EPM Reflections 2015 #9 – Predictive Finance

As digital transformation evolves, the importance of real-time information has increased. Data is created 24 hours a day so if you are a CFO or finance professional today, you are likely getting hit with a maelstrom of financial data that’s taking longer and longer to process while the need to remain accurate and timely remains.

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These challenges can be overcome through predictive finance:

  • Save time for finance teams by dramatically simplifying processes
  • Allow for better integration between financial plans and actual data
  • Provide CFOs with more data and input to steer better business decision-making
  • Optimize analysis across finance processes to drive superior business outcomes
  • Respond faster and with greater certainty to changing business conditions

Predictive finance allows CFOs to be accurate and efficient in a timely manner. It enables information to be processed and re-purposed in real time and this gives you the ability to make changes that are captured and revised on multiple platforms simultaneously.

Read more about the benefits of predictive finance here.

EPM Reflections 2015 #4 – Accounting and Financial Close Series

In 2015, Elizabeth Milne, Director, EPM Product Marketing, wrote an informative series on the Accounting and Financial Close process, comprising of 14 blogs in total ran from February to May. The full list can be found here.

The series begins with breaking down a few of the many dimensions to financial close.

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The second of the series asked “how fast is fast enough” when considering the speed of the financial close process. A recent CFO.com study revealed that 87% of finance executives agreed that managers at their companies need to analyze financial and performance data much more quickly than they do now to meet targets for profitable growth. Translation – speed has an impact on the bottom line.

The series continues to go into a deeper dive, covering the following topics:

  • Financial Accounting – Simple Finance and ERP Financials
  • Financial Accounting – Nakia Lease
  • Administration Financial Accounting – Revenue Recognition
  • Entity Close – Intercompany Reconciliation
  • Entity Close – Account Reconciliation
  • Entity Close – Entity Close Management
  • Corporate close – Consolidation and Notes Management
  • Reporting and Disclosure – Reporting and Analysis
  • Reporting and Disclosure – Disclosure Management
  • Financial Close
  • Governance Close to Disclose Recap

 

Find the full series here.

Writing ‘Accelerating Financial Closing with SAP’; an interview with the authors

FCbookJust before the holiday I hooked up with Elizabeth Milne, Birgit Starmanns and James Fisher from SAP to talk about their new book, ‘Accelerated Financial Closing with SAP’, which was published in the last quarter of 2013. Every time I’ve looked recently it shows as ‘out of stock’ on Amazon, which is always a good sign of demand exceeding supply. But as anyone who has written a technical accounting book knows, the reward is the reception you receive from your, often small, target audience, rather than the life-changing wealth that would be needed to adequately reflect the amount of time and effort involved in such a mammoth task. So, big respect everyone; now let’s get down to our discussion:

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CFOK; Why did SAP bring out a book on the Financial Close now?

Birgit: SAP has published books on various aspects of the Financial Close before but these tended to be written for a single audience – the expert user – and to focus on a single SAP solution. But with the acquisition of the solutions from cundus AG in early 2011, that subsequently became SAP Disclosure Management and SAP Notes Management, SAP effectively covers all aspects of the Finance Close from core accounting in the SAP ERP Financials solutions right through to the ‘last mile of finance’ with report production and publication.

James:  There’s more to come too. We touch on some of the newer technologies in the book such as the use of SAP HANA – the in-memory calculation engine – and how some corporate finance teams have already benefited from step changes in calculation speeds and productivity; about how mobile can be used to expedite some of the key stages in disclosure management and mention how the cloud is an increasingly attractive deployment option.  But companies are only now starting to adopt these newer technologies in significant numbers and over the next few years I can see us publishing revisions of the book that include new solutions at various stages in the close process and lots of new customer stories where adopting in-memory, mobile and the like have delivered major benefits. For me, it’s a work in progress that will need new editions over the coming years.

Elizabeth: Don’t forget regulation is always changing too. Although many have already done a lot of preparation, corporate finance teams based in North America are still waiting for the Securities and Exchange Commission to decide on the adoption and timing of IFRS – and there is increasing momentum behind Integrated Reporting, which will bring another dimension to the close as few companies to date have addressed sustainability as part of their routine financial reporting. We discuss these trends in the book but once they hit, we will certainly need to rewrite some key sections.

