The surprising answer is ‘yes’. Let me explain.
Analogies are useful in life and particularly in sales. You want to explain in simple terms to a customer why they should buy your product, and particularly buy yours first?
“Make sure you’ve got strong foundations before you think about walls and a roof!”
I hear this a lot from prospective customers when we’re talking about Corporate Performance Management (CPM). They’re often talking to big ERP vendors who make a forceful case that the client needs to get all of their data in to one neat place before they start to think about what that data might be telling them.
It’s an appealing story. As human beings we understand the analogy, and we like to organise things. Put everything in its place before we move forward. It’s high cost, but low risk. A natural thing to do.
Unfortunately, against all of our instincts, it’s often wrong.
Firstly, it’s not necessary. The fussy systems of old may have needed a single source of clean data from which to work, but modern CPM connects easily to multiple feeds and can store a good volume of data itself.
Once the data is in there, however diverse the sources, we find customers very quickly start to see value, from simple automation and reporting, through to detailed insight and analysis.
What they learn from the CPM system often goes a long way to helping finance teams define what they want from their ERP vendor. With the flaws and gaps in their data laid bare, they can much better brief their chosen megavendor on what’s required up front, rather than calling them back in for expensive reconfigurations later.
Finally, and this is the kicker, customers find they are then insulated from the transformation when the major ERP development comes. Because their interface – the CPM system – doesn’t change. While the underlying data feeds shift over, the finance team have much greater continuity as the rest of the organisation goes through upheaval.
Analogies may help us get to grips with all sorts of complex ideas. But sometimes the idea just doesn’t translate from one context to another. When it comes to CPM, it really is worth building the roof before the foundations.