6 Stories to Give You the Finance Buzz at SAPinsider

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It’s going to be a busy time this week for many of my colleagues and the visitors to SAPinsider Financials 2015 in Las Vegas, so I decided to give you my thoughts on some interesting sessions to see, if you’re attending, given that you’re spoilt for choice with such a comprehensive agenda. And I’m bucking the trend with this blog post – because instead of talking about products, I ‘m talking about customers and thought leaders, and in particular the stories that you’ll be able to see and hear at the event this week.

Excited yet? I am! And with good reason, because many valued SAP customers have decided to make the trip to Las Vegas to give an account of their experiences with SAP solutions for Finance…stories of implementation approaches, best practices, and where they have found business benefits.

So for anyone embarking on a software implementation project, or even just considering approaches to solving some of their finance department and process issues, these are key SAPinsider Financials 2015 sessions to attend.

Six in Focus – But Don’t Forget the Rest!

My six focus sessions are chosen not because I know the customer stories particularly well, but rather because they’ll give attendees a good flavor across a range of finance topics. And my apologies to the many other customers not listed here – whose sessions are equally as valuable – but I just couldn’t fit you all into one short blog post.

I would, however, encourage readers attending Financials 2015 to take a look at the many other customer-led sessions at the event this week, as well as those detailed here, just so that you select sessions that will be most relevant to you.

Ready to learn about some of the exciting sessions ahead? Then let’s go:

  1. Keynote address, TODAY, Tue 17 March at 8:30 am – Okay, it’s strictly an SAP-led session, but there’ll be a panel discussion in which thought leaders will be asked to give their view about challenges and opportunities facing CFOs. It’s sure to be an interesting discussion – and let’s face it, no-one wants to miss the keynote!
  2. Sun Products, Wed 18 March at 8:30 am – A session where you should learn some best practice advice on implementing credit, dispute, and collections management.
  3. Velux, Wed 18 March at 10:30 am – I really like the sound of this session, in which you’ll hear how Velux moved from a traditional to “beyond budgeting” approach.
  4. McKesson, Thu 19 March at 8:30 am – For anyone seeking advice on implementing SAP ERP Financials then this is a session for you!
  5. Bentley Systems, Thu 19 March at 1:00 pm – Hear how Bentley Systems automated and shortened the payment processing lifecycle with SAP Bank Communication Management.
  6. Telephone and Data Systems, Thu 19 March at 4:30 pm – This is one for those of you interested in financial consolidations, with particular focus on project planning.

Don’t Be Shy – Get Networking!

All of these customers are attending the event to share their knowledge and experience with you, and I know that if you have questions for them after hearing their sessions that they’ll be delighted to speak with you…so do take advantage of this in the event networking sessions.

And remember to also take a look at the full agenda, so that you can plan your sessions and make the best use of your time. I hope you have an interesting and informative week, and that you return to work buzzing with the excitement of the potential to put in practice what you have learned at the event.

Have a great week!

Simplifying Finance in an increasingly complex world – outlook on Financials / GRC 2015

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By Henner Schliebs, SAP. Originally posted on SAP Business Trends, 17 February 2015. Reposted with permission.

We all have read the new mantra multiple times: if we simplify everything – we can do anything. This holds true for the finance department more than ever, considering that the use of technology is key to enabling a real-time business process environment. There were some threatening results revealed in a recent study that the CFO magazine has published, like “80% of respondents would need easier to use technology if they’d wanted to meet their growth targets”. So, this latest shift in technology enabling true real-time processes will be the focus topic of this year’s Financials 2015 / GRC 2015 event hosted in Las Vegas in March (Wynn Hotel, 3/17-3/20, follow the discussion #Financials2015).

