Design Symphony: Developing cloud-based planning software around the user experience

By Nico Licht, UX Lead, SAP Cloud for Planning

When designing SAP Cloud for Planning we embraced some basic design principles. In this blog I’d like to share the principles we challenged our global management team with:

It’s not just about function but also DESIGN. About ten years ago Apple published a set of user experience guidelines for their developers. For me, four basic design principles stood out: simplicity, availability, familiarity and forgiveness. Focus on the main use case and have additional features, like previews or preferences, just one click away. Meet the users’ expectations and mental models and allow them to make mistakes without losing data or breaking the system. The designer, Frank Chimero, summarized these basic UX rules quite nicely “People ignore design that ignores people.”

SIMPLICITY

Focus on the users’ job to be done! When I would argue about what development wants, my first UX manager at SAP told me I should always ask “Why is this feature important for the user?” and he added “No use case, no design.” We need to know the job to be done behind a feature request in order to create meaningful mock-ups, screen designs, or code. Ease of use is also a flavour of simplicity. Think of keyboard navigation or a quicker way to maintain access rights. However, simplicity does not mean trivial. Some systems are complex but no system has to be complicated.

AVAILABILITY

Have every additional feature just one click away, and make it easy for the user to determine the location of the next click. For example: the breadcrumb navigation on top, the preferences dialog in the tab bar, or the context sensitive help button we’ll add to the shell. Meaningful titles and labels provide additional orientation and should always appear in the same place. Don’t hide additional features and preferences in unexpected screen areas.

FAMILARITY

Many concepts in our application are universal. Discussions, spreadsheets, icons, dialogs, and so on are all common UI elements. Ensure that these pieces always look and behave the same and meet the mental model of our users. Everything that looks or feels strange contradicts with the concept of familiarity. I really like the term floor plan. When your house is on fire you need to get out quickly. A good floor plan reveals the quickest way to the next exit. A good application floor plan allows the user to always find the missing features in the expected place. Furthermore, customization features like changing user and background pictures, increase the personal touch. A system showing my data, my company logo, and colleagues’ pictures, already looks more familiar.

FORGIVENESS

Allow the user to make mistakes and try things out without breaking the system or losing data. Let’s enable our users to perform a serious task but with a playful approach. Oscar Wilde said once “Life is too important to be taken seriously.” Sure, we can’t always take responsibility for the users actions. But if we can’t be smart enough to prevent user errors we should provide as much information as possible (e.g. meaningful warnings and system notifications). Our system should be tolerant not ignorant.

It’s not just about focus, it’s about DESIGN SYMPHONY. In his book, A Whole New Mind, Dan Pink refers to a globally spread workforce that “requires focus and specialization”. It’s the same thing in our development organization. We have specialized experts in each and every work stream; all of them doing a great job like the musicians in an orchestra. Everybody is an artist with their own instrument but they need a composed score so that they can play together nicely. However, looking at the ratio of developers and designers in our organization, this is something we only can achieve as a team. Everybody should be concerned about design. This is the guideline that is the score for our symphony, the glue that ties all work streams together. Let’s create beautiful user interfaces, with meaningful functionality that people cannot ignore.

C4P Image

After a relatively short but intensive development process we released SAP Cloud for Planning. And I can truly say I am very proud of the whole team and the design-driven culture that we’ve established. Not every detail is perfectly arranged just yet and we will continue the hard work to enhance the user experience. Nevertheless I believe we’ve delivered an extraordinary application. I’m looking forward to the many exciting conversations to come with users and customers.

 

NicoBio

Audit and Risk Management – a Winning Combination?

Coffee-break with GameChangers

Don’t stick your nose in someone else’s role – that’s one of the first rules of corporate etiquette. And if you do, be prepared to step up to the plate and take on some of the workload. This is the position internal audit finds itself in as it becomes embedded in enterprise risk management processes. Hear Robert D. Gould, internal audit at Harley Davidson; Thomas Bamberger, chief audit executive at SAP; and Bruce McCuaig, governance, risk, and compliance solutions at SAP, discuss the implications for internal audit’s new role during a recent SAP Game-Changers radiocast.

