SAP Makes Great Leap Forward in Latest Gartner Magic Quadrant for CPM Suites

From David Williams, Head of EPM Product Marketing, SAP

It’s that time of year again – anxiously waiting for the release of the latest Gartner Magic Quadrant for CPM Suites and appearing at the Financials 2014 conference. These are two key events that happen early each year and provide considerable conversation around SAP solutions for enterprise performance management (EPM).

Our EPM portfolio falls into Gartner’s definition of “corporate performance management,” or CPM. And whether you call  this category CPM or EPM or BPM as different vendors and analysts do, what’s being referred to are applications typically used by finance teams (but increasingly being used by other lines of business) to support setting and executing on strategy, planning/budgeting/forecasting, profitability modeling and optimization, and close/consolidations/disclosure management.

I can now cross both off the anticipation list – the Gartner Magic Quadrant for CPM Suites has just been released as we just wrapped up the Financials 2014 event in Orlando.

School of Horse-Eye Jacks following Longjaw Squirrelfish, underwater shot

SAP’s Completeness of Vision Rating Rises

I’m happy to say that for the eighth year in a row, SAP has been positioned as a “Leader” in the report. Of particular note this year was a move to the right for SAP on Completeness of Vision. According to Gartner, Leaders have a large percentage of the CPM suite market share and demonstrate superior CPM sales levels. They can deliver breadth and depth of CPM suite functionality, as well as provide enterprise-wide implementations to support a broad CPM strategy. Leaders excel at vision, successfully articulate a business proposition that resonates with buyers, are well-recognized in the space, have broad international presence in execution, and are supported by the viability and operational capability to deliver on a global basis.

Peering into the SAP EPM portfolio there have been a number of recent innovations leveraging what Gartner refers to as the “Nexus of Forces” – mobile, cloud, social, and information. Examples of this are the leveraging of mobile and in-memory technologies (SAP HANA) to transform planning and analysis capabilities. Providing simplified mobile interfaces for business users to both consume and input plan or budget data anytime/anywhere provides increased engagement beyond Finance, increased response time and ultimately better results. Having an underlying platform that can handle rapid, complex allocations, calculations and simulations at any level of detail changes the behavior of those involved in analysis and planning. Why? Because in the past we did not ask certain questions, particularly at certain times of the day/month or year for fear of the lights flickering and the system grinding to a halt. Those days are behind us and the SAP HANA platform is removing the performance barriers that once limited applications’ ability to support the business so we can sense what’s happening, simulate outcomes, and act much faster than ever before. An example of this is SAP HANA powering the SAP Business Planning and Consolidation, version for SAP NetWeaver (aka “BPC NW”) application. Many customers are running this killer combination today and experiencing tangible business benefits including HP.

At the end of 2013, SAP had a number of key releases including SAP Business Planning and Consolidation 10.1, version for SAP NetWeaver, SAP EPM Unwired 3.0, and SAP Financial Consolidation support for SAP HANA as a database. The newest version of SAP Business Planning and Consolidation includes a redesigned, highly-intuitive HTML 5 web user interface and best-in-class integration into SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse with the ability to build planning models directly on existing Objects.

SAP EPM Unwired 3.0 has a new Fiori-like look and feel, and new customization capabilities and content. Because it’s built on the mobile business intelligence (BI) platform, you can access your existing SAP BusinessObjects BI reports as well as your reports based on SAP Business Planning and Consolidation, version for SAP NetWeaver and input schedules in one app.

These and other innovations will be on display at the upcoming Financials 2014 event in Nice, France (check out the agenda).  I hope to see you there!

Effective Communication Requires Striking a Balance in the Age of Increasing Information

From Malcolm Faulkner, Senior Director Product Marketing, SAP

History reveals that a lack of communication, or a breakdown in communications, can determine the outcome of individual battles and entire military campaigns.

Perhaps the most controversial military debacle attributed to an initially vague order unclearly communicated was the famous charge of the light brigade during the Crimean War’s Battle of Balaclava in 1854.

