Behind the scenes with SAP Cloud for Planning

You’ll most likely have noticed that for the last few months I’ve been following the announcement through to release of the new SAP Cloud for Planning solution.

For my money, some of the more interesting articles that I’ve posted and referred to have been those that have come from the engineering team that developed this new cloud solution. Although my profession is marketing, I guess engineering and technical concepts still holds a great appeal to me having studied in this area for a part of my undergraduate degree. Also, the enthusiasm of the people involved in developing the solution is clearly evident, in the way that they write and talk about their experience and approach in bringing this to market.

So continuing this theme, I’d like to share with you a new “behind the scenes” video of my colleagues Ivo Bauermann and Gerrit Kazmaier, who talk about the design process in bringing SAP Cloud for Planning to market, which truly seems to have been a wonderful experience for all involved.

Ivo and Gerrit

New cloud solution goes on tour!

If you’re anything like me then having read about and watched videos about this new solution, you’re probably at a point where you’d actually like to see what we’ve been talking about.

Well fear not, for my colleagues at SAP have been busy planning to take SAP Cloud for Planning on tour, so I asked them if I could share this information with you. Starting with New York, Chicago and San Francisco, and with more cities and countries to be visited in the coming weeks and months, these stylish events will give you the opportunity to meet and talk with the team that developed this new solution, as well as see it in action. You can find more details and registration information here

And you never know, if I’m really lucky I may even get a chance to join you at one of the future events myself so I may hope to see you there!

Announcing SAP Cloud for Planning

By Ivo Bauermann, Global Vice President and General Manager, EPM Solutions

Originally posted on SAP Analytics, 18 February 2015. Reprinted with permission.

Today at the FP&A Innovation Summit in San Diego, I had the privilege of delivering the keynote to a marquee audience of finance professionals with Dr Rouven Bergmann, CFO SAP North America. We talked about “The Rise of the Analytical CFO” and how “Technology Innovation” around Cloud and Analytics is driving financial transformation today. Yet when we look at recent research we find that a very large percentage of finance professionals are still struggling with financial applications that were supposed to make their job easier.

At SAP we took on the challenge of making Finance Simpler. I’m very happy to announce SAP Cloud for Planning (view press release), a brand new built-for-SaaS planning and analysis application. Designed and developed by some of SAP’s best engineers and designers, this solution is like no other. In the words of Gerrit Kazmaier, Head of Engineering for SAP Cloud for Planning , “Few would have thought SAP could make such a dramatic leap in design and user-oriented software. We are walking the talk, doing things simpler. And we deal with the complexity that is inherent to the business in a smart way.”

We achieved this new paradigm in design by focusing on the people, the users, rather than on the system, the technology. And truly understanding what the needs of our users are, how they are doing their job today, what tools they are using, what works for them and what doesn’t. We actually designed a financial planning and analysis application that business users will love. We followed the “artful balance” of keeping the interface clean and simple while enabling powerful functionality. As HCI pioneer Alan Kay put it, “Simple things should be simple, and complex things should be possible.”

SAP Cloud for Planning introduces a new generation of analytics and enterprise performance management (EPM) in the cloud.  Just watch the SAP Cloud for Planning video, and you´ll immediately see we didn´t just try to recreate what was already out there and put it in the cloud. This is different.

But it’s not just another “pretty face” – underlying it is an industry-standard analytics platform that allows you to perform complex calculations across large volumes of data, extremely fast. Any customer, big or small, whether they run SAP ERP or not, can get up and running quickly with a future-oriented planning and analysis application that performs how and when you expect – no matter how many users, how much data or the level of detail. And SAP customers who are already running our widely deployed SAP Business Planning and Consolidation application, and are looking to complement it with a public cloud planning application can benefit from bi-directional integration between the two solutions for a hybrid approach. These customers can adopt our new cloud application gradually, in a non-disruptive way.

SAP Cloud for Planning delivers the analytical power that finance needs to support the business in driving profitable growth. And what better than doing that with a beautiful application that is easy, yet powerful, to use.

Plan Simpler.

SAP Cloud for Planning goes on tour with first stops in NYC, Chicago and San Francisco. Find out more and register for one of the locations near you.

Learn more at www.sap.com/cloudforplanning.

