Back in the Mad Men days, what we now call PowerPoint slides were known as “foils.” Imaged onto big sheets of Kodak slide film and displayed on overhead projectors, they were expensive and time-consuming to produce. You had to be absolutely sure you had your numbers right before getting them made.

At big companies, there was a quarterly panic as each Division President would present his foils to the CEO. He would have to present the division’s performance versus plan as well as projections for the upcoming period. Today, this once excruciating process has been automated with Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) software.

What Is Enterprise Performance Management Software?

EPM software refers to a class of application that helps you analyze, understand and report on a business, or division of a larger company. It’s related to Business Intelligence (BI). CFOs are the main users of EPM solutions. The toolset comprises features for planning, forecasting and budgeting. They let you report on business performance by consolidating and finalizing financial results, i.e. “closing the books.”

An EPM solution may be connected to your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. The two work together, with ERP providing operational data and raw financial results. ERPs are used to run a business, in operational terms. EPM helps manage the business. Executives can use EPM solutions to go from financial metrics to strategic insights. They can highlight places where managers can drive improved performance.

What Are the Best EPM Solutions?

Which EPM solution is right for you? That will depend on who you are and whom you ask. The EPM field is quite broad, with offerings from small Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) providers all the way to the biggest tech companies in the world. Gartner, which has renamed the category “Cloud Financial Close Solutions,” offers a Magic Quadrant to help you assess who’s best. This new name resonates with one of the most common uses of the tools today: the creation of presentations for the Board of Directors.

The Gartner Magic Quadrant places Oracle and Blackline at the uppermost positions in the Leader Quadrant. This represents Gartner’s opinion on these two firms’ completeness of vision and ability to execute. The other Leaders include Workiva, Host Analytics, CCH Tagetik and OneStream Software. These products are mostly meant for big, or mid-range companies.

If you check out Capterra, the site will show you rankings of the highest rated Business Performance Management Software. This list is totally different from the Gartner Quadrant. Their number one rated tool is Scopi, which offers budgeting and forecasting, strategic planning, quantitative analysis, scorecarding and more.

Next up is Project Indicator, which is more oriented toward project and business unit management. It offers ad-hoc reports and ad-hoc analysis as well as predictive analytics, dashboards and budgeting and forecasting. ResultMaps, the third highest-rated EPM-like tool on Capterra, bills itself as being most suited to “Teams and individuals looking to keep focused accountability and alignment without adding command-and-control style process overhead.” It provides features such as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) ad-hoc reports, consolidation and roll-ups.

It’s difficult to tell which solution is truly the best, partly because everyone’s needs are slightly different. The Gartner and Capterra rankings do provide some insights into what business managers like. That’s helpful. Additionally, the tool will only do so much. What’s arguably as important, or even more important, is the thinking and planning that goes into business performance reporting and reviews.