Financial Close Blog Series – It’s a Wrap!

By Elizabeth Milne, Senior Director, EPM Product Marketing

Originally posted on SAP Analytics, 1 May 2015. Reposted with permission.

In this blog, the 14th and final one in our accounting and financial close series, we’ll give you a recap of the series. Our objective as we planned and wrote this blog series, was to discuss various ways to improve the close process in the hopes that your company would find areas that you identify with and that give you suggestions and direction to better manage your financial close.

Each blog addressed certain steps in the accounting and financial close process. This process has many dimensions and will vary company by company. Throughout these steps (identified in the chart below) we’ve discussed different aspects such as people, process and technology, and suggested different ways of standardizing, centralizing and automating processes to improve efficiency and effectiveness of your financial close process.


For your easy reference, here’s a list of all the blogs presented in this series.   Special thanks to Birgit Starmanns, Pete Graham, Bob Davenport, and Stefan Karl for their contributions to this series. I enjoyed working on it and I hope you enjoyed reading it.

  1. You Want to Improve Your Financial Close Process – Where Do You Start?
  2. Accounting – The Financial Close and Simple Finance – How Fast Is Fast Enough?
  3. Accounting – 5 Things to Look for in Lease Accounting Software in Light of New Regulations
  4. Accounting – 5 Steps to Help Your Organization Prepare for the New Revenue Recognition Standards
  5. Entity Close – Improve Intercompany Reconciliation with People, Process and Technology
  6. Entity Close – How to Modernize your Account Reconciliations
  7. Entity Close – Improving on the Entity Close Process
  8. Corporate Close – Standardize, Centralize and Automate Your Corporate Close – Step 1 of 3
  9. Corporate Close – Standardize, Centralize and Automate Your Corporate Close – Step 2 of 3
  10. Corporate Close – Standardize, Centralize and Automate Your Corporate Close – Step 3 of 3
  11. Understating Analytics: Breaking down Reporting and Analysis Options for the Financial Close
  12. How to Reduce the Time, Risk, and Cost of Producing Standard Periodic Financial Reports
  13. How to Improve the Governance of Your End-to-End Financial Close

Continue reading

How to Improve the Governance of Your End-to-End Financial Close

By Stefan Karl, Senior Director, Finance Solutions, SAP.

Originally posted on SAP Analytics, 28 April 2015. Reposted with permission.

As part of our ongoing accounting and financial close series, today we’ll discuss how to improve the compliance and quality of the financial close with automated internal control management and governance of financial master data.


So far in our blog series, we’ve covered all steps of the financial close – from accounting to entity close, corporate close, and reporting and disclosure. Most of the solutions presented include governance capabilities – for example, structured approaches to compliance with multiple accounting standards, standardization of closing tasks and reporting templates across subsidiaries and closing cycles, or flexible workflow approvals.

The two solutions covered in this blog apply to the end-to-end financial close, and this is why we’ve grouped them into a separate pillar for Financial Close Governance.

Automate Your Compliance and Control Management Processes

As part of the external financial close, management is often required by regulations to establish and assess the effectiveness of internal control over financial reporting. This should provide reasonable assurance regarding the reliability, i.e. completeness and correctness, of the external financial reporting. This management assessment is then often subject to an external audit. But, even without external reporting requirements, it’s become a good business practice to establish a sound internal control system and perform automated control testing to detect errors in business processes early on.

A comprehensive solution providing such functionality is SAP Process Control which is part of a suite of SAP solutions for governance, risk, and compliance. Key capabilities of SAP Process Control are as follows:

  • Document: maintain your compliance and control structures which includes defining organizations, processes, controls, risks, policies and regulations
  • Scope: perform materiality analysis and assess risks to determine in-scope organizations and processes, and thus avoid over-testing and under-testing.
  • Evaluate: schedule manual and automated control evaluations to execute your test strategies including issue identification and remediation
  • Monitor: leverage process control automation to identify, track and review any exceptions identified by continuous monitoring processes
  • Report: use embedded analytics and reports to provide continuous insight into the status of compliance and controls

Continue reading

Finance Face-2-Face: Customer Stories at #SAPPHIRENOW

By Philipp Nething, Finance Audience Marketing Manager, SAP

Originally published on SAP Community Network, 30 April 2015. Reposted with permission.