Design Symphony: Developing cloud-based planning software around the user experience

By Nico Licht, UX Lead, SAP Cloud for Planning

When designing SAP Cloud for Planning we embraced some basic design principles. In this blog I’d like to share the principles we challenged our global management team with:

It’s not just about function but also DESIGN. About ten years ago Apple published a set of user experience guidelines for their developers. For me, four basic design principles stood out: simplicity, availability, familiarity and forgiveness. Focus on the main use case and have additional features, like previews or preferences, just one click away. Meet the users’ expectations and mental models and allow them to make mistakes without losing data or breaking the system. The designer, Frank Chimero, summarized these basic UX rules quite nicely “People ignore design that ignores people.”

SIMPLICITY

Focus on the users’ job to be done! When I would argue about what development wants, my first UX manager at SAP told me I should always ask “Why is this feature important for the user?” and he added “No use case, no design.” We need to know the job to be done behind a feature request in order to create meaningful mock-ups, screen designs, or code. Ease of use is also a flavour of simplicity. Think of keyboard navigation or a quicker way to maintain access rights. However, simplicity does not mean trivial. Some systems are complex but no system has to be complicated.

AVAILABILITY

Have every additional feature just one click away, and make it easy for the user to determine the location of the next click. For example: the breadcrumb navigation on top, the preferences dialog in the tab bar, or the context sensitive help button we’ll add to the shell. Meaningful titles and labels provide additional orientation and should always appear in the same place. Don’t hide additional features and preferences in unexpected screen areas.

FAMILARITY

Many concepts in our application are universal. Discussions, spreadsheets, icons, dialogs, and so on are all common UI elements. Ensure that these pieces always look and behave the same and meet the mental model of our users. Everything that looks or feels strange contradicts with the concept of familiarity. I really like the term floor plan. When your house is on fire you need to get out quickly. A good floor plan reveals the quickest way to the next exit. A good application floor plan allows the user to always find the missing features in the expected place. Furthermore, customization features like changing user and background pictures, increase the personal touch. A system showing my data, my company logo, and colleagues’ pictures, already looks more familiar.

FORGIVENESS

Allow the user to make mistakes and try things out without breaking the system or losing data. Let’s enable our users to perform a serious task but with a playful approach. Oscar Wilde said once “Life is too important to be taken seriously.” Sure, we can’t always take responsibility for the users actions. But if we can’t be smart enough to prevent user errors we should provide as much information as possible (e.g. meaningful warnings and system notifications). Our system should be tolerant not ignorant.

It’s not just about focus, it’s about DESIGN SYMPHONY. In his book, A Whole New Mind, Dan Pink refers to a globally spread workforce that “requires focus and specialization”. It’s the same thing in our development organization. We have specialized experts in each and every work stream; all of them doing a great job like the musicians in an orchestra. Everybody is an artist with their own instrument but they need a composed score so that they can play together nicely. However, looking at the ratio of developers and designers in our organization, this is something we only can achieve as a team. Everybody should be concerned about design. This is the guideline that is the score for our symphony, the glue that ties all work streams together. Let’s create beautiful user interfaces, with meaningful functionality that people cannot ignore.

C4P Image

After a relatively short but intensive development process we released SAP Cloud for Planning. And I can truly say I am very proud of the whole team and the design-driven culture that we’ve established. Not every detail is perfectly arranged just yet and we will continue the hard work to enhance the user experience. Nevertheless I believe we’ve delivered an extraordinary application. I’m looking forward to the many exciting conversations to come with users and customers.

 

NicoBio

10 Things to See and Do at SAPinsider Financials 2015

SAPInsider Financials Logo

By David Williams, Head of EPM and GRC Product Marketing, SAP

We’re already well into 2015 and the first key event for the SAP EPM (Enterprise Performance Management) team, partners, and most importantly, our customers, is just about upon us. SAPinsider Financials 2015, hosted by Wellesley Information Services, and co-located with SAPinsider GRC 2015, runs from March 17 – 20 in Las Vegas. It’s one of the key annual events that features EPM-related content. Given there’s so much to see and do at the event, and I often get asked for an agenda of EPM content, I thought why not put together a list of 10 things to see while attending the event. Think of it as a checklist of don’t miss items/sessions. Here we go:

