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.

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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!

New Interactive Video: How You Can Run Finance a Simpler Way

By Neil Krefsky, Sr. Director, Product Marketing, SAP Finance LoB

With increased competition and an ever-changing regulatory and economic environment, finance executives and their teams must demonstrate exceptional levels of responsiveness, agility, and insight. You’re expected to shift from a financial steward to an operations specialist to a business strategist in an instant.

How can you deliver on these expectations? A new video shows you how.

This brief, interactive video brings to life how SAP Simple Finance empowers various executives by addressing their key business pains and helping them become a truly valued business partner across the entire enterprise. You’ll see how coworkers react as you walk through the halls and offices of the entire company. Along the way you’ll learn exactly how Simple Finance drives simplicity across all finance processes and users by:

  • Eliminating the need for reconciliation: One common view of all financial, managerial, and operational data helps ensure enterprise-wide consistency
  • Enabling instant analytic insight: Instant and personalized financial insight relevant and understandable to all lines of business and operations

Driving strategic value: Integrated planning and analysis of financial, operational, and strategic information for optimal responses to changing market conditions

SAP Simple Finance

Drive Value with Simplicity

You can radically simplify and remove the complexity of finance processes by making our SAP Simple Finance portfolio of leading finance solutions easier to discover, acquire, configure, and consume. You benefit from the combined power of the leading financial management software with the real-time analytics of the SAP HANA platform and features cloud, on premise, and hybrid deployment options.

This simplification without disruption enables CFOs to accelerate their finance transformation to become a true value-based strategic partner to the entire business.

See for Yourself

Take a few minutes to watch the video. You’ll see how SAP Simple Finance can simplify your finance processes and help you deliver strategic value to your business.

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This story originally appeared in SAP Business Trends.

 

The Financial Close and Simple Finance – How Fast Is Fast Enough?

By Birgit Starmanns, Senior Director, Product Marketing, SAP

Originally posted on SAP Analytics, 20 Feb 2015. Reprinted with Permission.

As part of our ongoing accounting and financial close series, today I’ll be covering how you can accelerate your financial close.

Marathons. Formula One. Internet downloads. Streaming video. There are many examples where we intuitively know that faster is always better.

For finance, one of the traditional measurements of the performance of the finance organization is the speed at which a company closes its books. In benchmarking studies, SAP Value Engineering found that the top quartile performing companies achieve the annual financial close in 26% fewer days than their peers. A result of these efficiencies is a 61% lower general ledger and closing costs.

Why the focus on the number of days it takes to close the books? There are three simple answers:

  • The financial statements need to be disclosed to stakeholders. These deadlines are not negotiable for public companies, and can affect their stock value and investor confidence.
  • If the number of days to close the books takes a significant amount of time, it exposes inefficiencies in finance processes in general, often due to non-standardized and manual processes.
  • A delay in closing the books translates into a lack of management insight into profitability, which postpones critical business decisions in an environment in which information is expected to be available immediately.

Enter SAP Simple Finance – One Source of the Truth

A key factor that causes delays in the financial close is the number of financial systems that companies have in place, from multiple transactional systems, to analytics and performance management systems. And each system has its own database. Not only does this cause delays in getting the needed information into the right system for the close, many times there is logic associated with transferring information from one system to the other, which may introduce inconsistencies.

With SAP Simple Finance, these redundancies are significantly reduced. With the power of the in-memory technology of SAP HANA, the same data can be used for transactional, analysis, and planning processes. And since key performance indicators can be calculated on the fly using these transactions, there’s no need for the additional logic and summarization in moving data from place to place, which reduces duplication of information and the need for additional reconciliation.

Real-Time Processes for Instant Insight One of the bottlenecks to achieving a faster financial close is the number of processes that are run in batch at the end of the period, because they are resource-intensive, both from a finance and an IT perspective.

Now imagine that these processes could be run on the fly using SAP HANA, based on transactional information, without the need to run batch processes overnight. Therefore, a “soft close” is possible to see the financial position of a company in real time.

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Processes that also depend on real-time information include GR/IR reconciliations and intercompany reconciliations, which have historically been bottlenecks into the visibility of cash management and resulting liquidity forecasts. 