In another example from historian Joseph Persico’s excellent book, 11th Month, 11th Day, 11th Hour, a senior officer, after the third Ypres battle being driven to the front lines, viewed the muddy wasteland. He is reputed to have broken into tears, cried, “Good God, did we really send men to fight in that?” His driver responded, “It gets worse, farther on up.”

While the consequences of bad business decisions pale in comparison to military ones, there are lessons in communication we can learn and apply in business today.

Improving Employee Communication

As the much quoted Kaplan and Norton’s research reveals, “Only 5% of the workforce understand their company’s strategy.”  It’s not that companies don’t communicate their strategy – but they do a poor job ensuring the message is received.

In an age of increasing information, the challenge is sifting through relevant and trustworthy data quickly enough and surfacing the salient facts upon which to make decisions. Then, the directives that determine the desired course of action need to be regularly reinforced.

Effective communication doesn’t mean broadcasting a strategy once a year that most employees immediately forget.  Nor is it a matter of inundating employees with so many e-mails, meetings, and announcements that they tune out.  As employees are more inundated with information, their attention spans are correspondingly shorter.

We need to find the right balance in communication, and deliver a message that employees can embrace and provide them with the resources and support to make them successful. 

African American businessman talking on cell phone

What Not To Do

It’s critical to recognize the limitations as well as the benefits of modern communication.  E-mails go unread? Time to pick up the phone!  Indiscriminatingly hitting Reply-All increases the chances of tuning people out. Webinars are not as effective as face to face meetings.  This might all seem a bit old school, but it’s hard to argue otherwise.

Endless op reviews and meetings might seem to make sense, but do these activities really translate into tangible change or are we just rehashing the same story?

All too often, senior management becomes removed from the day-to-day workings of their organizations. They hear from only a few voices, usually their direct reports. Their information can be skewed by personal and political factors or they may be simply tuned out.

Tools You Can Use

Performance management tools can help you pinpoint places in the organization that need your attention. In times past, the main challenge was just getting information. Now we have the challenge of too much information. Technologies can help us sift through huge volumes of data, highlight what’s most important, and take action.

One visionary example of the use of such tools is the widely acclaimed CitizenInsight application deployed by the City of Boston to keep its constituents informed of government initiatives and performance.  Creating a simple iPad application like this, that clearly communicates strategy and performance and is accessible and readily available, is an effective way of addressing the 5% issue.

But even this isn’t enough, though.  The message needs to be followed up to ensure employees understand it. Much like the charge of the light brigade – confusion can result in a disastrous course of action.

Attending the SAPinsider Financials 2014 conference next week in Orlando? If you are planning to be there then why not come and hear me talk more about performance management in my session on Wednesday 19th March, “Achieve excellence with end-to-end financial planning and analytic solutions”. I look forward to communicating with you there!

Don’t Miss the Mobile Excitement for Finance and EPM Solutions in Orlando!

From Karuna Mukherjea, Senior Director Product Marketing SAP solutions for EPM

Financials

We’re less than a week away from the much anticipated SAPinsider Financials 2014 Conference. The excitement is building around the mobile EPM innovations and technology we’ve been feverishly working on the past few months.

What makes events like Financials 2014 really meaningful is talking with our customers, our partners and all those that touch or consume our solutions in different ways. We’re starting to see a lot of core technologies impact organizations at a macro level and not just a specific solution. Customers are taking our solutions and integrating them to solve specific business issues they have. And customers and partners are sharing war stories about how they have really pushed SAP solutions for EPM to the limits to enable and empower their organizations.

I’m excited and honored to be part of this mobile EPM journey. My first stop at the event (and I hope yours too) will be the Tuesday morning (18 March) Keynote by Christian Rodatus. During the keynote, Bill Guilmart who heads up the SAP EPM Solution Management team will do a live demo of the SAP EPM Unwired solution, a mobile user interface that is tied to SAP Business Planning and Consolidation, powered by SAP HANA.  Bill will talk about how key executives and organizations can leverage this solution to help them react and respond in real time to business issues, and better manage and predict business outcomes.