As there will be hundreds of sessions that show customer success stories, the latest and greatest in financial management, EPM, Analytics, GRC and Ariba solutions I would like to highlight the Simple Finance sessions so that you can build your agenda around those, especially given that any S4/HANA journey will start with Simple Finance:

  1. start with the keynote where Thack Brown will elaborate on the need for speed (aka real-time finance processes) and introduces some external thought leaders to the panel discussions around a modern finance organization. I won’t tell too much when mentioning that Thack will launch another important mile stone of Simple Finance to the public…
  2. one of the most compelling use cases of Simple Finance is the central journal, so this session lead by Carsten Hilker shows you how to non-disruptively start your Simple Finance implementation arriving at one source of the truth
  3. for those in need of a high-level introduction to Simple Finance I’d highly recommend Martin Naraschewski’s session about the roadmap to Simple Finance, where he will elaborate on the needs of a typical finance transformation initiative
  4. one thing that was highly anticipated by you all is more insight into Integrated Business Planning – your unique opportunity to natively connect EPM with your Simple Finance ERP system to allow planning, simulations and scenario modeling directly on your transactional data. Pras Chatterjee off course will show integration to the new Cloud for Planning solution as well
  5. new to the game is the Simple Finance Cash Management solution that is introduced by Christian Mnich, where he will give insights into how to better plan and forecast liquidity based on an integrated process leveraging your ERP / S4HANA system
  6. a dedicated session on the new Accounting solution will provide better understanding of the concepts of the greatest innovation since R/3 building the base for S4HANA. Stefan Karl will guide you through this
  7. want to learn how to get to Simple Finance? Join charming expert Birgit Starmanns and understand what to consider if you want to adopt Simple Finance including advanced predictive finance analytics
  8. join our partner John Steele at Deloitte when he talks about real-time finance processes and the role that HANA plays in this highlighting finance use cases like fast close, financial risk management or finance operations
  9. the experts from TruQua will deliver a thrilling session around the analytics that Simple Finance can provide in form of HANA Live content or via integration of SAP Analytics and EPM solutions. Dave Dixon’s presentation is a good example
  10. finally you’d want to learn about the fast close capabilities of Simple Finance where Stefan Karl walks you through how to become a world’s fastest closing company like SAP

Note there are many “hands-on”-like sessions on the Monday (3/6) as part of the Pre-Conference Workshops that deliver tremendous value for practitioners.

Please be sure this is just the Simple Finance top 10 – please be sure you also learn from customers how SAP Financial Management solutions helped them achieve targets.

Follow the discussion on twitter or facebook or SCN and please share your thoughts.

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!

Is Your Company Ready to Tweet About Its Internal Audit?

Coffee-break with GameChangers

The role of internal audit is shifting by the second. No longer just a step in an overall business sanity check, this department is ready to become your company’s command center for risk – thanks to cutting-edge technology. During a recent SAP Game-Changers radiocast, panelists Paul Sobel, VP and chief audit executive for Georgia-Pacific LLC; Carey Oven, partner and leader for the internal audit transformation market offering in Deloitte and Touché LLP; and Bruce McCuaig, director of solution marketing for SAP solutions for governance, risk, and compliance discuss this burgeoning trend.

Move from manning your post to seeking opportunities

Sobel immediately tries to debunk the myth of the bean-counting auditor with no imagination, and Oven agrees. “I actually think internal audit can be very entrepreneurial. It can be very insightful and value driven because we have a very wide purview on business and what’s going on within our organizations.”

The need for innovation is definitely present. McCuaig describes a survey he conducted of about 150 auditors at the IIA International Conference in London. 54% of respondents believe that technology will fundamentally change how audit services are performed and measured – but only 14% said that the current audit management and analysis tools meet their needs.

So what types of tools could fill this gap? According to Sobel, it’s visual analytics in the form of dashboards. Instead of focusing on pure numbers, auditors must focus on ways to unleash the data and make it a powerful tool for management.

McCuaig concurs. “I haven’t seen anyone getting on a corporate jet reading a 13-page audit report. It’s important to distill down the information to a dashboard to help them drive insights. But simplicity takes a huge amount of work.” Such work can’t be completed without tech-enabled systems in which management must be willing to invest.

Outlining the responsibilities of management vs. the audit

As the role of the audit morphs, it becomes ever more important to make the distinction between what role the audit plays and what role management must play.

McCuaig believes it’s time to stop counting the number of audits performed and start measuring the amount of knowledge they create. As the role evolves into a command center for risk, he looks forward to redefining the role of the auditor as one that can be proactive rather than simply reactive.