SAPPHIRE NOW 2015 promises to be the most important, informative and comprehensive SAPPHIRE NOW ever for finance professionals. I could argue with a number of reasons why that is the case, but I’ll limit it here to just one: Our customers!

Actual stories from SAP customers are what gives SAPPHIRE NOW that extra something. Even 100 J.Los would be unable to hold a candle to them. They will not act or perform, neither do I expect them to dance or to sing on their stage. What they will do instead is tell true stories and firsthand experiences of their customer journey with SAP solutions for Finance.

So which customer stories in the Finance context can you expect next week in Orlando? See my recommendations below. Note, that some of the sessions will even be broadcasted online – you can watch for free, even if you are not attending SAPPHIRE NOW!

Day 1 of #SAPPHIRENOW (May 5)

La Trobe University #1: Simple Finance in the Cloud

  • “Bring Cloud and Simplicity to Financial Systems to Achieve Strategic Goals” – Simplify inefficient financial processes to help your finance organization thrive and achieve enterprise-wide goals. Hear from a customer who is using the SAP Simple Finance solution in the cloud to streamline the company’s financial operations, gain nimbleness, focus on the most essential tasks, and get the job done in real time
  • Tuesday 5/5 11:30 a.m. – 11:50 a.m. in Theater 4
  • Speaker: Peter Nikoletatos, Executive Director and CIO, La Trobe University
  • View in Agenda Builder (Session ID LB20473)
  • Watch it online! (at 4 p.m. as a playback version)


AIG Yielding Savings from its Accounts Payable Process

  • “Take a Collaborative, Hybrid Approach to No-Touch Invoice Processing” – This discussion probes best practices and lessons learned from a real-world digital transformation story. Hear how American International Group (AIG) tapped into the digital economy by integrating SAP software for invoice management and the Ariba Network to eliminate exceptions, remove paper, and yield significant savings from its accounts payable process.
  • Tuesday 5/5 01:00 p.m. – 01:45 p.m., Business Networks Microforum BN319
  • Speaker: Marianne Clements, VP, Global Accounts Payable Strategy & Opns Global Sourcing, American International Group Inc.
  • View in Agenda Builder (Session ID BN20192)


Day 2 of #SAPPHIRENOW (May 6)

La Trobe University #2: Moving to the Cloud

  • “Journey to the Cloud and Transform Your Business with Expert Support” – Streamline operations by moving your on-premise applications to the cloud. Learn how La Trobe University simplified its IT landscape using the SAP Simple Finance solution with the SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud service and cloud solutions from the SAP for HR solution portfolio. Hear how expert services from SAP help La Trobe focus on key tasks.
  • Wednesday 5/6 11:00 a.m. – 11:20 a.m. in Theater 5
  • Speaker: Peter Nikoletatos, Executive Director and CIO, La Trobe University
  • View in Agenda Builder (Session ID SC25134)


Source: 13 Sessions at #SAPPHIRENOW (with graphics!)


T-Mobile USA: Transforming B2B Payments with AribaPay

  • “Transform Your B2B Payments with Network-Based Payables Automation” – Eliminate labor-intensive and costly paper processes, improve working capital performance, and streamline business-to-business (B2B) payments. Hear how T-Mobile USA is using the AribaPay solution along with the Ariba Network and electronic invoicing solutions to eliminate risk, increase savings, and innovate their accounts payable processes.
  • Wednesday 5/6 01:30 p.m. – 01:50 p.m. in Theater 3
  • Speaker: Ashley Bartels, Director, Business Solutions in Enterprise Systems Development, T-Mobile USA Inc.
  • View in Agenda Builder (Session ID BN20579)
  • Watch it online and live!