There are several other stops I plan in this exciting journey and I encourage you to participate too, so you can get a look first hand at the mobile solutions available for EPM and Finance. Here are sessions that you absolutely cannot miss -

EPM and mobility: Capabilities, integration points, and process decisions

Mobilize your finance organization using SAP mobility solutions

Live demo: Mobile performance management with SAP EPM Unwired 3.0

Extending key performance management processes with SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.1

I look forward to seeing you at SAPinsider Financials2014 and taking this journey together.

Spring into performance at SAPinsider Financials 2014

While I have nothing in particular against the months of January and February, I’m always pleased for March to arrive, as spring is generally well on the way by then. Seeing the splashes of colour from the spring flowers gives me hope that Field of Red and Purple Tulipswe’re just a few short weeks away from brighter and hopefully warmer days.

Bright and warm days are, of course, not in question for anyone planning to attend the SAPinsider Financials 2014 Conference in Orlando, 17-21 March. Similar to those spring flowers, this event heralds the start of an exciting and no doubt, colourful events season.

With SAPinsider Financials being one of the first key events on the SAP events calendar, I’m sure that attendees will be eager to get the most out of this superb event.

For SAP’s EPM team, the Financials 2014 event is shaping up very nicely. EPM sessions are featured in a number of the event tracks, with topics ranging from best practice tips and advice, to the impact of innovative technologies on EPM processes like in-memory and mobility solutions, as well as multiple sessions focused on customer success.

If you’re attending the Financials 2014 event then you can review details of sessions online before you go and select your topics of interest. Here are a few EPM sessions that I’d recommend:

Case study: Consolidation process improvements at Bank of America using SAP Business Planning and Consolidation

Case study: How Hunt Consolidated deployed SAP Business Planning and Consolidation on SAP HANA to reduce the time it takes to perform planning and forecasting activities

The 2014 guide to SAP enterprise performance management (EPM) solutions

EPM and mobility: Capabilities, integration points, and process decisions

These are just some of the many sessions available this year at Financials 2014, in addition to the excellent pre-conference workshops for attendees wishing to dive into deeper levels of their subject areas.

My advice – if you’re attending – is to plan ahead on how you’ll spend your time. It’ll pay dividends in the end, so you can maximize your time, and the value you’ll get out of the conference.

Watch the @CFOKnowledge twitter handle over the next few weeks for links to more EPM sessions at SAPinsider Financials 2014.

Financials 2013 – the first, “Major” for 2013 is about to begin

From: David Williams, Head of Product Marketing, EPM Solutions, SAP

SAPinsider Financials 2013If like golf or tennis, we had “majors” in terms of events pertaining to SAP’s solutions for Enterprise Performance Management (EPM), “SAPinsider Financials” would be one of them – our spring opener on the circuit held where else but Las Vegas (March 19-22) . And like years prior, this year will not disappoint with a packed agenda covering EPM and financial applications topics. You can find a list of sessions here as well as read a good overview of the keynote/some of the sessions on CFOKnowledge.

From an EPM perspective, content will span managing financial performance (strategy management; planning, budgeting and forecasting; and profitability optimization) as well as accelerating the financial close to disclose (close, consolidations and disclosure management). In fact, two Pre-conference Workshops on March 18 will cover these areas in more depth: A step-by-step guide to execute a faster financial close and disclose process and I’ll personally be co-presenting The 2013 guide to SAP functionality for planning and financial performance.

There will also be deep dive sessions and customer presentations on key solution/product areas such as SAP Business Planning and Consolidation, version for SAP NetWeaver, powered by SAP HANA, SAP Strategy Management, SAP Profitability and Cost Management, SAP Financial Consolidation and SAP Disclosure Management. One thing I want to highlight in particular is new SAP Business Planning and Consolidation, version for SAP NetWeaver, powered by SAP HANA exercises that will be featured in the SAP EPM Solution Lab at the event. These new exercises will walk business users through loading data into the system, creating dimension member formulas that will be calculated by the SAP HANAMDX engine later this year, and a guided tour for technical folks. Based on first-hand customer experience, we’ll also compare the time it takes to perform these activities using SAP HANA versus a traditional relational database to help articulate the business value of running SAP Business Planning and Consolidation, version for SAP NetWeaver on SAP HANA.

