Glass half full; EPM reflections

For the last few years at the end of each year I’ve run a series on the CFOKnowledge social media channels called “EPM Reflections” in which I take a look at what’s driven the SAP solutions for EPM team that year. But this year I have decided to buck the trend a little, and instead of waiting for the cold of December to arrive, I thought I’d take a breath right now on this beautiful and sunny June day, and look back at a few of the many activities that have been the focus of the EPM team here at SAP these last few months.

SAP Cloud for Planning; Plan simpler!

We entered 2015 with the announcement of availability of SAP Cloud for Planning, which officially “hit the streets” in February. The whole EPM team is extremely proud of our latest solution, a SaaS planning and analysis application designed with the business user in mind and delivering a collaborative environment for business planning that draws on our many years’ experience in delivering industry-leading EPM solutions.

Since its launch, my colleagues in SAP have taken SAP Cloud for Planning on tour to many cities world-wide, so that customers have an opportunity to come and see this new and exciting evolution of our EPM solution suite. Interest in our new cloud offering is growing, with some great feedback from visitors to our tour, which is of course supported by a generally growing acceptance and adoption of cloud-technology for business use. This will surely play a dominant role in our focus for the second half of 2015 too.

Events, events, events!

Generally the first half of each calendar year is a hot-bed for event-related activities, with key events being SAPinsider Las Vegas in March, SAPPHIRENOW from Orlando in May and SAPinsider Nice in June. The most recent of these for the EPM team, SAPinsider Financials in Nice took place just a couple of weeks ago, and I can report that this was a fabulous event in a superb location. I mean, who wouldn’t want to attend a conference held on the Cote d’Azur in late spring? But of course attention was focused inwardly on the event rather than outside, and over three days attendees had the opportunity to hear from SAP, business partners and more importantly SAP’s customers about how technology is helping to transform their finance operations and business performance. I had the opportunity to sit in on a number of customer presentations, many of which I mentioned in my pre-event blog post, and I am pleased to say that it’s a delight to hear so many customers speak about their experience and their roles with such passion. I have to say a big “thank you” to all customers attending and presenting at the SAPinsider events this year, as well as “congratulations” to the organizers WIS for another great event.

And of course, don’t worry, if you missed an event early in 2015 then you’ll have more opportunities to attend later in the year as SAPinsider visits Singapore in September, and then later in the year we’ll be hosting our SAP Financial Planning, Consolidation and Controls conference in Las Vegas.

SAP Radio Game-Changers Financial Excellence Show!

This is a real gem of a show. If you haven’t listened to it yet then I can’t recommend it highly enough, as the quality and depth of discussions held in this weekly show is truly excellent. I’ve been fortunate to have been on the organizing team for the Financial Excellence radio show since its inception, and now in our fourth series I can say with assurance that the show has lost none of its appeal. Each series comprises 13 weekly hour-long shows and features a changing panel of experts who discuss technology impacts across many areas of finance and finance business process. With panelists joining from business analyst organizations, management consultancies, system integrators, research organizations, end-users as well as SAP, the discussions are often rich in detail and experience, always engaging and often thought-provoking. While radio may be “old tech” when compared with newer social media approaches (albeit delivered over the Internet), I for one love this radio show as it’s always topical and an extremely engaging way to learn something new from “people who know”. Take a listen to this week’s episode here, or if you want to listen to any of the shows from the back-catalogue then take a look at the list of prior shows which are all available for replay. And though we’re nearing the end of our current series we hope to be back for a fifth series again in the future – so keep that (IP) radio tuned in!

And so, those are my first few reflections on 2015 for the EPM team here at SAP. Certainly a glass half-full, if not more. No doubt I shall still return with more reflections in December – and if the second half of the year is as busy as the first then our glass won’t just be full, it’ll be over-spilling by that time!

GRC 2015 – One Week On!