Sobel emphasizes that management must determine the organization’s risk tolerance in order for the audit to provide maximum value. No company’s risk can be completely eradicated, so how much risk can a business tolerate? Management owns risk and must answer this question so auditors can focus on aspects other than risk – adding more value to their role and the company.

If risk tolerance is increased, “We start to pull away from the lengthy and laborious text-based audit reports and start to get into those quicker messages – whether it’s literally Twitter or something else,” says Sobel. “I think our value will come to fruition more quickly than perhaps it does even today.”

To learn more about how audit is becoming a command center for risk, listen to the full radiocast.

Three Steps to Transform into a “New” Finance Organization

Coffee-break with GameChangers

If you’re not innovating, you’re falling behind. This is true for any industry, but especially finance. The question is how to successfully manage change. It’s easy to get lost in many moving parts and lose sight of the original goal. What steps can you take to adopt innovative practices and remain as efficient as possible? Panelists Rob Kugel, research director at Ventana; Renee Ford, a managing director in Accenture’s SAP practice; and Birgit Starmanns, a senior director in marketing for finance solutions at SAP discuss the prospects of financial innovation – and how to get there – in a recent SAP Game Changers radiocast.

Step 1: Ditch spreadsheets where appropriate

Kugel dives into travel and expense reporting as a prime example of an area made unbearably tedious by Excel spreadsheets. The task is time-consuming for the traveler and just as laborious for the business. He says now is the time to find solutions.

“Software has the ability to be our personal assistant to speed and improve the effectiveness of enterprise processes.” Kugel’s research shows that companies relying heavily on spreadsheets take two days longer on average to close books than companies that use them infrequently. Why?

  • Lack of flexibility means spreadsheets don’t lend themselves to data visualization
  • Time-consuming and error-prone processes lead to mistakes that can affect decades of data
  • On-demand reporting now exists to quickly and accurately pull necessary information

Starmanns agrees, pointing out that by spending so much time consolidating Excel sheets, you’re missing the solid technology foundation that enables advanced analysis.

Step 2: Automate – for better or worse

Ford presents the automation conundrum with a quote from Bill Gates: “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second rule is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”

She advocates adopting automation with an open mind as “organizations can use technology to highlight bottlenecks and in some cases where they are really conscious of it, it can propel them forward.” In her opinion, automation should advance finance to a point where the finance function is contributing to the overall organization.

Step 3: Consider your people above all else

Starmanns asserts that “A huge part of implementing any new technology is really that change management piece, and it’s all about communicate, communicate, communicate. Some folks will be more comfortable and can hit the ground running and others… they are almost afraid.”

Ford echoes this sentiment, cautioning that technology is just one piece of the puzzle – it means nothing without capable minds to operate it. It’s important to make sure your workers are ready for the change that’s happening – and prepared to take on the change. You should decide where they need to be with technology proficiency and then get them up to speed.

As tech-savvy millennials start taking on more prominent roles in finance, the panelists think software adoption should become more rapid and intuitive, paving the way for prolific innovation.

Is your finance organization equipped to take these steps? Listen to the full radiocast to learn more.

Translate International Trade Regulations into a Competitive Advantage

Coffee-break with GameChangers

Isn’t the World section of Google news a pretty depressing read lately? There’s the Middle East conflict, upheaval in South America, and a crisis in Syria. Trying to keep the state of international politics straight is head-spinning – but what’s it like for those in the business world whose job it is to manage international trade? A recent SAP Game-Changers radiocast addresses this topic, and panellists Kevin Riddell, international logistics manager at Tremco Inc.; Rajen Iyer, cofounder and CTO of Krypt Inc.; and Marcus Puschke, principal consultant at SAP, discuss ways to reduce the growing complexity of international trade and accelerate it.

Regulations, sanctions, and restrictions!
There’s no way around them, and they get bigger all the time – and so does your compliance burden. According to Iyer, “It’s hard for companies to not just interpret those regulations and apply them in their business, but also look at how they can even automate the supply chain.” He believes that, when dealing with multiple geographies, different languages, and constantly changing regulations, the key to progress is automation.

But automation can’t help without support from the top down. Every organization needs a technology and innovation cheerleader, and, according to Riddell, it would help if these leaders share a few quirks with those who run the government and don’t mind curling up with a giant book of regulations.