  1. Cloud for Planning, Cloud for Planning, Cloud for Planning. The latest and greatest cloud-based planning and analysis application has been available since February. Make sure to check out one of the many SAP Cloud for Planning sessions and demos to see why it sets a new standard for planning in the cloud
  2. SAP Business Planning and Consolidation 10.1, version for SAP NetWeaver. “BPC” continues to be one of the most widely deployed planning and consolidation applications on the planet. Discover what’s new in the latest release and see how BPC fulfills integrated business planning for Finance capabilities as part of Simple Finance
  3. Close to Disclose. Closing the books and disclosing results continues to be a highly-manual task for many. Discover how you can accelerate/automate the financial close to disclose in one of the presentation or demo sessions including a Jumpstart deep dive on March 16th
  4. Speaking of Jumpstarts, there are 6 Finance ones and these are a good way to get up to speed on subjects such as SAP Simple Finance, simplifying plan and report deign in SAP Business Planning and Consolidation, and the impact of big data on Finance and GRC security among others
  5. EPM solution center. Go deep into product demos with our solution experts across a range of topics including planning, consolidation and profitability analytics, while not forgetting of course the new SAP Cloud for Planning application
  6. Show floor demos. Have a seat and take a well-earned rest from all that walking around the show floor, while watching one of the EPM solution experts show you the latest and greatest product features
  7. Customer delivered sessions. For many the key attraction of SAPinsider is hearing our customers’ financial transformation stories, in their own words. In 2015 you can hear from Lexmark, Velux, Delicato, IDEXX, Telephone and Data Systems and Applied Materials among others
  8. Simple Finance. It’s bound to be a big draw, and so there’s a number of SAP Simple Finance focused sessions. But of course don’t miss the keynote address to hear about the SAP vision to help simplify finance
  9. Visit our partners. Why not take the opportunity to speak with some of our business partners at the event? This year you’ll find the event global sponsor PwC, premier sponsors EY, KPMG and Z Option, as well as Deloitte, itelligence and BlackLine among others
  10. Say hi to the SAP team. Really please do – we’d be delighted to meet you. There will be a number of our subject matter experts at the event that can discuss topics such as planning and financial consolidations

The complete agenda is available here. Safe travels to Las Vegas and if you’d like to meet send me a tweet @daveswilliams!

You Want to Improve Your Financial Close Process – Where Do You Start?

By Elizabeth Milne, Sr Director, EPM Product Marketing, SAP

Last year I wrote the book Accelerated Financial Closing, and co-authored a white paper with Deloitte (5 Signs That Your Financial Close Process May Be Broken). This year, with a little help from my friends, I thought I’d kick off 2015 with a blog series.

The accounting and financial close process is an ever changing mandatory process. Some call it close to disclose, some call it record to report (R2R), some don’t call it anything but just do it. Organizations with a December 31 year end close have either finished or are still working on their annual close now, which is the biggest one of them all. As with any process there were bound to be bumps and hiccups along the way. Now is a perfect time to review how the annual close went (or is going) and try to identify areas that can be improved.

There are many dimensions to the financial close, three of which are people, process, and technology. While analyzing areas for improvement, each of these areas needs to be assessed. Do my people have the right skills for the tasks they are doing? Could they be better utilized doing other tasks? Are my processes documented? Are they effective and efficient? Am I leveraging technology to automate tasks where possible?

And all of these depend on each other. As Bill Gates so eloquently put it, “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”

The financial close process itself also has many different steps. We have been working with our customers and analysts over the year trying to compartmentalize some of the different steps to make it a bit more consumable and have developed the following diagram.

C2D
As such, my colleagues and I will be writing a series of blogs to walk you through each of the boxes here in more detail with suggested ways of improving each. Our weekly, 12-part series will cover the following topics:

  • Financial Accounting – Simple Finance and ERP Financials
  • Financial Accounting – Nakia Lease Administration
  • Financial Accounting – Revenue Recognition
  • Entity Close – Intercompany Reconciliation
  • Entity Close – Account Reconciliation
  • Entity Close – Entity Close Management
  • Corporate close – Consolidation and Notes Management
  • Reporting and Disclosure – Reporting and Analysis
  • Reporting and Disclosure – Disclosure Management
  • Financial Close Governance
  • Close to Disclose Recap

Hope you enjoy!

Elizabeth Bio & Pic
Article originally posted on SAP Analytics. Reprinted with permission.