By Thomas Frenehard, GRC Solution Management

Originally posted on SAP Analytics, 23 June 2015

Steve Lucas delivering the keynote address at SAPinsider 2015 Nice

Steve Lucas of SAP delivering the keynote address at SAPinsider 2015 Nice

Last week, SAPinsider held its GRC 2015 event in Nice, France and it was energising and fast paced! For those who couldn’t attend, I thought I’d share with you some of the great discussions I had with customers and also one of the announcements made that should be of interest to SAP’s GRC community.

Do More With Less

Of course this has been top of mind for many companies with the recent economic turmoil where resources are scarce and investments most often reduced to vital activities. But every customer I spoke with mentioned that their management is now asking them to increase their regulatory and operational efficiency coverage with “optimized options”. In essence, to do more controls with less resources.

It was motivating to hear feedback from customers who have already taken this path and leveraged their internal audit department to help. This showed that a true collaboration between the compliance team and the internal auditors can lead to the set-up of a sound and very efficient internal control system.

Three Lines of Defense

The three lines of defense was definitely THE hot topic at the event. And I could see the acronym 3LOD gain more and more traction, day by day. Many companies were interested in discussing how to align their operations, compliance, and audit departments. Interestingly, IT and business departments both mentioned this as a key (process) roadmap item for them in the near future. For business, the intent is to achieve the assurance level required by their executives and for IT departments the rationalization of the software landscape that would be brought with this approach was a definitive winner.

Operational Risk Management

Here I’m not referring to the banking Operational Risk Management (ORM) approach, but the intent to do risk management (identification, analysis and mitigation) at the operations or asset level. Having the ability to still be able to integrate the results in a wider Enterprise Risk Management framework so that a unique reporting of the company risk profile can be displayed at any time – without requiring lengthy manual risk consolidation.

It was interesting to hear the different opinions on what ORM is for each sector as there doesn’t seem to be a single – widely adopted – definition or approach. This is definitely one of the key points I took home that I’ll need to think about this summer!

Congratulations are In Order!

Last but not least, congratulations to EY and Integrc, two of our great partners in the area of GRC who have decided to combine forces. I wish them all the very best in the process! In conclusion, if you’ve never been, Nice is a lovely city, filled with history, beautiful landscapes, and delicious food. Associated with a great event, I have to admit that my week was far from being a punishment.

 

Note from the editor:

Thank you Thomas for this succinct wrap-up of GRC focus topics and discussions at the recent SAPinsider event in Nice.

Should readers of CFOKnowledge want to learn more about the GRC or Financials events, here are a few links to some excellent blogs from my colleague Derek Klobucher. I think you’ll enjoy them!

ŸHow Real-Time Analytics Will Kill a Financial Tradition

ŸWhy Paranoia Is Good for Business

ŸScreen Your Partners or Risk Guilt by Association

 

 

 

How to Build High-Performing Finance Functions

By Drew Hofler, Senior Director, Solutions Marketing at Ariba, an SAP Company

To compete in a global economy, organizations must work efficiently, maintain financial visibility and control, and use information wisely to seize opportunities and create value. These are all areas where finance operations can have a positive impact and as a result, the role of finance operations is evolving from purely tactical to one that contributes more strategic value.

In fact, a recent CFO Research report indicates that companies have placed a high priority on improving finance operations (68%), but many finance executives believe it should be even higher (79%). What will it take for these companies to build high-performing finance functions? That’s what I’ll touch on in this blog.

Step back and evaluate needs 

Many companies have invested a lot of money in disparate point solutions for a particular piece of the finance operations process. For example, they may have separate solutions for managing cash, processing payments and receivables, and procuring goods.

When your team is in the trenches working with these solutions, the processes seem distinct and discreet. But if you step back and view them holistically, you’ll see they’re not. It causes a lot of manual work for your finance team to connect the pieces together.

Not that your team isn’t up for the challenge. In the same study I referenced above, 87% of senior finance executives agreed that their finance staff have the knowledge and expertise they need to succeed. One senior vice president praises his team for its “can-do attitude and excellent work ethic.” Another commends the “strong technical know-how and hardworking, capable employees” in finance operations.