ServiceNow: Using SAP Business Planning and Consolidation, powered by SAP HANA

  • “Transform Business Planning with In-Memory Technology” – Improve and automate consolidations as well as strategic, operational, capital expenditure, and human resources planning. Learn how ServiceNow uses the SAP Business Planning and Consolidation application, powered by SAP HANA, to transform the way people work, with a focus on service orientation, user experience, and real-time calculation.
  • Wednesday 5/6 02:00 p.m. – 02:20 p.m. in Theater 3
  • Speaker: John To, Finance Systems Mgr, ServiceNow
  • View in Agenda Builder (Session ID LB20507)
  • Watch it online and live!


Swiss Re: Instant Insight with SAP Simple Finance

  • “Transform Finance with Instant Insight” – Understand the value of instant insight in finance. Hear firsthand about Swiss Re’s experience using the SAP Simple Finance solution, powered by SAP HANA, to help with real-time planning, prediction, and analytics.
  • Wednesday 5/6 03:00 p.m. – 03:20 p.m. in Theater 3
  • Speaker: Thomas Wright, Director Finance Transformation Program IT Lead, Swiss Re
  • View in Agenda Builder (Session ID PT20289)
  • Watch it online and live!


Honeywell: Simplifying GRC

  • “Simplify Governance, Risk, and Compliance to Improve Insight and Resilience” – Abstract: Gain insights for making better decisions by visualizing and predicting how business risks will impact performance. Learn how to turn governance, risk, and compliance activities into underlying business processes. Discover how you can automate manual and repetitive tasks and replace fragmented and immature technologies.
  • Wednesday 5/6 04:30 p.m. – 04:50 p.m. in Theater 2
  • Speaker: Pablo Hernandez, Director IT & Technology Audit, Honeywell Corp.
  • View in Agenda Builder (Session ID LB20493)


Day 3 of #SAPPHIRENOW (May 7)

Key Panel Discussion: Finance Transformation with SAP Solutions

  • “Accelerating your Finance Organization’s Transformation with Innovation” – Hear from finance executives on how they are taking their finance departments to next level with the latest innovations from SAP. You will hear from three customers – Ascend Performance Materials LLC, Florida Crystals, Swiss Re – on their path to transformation by leveraging solutions within the SAP Simple Finance portfolio around core accounting, compliance, strategic planning and real time insight. The panel will be moderated by Thack Brown, GM and Global Head LoB Finance at SAP.
  • Thursday 5/7 09:00 a.m. – 09:30 Theater 5
  • Panelists:
    • Pat Atkinson, Director Project Management Office (PMO), Florida Crystals
    • Aaron Benner, BI Architect, Ascend Performance Materials LLC
    • Thomas Wright, Director Finance Transformation Program IT Lead, Swiss Re
  • View in Agenda Builder (Session ID LB20472)


GE Oil and Gas: Strategies for Success in PO and Invoice Automation

  • “Embrace Strategies for Success in PO and Invoice Automation” – This discussion reveals the importance of collaborating with trading partners and suppliers for PO and invoice automation. Discover key success factors and lessons learned from GE Oil & Gas, which implemented the Ariba Network, Ariba Invoice Automation, and SAP ERP. Learn from NTT DATA Corp. and GE O&G how to achieve savings through automation.
  • Date/Location: Thursday 5/7 03:00 p.m. – 03:45 p.m., Business Networks Microforum BN319
  • Speaker: Gopa Kumar, Program Mgr, Global Sourcing IT, GE Oil and Gas
  • View in Agenda Builder (Session ID BN20193)


Hunt Consolidated: Real-time Insights for Corporate Treasurers

  • “Convert Corporate Treasury Insights into Actions” – Discover how corporate treasurers can gain real-time insights that help them maintain control while becoming more agile. Learn how solutions from SAP give treasurers complete visibility into global cash positions and enable them to react quickly to fast-changing market conditions.
  • Thursday 5/7 04:00 p.m. – 04:20 p.m. in Theater 2
  • Speaker: John Stoker, Manager Financial Systems, Hunt Consolidated Inc.
  • View in Agenda Builder (Session ID LB20528)


For even more highlights and opportunities for our Finance audience, please check out these blog posts of my colleagues:

Hear How Simple Finance is Helping Businesses Transform at #SAPPHIRENOW

By Judy Cubiss, Director, Industry Cloud Marketing, LoB Finance, SAP

Originally published on SAP Community Network, 29 April 2015. Reposted with permission.


