Three Ways to Advance Your Finance Operations

Coffee-break with GameChangers

Can a Finance department become more effective – even strategic to the business – through the applied use of innovative technologies? While many field experts say “yes,” Finance lags other corporate functions in technology adoption. Panelists on a recent SAP Game-Changers radiocast agree and suggest three promising technology-inspired alternatives to business-as-usual:

  1. In-memory computing for up-to-the-minute financial and operational data
  2. Cloud technology for quick implementations
  3. Analytics and enterprise mobility innovations for combined company and market information

So why have Finance departments made so little progress? Have they not found the right software or are tight budgets the issue? Panelists Bill Sinnitt, senior director of research for Financial Executives Research Foundation; John Steele, principal in Deloitte Consulting’s technology service area and leader in the SAP finance transformation practice; and SAP’s Birgit Starmanns, senior director in marketing for finance solutions, discuss these alternatives.

Leveraging in-memory computing and the SAP HANA platform

The SAP HANA platform, Steele notes, has democratized information, changing how information is gathered and what types are gathered. “I’ve never been more excited to be a practitioner in the whole finance and technology arena,” he says. “Over the last two years [companies have] moved their transaction processing …over into in memory. This is one of the most fundamental shifts that I have ever seen and it pulls together your analytical and transactional information into one common platform.” He then underscores the significant benefits of this shift:

  • Instant visibility into the organization
  • Greater focus on data quality
  • More time to focus on business processes through integrated planning

Getting comfortable in the cloud

SAP’s Birgit Starmanns explains that Finance has an obvious interest in the cloud, but many organizations are hesitant to put all their data there. For now, larger companies are cautiously migrating to the cloud with hybrid scenarios.

Smaller companies, on the other hand, are open to making a complete move to the cloud because, as Starmanns explains, “Lots of times they are using Microsoft Office applications to manage their business, so they are more ready because they don’t really have that historical larger footprint of an ERP system.”

Capitalizing on enterprise mobility and analytics

“You can never have enough analytics from business intelligence,” Sinnitt rationalizes.

With mobile devices playing an integral role in daily life, enterprise mobility has become a must for financial execs. The panelists examine some of mobile’s largest contributions:

  • Smoother and enriched order-to-cash processes
  • Enhanced forecasting and planning by putting the right information in the right hands
  • Greater insight from social data

All panelists agree that future CFOs will act as the catalysts for innovation. They predict that the next wave of advances will come in the form of visualization technology. Do you agree with this prediction? Listen to the full radiocast for more insights.

What Defines the CFO of the Future?

Coffee-break with GameChangers

It’s no secret that the financial world is dealing with a period of rapid change. Effectively managing these fluctuations is ultimately the job of the CFO – but what does the role of CFO look like now? A recent SAP Game-Changers radiocast explored this question with three panelists. Here are their opinions.

Diversify your duties

“Remain constructively discontent” might be the most useful advice to current CFOs and other financial leaders. This quote from Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent was invoked by Kyleen Wissell, Corporate Director of Internal Controls within the office of the CFO at the Coca-Cola Company. She believes in a culture of innovation and growth – and that starts with strong entrepreneurial mentality at the top levels. Contentedness can lead to complacence, especially in a time of rapid advancement. A watchful eye on possible improvements inherently enables progress.

Elena Shishkina, CFO of SAP UK and Ireland, agrees. She multitasks in as many areas of the company as possible, because, as she says, “I don’t know how my role will look tomorrow. I strongly believe you can only achieve the best outcome for the team and for the organization if you lead with excellence.” Shishkina views herself not just as a leader in finance but a leader in overall business transformation.

Many CFOs now realize that their position is defined by more than a collection of numbers. Richard Sernyak, principle at PricewaterhouseCoopers responsible for the SAP finance transformation practice, concurs that statistics don’t paint a full picture of an organization’s financial health. Greater focus should be placed on unstructured data such as social media. He explains, “What’s important is that not everything that can be counted counts…you need to look beyond the data and really understand what’s important.”

Take control of a new role

The paradigm is shifting as CFOs need to keep up with their traditional, spreadsheet-intensive responsibilities while creating more value for the business. Some of the unique responsibilities now require CFOs to:

1. Act as the lynchpin across the company for presenting actionable information in a dynamic way.
2. Enable proactive, predictive modelling in real time on mobile devices.
3. Enhance performance by spending less time on tasks that don’t provide added value.
4. Look past the numbers to see their context.
5. Take a more holistic view of the business by adopting innovative technologies (which we discussed in another recent radiocast).

Leading a top-notch finance department requires more soft skills than ever before, according to Wissell. CFOs must draw upon emotional intelligence, considering their internal customers, external customers, and opportunities to introduce a pure model that touts more of a specialist view.