Provide strong teams with effective tools

Despite the strength of your finance operations team, you can’t take full advantage of their them if they’re overwhelmed by a rising tide of tactical responsibilities. The report indicates that more than half of the respondents (57%) say the finance operations staff is often overwhelmed by the demands placed upon them. As one manager put it, finance is “unable to meet deadlines due to overload.”

If companies would take the investment they’ve made in their people, and various point solutions, and enable them to work together on a single platform, then finance operations would have the automation tools they need to meet tactical responsibilities while adding more strategic value.

Enable a game-changing technology model 

Solutions from SAP and Ariba, an SAP company, establish a game-changing technology model that integrates functionality while offering essential deployment flexibility. The Ariba Network and SAP solutions enable finance operations to connect linked processes more easily, collaborate with business partners and vendors more efficiently, and leverage business insights more effectively to contribute strategic value to the business.

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We have two resources to help you explore how the Ariba Network and solutions from SAP can help you accomplish these objectives – an overview video and an e-book. Each explains the solutions that can help you address the following key areas of focus for finance operations teams:

  • Business network: Connects trading partners on a cloud-based platform for business-to-business commerce
  • Invoice management: Automates the most time-intensive manual processes with on-premise software, cloud-based solutions, or hybrid deployment options
  • Receivables management: Enables automated, integrated, and collaborative processes for receivables management using SAP software and mobile apps
  • Dynamic discounting and working capital management: Improves days payable outstanding and enables significant cash returns through increased high-yield, low-risk, early-payment discounts
  • Payment automation: Enables an end-to-end payment solution that helps to increase the certainty, simplicity, and security of B2B payments
  • Shared services: Support efficient and scalable finance operations through automation, smooth execution across departments and functional processes, and a shared-service delivery environment

Transform the role of finance operations

By enabling automated, repeatable, and consistent processing of core financial transactions across various locations, the Ariba Network and SAP solutions help you to:

  • Reduce the cost of finance operations
  • Increase compliance and capture savings
  • Improve efficiency and productivity
  • Simplify collaboration
  • Optimize cash flow and return on short-term cash
  • Speed time to value through rapid deployment

Learn more about the solutions that can help

The bottom line is this. The role of finance operations is evolving beyond tactical responsibilities to include a more strategic focus. To enable this transformation, financial executives must be able to easily connect and optimize financial processes in an integrated and efficient manner. To explore how the Ariba Network and solutions from SAP can help you improve finance operations, read our e-book and overview video today.

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This story originally appeared on the SAP Business Trends community.

 

 

 

Financials and Planning – Coming Together in Nice

By Pras Chatterjee, Senior Director Product Marketing, SAP

Next week on June 15th to 18th in Nice, France the SAP Finance community in EMEA comes together for SAPinsider Financials 2015. In the spirit of “coming together” it’s interesting how there is so much excitement around our SAP NetWeaver based planning solution, SAP Business Planning and Consolidation, version for SAP NetWeaver and the content provided through Integrated Business Planning for finance.

jigsaw1

The introduction of SAP Simple Finance last year caused a great deal of excitement among finance professionals. The innovations within SAP Simple Finance modernize the SAP ERP Financials solution by leveraging the native capabilities of the SAP HANA platform with next generation architecture and a reinvented user experience including SAP Fiori.

Strides in Planning and Forecasting

In the area of planning and forecasting, SAP Business Planning and Consolidation has made great strides. We all know of the issues faced by customers that plan in spreadsheets, however one of the greatest pet peeves of any Office of the CFO planner is the lack of integration between their financial data in ERP and what resides in their planning solution. Too often there is still considerable manual work performed by finance professionals, whereby they are reconciling the difference in data between their ERP and their Planning systems at the end of each month. This may be due to the fact that updates made in the GL were not updated in the planning solution, or new Master Data (e.g. a new account or cost center) created in ERP wasn’t reflected in their planning system. With SAP Business Planning and Consolidation, version for SAP NetWeaver we have now made that integration a reality for customers, leveraging the SAP BW NetWeaver platform to keep data and master data consistent through quick and easy connections.