Finance organizations are continuing to evolve; they are taking advantage of advances in technology organizations which enable them to provide data in real time, redesign processes, drive efficiencies, and help  decision makers in their organizations gain insights.  All of this continues to allow finance departments provide value to their business and support innovation and growth.

SAPPHIRE NOW is the perfect time to hear how leading companies have been transforming their finance organizations with the help of SAP Simple Finance. This will be a great SAPPHIRE for finance professionals, and there are many sessions focusing on SAP Simple Finance and other finance topics. Here are some of the key highlights for Simple Finance at #SAPPHIRENOW.

Theatre Presentation: LaTrobe University on Tuesday May 5th @ 11.30am to 11.50 am

Peter Nikoletatus, Executive Director and CIO at LaTrobe University will talk about LaTrobe’s successful finance transformation with SAP Simple Finance deployed in the Cloud. How they have streamlined their companies’ financial operations, and can get the job done in real-time.

Microforum: Wednesday May 6th @ 1pm to 1.45pm

Join  Dan Fagan, Senior Principal,  SAP Value Engineering at this microforum to discuss ways to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of your finance organization, and understand the measurable business improvements that can be achieved with the SAP Simple Finance solution.

Theatre Presentation: Swiss Re on Wednesday May 6th @ 3 to 3.20pm

Listen to Thomas Wright, Director Finance, Transformation Program from Swiss Re share how SAP Simple Finance is providing value through instant insight and taking advantage or real time planning, prediction and analysis to transform their organization and technology.

Theatre Presentation: ServiceNow on Wednesday May 6th @ 2 to 2.20pm

Learn how ServiceNow is transforming it’s Business Planning with In-memory technology.  Find out how  ServiceNow has improved and automated consolidations as well as strategic, operational, capital expenditure, and human resources planning. Using the SAP Business Planning and Consolidation application, powered by SAP HANA, to transform the way people work, with a focus on service orientation, user experience, and real-time calculation.

Panel Discussion on Thursday May 7th @ 9.00am to 9.30am,

This panel discussion hosted by Thack Brown (GM, Global Head, LOB Finance, SAP) will feature Florida Crystals, Swiss Re and Ascend Performance Materials LLC in a discussion on how they are taking their finance departments to the next level and leveraging SAP Simple Finance solutions to help with their transformations.

For other Simple Finance sessions, please see this sample agenda for SAP Simple Finance Solutions.

Plan Simpler at SAPPHIRE NOW 2015

By Karuna Mukherjea, Sr Director Product Marketing, SAP

Originally published on SAP Community Network, 27 April 2015. Reposted with permission.

SAPPHIRE NOW as always continues to mark a time at SAP where we showcase our latest innovations, get to meet our existing customers and start building relationships with our new customers and the larger SAP Community. My colleague Pras Chatterjee talks about the “New Perspectives in Planning” that will shared at SAPPHIRE NOW 2015. SAP is about making the lives of our customers simpler! On that note we decided to make planning simpler. With the launch of our latest solution SAP Cloud for Planning, finance professionals can really simplify and optimize the FP&A Process. Built natively on the SAP HANA Cloud Platform with embedded analytics and collaboration and consumer grade UI, this application has truly transformed how the FP&A function and the role it will play in finance organizations.

Plan Simpler with SAP Cloud for Planning

Attend these Demo Theater Sessions and learn how you can plan better by simplifying financial planning and analysis. See how the SAP Cloud for Planning solution helps by delivering a people-centric user interface, embedded analytics, collaboration capabilities, and powerful modeling, all within a single product. Also get a chance to meet with the SAP Cloud for Planning Product Experts and discuss how this solution can solve your current challenges of FP&A.

Explore the Benefits of Planning Solutions in the Cloud

Attend these Demo Theater Sessions and learn how to make your planning faster and simpler with real-time insight, collaboration, and powerful modeling. See how the combination of the SAP HANA platform and the SAP Cloud for Planning solution make this possible. Examine all the new design features the cloud planning solution offers.

