Signs that Your Financial Close Process May Be Broken

From Elizabeth Milne, Senior Director Product Marketing EPM, SAP


Recently I worked with Deloitte to publish the paper “5 Signs that Your Financial Close Process May Be Broken (and What to Do about It).” Deloitte is a fantastic partner with massive experience working around the close process and helping organizations shorten the close cycles and improve quality.

I worked with John Steele, Principal, Stuart Scott, Senior Manager, and Swapna Satwik, Manager at Deloitte on this paper. We had many conversations sharing our experiences working with customers to define the “5 Signs.”

The area of the financial close is where I’ve been focused pretty much since the beginning of my career. I started out working in finance at The Walt Disney Company and at Warner Bros closing the books and creating financial reports. Later, I moved to the software side of things and spent eight years implementing consolidation software.

Part of the fun of working on implementations is working with the customers to understand their processes and how we can improve them. The area of financial consolidation certainly has it’s complexities, but there are also consistencies across organizations.

So what are the five signs?

  • No defined close process
  • Not enough automation
  • No access to real-time data
  • Poor integration with plan and actual data
  • Manual creation of financial statements

And what should you do about them? Well, download the paper to find out!

In order to improve the close process, you need to identify any area where you can standardize, automate, and centralize. This analysis should cover people, processes, and technology.

To read the paper, visit Deloitte’s collateral kiosk and search on Financial Close.


This article was originally posted on the SAP Analytics blog channel, 21 August 2014

Is Yoga our best performance management tool? – Part 2

From Malcolm Faulkner, Senior Director Product Marketing, SAP

Optimal performance depends on the effectiveness of the employees and management. Peak performance requires us to have alert and agile minds. In business we need to monitor the environment for changing conditions, opportunities and threats. Agile minds means we are able quickly interpret situations and devise appropriate responses. We were not created to be sedentary creatures and we can only have optimal mental performance if we are physically fit. Whether or not you do other forms of exercise Yoga makes a good complement as it stretches and relaxes tight muscles. Organizations in turn benefit from fit employees. Some progressive companies have recognized this and in addition to having onsite workout facilities schedule Yoga classes.

Continuing on from part I where I wrote about four ways in which Yoga helps you perform better, here are my five other reasons.

  • Focus
  • Patience
  • Courage
  • Clarity of mind
  • Fitness and health

5. Focus

In a world of increasing technological distractions and ever shortening attention spans the ability to focus is seemingly becoming a lost art. Some activities simply require deep concentration. Try computer programming or writing a blog, while being constantly interrupted. Instead, try taking some time with the smart phone and your browser shut off and focus your mind on a task at hand.

6. Patience

Depending on our job at some point we all have to either deal with unhappy customers, difficult co-workers, micro managers, overbearing, irrational bosses and worse. All of which require patience. How we handle these situations makes all the difference – we can escalate or mitigate. Yoga poses take time to perfect – they teach us to be patient.

7. Courage

Perhaps strange but courage is a word I hear yoga teachers use often. How exactly does yoga teach us courage? Our lives are not in danger and we are unlikely to get hurt. If it gets difficult we can stop. I’ve been doing yoga for so long I am completely un-phased about walking into a studio. In fact, as a Bikram yoga junkie I relish the heat. Yet, I often see the apprehension on newbies faces. The simple fact is they know they are about to struggle and endure the effort and exhaustion caused from a new and rigorous exercise practice. Some poses are frankly frightening as you could fall over while trying to do an unsupported handstand or headstand and break or tear something nasty. It would be easy to opt for something else less painful (at least initially). Developing the courage to do some of these “dangerous” poses might take years. The same is true in our personal and work lives – making difficult decisions takes courage and it is usually easier to opt for the status quo.

8. Clarity of mind

Having a clear mind allows us to make good decisions, to not overreact and to find the best course of action in any situation. It is hard to make good decisions when you are stressed or flustered. Yoga encourages and provides us with an opportunity to practice focusing the mind and in doing so clearing it of the plethora of thoughts that permeate and convolute our physical existence. This is possible because of the effort and concentration required to hold and perfect a pose. Through this mediation miraculously we begin to see things clearer and calmer. We can explore all angles of an issue and will likely formulate a more measured, well-thought out response to any problems, disputes or challenges that vex us, than we would have otherwise.

