Getting Down to the Nuts and Bolts at SAP Financials 2017
At Financials 2017, the March conference organized by SAPInsider for organizations that use SAP for financial processes, there was continued curiosity―and hesitance― about new solutions like S/4HANA. During the Las Vegas event, we also heard lots from attendees about challenges with nuts-and-bolts financial processes in SAP like reporting and uploading budget data and journal entries.
The Finer Details of S/4HANA and Finance
As expected, there were many sessions on the S/4HANA ERP business suite built on the HANA in-memory computing platform, by both SAP and consulting groups. In conversations, however, it seemed that few or none of the session attendees were actually live on S/4HANA, with many mentioning a two- to four-year timeframe for migration or simply not even knowing when it would occur. Overall, there was greater understanding of S/4HANA at a high level and less general anxiety around it compared with last year. But, there was still a good bit of confusion on the details surrounding various versions and conversion paths.
S/4HANA sessions were well attended, with lots of questions from the audience about the finer details of implementation. In that vein, customer stories were very popular (albeit scarce) this year. In one, Day & Zimmerman presented with PwC about its upcoming SAP S/4HANA Finance 1605 migration. The audience was so confused by the many migration steps and ultimate architecture that the session ran out of time before the presentation finished due to all the questions.
As for other new solutions, there was less noise at this event about the new Fiori interface and the SAP Business Objects Analysis for Microsoft Office add-in, which supports reporting, analysis and BI presentations. This was possibly because of a less IT-focused audience than at our last larger SAP events, SAP TechEd and SAPPHIRE NOW/ASUG.
Nuts and Bolts Finance
When it came to booth chatter at Financials 2017, it was all about finding the least painful way to execute basic financial processes like reporting, budget planning and journal entries. Some of the common themes around those topics were:
- Reporting (current, future and past): To expedite reporting, attendees wanted to close current gaps in standard/custom SAP reports, which seem to still prevail for financial processes. Specifically mentioned were issues with ad-hoc reports, financial statements (balance sheet and income statement), and managerial reports for understanding profitability and costs. For example, many who use Cost Center and/or Projects Systems struggle with ad-hoc reporting in SAP, which is usually manual and inefficient.Looking to the future, booth visitors were looking for alternative reporting products that are S/4HANA certified. Looking at the past, they also want products that work with all T-codes (ALV, non-ALV, custom) to support custom reports developed over the years. In addition, they sought products that access and drill into data outside the FI/CO module, such as the MM module.
- Planning: Many booth visitors used tools like SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation (BPC) or Hyperion that satisfied their planning needs. For those who didn’t have an enterprise tool, Excel remains highly popular for budget planning, although there was interest in alternative Excel-based tools that link directly to SAP data as opposed to standalone spreadsheets. Some BPC users were interested in these alternative planning tools even if they had BPC due to their ease-of-use, Excel interface and ability to expedite planning at a low price-point. Overall, the primary complaints we heard about budget planning in SAP were that it’s time consuming, inflexible, doesn’t support rolling forecasts, provides poor data quality, and plans are outdated once finalized.
- Journal Entries: SAP restrictions in uploading of financial entries (journal entries – large and small, multi-vendor invoices, intercompany transactions, etc.) was also a bottleneck attendees wanted to break.About half of those we spoke with were using manual processes for entering journals, which they said introduced errors and took too long. The other half used custom journal entry uploaders. For those doing manual entries into SAP, the idea of doing journal entries or even miscellaneous invoices from a single Excel spreadsheet was very enticing.
In addition to the nuts and bolts of reporting, planning and journal entries, attendees at Financials 2017 were taking a big-picture look at the overall value of tools used in their financial processes. Cost effective alternatives to expensive and sometimes overly sophisticated systems like BPC and Hyperion were a big draw as many companies focus on improving cost control and efficiency.
Author: Mark Pockl
Solutions Specialist, Excel4apps