Get Ready for Next-Generation Financial Planning and Analysis in the Cloud

Join SAP and Deloitte in this micro forum discussion.This discussion will help you determine if you’re ready for simpler financial planning in the cloud. Hear SAP and business partner experts discuss the access, collaboration, and deployment benefits of a cloud-based planning solution and offer sound advice on how to get started.

We look forward to seeing all of at one or more of these sessions. If you are unable to attend any session come by our “Simplify Financial Planning and Analysis” Demo Station located at LB210 in the Line of Business Finance area. Learn how to Plan Simpler with SAP Cloud for Planning and have a great SAPPHIRE NOW.

Are You Planning on a Great SAPPHIRE NOW?

By Pras Chatterjee, EPM Product Marketing, SAP

Originally published on SAP Community Network, 21 April 2015. Reposted with permission.

This year brings a new perspective for all of us in the world of Planning with SAPPHIRE NOW just around the corner, this being “Plan Simpler”!  It’s something Finance folks in the world of Financial Planning & Analysis have been striving to achieve for years, but this year at SAPPHIRE NOW within the Line of Business Finance Campus we have real world highlights that showcase how this is possible.  With the launch of S/4 HANA and all the excitement around SAP Simple Finance, Planning now has a platform to take it to the next level!

Transform Business Planning with In-Memory Technology
Attend this session to hear how ServiceNow powers their SAP Business Planning and Consolidation, version for SAP NetWeaver to enhance the way they focus on Business Planning and accelerate their Financial Close process.  John To from ServiceNow will spend time discussing how the power of SAP HANA accelerates the way they do business now and he’ll highlight the future of their landscape all with the industry leading In-Memory Database platform!

Improve and Simplify Your Business Planning – repeated twice
Attend this live demo to see how you gain real-time access to your actuals leveraging SAP Business Planning and Consolidation embedded within your SAP Simple Finance solution via Integrated Business Planning for finance.  With the power of SAP HANA, the cloud and mobility learn how to enhance and extend the way you do your planning!

Simplify Finance Processes through Real-Time Integrated Financial Planning
Join me at this Microforum where I help customers understand the value that SAP Simple Finance brings to customers with the ability to improve data access and deliver real time information for the business all with the spirit of providing unparalleled ability to perform Business Planning.  We’ll spend some time amongst peers and experts understanding where you are on the SAP roadmap and what it takes to get to a level where business users can be supported in a manner that allows them to make decisions based on instant insight.

SAPPHIRE NOW presents a great opportunity in the world of Budgeting, Forecasting and Planning to gain a foothold for your enterprise and organization in having one SAP Simple Finance platform, powered by SAP HANA.  Learn how to move forward from where you are now, how to provide the real time access to data one needs in this day and age and how to gain the competitive advantage over everyone else.  Learn how to bring together SAP ERP, SAP Simple Finance, SAP Business Planning and Consolidation, Integrated Business Planning for finance through the great events we have planned.  Learn to “Plan Simpler” and plan on having a great SAPPHIRE NOW!

How to Reduce the Time, Risk, and Cost of Producing Standard Periodic Financial Reports

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

Originally published on SAP Analytics, 17 April 2015. Reposted with permission.

I finished my close, now how can I reduce the time, risk, and cost of producing standard periodic financial reports?

As part of our ongoing accounting and financial close series, today we’ll discuss disclosure management, which is a market term for producing standard periodic financial reports.

In our last blog, we discussed reporting and analysis for the financial close, and disclosure management is an extension of that. It’s the process of producing the final product of the close to disclose process. So after you run all your batch processes, close each entities’ books, reconcile intercompany, collect and check data at corporate, run consolidation, and make consolidating adjustments you need to produce formal reports. As in our last blog, this is for both internal and external purposes. Examples of this end product: annual report, quarterly report, board report, ops review, and so on. Depending on your organization, the final product will vary, and most likely you will have multiple reports that vary internal and external and periodically.