Allow the role of audit to evolve

Gould makes the case for audit’s evolving position, saying, “Audit can drive heck a lot of value because of our unique insight and role that we play in the voice that we have at the board level.”

Bamberger expands on the change, calling it a natural shift since “Information exchange between the three departments – risk, compliance, and audit – it’s of the utmost imperative to do this on a regular basis. That means the entire audit team is working.” He says they need this symbiotic exchange of information to:

  • Assess early-risk indicators
  • Improve decision preparation
  • Uncover synergy potential
  • Use all these benefits as a method to increase transparency

He goes on to mention new challenges such as cyber security and mergers and acquisitions that challenge the operations and risk management departments.

McCuaig asserts that this is where audit can make the biggest impact – and why this function can’t afford to wait for its invitation to a seat at the table.

Treat audit as a strategic advisor

Changing company culture is no small task – it requires a level of acceptance that starts at the top. Auditors need to bring a high degree of critical and strategic thinking to the role.

McCuaig agrees. “The role of internal audit in risk management is not to just deal with day-to-day operational things. You have to look at the impact on the organization of environmental risk – future risks. I think the role of audit department is to make sure that those emerging external kinds of risks are recognized.”

Gould expands on this point. “I think a critical role we play is to the whole educational awareness side. Management is busy running the business – they don’t have the luxury of stepping back and necessarily seeing the whole process from end to end, and I think that’s a really big value that we can provide from an unbiased perspective.”

In order to understand your business, it is imperative to understand your level of risk. According to McCuaig, “The role of audit in risk management is to identify those events and conditions that can put you out of business slowly.”

The point of this new role for audit is to have the department helping the first line of defense. As this shift takes effect, there is going to be increased demand for advisory services. Companies will see the benefits of assessing risk proactively and bringing insights to help drive change before issues are already there.

Is your business ready to welcome audit into a more strategic role? Listen to the full radiocast to learn more.

The Time Capsule: Part 1

Happy New Year to all readers of the CFOKnowledge blog. I hope that you have all had a good start to 2015. What better way to commence a new blogging year than with a blog from Gary Cokins, who so kindly contributed much to our site in 2014. In a kind of “future-retrospective” Gary takes us to a time long after most of us will have long-finished our own working lives…

 

By Gary Cokins, Founder of Analytics-Based Performance Management LLC

Total Immersion Corpcast – Looking Back at Your Job 50 Years From Now

The year is 2060, and today is the long-awaited day when our company’s time capsule, sealed back in the dark days of 2015, was finally opened. In the capsule we found, as you might expect, a treasure trove of old products, quaint logos and uniforms, and faded photographs of employees. But we also found some fascinating documents of the period: budgets, strategic plans, performance reports, and, perhaps most interesting of all, letters written by executive managers and addressed to the managers who would be responsible for guiding the company’s performance in 2060.

We asked our team leaders to respond to their predecessors’ letters in their daily meta-net sensecasts. Here are some of their responses:

Maia Bischoff, Chief Value Creation Officer (in 2015, this role was Chief Financial Officer): “My poor predecessor CFO…! She must have been pulling her hair out every day in frustration. My interpretation of her letter to me is that she was primarily worried about getting her external compliance financial reporting right so she and her C-suite team wouldn’t end up in jail. For us today, the universal accounting rules from the Global Accounting Federation (created in 2023, thank goodness, to clean up that IFRS reporting mess) are all automated and directly integrated to every legal enterprise on the planet. And with our single global currency — the yeneurodollarrupee — foreign currency translations are a relic from the past.

Financial reporting is effortless and incorruptible. My staff rarely spends a minute thinking about the ‘how-to’ of financial valuations for investors and government regulators. Our attention and energy is almost exclusively focused on internal managerial accounting and analysis for economic value creation for our stockholders, achieved by quasi-optimal decision-making prescriptive analytics software tools used by all of our employees.

Also, our job is much simpler since the shrinkage of that behemoth, economic-bubble-creating-and-bursting financial sector that mushroomed at the beginning of this century, with its exorbitant and unjustified high salaries. Banking today is like the buggy-whip manufacturing industry of 1910. Now companies compete on products and services, resulting in real, not artificial, economic wealth creation that banks can no longer drain from the real economy.”