Integration Leads to Customer Value

With SAP Simple Finance, the integration and customer value has become even stronger. Customers can work on one SAP ERP powered by SAP HANA, with SAP Business Planning and Consolidation installed directly in this ERP environment. Actuals for data and master data will also be available in true real time meaning that as transactions hit SAP ERP, they are automatically updated in the planning environment. This planning deployment for SAP Simple Finance based on SAP Business Planning and Consolidation, version for SAP NetWeaver is referred to as Integrated Business Planning for finance, thus truly highlighting the “coming together” aspect of ERP Financials and Planning.

It’s all happening in Nice!

There are a lot of great sessions that will be taking place in Nice, France next week as part of SAPInsider Financials. I encourage you to join me as I present topics such as Leverage SAP Business Planning and Consolidation, version for SAP NetWeaver and SAP Simple Finance to integrate your business plans in a real-time manner and the 2015 guide to the newest capabilities of SAP Business Planning and Consolidation 10.1

I shall look forward to seeing you in Nice!

 

The Next Step in Transforming Finance Operations

By Drew Hofler, Senior Director, Solutions Marketing at Ariba, an SAP Company

An effective and efficient finance operations function is central to the smooth functioning of a company. Accounts payable and receivable, working capital, supplier management, expense management, and compliance all need to be harmonized and seamless to ensure optimal business execution.

But a recent global survey of 323 finance executives, carried out by CFO Research in collaboration with SAP, found that most finance executives believe that finance operations staffs will need better information tools and simpler processes in order to unleash their full potential. They say their staffs have to overcome serious obstacles put up by poor processes that create inefficiencies and information systems that are difficult to use.

For example, in the survey a director of finance from a technology company in India writes, “Upgrading the information system has worked the best [for improving finance operations]. It has resulted in faster financial processing power.” At the same time, half of the survey respondents report the need for still more upgrades to systems and processes in order to reap the full value from their skilled finance operations staff.

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In fact, despite the investments their companies have already made in technology, three-quarters of the respondents report that their finance operations systems still require a great deal of manual intervention. “Finance performance is negatively impacted by the current out-of-date ERP in place (still from the mid ‘90s),” the controller at a U.S. manufacturing company wrote. “Lack of technology results in rework, duplication of efforts, and a lot of manual processes that are not efficient or effective.”

And a large number of companies appear to be falling short in their consideration of a comprehensive solution set. Only about one in five are looking to expand use of either outsourcing or shared services centers as the means to improving finance operations.

At one Brazilian technology company that has already taken this path, a vice president of finance extols the benefits the company enjoys as a result. Writing about the shared services capabilities his company had developed, he said, “Everything became more efficient, rapid, and integrated across all BUs.” A vice president in the U.S. wholesale/retail trade also pointed out the enterprise-wide value of a shared services model that he believed “would contribute greatly to success in all areas of the business.”

The right solution, taking advantage of the right technology, can deliver radical results for a company. For example, a vice president at a U.S. financial services firm wrote that “a flexible billing system [would] enable the business to change revenue models to address competitive pressures.” Companies simply can’t afford to overlook finance operations as an new enabler of transformation and driver of success.

Read the full report “Build High Performaning Finance Functions”.

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This story originally appeared on the SAP Business Trends community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support Finance Operations: Re-invest in Business

By Drew Hofler, Senior Director, Solutions Marketing at Ariba, an SAP Company

For quite some time, CFO Publishing has been documenting an expanding role for finance at companies around the world. Finance functions have been building a reputation as full business and strategic partners, providing insight along with information.

It is a demanding role for finance staff, but they are up to the task. At least, that’s what finance leaders think, according to a global survey conducted by CFO Research and sponsored by SAP. The survey of more than 300 finance executives found nearly nine in ten respondents expressing full confidence that their staffs embody the knowledge and expertise they need to succeed.

