compliance Engine
  • Enhanced BI/Analytics
  • Connected Enterprise

For more information on the updates discussed above, reach out the ERP experts at Encompass Solutions, Inc. using the contact us link below.

Exclusive Epicor Software Discounts

Encompass customers are entitled to exclusive discounts on Epicor software and services, provided they attended Insights 2019. If you were at Insights 2019 and wish to take advantage of reduced pricing on a number of Epicor ERP modules, SaaS subscriptions, and third-party integrations, get in touch with your Encompass Solutions Customer Account Manager today.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions, Inc. is an ERP consulting firm and Epicor Gold Partner that offers professional services in business consulting, project management, and software implementation. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems or addressing the emerging challenges in corporate and operational growth, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. As experts in identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.


When it comes to an ERP implementation or ERP upgrade, there are a significant number of factors to consider. Not only will you have to employ essential and proven ERP selection strategies, but getting the job done in a reasonable amount of time can be just as important. For some, it’s more important. Here are just a few ways a rapid implementation can be leveraged for a faster, smoother implementation process.

For more info on ERP implementation strategies, download our free guide for 8 Essential ERP Selection Strategies.

A customer recently went live in January, about 4 months after signing their purchase agreement with the ERP Vendor. Encompass had engaged with them in October, days after they completed their initial install. Several factors really helped ease the process, and you might want to consider them as you evaluate the potential benefits of rapid implementations.

1) Timing

Trying to time the project to coincide with your slow season will minimize downtime and maximize utilization of staff during what may be your least productive time. In the case of this example company, January to March is a dead time for one of their companies and about half volume for their second company. As a result, the choice was made to focus on a minimal go-live event in January. This allowed for extra time in February to wrap up loose threads and address potentially unforeseen issues.

an image of an hourglass, signifying that when time is short an erp rapid implementation may be the best solution.

2) Experience = Wisdom

The company’s core team was comprised of three members that had firsthand experience in other ERP implementations. That perspective made for significantly better decisions and focused efforts to be made throughout the project. It can be difficult imparting similar perspective to inexperienced customers who do not want or cannot afford to hire a consulting team for their rapid implementation, but it definitely helps when they have it.

3) Embrace The Phase

If the core requirement for your go-live strategy is to sell, ship, invoice customers, buy, and pay suppliers on day 1, a phased, or layered, approach can work exceptionally well. For all the other “wants” out of your ERP system, logging, planning and working on those components as soon as possible after go-live will deliver the results you are after. With this approach, you can be working other functionality you need within days of your go-live event.

In the case of our example company, the phased approach can be applied to things like engineering. By making sure they had their top-selling parts and parts on order fully engineered, everything else was pushed out with the understanding they would work through the list over time. In this case, data conversion from their old system wasn’t very clean, and most of their engineering data were bad, to begin with. Trying to have perfection on day 1 would have pushed the project out three months. Instead, they do not lose any operational function while they work within their ERP system to migrate and clean up their company data moving forward.

4) Vanilla Is A Good Choice

While a perfect implementation would be created around a business’ processes and workflows, this can cost a lot of time and money. For our example company, they didn’t have time to customize. Knowing that processes would have to change as a result, they accepted Epicor standard workflows and trained to them. Rather than bending the system to accommodate their process, they adapted some processes. Staff understood the legacy system was being replaced and that change was inevitable. It was a very realistic approach which delivered ideal results for an imperfect scenario.

a picture of vanilla ice cream,

Interested In An ERP Rapid Implementation?

If you are considering an ERP solution, think a rapid implementation is the best fit for your business, or would like to speak with an Encompass consultant about the topic, don’t hesitate to contact us using the link below. We look forward to connecting you with a business solution that fits your build.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions is a business and software consulting firm that specializes in ERP systems, EDI, and Managed Services support for Manufacturers and Distributors. Serving small and medium-sized businesses since 2001, Encompass modernizes operations and automates processes. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. By identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.