9. Fitness and health

Recently I read that a couple of years since the London Olympics that perversely physical activity in the UK has declined to levels below before the games. The desire to exercise is a personal thing. For those that don’t like to exert themselves physically there are forms of yoga that provide the many benefits described above in a gentle, gradual way, without the need to sweat so much. Much of the benefits of Yoga, after all are achieved through releasing and relaxing. That said Yoga comes in many forms. Arguably there is a form for all types of personality. The hot, sweaty, Bikram kind, graceful flows, gentle Yin Yoga and Iyengar for perfectionists, to name a few.

Mixed race woman using tablet computer on yoga mat

There are many other personal and professional benefits that can be derived from a regular Yoga regime beyond those discussed here. What you work at in one area of your life transfers over to other parts of it. So your Yoga practice serves as a microcosm for how you act off the mat. Certainly, it is hard to argue against the virtues of a centuries old practice. Yoga then will not only make you fitter, healthier and less stressed out, it will make you mentally more stable and calmer – better able to function in the rigors of your work life. It will also make you more effective, efficient and happy. This is all good business.

If you’re skeptical give it a try. But commit yourself to at least 3 times a week for a month at the minimum. See how you feel – and if it makes a difference and you’re inclined then please share your experiences here.

Using in-memory computing to power real-time financial planning

In-memory computing has heralded a way for organizations to view Big Data in ways that they simply were not able to do before, giving them a platform for improved insight, analytics and decisions.

But I often hear the question, what can I do practically with Big Data and how does in-memory computing really help me to run my business better? I guess the thing that solution vendors need to do is provide more guidance on the possible applications and build better business cases for many people to really understand the potential that analysis of Big Data has to offer.

I was interested therefore to come across a Hewlett Packard case study recently, which clearly demonstrates how they have applied in-memory computing within their business, and worked closely with SAP to deliver an augmented planning solution using SAP Business Planning and Consolidation, running on HP AppSystems for SAP HANA.

Businessman Looking at Computer Monitor

Through close collaboration and focusing initially on one of HPs planning needs, financial expense planning and simulation, the resulting Expense Planning tool allows expense management teams to automate and streamline their budgeting, forecasting and consolidation activities in a centralized tool, giving increased value to productivity of their analysts while supporting real-time financial planning business decisions.

This HP and SAP story is interesting because it highlights the evolving role that SAP Business Planning and Consolidation, powered by SAP HANA has to play in the HP organization. Their story was first told at SAPPHIRENOW in 2013, and according to this new HP case study there is yet more to come as this in-memory powered solution seems set to be expanded to other processes within the business. I’m very much looking forward to seeing how this HP & SAP story continues to evolve and no doubt there’ll also be lots to hear from more SAP customers and partners at the forthcoming SAPPHIRENOW 2014 event in June.

Improving Business Planning and the Financial Close

In my blog post a few weeks ago I shared details of two SAP solutions for EPM customer stories with you. One of these customers, oil producer Concho Resources was described by my colleague @JohnGWard3 in his linked blog post to be using SAP Business Planning and Consolidation to improve the efficiency of its financial planning and reporting processes.

It’s great to be able to share stories like this, as they serve to focus attention on the opportunities for creating business benefits from the use of software solutions. But sometimes it’s also nice to hear a more detailed description about the “why” and the “how” behind a decision to implement a software solution or to be provided with a fuller description of the customer’s experience in implementing and using their new solution, and the impact that this has on their business.

So as a follow-up to my earlier blog post I would now like to share the more detailed view for Concho, in the customer’s words.

Concho Leverages BPC

Here’s a link to a YouTube video of a presentation from Concho Resources and SAP business partner Akili, at the 2013 Best Practices for Oil & Gas conference. It’s quite a long video of the full conference presentation, but interesting to see if you have the time. Watch the video to hear how Concho were able to:

  • Achieve a consistent planning process
  • Increase visibility into the financial close numbers and performance metrics
  • Improve speed of production and accessibility to monthly financial close reports

Implementing a robust planning solution at IDEXX Laboratories

I had a nice surprise the other day when I came across a customer video that I’d not seen before. It was a surprise because I do spend quite a bit of time researching and reviewing customer stories concerning the use of performance management solutions, and this one from 2013 must have slipped through my net!

This story was recorded at SAPInsider Financials 2013 and provides a short overview of the reasons why IDEXX Laboratories implemented SAP Business Planning and Consolidation, to replace their legacy planning system with a new and robust planning tool. In addition to providing improved connectivity with their back-office SAP ERP system, it seems that SAP Business Planning and Consolidation also impressed IDEXX with its user-friendly interface as well as providing them with a single source for planning data, helping them to remove multiple planning spreadsheets from the process.