Jamal O’Keefe, Zen Innovation Officer (responding to our 2015 Vice President of Research and Development): “My predecessor’s staff had more fun than our innovation team today. Back then it was a wild time of discovery. Continuous innovation had become the prerequisite entry-ticket to compete, similar to what quality control had become in the 1980s. Today, although constant innovation remains an absolute given requirement, every competitor in every industry is near parity in their rate of innovation. It’s not the competitive edge it once was.

Our learning and knowledge systems fused with our predictive analytics are essential, or we would fail. To be sure, our new depth-intuition techniques and insight incubation processes show great promise. But since the shift to customer relationship optimization as our company’s key driver, my staff’s work of creating new products, services and processes has become largely routine. It’s like a marathon run without a finish line.”

Donna Pugliese, Chief Customer Acquisition Officer (in 2015, Chief Marketing Officer): “Judging from the letter to me from the CMO back then, I’d say he wasn’t actually doing marketing — he was just throwing money at any prospective customer that had a heartbeat. My older staff members still refer to it as “spray-and-pray” advertising.

The letter claimed the company had improved the “targeting” of customers in its marketing campaigns. But his marketing plan reminds me of those wooden contraptions in the Middle Ages that lobbed boulders against castle walls. Occasionally they had an impact.

My predecessor would be impressed by our laser-like customer intelligence and marketing spend optimization tools. We not only identify and acquire new customers based on maximum potential financial return through our communication channels (all compliant with the Global Citizen Privacy Pact), but we also ensure that our growth rate is in perfect harmony with our asset and employee capacity addition plans. We acquire only the highest rank-ordered net profit lift lifetime value customer leads. For us, customers are investments — like the components of a stock portfolio — and we’ve solved the optimization challenge of converting customer equity to shareholder wealth creation. My predecessor appears clueless that such a relationship even existed.”

Andrew T. Huntingdon III, Chief Customer Relationship Officer (in 2015, Vice President of Sales): “My predecessor wasn’t selling; he was bribing. No, I’m not talking about illegal bribes like those we remember from the Great Corruption era of the late 2040s. I mean wasting the shareholders’ potential for higher wealth by offering ridiculously huge price discounts, deals and giveaways.

He’d be impressed by how we optimize our time and spending today with finely tailored, minutely differentiated services for each of our 2,700 customer micro-segments. We never wastefully overspend on our most loyal customers, nor do we underspend on marginally less loyal customers who might otherwise defect to our competitors.

In the 2030s, we learned the painful lesson that customer retention, while a key lever to shareholder wealth creation, is not enough. You have to refine retention — you have to retain the correct type of customer and then grow high-profit-margin sales from that base. We realized that in almost all industries, products and standard service lines had become commodities, neutralizing any competitive advantage. Differentiating services for different types of customers had to become a science.

The turning point came when we made a true commitment to two sales growth principles: First, nurture customer relationships. Second, use thought leadership to bring customers new ideas and innovations that help them to achieve their own strategic objectives and to better serve their customers.”

(Note: The capsule also contained a letter from the Director of Information Technologies. As we all know, this function became obsolete in the 2050s when the company implemented a software program that prioritizes and fulfills requests made directly by the line managers. The letter also refers to another rather obscure job title: CIO. One of our young new hires has posted a meta-net enquiry ‘What was a CIO?’ — to which an older worker responded, ‘Career Is Over.’ ”)

Interested in learning more? Plug into part 2 of this Total Immersion Corpcast to experience more Time-Capsule revelations.

 

About the Author: Gary Cokins, CPIM

Gary_Cokins

Gary Cokins (Cornell University BS IE/OR, 1971; Northwestern University Kellogg MBA 1974) is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, and author in enterprise and corporate performance management (EPM/CPM) systems. He is the founder of Analytics-Based Performance Management LLC www.garycokins.com . He began his career in industry with a Fortune 100 company in CFO and operations roles. Then 15 years in consulting with Deloitte, KPMG, and EDS (now part of HP). From 1997 until 2013 Gary was a Principal Consultant with SAS, a business analytics software vendor. His most recent books are Performance Management: Integrating Strategy Execution, Methodologies, Risk, and Analytics and Predictive Business Analytics.

gcokins@garycokins.com; phone +919 720 2718

http://www.garycokins.com

Linkedin.com contact: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/gary-cokins/0/15a/949.