There will be a number of subject matter experts at the event so don’t hesitate to come down and visit us at the SAP stations in the vendor showcase area/or in the SAP EPM Solution Lab. You’ll also be able to catch vBlog highlights from each day and make sure to follow the conversation on @SAPEPM, @daveswilliams and @BusinessObjects twitter handles as well as #Financials2013 hashtag for real-time updates on what’s happening at the event.

Looking forward to seeing you in Las Vegas!

Accelerated insight to profitability analysis

Having profitability reports by a single dimension such as customer, product or channel is fairly meaningless as they do not reveal exactly what makes a customer profitable or not. It could be the prices they pay, the low margin products they purchase or the high cost channels they buy through – who knows? But manipulating multidimensional data that may have many thousands and potentially millions of records in each dimension has never been easy, so many organizations have struggled to gain full insight from data. 

Well those days are over. In this video, Michael Crowe of Colgate-Palmolive Company talks about how they they gain better insight into brand and customer profitability analysis performed at unparalleled speed with SAP CO-PA Accelerator, powered by SAP HANA, As they say in the video, they now analyze high volumes of data and benefit from improved productivity at month-end close – going live in just eight weeks.

While most retailers stand still – WH Smith continues to thrive with SAP

The last few weeks of the year that run up to Christmas is the time retailers make most of their profits and the recent announcements put out by our UK retailers show that many have had a difficult time with a dip in like-for-like sales. Many put it down to the adverse weather in December with a weeks of persistent snow and frost. But the steady slide in house prices and rising unemployment are the most likely culprits undermining consumer confidence. Many UK consumers are doing exactly what UK business have done for the last couple of years – cut back on spending and paid off debt. 

However there are a few notable exceptions and the High Street division of  WH Smith PLC* is one of them. WH Smith High Street competes against major supermarket such as Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury and powerful on-line retailers such as Amazon – and you probably wouldn’t want to set up such a business today. Yet it continually delivers improving profits and has outperformed the FTSE 100 in recent years, paying increasing dividends and buying in shares, so that investors have enjoyed good returns. It’s a laudable achievement that earnings per share have tripled since 2006!  

In its year-end results in August 2010, the company announced that’ High Street continues to deliver consistent profit growth and strong cash generation with profits of £51m, up 4% on the prior year. We continue with our strategy to rebalance the mix of the business towards our core categories whilst reducing our presence in entertainment. Cost savings of £12m were delivered in line with our plan. A further £13m of cost savings have been identified making a total of £25m over the next three years.’Yesterday in its year-end trading announcement the company said that  LFL sales in High Street were again down by 7% in the 8 weeks to 22nd January 2011, further strategic alignment by withdrawing from the ‘entertainment’ category, (DVD’s CD’s and computer games),  – but that margins had continued to improve. Now while WHSmith High Street cannot keep shrinking for ever, it is a wonderful milch cow in generating cash to grow the Travel business where there are better opportunities for growth. 

So what’s their secret sauce? Well undoubtedly a world-class CEO in Kate Swan, who has shown she is committed to keeping this 200-year old business aligned with a rapidly changing market and well capable of taking incisive decisions. But many of the cost savings are surely under-pinned by the implementation of SAP ERP and SAP ERP Financials in the middle of the last decade when 50 financial software systems in the company’s UK-based warehouses were integrated into a single system giving better visibility into the supply chain. At the same time the company implemented what is now SAP BusinessObjects Profitability and Cost Management to accurately measure net product profitability at the category level and to give better insight into the cost of core business processes. It is this insight that has informed their product strategy – and probably the strategy for High Street, which in recent years has seen a return to smaller formats such as motorway service stations. At heart it’s a simple case of ‘If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it’  –  but they stand out as shining example in the retail world of how world-class performance management really helps improve the value derived from world-class transactional systems.

What’s more with the withdrawal of Borders from the UK, they are the only UK retailer where you are sure of finding specialist magazines – cycling, the outdoors and jazz in my case – no doubt all higher margin SKU’s!          

* WH Smith PLC consists of High Street and Travel divisions