In most organizations, there’s a designated “owner” of these types of reports. For this blog’s purposes, let’s call her Leia. This is usually a manual process. She has a word document that each period she does a “save as” then updates the information in that report with the new period information. She then e-mails the document to various stakeholders, C-level executives, and/or divisional or market unit leads who make their edits and send them back to her. Leia then consolidates all the changes into a master document, which has multiple review cycles.

Let’s discuss the challenges with Leia’s approach – lack of Automation, Visibility, and Control.


Lack of Automation

Leia collects data in the report from disparate data sources across system landscapes. Some data comes from the consolidation solution and other from the HR system. Sometimes you can link data in word to outside sources, but Leia does a manual cut and paste for spreadsheets and narrative. With this approach, ’’is easy to make mistakes. Data is often reused in multiple reports, so she updates it in one report she needs to remember to update it.

Lack of Visibility

Because Leia’s e-mail communications produce multiple document instances and versions, it’s difficult to keep track of who changed what where. E-mail workflow is difficult to manage and audit. Last-minute adjustments may cause inconsistencies and lack of control. Leia needs to ensure that if she updates the revenue number on page 6, than the revenue break down on page 36 is also updated.

Lack of Control

Since Leia’s company does business globally, regulations in different jurisdictions add to her complexity problem. She also has to deal with multinational groups across continents and time zones (so when working with Asia, for example, the smallest change could cost a whole day). And at the end of the day, multiple output formats are required (PDF, HTML, XBRL). People, process, and technology has been a key theme in this series so far and disclosure management is no exception. However, while Leia depends on e-mail and word processor technology, she focuses more on the people and the process. This is a prime area of improvement to leverage technology. Disclosure management solutions are plentiful in the market. I’m the most familiar with SAP Disclosure Management so I can share some of the functionality that might help Leia.


Automation with SAP Disclosure Management

SAP Disclosure Management has a central data store so Leia can automate the population of this data store by creating feeds from her various data sources. This will save her from manually updating data and making mistakes. Data is often reused in multiple reports, so if she updates it in one report she needs to remember to update it everywhere. With SAP Disclosure Management, Leia can create multiple reports based on the same data store so she doesn’t need to update the same data in multiple reports, just the data store.

Visibility with SAP Disclosure Management

Leia can create a report structure within SAP Disclosure Management where she can organize a report into multiple chapters. She can assign different chapters to different people for updating. Additionally, there’s a built-in work flow so she can assign a different approver for that editor to the same chapter. The workflow also makes it very easy to see what chapters have been completed and which still need work. Last-minute adjustments are then easier to manage since the report update is now automated.

Control with SAP Disclosure Management

Since SAP Disclosure Management hosted on a server and accessibly via the internet, all of Leia’s stakeholders can access the report 24/7 in all time zones. Creating different reports for different jurisdictions can be managed easily since she can reuse chapters in multiple reports. And at the end of the day, SAP Disclosure Management can provide multiple output formats (PDF, HTML, XBRL).

SAP Disclosure Management helps Leia (or you) reduce the time, risk, and cost of producing standard periodic financial reports.

Discuss All These and More at SAPPHIRE NOW
Please join us at SAP’s SAPPHIRE NOW conference May 5 – 7 in Orlando, Florida. SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference is the ultimate opportunity to maximize your SAP investment and find solutions to your most pressing business challenges. Through face-to-face interactions with executives, industry experts, peers, and SAP partners, you’ll be able to leverage diverse points of view as you expand your business network. Learn best practices, explore cutting-edge solutions, and discover ways to reduce complexity in your business. With hundreds of sessions, you have the ability to customize your experience based on what’s most important to you.

I will be there with all of our guest bloggers from this series. If you’d like to discuss any of the topics in this series in more detail please stop by the Demo Station LB209: Simplify Accounting and Financial Close Processes and ask our experts. I look forward to seeing you there.

Read the previously published blogs in this series and stay tuned for upcoming blogs in the accounting and financial close series, where we will go into much greater detail on corporate governance. Learn more on our recent blog on reporting and analysis for the corporate close.

Elizabeth Bio & Pic