6 Stories to Give You the Finance Buzz at SAPinsider

SAPInsider Financials Logo

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

SAPInsider Financials Logo

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.

Is It Time for Two CFOs?

Coffee-break with GameChangers

Laurel and Hardy. Lucy and Ethel. Fred and Ginger. Dynamic duos can have quite the impact – far more than one person alone. Is it time for the office of the CFO to adopt this mentality? Finance insiders would say so, especially as they try to force the tipping point for moving operations to the cloud.

During a recent SAP Game-Changers radiocast, panelists Joshua Greenbaum, principal and founder at Enterprise Applications Consulting; David Dixon, partner and principal at TruQua Enterprises; and Neil Krefsky, senior director of product marketing for SAP Cloud at SAP, weighed the advantages of splitting the CFO job into two parts – one for compliance and one for innovation.

Why? “So we can ignore the former and stop driving financial innovation based on what a regulator thinks is innovative,” quips Greenbaum. He asserts that the office of the CFO is one of the most conservative places in the business. Until the CFO can get on board with and drive innovation, finance will continue to lag behind in cloud adoption.

Monitoring cloud turnover

Krefsky sees cloud adoption in finance happening in a sort of domino effect. He explains, “I think it’s going to be an evolution…as they [finance organizations] see adoption uptake, that will encourage them to uptake, but [who] is going to dip their feet into the water?” The water might be more enticing once finance organizations realize there is no tradeoff between staying compliant and moving to the cloud.

Companies of all sizes are now moving to the cloud, for reasons that include:

  • Greater accessibility
  • Lower cost
  • Innovative technology

The general success of SMEs bodes well for global corporations that might be reluctant to move to the cloud. Adds Dixon, “It’s just a tipping point…and, as more people adopt it, [there] will be more [of a] trust level. But really, I think it’s IT that needs convincing, because I think finance will just turn to [the] IT organization and ask, ‘Is it trustworthy? Is it safe? Is it secure?’”

Simplicity vs. complexity

Part of cloud adoption is walking a tightrope between simplicity and complexity – balancing the need for user-friendly solutions that facilitate self-service with the complexity of integrating your existing systems across a variety of different applications.

Managing this dichotomy would, theoretically, be easier with two CFOs in place. Greenbaum agrees, remarking that, “For innovation, I would want someone from the technology side – someone with a minimum of grey hair and a lot of crazy ideas. I think they need to be counterbalanced by the adult supervision from the compliance side, but I think we need a little bit of fresh blood in there.”

Do you think there is room for co-CFOs in the finance world? Listen to the full radiocast to learn more.

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.

The Power of Connection

From Craig Himmelberger, SAP

In my earlier “Power of Connection” blog article on SCN, I wrote about the great opportunities that exist to make valuable connections between the better insights found in our treasury systems, and the policies and procedures of various operational working capital systems.

Following on from my earlier thoughts on this subject, just one month ago SAPPHIRENOW 2014 gave me opportunity to reflect on how far technology has come in a very short time, since “HANA” and “Cloud” were just buzzwords and not yet the center of corporate boardroom conversation. I was joined in a Treasury Solutions demo theater by colleagues from our Ariba and Financial Services Network solution teams. I was pretty excited, as SAP Cash Management powered by SAP HANA was being given its proper SAPPHIRE debut, with full demonstration of the Fiori dashboard user interface (beautiful!) and the practically instant return of in-depth analytical content related to cash positions and anticipated liquidity requirements.

See the future taking place
You know how you read all about something and you think you know it pretty well? I had seen the conceptual walkthroughs of the full Cloud networked solution, complete with the Ariba buyer/supplier portal and the Cloud-based corporate-to-bank connectivity within the SAP Financial Services Network, but I was hardly prepared for the experience of seeing it all together as if for the first time. When you’re used to the beauty of each one of the parts individually, it’s not always easy to take a step back and see the future taking place right in front of your eyes.

Know what’s needed, and when
Seconds after producing a comprehensive cash requirements analysis, and determining a rock-solid liquidity projection for two weeks out, based on purchasing, sales order and everything else available in the Simple Financials system, I finally was able to look at the navigation screen of the Ariba Working Capital Optimizer with opened eyes. The Treasurer knows what is needed, and when. The figures are entered there as simple as you please. And one click yields a paradise of invoice (if you have an excess and want to invest in some instant 1% and 2% discount opportunities among your suppliers) and receivables open items (if you’re short, and want to offer a little sweetener to some of your customers to pay you early, and literally finance your ongoing operations for you) that can be selected with a swipe of a finger. (You have a touch screen, don’t you?)

Maybe I’ve been a finance guy for too long, but Fruit Ninja has nothing on being able to select exactly what you need to make the most of your investible working capital, or reduce (or eliminate) your borrowing costs to the bank. Best of all, after you’ve chosen (collaboratively—it’s in the Cloud!) the items to settle with your buyers and suppliers, the FSN is there to expedite the transactions. Choose from a range of financial institutions—not just a single bank—and get the best terms and the best rates available.

I’ve seen the future, and it’s connected.