Signs that Your Financial Close Process May Be Broken

From Elizabeth Milne, Senior Director Product Marketing EPM, SAP

Print

Recently I worked with Deloitte to publish the paper “5 Signs that Your Financial Close Process May Be Broken (and What to Do about It).” Deloitte is a fantastic partner with massive experience working around the close process and helping organizations shorten the close cycles and improve quality.

I worked with John Steele, Principal, Stuart Scott, Senior Manager, and Swapna Satwik, Manager at Deloitte on this paper. We had many conversations sharing our experiences working with customers to define the “5 Signs.”

The area of the financial close is where I’ve been focused pretty much since the beginning of my career. I started out working in finance at The Walt Disney Company and at Warner Bros closing the books and creating financial reports. Later, I moved to the software side of things and spent eight years implementing consolidation software.

Part of the fun of working on implementations is working with the customers to understand their processes and how we can improve them. The area of financial consolidation certainly has it’s complexities, but there are also consistencies across organizations.

So what are the five signs?

  • No defined close process
  • Not enough automation
  • No access to real-time data
  • Poor integration with plan and actual data
  • Manual creation of financial statements

And what should you do about them? Well, download the paper to find out!

In order to improve the close process, you need to identify any area where you can standardize, automate, and centralize. This analysis should cover people, processes, and technology.

To read the paper, visit Deloitte’s collateral kiosk and search on Financial Close.

 

This article was originally posted on the SAP Analytics blog channel, 21 August 2014

Is Yoga our best performance management tool? – Part 2

From Malcolm Faulkner, Senior Director Product Marketing, SAP

Optimal performance depends on the effectiveness of the employees and management. Peak performance requires us to have alert and agile minds. In business we need to monitor the environment for changing conditions, opportunities and threats. Agile minds means we are able quickly interpret situations and devise appropriate responses. We were not created to be sedentary creatures and we can only have optimal mental performance if we are physically fit. Whether or not you do other forms of exercise Yoga makes a good complement as it stretches and relaxes tight muscles. Organizations in turn benefit from fit employees. Some progressive companies have recognized this and in addition to having onsite workout facilities schedule Yoga classes.

Continuing on from part I where I wrote about four ways in which Yoga helps you perform better, here are my five other reasons.

  • Focus
  • Patience
  • Courage
  • Clarity of mind
  • Fitness and health

5. Focus

In a world of increasing technological distractions and ever shortening attention spans the ability to focus is seemingly becoming a lost art. Some activities simply require deep concentration. Try computer programming or writing a blog, while being constantly interrupted. Instead, try taking some time with the smart phone and your browser shut off and focus your mind on a task at hand.

6. Patience

Depending on our job at some point we all have to either deal with unhappy customers, difficult co-workers, micro managers, overbearing, irrational bosses and worse. All of which require patience. How we handle these situations makes all the difference – we can escalate or mitigate. Yoga poses take time to perfect – they teach us to be patient.

7. Courage

Perhaps strange but courage is a word I hear yoga teachers use often. How exactly does yoga teach us courage? Our lives are not in danger and we are unlikely to get hurt. If it gets difficult we can stop. I’ve been doing yoga for so long I am completely un-phased about walking into a studio. In fact, as a Bikram yoga junkie I relish the heat. Yet, I often see the apprehension on newbies faces. The simple fact is they know they are about to struggle and endure the effort and exhaustion caused from a new and rigorous exercise practice. Some poses are frankly frightening as you could fall over while trying to do an unsupported handstand or headstand and break or tear something nasty. It would be easy to opt for something else less painful (at least initially). Developing the courage to do some of these “dangerous” poses might take years. The same is true in our personal and work lives – making difficult decisions takes courage and it is usually easier to opt for the status quo.

8. Clarity of mind

Having a clear mind allows us to make good decisions, to not overreact and to find the best course of action in any situation. It is hard to make good decisions when you are stressed or flustered. Yoga encourages and provides us with an opportunity to practice focusing the mind and in doing so clearing it of the plethora of thoughts that permeate and convolute our physical existence. This is possible because of the effort and concentration required to hold and perfect a pose. Through this mediation miraculously we begin to see things clearer and calmer. We can explore all angles of an issue and will likely formulate a more measured, well-thought out response to any problems, disputes or challenges that vex us, than we would have otherwise.