Who Are the Animals of Analytics-Based Performance Management? – Part 2

By Gary Cokins, Founder of Analytics-Based Performance Management LLC

Doubtless after part 1 of my latest blog, which sought to compare human and animal behavioral characteristics in the context of performance management, many readers have since been busy assigning colleagues and team members to the various enclosures in their imaginary corporate zoo. With many animals missing from my earlier blog, let me now help you populate the rest of your zoo before you open the doors to the public. Previously I began to compare the human character traits of performance management employees with those exhibited by animals – and I continue this comparison here:

  • Ostriches – Everyone immediately thinks the analogy for an ostrich might be employees who stick their head in the ground to hide and avoid confrontations. But that is a misconception. Ostriches can run 70 miles per hour and can viciously kick with their legs in conflict. They are nomadic. Ostrich-like managers are strong and also nomadic because they like to move from one functional area to another after they have made their mark. They make an impact at a crucial time in the analytics-based enterprise performance management project and then secure a new job elsewhere.
  • Snakes – Beware of these types of managers. Snakes can swallow prey much larger than their heads due to the flexibility of their jaws. Some have deathly venom to poison their prey. Analogous managers have similar traits but use office politics in place of venom. They are not interested in the success of the project and are self-centered with no hesitancy to derail a co-worker’s career.
  • Beavers – We like beavers. They love to construct dams. Analytics-based enterprise performance management is all about model building. A managerial accounting system using activity-based costing principles is a model for measuring how an organization consumes resource expenses into calculated costs of outputs, products, services, channels and customers. A strategy map is a model of the executive team’s strategic objectives and how they causally link the behavior of employees with measures aligned with the strategy. You get what you measure. And beavers are busy workers.
  • Eagles – These are the true leaders. Eagles have extremely keen eyesight. Unlike managers who cope with complexity, eagle-like leaders cope with change and must exhibit vision and inspiration. The best leaders for analytics-based enterprise performance management have that vision to inform their organization with knowing the direction they want to go. The other managers and employees then determine the best ways to get there.
  • Lemmings – The myth of lemmings is that they commit mass suicide when they migrate and mindlessly fall off cliffs. You might think my metaphor of them is the type of employee who goes along unquestionably with their co-workers’ opinions. But the truth is that lemmings are solitary animals who are good at focusing on primary tasks, like burrowing for food. Analytics-based enterprise performance projects need this type of intensity in lemming-like employees.
  • Sheep – These are employees who are too timid to speak up when the project really needs their help. They are smart enough to differentiate good from bad, but when the project team really needs their support, they are unreliable. Sheep have good hearing; sheep-like employees are sensitive to noise from the naysayers. Sheep have poor eyesight and tend to move from darkness to lighted areas. If sheep-like employees cannot see the value in analytics-based enterprise performance management methods, they move to a comfortable area – the status quo.
  • Elephants – Elephants are a symbol of wisdom and are famed for their memory and intelligence. Adult elephants have no natural predators (except humans). Elephant-like employees are important for analytics-based projects because their sharp memories can recall what works and what does not. They are typically veteran workers whose opinions are widely valued. If they buy in, the project has a good chance to succeed.

So, what animal-like types of employees do you work with? Probably all of the types discussed. While a light-hearted view on the workplace and employees, there is depth to my assessment. The promise for the continued adoption of analytics-based enterprise performance management is that animals have prospered for millennia. They survive because there is some balance to how they coexist and because they, like humans, have evolved to survive and thrive in ever changing environments.

The same prosperity will apply to the increasing adoption rate of analytics-based enterprise performance management methods and the software systems that support the methods. Hundreds of types of animals coexist in the wild (mankind willing). Their generations continue. Organizations that maintain balanced and rational thinking will continuously learn and improve the same way that animal offspring learn from their elders.

 

About the Author: Gary Cokins, CPIM

Gary_Cokins

Gary Cokins (Cornell University BS IE/OR, 1971; Northwestern University Kellogg MBA 1974) is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, and author in enterprise and corporate performance management (EPM/CPM) systems. He is the founder of Analytics-Based Performance Management LLC www.garycokins.com . He began his career in industry with a Fortune 100 company in CFO and operations roles. Then 15 years in consulting with Deloitte, KPMG, and EDS (now part of HP). From 1997 until 2013 Gary was a Principal Consultant with SAS, a business analytics software vendor. His most recent books are Performance Management: Integrating Strategy Execution, Methodologies, Risk, and Analytics and Predictive Business Analytics.

gcokins@garycokins.com; phone +919 720 2718

http://www.garycokins.com

Linkedin.com contact: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/gary-cokins/0/15a/949.