As the transformation marches on, all panelists agree that championing technology will become paramount for the CFO. Sernyak sees the role becoming more intertwined with that of CIO as more millennials flood the marketplace and eventually move into leadership positions. Beyond an affinity for fast-paced innovation, Shishkina asserts that CFOs of the future must be culturally aware and sensitive to different aspects of diversity.

That’s quite a list of attributes! So are you a CFO of the future? Listen to the full radiocast.

Real-Time Finance: Helping Strong CFOs Transform Their Businesses

From Birgit Starmanns, SAP

Life happens in real time. Buying a new TV? You probably research your purchase , read reviews, and compare prices online. Get store opening times, directions, and parking. Even check your account balance. All the information you need is at your fingertips.

You’re constantly making decisions based on the best available data at any given moment. So why can’t you do the same for your business?

Particularly in times of market volatility, when organizations are bombarded by risks and opportunities, finance functions need a precise view of the past, immediate insight into the present, and a clear perspective on the future.

But all too often, a disjointed landscape of IT applications and silos of data mean that the best you can hope for is reliable historical information. Why? Because it takes so long to piece together the picture that the present has already elapsed.

What Is Real-Time Finance?

Real-time finance starts with being able to align all corporate data effortlessly to provide a single source of truth. It demands agile information delivery—to help you make decisions, take action, and adjust plans based on what’s happening right now. And increasingly, it relies on predictive capability to anticipate risks and understand trends and business drivers before they impact the business.

Real time isn’t simply about accelerating your business—it’s about reinventing it. It’s about having insight and foresight whenever you need it, wherever you need it, and business processes that can adapt dynamically. That might mean:

  • Being able to provide intercompany reconciliation on the fly
  • Detecting potential fraudulent activity
  • Gaining visibility into your cash position at any given moment
  • Evolving from a periodic to a continuous financial close

To find out more about the transformative potential of real-time finance and the art of the possible, visit the innovations radio show.

Performance, value and superior service…delivered in about 10 minutes!

I’m all for making things simpler. Why use one hundred words to say something you could do in just ten? That’s one reason I like this recorded presentation, which running at just under ten minutes is just enough time to give me the information that I need, without making it a laborious process. So, if you have ten minutes for a short break from your daily activity, then why not have a look at this new whiteboard describing how SAP solutions for LoB Finance can help organizations achieve financial excellence.

Best Practice Cash-flow and Liquidity Management

I’ve once worked for a company that was making truly wonderful profits but running out of cash because we were growing too quickly as we were intent on building market share so we could sell it off at a good multiple. Believe me it wasn’t fun at the time and we ended up taking some desperate measures like selling the furniture off and leasing it back so we could pay the staff. It all worked out OK, but the acquiring had to inject a tranche of working capital to put the ongoing expansion on an even keel. 

We made a positive choice to follow that risky path but with banks less willing for provide lines of credit and an overall decline in demand for most goods and services, cash-flow and liquidity are once again top of the mind for CFOs and CEOs because they are all too aware that their bigger, long-term goals will never be achieved if short-term liquidity obligations cannot be met. Against this backdrop, most companies must increasingly depend on their commercial cash flows to sustain their business. My  colleagues Chakib Bouhdary and Jim D’Addario have just written a new Executive Insight titled Managing_Cash_Flow_in_Times_of_Crisis_Executive_Insight that sets out best practice for protecting cash and liquidity that clearly shows that it is strongly correlated with a reduced Days Sales Outstanding (DOS) -See the graph to the right. One company they mention is Paris based Stef-TFE Group that implemented SAP ERP Financials that provides real-time management of collections and dispute processes and immediately reduced DOS by 3 days and bad-debt write-off by 10% which are exactly the types of improvement needed to improved cash flow in the current environment.

SAP has also recently launched a starter kit for liquidity planning with the SAP® BusinessObjects™ Planning and Consolidation application, version for the SAP NetWeaver® technology platform, that helps companies quickly deploy a solution to automate liquidity forecasts and improves their accuracy. The kit provides users with detailed cash-flow information, allows them to model the impact of different company and currency scenarios on cash flows, and prepare executive reports based on those scenarios. You can read all about it here – Fast Track to Improved Liquidity Planning

  

SAPPHIRE NOW Invoice-to-Pay Session

by Joe Pacor

Recently, I wrote an article on SAP’s Invoice-to-Payment (I2P) automated process, titled “Don’t Walk Alone on the Invoice-to-Pay Trail”. I highlighted the Partner solution ecosystem that has developed in support of the I2P end-to-end functionality, which includes both Open Text and Crossgate. So when I was given the opportunity to present this topic at SAPPHIRE NOW, I immediately reached out to these strategic Partners to participate with me. The result, I believe, was a content-rich session, while remaining relatively brief (20 minute timeslots were closely monitored) which is now available for viewing at www.sapphirenow.com Continue reading