9. Fitness and health

Recently I read that a couple of years since the London Olympics that perversely physical activity in the UK has declined to levels below before the games. The desire to exercise is a personal thing. For those that don’t like to exert themselves physically there are forms of yoga that provide the many benefits described above in a gentle, gradual way, without the need to sweat so much. Much of the benefits of Yoga, after all are achieved through releasing and relaxing. That said Yoga comes in many forms. Arguably there is a form for all types of personality. The hot, sweaty, Bikram kind, graceful flows, gentle Yin Yoga and Iyengar for perfectionists, to name a few.

Mixed race woman using tablet computer on yoga mat

There are many other personal and professional benefits that can be derived from a regular Yoga regime beyond those discussed here. What you work at in one area of your life transfers over to other parts of it. So your Yoga practice serves as a microcosm for how you act off the mat. Certainly, it is hard to argue against the virtues of a centuries old practice. Yoga then will not only make you fitter, healthier and less stressed out, it will make you mentally more stable and calmer – better able to function in the rigors of your work life. It will also make you more effective, efficient and happy. This is all good business.

If you’re skeptical give it a try. But commit yourself to at least 3 times a week for a month at the minimum. See how you feel – and if it makes a difference and you’re inclined then please share your experiences here.

Using in-memory computing to power real-time financial planning

In-memory computing has heralded a way for organizations to view Big Data in ways that they simply were not able to do before, giving them a platform for improved insight, analytics and decisions.

But I often hear the question, what can I do practically with Big Data and how does in-memory computing really help me to run my business better? I guess the thing that solution vendors need to do is provide more guidance on the possible applications and build better business cases for many people to really understand the potential that analysis of Big Data has to offer.

I was interested therefore to come across a Hewlett Packard case study recently, which clearly demonstrates how they have applied in-memory computing within their business, and worked closely with SAP to deliver an augmented planning solution using SAP Business Planning and Consolidation, running on HP AppSystems for SAP HANA.

Businessman Looking at Computer Monitor

Through close collaboration and focusing initially on one of HPs planning needs, financial expense planning and simulation, the resulting Expense Planning tool allows expense management teams to automate and streamline their budgeting, forecasting and consolidation activities in a centralized tool, giving increased value to productivity of their analysts while supporting real-time financial planning business decisions.

This HP and SAP story is interesting because it highlights the evolving role that SAP Business Planning and Consolidation, powered by SAP HANA has to play in the HP organization. Their story was first told at SAPPHIRENOW in 2013, and according to this new HP case study there is yet more to come as this in-memory powered solution seems set to be expanded to other processes within the business. I’m very much looking forward to seeing how this HP & SAP story continues to evolve and no doubt there’ll also be lots to hear from more SAP customers and partners at the forthcoming SAPPHIRENOW 2014 event in June.

Improving Business Planning and the Financial Close

In my blog post a few weeks ago I shared details of two SAP solutions for EPM customer stories with you. One of these customers, oil producer Concho Resources was described by my colleague @JohnGWard3 in his linked blog post to be using SAP Business Planning and Consolidation to improve the efficiency of its financial planning and reporting processes.

It’s great to be able to share stories like this, as they serve to focus attention on the opportunities for creating business benefits from the use of software solutions. But sometimes it’s also nice to hear a more detailed description about the “why” and the “how” behind a decision to implement a software solution or to be provided with a fuller description of the customer’s experience in implementing and using their new solution, and the impact that this has on their business.

So as a follow-up to my earlier blog post I would now like to share the more detailed view for Concho, in the customer’s words.

Concho Leverages BPC

Here’s a link to a YouTube video of a presentation from Concho Resources and SAP business partner Akili, at the 2013 Best Practices for Oil & Gas conference. It’s quite a long video of the full conference presentation, but interesting to see if you have the time. Watch the video to hear how Concho were able to:

  • Achieve a consistent planning process
  • Increase visibility into the financial close numbers and performance metrics
  • Improve speed of production and accessibility to monthly financial close reports