How to Build a Successful Career in EPM - SystemsAccountants

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes How to Build a Successful Career in EPM

EPM (enterprise performance management) is a process and software system designed to help organisations monitor and improve their performance. It can support finance teams with budgeting, planning, forecasting and modelling. It can also report results to stakeholders, analyse performance across divisions or products, and assist with regulation compliance.

Because of these integral functions, an EPM system is a core part of the business, ensuring streamlined operations and valuable insights. Implementing and running it can be a hugely rewarding job. As well as combining technical skills and financial knowledge, you’ll get involved in problem-solving and strategic decision-making, and manage multiple projects in a fast-paced environment.

“The output of EPM systems can actually inform business decisions. The reporting, analytics and KPIs can range from the periphery and unimportant to the critical and urgent – that’s what makes EPM interesting and exciting,” says Paul Atkinson, Solution Architect at Cygnus.

EPM career paths

Many people who work in EPM have a finance background, but it’s not essential. For example, you could have experience as a sales analyst, an accountant, an engineer, or be hired straight from university with a relevant degree. What unites the best ERP professionals is their ability to understand, structure, and manipulate data.

There are two major career routes within EPM.

  • In-house EPM roles. If you’re working in-house, you may need to decide whether you prefer working on the front end, building dashboards and reports, or concentrating on the back end, extracting and manipulating data. In-house EPM professionals sometimes find it helpful to focus on one platform, specialising to become, for example, a OneStream architect. This is not an expectation, however, and a range of experience is also valuable.
  • EPM consultancy roles. EPM consultants advise on the administration and implementation of EPM systems. This requires a strategic mind and a wealth of experience working with a range of companies on various projects. Because of this, it may be something you choose to do later in your career. “Good consultants need confidence,” says Paul Atkinson. “You do have to be able to stand up and say no, I’m right.”

As your career progresses, think about whether you would like to take on a leadership role, such as being a finance systems director. This will involve advising the C-suite.

Steps to achieve career success

  1. Deliberately target specific experiences

Recruiters typically want to see proven experience before they hire. So, if you have worked with third-party providers, consulting firms, and cross-functional teams for successful integrations, make sure you highlight it on your CV, LinkedIn, and in job interviews. 

Be a technical expert, but also be tech agnostic. Unless you’re targeting a platform-specific role, it’s generally beneficial not to be married to one platform. This means you can think more holistically about data and how things fit together, and it will also help if you move to another job that uses a different EPM system, or if your current employer switches to a different one. 

“My advice would be don’t get wedded to one platform, especially if you want to go down the consultancy route. Be open to other platforms, other ideas, and what other people think,” says Paul Atkinson. “Try to experience a number of different contexts and applications of the software. Go and experience different businesses, different industry sectors, different solutions. This breadth of experience allows you to understand the full potential of EPM.”

  • Keep on top of new technologies

Keep up-to-date with new technologies and solutions, and be at the forefront of what the industry needs. Understanding emerging data tech platforms, such as SaaS cloud-based solutions, will make you an invaluable asset, improving your chances of securing a position or landing a promotion, advancing your career. 

AI is the big trend to watch at the moment. “AI is still experimental, but it’s increasingly pervasive,” says Atkinson. “If an EPM provider isn’t trying to integrate AI somewhere this could signify a lack of forward-thinking.”

You should also ensure you’re informed about cybersecurity. There’s a significant industry-wide skills and knowledge gap here, so if you can demonstrate expertise in this area you could be at an advantage.

  • Master the soft skills

EPM isn’t just about technical expertise. You’ll also need to hone your soft skills to build a successful career in EPM. Communication is one of the most important: vital for working collaboratively with a team, and managing stakeholder relationships. Depending on your role, you may need to sell the system to people who are resistant to change, and deal with different personalities. Consider how you can tell stories about what you can do with the technology – this could help with influencing non-technical executives. 

“You can be the best analyst in the world, but if you can’t communicate the information that you’ve extracted – those key measures, key risks, actionable insights – your analysis won’t have the impact it should have” notes Atkinson.

Other key skills include the ability to deal with change (projects and timelines often change), patience, problem-solving and resilience.

  • Obtain relevant certifications

While not essential to building a successful EPM career, gaining certifications and attending training courses can give you the edge. For example, OneStream offers four levels of role-based certification, while Oracle University offers exam-based qualifications in a variety of its applications. You could also look at accountancy qualifications, project management courses and business certifications, depending on your role, and where you lack skills.

Relevant qualifications can open doors to new jobs and promotions. They can be especially helpful if you’re a consultant, as it proves your expertise to clients and reassures them that they can delegate to you.

Check if your employer will pay for certifications. If needed, make a business case to show why the course will improve your work.

  • Be strategic about the roles you take on

It may be tempting to take a promotion that offers more money, or a role that is traditionally seen as the “next step” in an EPM career, but Atkinson advises to think carefully first. “Don’t rush. Make the smart choice,” he urges. “Make the choice that in the long run will pay off better. Don’t push for a promotion that might pay more money today, but doesn’t build the experience you need for long-term career success. Think about what it delivers for you. Does it teach you something new?”

Consider what sort of role you enjoy, and what you would like to learn. Do you prefer working in smaller companies, or corporate giants? Would you like to work in a particular sector?

Think about your long-term career goal and whether taking a new job gets you further towards it.

  • Don’t over-promise and under-deliver

This applies to a wide range of careers, but is crucial in the world of EPM. Whether you’re a consultant taking on a new client, or a project manager discussing timescales with senior stakeholders, never be tempted to over-promise. Otherwise you risk under-delivering – and this could damage your reputation and harm your career.

Be realistic, and honest. Know your weaknesses, and allow for things to go wrong. If you have a great team around you, you should be able to get a project back on track. Those who work professionally and with integrity are more likely to get a glowing reference from their employer and lead to more work in future.

  • Build a professional network

A professional network can help support you, give advice, and highlight job opportunities. Use websites like LinkedIn, and also get out there and attend real-life events to meet people.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time, but there are still times when I reach out to my network and say, ‘I don’t know how to do this. Have you got any ideas?’ Having a network is incredibly important,” says Atkinson.

“LinkedIn is fantastic. As a networking tool, you can’t beat it. I have a QR code on my business card that you can scan and it links to my LinkedIn profile,” he adds. “Go along to courses and conferences and stay in touch with people that you meet there.”

The potential of EPM

Pursuing a career in EPM requires a unique blend of technical expertise, financial insight, and strategic decision-making. Beyond the practical steps to success, it’s crucial to view your career trajectory through a strategic lens. Think of each role as a building block toward mastering the art of data-driven decision-making. 

In this fast-paced field, the ability to thrive amid change will set you apart. Let your passion for performance drive you to empower businesses with insights that shape the future.