A number of respondents went out of their way to give their people glowing reviews. One senior vice president in the chemicals/energy sector in Australia wrote, “Finance has a can-do attitude. Their work ethic is excellent.” Another executive from the chemicals and energy industry in Singapore praised the “strong technical know-how and hardworking, capable employees” in finance operations.

However, the survey also raises the question of whether deep skills and hard work are enough. Despite their confidence in their people, four in ten respondents also believe that they are understaffed. And more than half of the respondents—58%— say that finance operations staff often are overwhelmed by the demands placed upon them. A finance manager from a technology company in Singapore says simply that finance is “unable to meet deadlines due to overload.”

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Many companies apparently are falling short in the support they provide finance operations, which execute the core financial transactions and processes for a company. Processes are too complex and cumbersome, and the disparate and disconnected technology tools they currently use cannot always keep up with the demands.

The consequences can be disastrous. For example, the controller of a construction company in Asia notes that one of the most serious weaknesses at his company are “payments that lack [sufficient] detail and do not go through, which chokes up the entire system.”

In contrast, the payoffs for better supporting finance operations activities drive directly to the success of a company. A finance transformation leader in the survey points to the ability to “re-invest savings in higher-value business support and analysis activities.” And a CFO from the media/leisure sector writes, simply, “Less time chasing payables would enable more focus on the business operations.”

Read the full report “Build High Performaning Finance Functions”.

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This story originally appeared on the SAP Business Trends community.

 

 

 

 

Nice and Simple – 6 Super Sessions for SAPinsider

GRC

Financials

 

 

 

Fully refreshed and recharged after a slight break in event-related activity (see my earlier post regarding the SAPPHIRE NOW event), attention now turns to Nice in France, where the SAP solutions for Finance teams shall be heading soon to attend our next “major” of the season with the SAPinsider conferences. While containing a number of topic areas, my attention will be focused on two areas in particular, the Financials and GRC events.

I don’t know about you, but when attending business conferences I like to do a little bit of forward planning, so that I can get the most out of my time spent at the event – a little bit like planning a route around the Disney theme parks I guess, but with more time spent seated, rather than queuing and without all those people walking around in character outfits. But planning takes time, which many of us don’t have in abundance during our working hours, and so to help provide some focus I want to share my “ super six” sessions to see at SAPinsider, to give you a nice and simple start towards your event agenda.

6 Super Sessions to See in Nice

In selecting 6 sessions, I’ve kept things as simple as possible, focusing exclusively on customer case study sessions rather than the Keynote, or the Simple Finance, EPM and GRC roadmaps sessions which are all available too. But you can select these at your discretion at the SAPinsider website. Rather, I’ve chosen customer sessions because these are where you’ll get the inside scoop about implementing software solutions, from your industry peers who want to share their experiences with you. And in my opinion, customer stories like these are the most valuable of all the event sessions. So here they are my 6 customer stories for Nice:

  1. 16 June, 2.00pm: Cargill – large-scale finance transformation project
  2. 17 June, 8.30am: GlaxoSmithKline – rolling out SAP Risk Management across the organisation
  3. 17 June, 10.30am: Sonae Indústria – revamping controlling and corporate management reporting
  4. 17 June, 2.30pm: Gazprom Neft – using SAP BPC 10.0 to align consolidated and mgmt reporting
  5. 17 June, 4.45pm: Airbus – faster, simpler integrated financial reporting and planning
  6. 18 June, 10.30am: VCEAA – reducing segregation of duties conflicts

But of course that’s not all, and you certainly don’t need to follow the above sessions if you don’t fancy them – there are many more to choose from. But whether you’re interested in SAP Simple Finance, EPM or GRC customer stories, or want to hear from SAP on any of these topics, then you can build your own agenda to suit your needs.

If you’re in Nice this year, then I wish you a very successful and informative trip. I’ll be there too, so say “hello” if you see me. And I hope that my cross-Finance customer session suggestions in some way help to make your planning that bit more Nice and Simple.