Putting Together the Puzzle of Payment Options

Coffee-break with GameChangers

What defines the current climate of payments? Bonnie D Graham, host of a recent SAP Game-Changers radiocast, lists three attributes:

• Risk
• Cost
• Ability to reconcile

Moderating a panel of guest experts, Graham identifies two choices left for those in this sphere: innovate to improve or accept the status quo and risk losing big. Panelists Tom Durkin, head of integrated channel solutions at Bank of America Merrill Lynch; Laurie McCauley, partner with Treasury Strategies; and Leonard Schwartz, director of solution management for the financial services network at SAP discuss the puzzle pieces that comprise next-generation financial services.

Discover a transformed banking industry

Corporations demand more than ever from their banks – especially following the 2008 financial crisis – but for the most part wish to remain bank agnostic. They want banks to take an omnichannel, customer-centric approach and break out of traditional silos.

The question, says Durkin, is how to “support that when you have a variety of clients that range from business banking type clients to the largest multinationals. [It is] certainly a challenge for any bank in any segment.” He goes on to assert that no corporation is truly “agnostic” in banking, but rather attempts to be independent from the technology systems.

Gain trust through enhanced payment visibility

Clients across the globe expect reliable, quick access to information, according to Durkin. They want to become more efficient in the accounts receivable process and the accounts payable process – getting all the information they need on a particular payment for a receivable account or determining if a supplier actually received the appropriate payment.

Rest easy with stronger data and payment security

“The security question is coming up more frequently,” says McCauley. “How do I know my data is secure? How do I go beyond two-factor authentication?”

Schwartz indicates that the other side of this issue is reliability. In case of a major cyberattack or even just some system downtime, it’s important to have a strategy in place. He suggests companies start by asking questions such as, “What are your alternate routes, what’s your disaster recovery plan? To me, it’s about figuring out how to use technology that evolves – both for reliability and to add extra layers of security.”

Navigate a new breed of payment providers

As technology has evolved, so have payment methods. The use of checks has plummeted in recent years. They may never disappear completely, but electronic payment methods are becoming more popular and seem to be the norm for tech-savvy millennials. Why wait for a check (and waste all that paper) when you can just hold your phone up to a scanner?

Synthesizing the comments of the show’s guests, Graham asserts that Amazon, PayPal, and Facebook are redefining what payment providers look like. McCauley includes Walmart in this new contingent as the company has an arrangement with MoneyGram to send Walmart-to-Walmart payments through the store.

Is it possible for so many puzzle pieces to support a quest for continued innovation? Listen to the full radiocast for more information.

Three Ways to Advance Your Finance Operations

Coffee-break with GameChangers

Can a Finance department become more effective – even strategic to the business – through the applied use of innovative technologies? While many field experts say “yes,” Finance lags other corporate functions in technology adoption. Panelists on a recent SAP Game-Changers radiocast agree and suggest three promising technology-inspired alternatives to business-as-usual:

  1. In-memory computing for up-to-the-minute financial and operational data
  2. Cloud technology for quick implementations
  3. Analytics and enterprise mobility innovations for combined company and market information

So why have Finance departments made so little progress? Have they not found the right software or are tight budgets the issue? Panelists Bill Sinnitt, senior director of research for Financial Executives Research Foundation; John Steele, principal in Deloitte Consulting’s technology service area and leader in the SAP finance transformation practice; and SAP’s Birgit Starmanns, senior director in marketing for finance solutions, discuss these alternatives.

Leveraging in-memory computing and the SAP HANA platform

The SAP HANA platform, Steele notes, has democratized information, changing how information is gathered and what types are gathered. “I’ve never been more excited to be a practitioner in the whole finance and technology arena,” he says. “Over the last two years [companies have] moved their transaction processing …over into in memory. This is one of the most fundamental shifts that I have ever seen and it pulls together your analytical and transactional information into one common platform.” He then underscores the significant benefits of this shift:

  • Instant visibility into the organization
  • Greater focus on data quality
  • More time to focus on business processes through integrated planning

Getting comfortable in the cloud

SAP’s Birgit Starmanns explains that Finance has an obvious interest in the cloud, but many organizations are hesitant to put all their data there. For now, larger companies are cautiously migrating to the cloud with hybrid scenarios.

Smaller companies, on the other hand, are open to making a complete move to the cloud because, as Starmanns explains, “Lots of times they are using Microsoft Office applications to manage their business, so they are more ready because they don’t really have that historical larger footprint of an ERP system.”

Capitalizing on enterprise mobility and analytics

“You can never have enough analytics from business intelligence,” Sinnitt rationalizes.

With mobile devices playing an integral role in daily life, enterprise mobility has become a must for financial execs. The panelists examine some of mobile’s largest contributions:

  • Smoother and enriched order-to-cash processes
  • Enhanced forecasting and planning by putting the right information in the right hands
  • Greater insight from social data

All panelists agree that future CFOs will act as the catalysts for innovation. They predict that the next wave of advances will come in the form of visualization technology. Do you agree with this prediction? Listen to the full radiocast for more insights.