Trade as a political chess piece
Moderator Bonnie Graham quotes Riddell as saying, “Trade compliance landscape is changing rapidly. Governments like the EU and the U.S. are using sanctions to exert influence on other countries’ policies. This means they can prevent their citizens from doing business with other countries or listed entities.”

Riddell explains that sanctions can be positive when enforced in lieu of military action. He also details how the list of sanctions can go beyond countries to individuals, including those who reside in the U.S. New sanctions are imposed each day, and your business must react immediately or face consequences.

Iyer suggests that an all-system automation process can help you manage your situation for exception cases where you can selectively release. You have to screen and make sure that you have documentation or that you have interpreted the rule correctly, and that’s why you involve lawyers before you set the system.

The essential human element
Riddell cautions, “You need expertise until artificial intelligence is completely in place. It’s going to be a human interfacing with the automation. And if that human isn’t properly trained or possessing the knowledge, you could still get into trouble.” Iyer agrees that continuous learning on the job is of the utmost importance.

As automation trends down to smaller companies and becomes more widely available, these businesses will be able to handle even more complex requests. Processes will be x-rayed from A to Z, and integrated compliance checks and customs clearance procedures will become a quality feature for a company excelling in these fields. The better you handle the data you transmit, the more trust you can gain from your business partners and from the authorities.

For more information on how to speed up international trade, listen to the full radiocast.

Is Risk Management Technology the Key to Sustainability?

Coffee-break with GameChangers

Today’s risk managers are between a rock and a hard place. They have to identify and implement the right risk management practices in order to prove that they’re adding value to the organization, comply with regulatory requirements, and sustain the business. But, with so many innovative technology options, it can be difficult to determine which risk management solutions they can use, if any, to ensure success.

In a recent SAP Game-Changers radiocast, panelists Saret van Loggerenberg, manager of risk and compliance for Exxaro Resources Limited; Scott Mitchell, chair of OCEG; and Bruce McCuaig, director of solution marketing for GRC solutions at SAP, share their thoughts on risk management trends, technology, and the human factor.

Defining the role of risk management

Risk management carries a different meaning for each organization, based on its needs, challenges, and goals. For Loggerenberg, governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) is not about ticking boxes for the sake of compliance; it’s about wanting to exist in the future. “It’s about how the company is directed and controlled, how to ensure that we make decisions effectively…and about remaining sustainable,” she says.

McCuaig agrees with Loggerenberg, adding that it isn’t enough to manage risk; organizations have to understand what causes risk in the first place. To illustrate his point, he shares some advice a fire inspector once gave him. “It does not matter how many fire extinguishers you have or what kind they are or how big they are, fire extinguishers don’t prevent fire,” he was told. “So just sitting here and trying to figure out how to control the fire does not really count. We need to understand what causes the fires.” The key is to manage risk before you even have to put a control in place, says McCuaig, and organizations are using technology to do just that.

Leveraging technology and the human factor to drive value

For risk management organizations, innovative technologies can “provide data, analysis, and information that informs us more about the world we don’t understand today…but we are going to have to play in tomorrow,” says Loggerenberg. The problem, she points out, is that “sometimes people implement technology because they think they are going to solve the problem with that, or that the technology is going to serve the purpose of what human behavior should actually do.”

Citing a recent risk management report, Loggerenberg says that, while 80 percent of risks have external root causes, 60 percent of them are people related. For this reason, “you cannot manage risk…without dealing with the human factor,” says McCuaig. “In fact, if all you did was deal with the human factor, you will probably be very, very successful at risk management.”

Mitchell concurs, and goes on to predict that the future of risk management lies in “a whole new wave of technology that is intended to help people in the enterprise get paired together for better decision making.” He expects that, instead of automating the human factor out of risk management, we need to look at collaborative technologies that will bring people together for decision making.

Navigating the path ahead

All panelists agree that the future of risk management is in technology. This includes everything from monitoring customer and employee sentiment on social media to using Big Data to identify trends and link cause-and-effect relationships. And, McCuaig says, “We have to do the right thing wrong a little bit and finally figure out how to make it work.”

For even more insights into risk management trends, technology, and the human factor, listen to the full radiocast.