CFOK: What makes this book different from others?     

Birgit: We structured the book around three factors – Process, People and Technology – starting with an overview of all the different stages involved in the Financial Close, before stepping through each one in detail; covering the roles and responsibilities of the various people typically involved at each stage of the process and the software solutions needed to automate and expedite each step and how it all fits together into an integrated process.

Choosing that structure did mean we had some challenges to address, particularly where SAP offers a choice of solutions for various stages of the close such as with SAP Financial Consolidation or SAP Business Planning and Consolidation for consolidation and reporting. But reading through the finished book now, I think readers will get enormous benefit from the way we’ve structured the book and the detailed discussion of how various factors influence the choices that need to be made between overlapping solutions.

Elizabeth:  The people issue is an important consideration though. Besides the accounting and finance people involved at individual stages of the process, we also wanted the book to be of value to people from the IT side of the house, who might not need to immersed in the detail of each stage, but need to know how to diagnose issues across the entire end-to-end process, contribute to the discussion on selecting the most appropriate software solution to address the particular pain point, and know how to go about building a compelling business case to secure any necessary investment. So some chapters take a helicopter view of the process, while others, such as the chapter on disclosure management, which was a completely new SAP offering at the time we wrote the manuscript, is definitely a deep dive as we think that’s what most readers will want. But even then, we’ve shied away from slavishly replicating the type of content you find in a user manual. There’s little value in that.

James: The customer cameos are also an important element of the book in that they allow readers to see that the issues they might be experiencing themselves are far from unique; to understand something of the thinking process customers went through when selecting a particular solution and how it fits into their overall IT landscape – and to have some quantified proof of the type of improvements that their peers are achieving. This is all extremely useful material for building a business case and for developing a timetable for continuous improvement. Knowing where to look for quick wins and how to prioritize implementation initiatives can save a lot of frustration and wasted effort.

CFOK: Finally, what were the high points and low points of writing the book?  

Elizabeth: Well it’s not something that you can do during the normal working day; you have to be prepared to sacrifice weekends for a while and take advantage of any spare evenings.

Birigit: Keeping ourselves aligned with each other to ensure we didn’t repeat content unnecessarily initially took some coordination, but the most time-consuming thing for me was having to go back and revise what I’d already written to incorporate changes such as more recent research findings; additional functionality in newer versions of software and constantly changing regulation – to say nothing of how rapidly the newer technologies were coming along during the months we were actually writing.

James:  As we’ve already said, it’s a work in progress. I’m sure we all learnt a lot during the months we were writing the book – I know I did – and I’m confident that we will find tackling the next edition less daunting. But perhaps not just yet though.

CFOK: Thanks everyone.                

                        

EPM Reflections #7; Staying in Control of the ‘Last Mile of Finance’

EPM Reflections 7Continuing our out-takes from the SAP radio shows with this one that asked our panel of experts to discuss annual reporting . It challenged the panel to consider the importance of having the right people, processes, technology, and best practices in place to conquer the intensifying challenges in annual reporting disclosures.

Listen to what they had to say by clicking on the image.

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SAP builds out its Accounting and Financial Close offering with BlackLine Systems

blacklineSAP has always supported its customers’ businesses and built out its eco-system around its SAP Accounting and Financial Close solutions by endorsing partner solutions that integrate with SAP ERP and meet the necessary acceptance criteria. The latest is the BlackLine Financial Close Suite from partner BlackLine Systems which is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offering that replaces many of the manual, labor-intensive processes in finance and accounting with an easy-to-implement, easy-to-use and easy-to-maintain solution for  account reconciliation, task management, variance analysis, journal entries, transaction matching and managing the integrity of system-to-system consolidations.

BlackLine Systems was the first to develop and offer a commercially available Account Reconciliation solution and is considered a market leader by analysts with more than 700 customers ranging from the Fortune 100 down to smaller mediums ones well beyond the Fortune 1000, in all adding up to more than 75,000 end users in over 100 countries. Examples of reference customers are insurance giant Zurich, e-commerce leader eBay, Mondelez International (formerly Kraft Foods), defense industry giant Northrop Grumman, and global aluminum manufacturer Novelis.