IDEXX Labs Interview at SAPInsider

Access the video recording here to listen to their story.

Place your bids for an improved Financial Close

I came across an interesting SAP customer story the other day, which was in part referred to in an earlier CFOKnowledge article published in November 2013. As you’ll know from reading that blog article, SAP had augmented its comprehensive Accounting and Financial Close offerings by endorsing the BlackLine Financial Close Suite a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offering from partner BlackLine Systems. Citing benefits such as reduced risk and easier compliance in their account reconciliation and financial close processes, efficiency gains and increased employee productivity, along with the freeing-up of resources (personnel time) to do other things, on the face of it this cloud-based solution has much to offer. I can certainly see why this would appeal to organizations eager to improve and further streamline their Financial processes.Businessman Looking at Stock Prices

An article in SAP Insider this month now reports how eBay have transformed their Journal Entry, Task Management, and Account Reconciliations processes using BlackLine’s solution, working in tandem with their existing SAP ERP software landscape. According to the article the results of the implementation have been a reduction by several days in the financial close, greater visibility into close processes and reconciliations, and improved auditing controls. And by the sound of it, the system also seems to be easy to implement and use.

Take a look at the SAP Insider article for more information (you may need to register for access), I think you’ll find it an interesting read, and it may perhaps leave you wondering whether you should also bid for an improved Close process.

SAP Business Planning and Consolidation 10.1, version for SAP NetWeaver, powered by SAP HANA extends planning model options for SAP customers

Original blog post by Pras Chatterjee, EPM Product Marketing, SAP. Issued with permission.

SAP recently announced the release into ramp-up of SAP Business Planning and Consolidation 10.1, version for SAP NetWeaver, powered by SAP HANA. In this new version, SAP accomplishes its vision of uniting its SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse-based planning solutions all within one solution. It also provides next generation reporting through a new HTML5 Web Client.

SAP Business Planning and Consolidation 10.1 is a milestone for SAP and in particular SAP business planning customers who run in an SAP NetWeaver environment, as this latest software release now offers more options regarding how they want to proceed with their modelling for budgeting and forecasting. Models now available include:

• Classic Model – based on the application’s 10.0 version for SAP NetWeaver – End user owned
• Unified Model – based on the SAP NetWeaver BW-IP / Planning Applications Kit model – IT owned

The concept of the Unified Model will be new to most current SAP Business Planning and Consolidation customers – however inclusion of this takes SAP integration to a whole new level. As this video demonstrates (see image link below), when creating a model in the Unified Model, users base it on an existing SAP NetWeaver BW InfoProvider, thereby enabling them to leverage existing hierarchies and master data in real time. This also provides tighter integration with SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse.

Creating a Unified Planning Environment in BPC 10_1

In the Unified Model, existing SAP NetWeaver BW-IP/PAK customers will notice a brand new HTML5-based administration client and new administration functions such as audit trail, business process flows, and work status.

By assigning users to teams and configuring work status, as shown here, security-related functions are in the hands of the end users. This provides them with a greater sense of usability.

HTML5 web-based reporting also will be available with both the Classic and Unified Model and so no doubt be welcomed by current SAP Business Planning and Consolidation customers as well as appealing to a wider SAP business planning community. As this third video shows, users can easily create web-based reports in the Unified Model based on SAP NetWeaver BW queries.  This brings about a better user experience, including:

• Right to Left Language support for languages such as Arabic and Hebrew
• Personalized branding, with the ability to customize the visualization aspect
• Intuitive page switching when multi-tasking
• Optimized for mobile, with HTML providing easier mobile access

In addition to all the new features and functionality available within SAP Business Planning and Consolidation 10.1, version for SAP NetWeaver, there is enhanced scalability and performance for better decision making due to the power of SAP HANA. More planning functions have been moved to the SAP HANA layer, which allows for the extreme optimization of planning functions for unparalleled performance and real-time simulation.

As the numbering on the videos implies, watch out for more videos and information regarding the new version of SAP Business Planning and Consolidation 10.1, version for SAP NetWeaver in the coming weeks. All in all though it seems like this new release will give traditional SAP customers extended options for maximizing the investments that they have made in SAP planning solutions, and greater choice and flexibility in terms of the planning model options that they have available. Coupled with this the delivery of enhanced visualization and planning functionality, along with the ability to leverage the power of SAP HANA for exceptional performance, means that this release seems set to deliver much to current and new users of the solution alike.