Strategic Benefits

You may think that waiting 15 minutes for a report is not a deal-breaker. Yet if you add 15 minutes to each step in the close processes, the impact is not in minutes or hour, but in days. An additional example is profitability analysis. With the many dimensions of profitability – customer, product, geography, channel – any top-down allocations and most reports are processed in batch overnight. And if an error is introduced, finance must wait another day to correct it.

While the speed of the close can certainly help the efficiency of finance organizations, what matters more is the activities that finance can engage in to leverage the saved time. It’s not just the external disclosures that are important, it’s also the managerial information that is captured that is needed to run the business. If the close takes more than a week, there may be lost business opportunities due to a lack of insight into business drivers, which is critical information in making decisions.

Finance is increasingly engaging in strategic activities – advising the business as a whole on the financial implications of business options, from evaluating a merger or acquisition, to introducing new product lines and the potential cannibalization effects to existing products. With the prediction, simulation and analysis capabilities of SAP Simple Finance, what-if analysis can be run on an unlimited number of dimensions.

Benefits of SAP Simple Finance

A recent CFO.com study revealed that 87% of finance executives agreed that managers at their companies need to analyze financial and performance data much more quickly than they do now to meet targets for profitable growth. Translation – speed has an impact on the bottom line.

With SAP Simple Finance, early adopters have already found benefits, from a proof of concept illustrated by Zurich Insurance, to the results found by SAP.

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With the kind of instant insight that is available today, finance organizations no longer need to say, “I’ll get back to you.“

 

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.

Accelerating the Time to Action

By Neil Krefsky, Sr. Director, Product Marketing, SAP Finance LoB 

90% of senior finance executives surveyed by CFO Research* said their companies are not content to stand pat and are seeking to become more profitable in 2015. However, improvements in profitability will likely have to come from the same resources as 2014 given the reluctance of most firms to add costs without a clearly defined payback.

“Constant innovation,” is the way to increase profitability as one CFO reinforced in the survey — the unceasing drive to develop new products, services, customers, markets, and businesses. And companies will be relying on new technologies and new ways of working to deliver profitable growth.

According to 87% of the finance executives surveyed, corporate decision makers will need to “accelerate the time to action” to succeed –get more information faster, process that information quicker, and make strategic business decisions faster.

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Finance executives also anticipate that business managers will increasingly look to their finance colleagues for help keeping pace with the growing stream of available information and have to step up their game. The vast majority of the executives surveyed confirm that their finance colleagues need to get better at providing key managers with predictive analytics to accelerate decision makers’ time to action. Bottom-line: New information capabilities placed in the hands of business managers are pushing them to seek even more insightful analysis of their finance colleagues.

*To view the full report, download here.

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This story originally appeared in SAP Business Trends http://scn.sap.com/community/business-trends .

 

10 Things to See and Do at SAPinsider Financials 2015

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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!

Finance’s Key Enablement Role to Drive Profitable Growth

By Neil Krefsky, Sr. Director, Product Marketing, SAP Finance LoB 

Recent CFO Research found that finance executives believe line-of-business managers have no trouble accessing critical data, but they need to work closely with their colleagues in finance to derive meaning from the data and turn it into timely actions that improve business results.

Finance chiefs are looking for tools that point the user to clues about “why” the data is trending a certain way. They are also looking for tools that turn those clues into key facts that strategically redirect corporate strategy right away, without waiting for the month, quarter, or year to close.

More than half of the survey respondents agree that their companies’ line-of-business managers have difficulty using information systems to identify and understand the data they need to make effective decisions. Some systems produce enormous quantities of highly precise data without parsing the data to determine what is useful for decision making. In many ways, a mountain of perfect data is less useful than no data at all, as the finance team must spend valuable time trying to figure out a way to sort and sift for business insights.

Almost nine in ten of the senior finance executives know that they need to improve their ability to deliver forward-looking, predictive analytics to have a chance of meeting their growth targets. Rarely does a survey speak with such clarity about a need that remains largely unmet in many finance functions. And lastly, more than three-quarters of finance chiefs agree that better information reporting and visualization would help line-of-business managers make better decisions in general.

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Bottom-line: Finance functions very capable of straightforward reporting need to add a forward-looking, analytical capability that supports their firm’s strategic business decision making. Otherwise, the competition gains ground.

*To view the full report, download here.

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This story originally appeared in SAP Business Trends http://scn.sap.com/community/business-trends .