Who Are the Animals of Analytics-Based Performance Management? – Part 1

By Gary Cokins, Founder of Analytics-Based Performance Management LLC

Ever notice how the personalities and dispositions of animals often resemble humans’? An organization’s pursuit of adopting analytics-based enterprise performance management involves personalities of all types. How are they like the creatures that populate our planet? Here is a zoology of analogous types of employees that you might recognize.

  • Lions – These are the managers whom co-workers respect. They are bold and lead their pride. With analytics-based enterprise performance management, their boldness enables them to have the will to try emerging managerial concepts. These include strategy maps and their companion, the balanced scorecard; activity-based costing to measure product, channel, and customer profitability; and driver-based budgeting with rolling financial forecast updates. In the wild, males seldom live long due to injuries sustained from continuous fighting with rivals. In business, lion-like managers will encounter conflicts in their pursuit and support of these managerial concepts.
  • Peacocks – These are those employees who like to look good to everyone. Peacocks cannot fly; this type of employee’s contribution to implementing analytics-based enterprise performance management is limited. They like to take credit and display their plumage, but they have not earned the credit they presume to claim.
  • Owls – These are those wise sages who truly understand what analytics-based enterprise performance management is all about. They tend to be quiet and are careful observers. An owl’s survival strategy depends on stealth and surprise. It would be nice if the owl-like employee would speak up more and tell the lions what is really happening. Who is on board, and who are the naysayer obstacles to applying progressive methods that can result in better decisions – like applying business analytics?
  • Rabbits – These are those ready-fire-aim project managers who are impatient with slow progress. Sometimes their sense of urgency is needed to quickly move things along. They endorse techniques like pilot projects and rapid prototyping with iterative remodeling to get sufficient results with speed so that others understand what benefits the method can bring. But sometimes, their haste can land the project in a ditch.
  • Tortoises – Like the owls, these are very smart workers. They move slowly, but they know where the project should go. Most everyone knows the tortoise and the hare fable. The tortoise won the race because it figured out that having perseverance and a sense of direction is best in the long term.
  • Skunks – These employees are bad news for analytics-based enterprise performance management projects. Just when there is some traction with getting organizational buy-in from others, they stink up the project with unsubstantiated fears that the project has little or no payoff. They need to be kept distant from the project.
  • Armadillos – These are thick-skinned employees whose egos are near impenetrable, just like an armadillo’s armor. They can handle attacks from naysayers who fear change. Armadillos are prolific diggers with sharp claws. Similarly, their analogous employees are heads-down hard workers who want to see the job done.
  • Crocodiles – These employees wait ever so quietly until they see an opportunity. Then, when the moment is right, they snap into a debate about whether the project is valid and will lead to improvements. They believe in the project and rarely lose.
  • Horses –Workhorses are invaluable. They work long hours making sure that correct and clean data is ready for input to drive the analytics-based enterprise performance management projects to yield the insights and actions the projects are designed to deliver. Horses can sleep standing on their legs. This is good for late-hour efforts. Thoroughbred racehorse-type employees are a special breed. They not only work hard but also work fast.

Any of these sound familiar? I’ll bet that you can associate some of these animal traits with members of your own company or even team – or perhaps they exhibit different animal behaviors? Though please resist the urge to tell them, as it’s not the intention of this blog to offend or cause internal issues! Join me in my next blog as I continue this light-hearted examination of the corporate menagerie.

 

About the Author: Gary Cokins, CPIM

Gary_Cokins

Gary Cokins (Cornell University BS IE/OR, 1971; Northwestern University Kellogg MBA 1974) is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, and author in enterprise and corporate performance management (EPM/CPM) systems. He is the founder of Analytics-Based Performance Management LLC www.garycokins.com . He began his career in industry with a Fortune 100 company in CFO and operations roles. Then 15 years in consulting with Deloitte, KPMG, and EDS (now part of HP). From 1997 until 2013 Gary was a Principal Consultant with SAS, a business analytics software vendor. His most recent books are Performance Management: Integrating Strategy Execution, Methodologies, Risk, and Analytics and Predictive Business Analytics.

gcokins@garycokins.com; phone +919 720 2718

http://www.garycokins.com

Linkedin.com contact: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/gary-cokins/0/15a/949.