The use of these solutions will enable customers to reduce risk and achieve compliance in their account reconciliation and financial close processes, gain efficiencies and increase employee productivity, freeing-up resources to do other things. For more information including online demos, case studies and documentation, click here.

Get an advance copy of ‘Accelerated Financial Closing with SAP’ for FREE

FCbook

Writing a book while holding down a demanding day job is never easy but my colleagues James Fisher, Elizabeth Milne and Birgit Starmanns have collectively done some sterling work in combining their collective knowledge of the financial close with their practical knowhow and inside experience of working with SAP solutions to deliver Accelerated Financial Closing with SAP which is published in early November.

Having been invited to  read through the manuscript I can tell you it’s a definitive work that covers the entire financial close process from financial accounting through entity and corporate closing to disclosure and publication. Each stage is illustrated with practical workflow scenarios and customer examples as well as a detailed explanation on how to meet the latest regulatory and reporting requirements with SAP financial solutions such as SAP ERP Financials 6.0, SAP EPM 10.0 and SAP Disclosure Management. There is also some excellent advice on how to critically evaluate your own financial close process and create an action plan that will have you closing your books in record time.

FCbookContents at a Glance

  • Introduction to the Financial Close
  • Creating an Action Plan for Improving Your Financial Close
  • Information Management
  • The General Ledger and Subledger Close
  • The Financial Close in Controlling
  • Managing the Entity Close
  • Enhanced Internal Controls for Better Compliance
  • Intercompany Reconciliation
  • Financial Consolidation
  • Disclosure Management and XBRL Filings
  • Financial Reporting
  • The Future of Finance and Its impact on the Financial Close

GET AN ADVANCE COPY FOR FREE

The first 15 people that register for the SAP Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) Conference 2013 between 23-29 October will get a free signed copy hot off the press. The event is  being held in Dallas on November 5&6 and gives the opportunity to hear from experts from leading organizations,  such as Barnesandnoble.com, Statoil, Marathon Oil Company, Schwan Food Company, Delek US, Altalink, Flextronics, and more  – discuss how the SAP Enterprise Performance Management solutions help them manage their financial performance. You can also hear the book’s co- authors Elizabeth Milne talking on ‘Accelerating Your Financial Close-to-Disclose Process’, and Birgit Starmans presenting on ‘Introducing Innovation in Finance: Empowering Finance with Real Time Insight’.

New paper on how to improve the financial close-to-disclose process

FC1 A couple of months ago, we ran a series on the financial close to disclose process and the latest Thought Leadership Paper from SAP enterprise performance management (EPM) team brings this material and lots more besides into a single document to explain how the SAP suite of software help enterprises automate their financial close-to-disclose process. SAP is combining decades of business process expertise with an unprecedented ability to deliver “innovation without disruption” in order to help you run your business better by simplifying, automating and streamlining your financial performance management activities.

FC2The paper, ‘Automating the Last Mile of Finance’, begins with a recent survey showing that improving the “last mile of finance” ranks among CFOs top-two targets. The authors then describe the main CFO difficulties when running this process, and how SAP suite of software can help: connect systems of record (ERP) with systems of engagement (EPM), comply with IFRS, U.S. GAAP and XBRL, benefit from an “anywhere – anytime” insight on financial results on mobile, secure the external filing to regulators and investors and go live in weeks, not months.

Perhaps I should mention the team who produced the piece. They are Elizabeth Milne who has over 15 years of experience improving the software solutions for multi-national, multi-billion dollar organizations. She currently manages the accounting and financial close portfolio for SAP Product Marketing. Kristina Henn has over 12 years of experience in the software industry working in training, solution management and now in Solution Assembly and Knowledge Package, the department that delivers rapid deployment solutions. Stephane Neufcourt has been working in the enterprise performance management (EPM) space for more than 15 years and now leads the “Starter Kits & Innovations” group for all SAP Analytics portfolio solutions related to the financial close process.