Courtesy of SAP's Janet Salmon, below is a transcript of his speaking session on 'SAP’s vision of Finance Transformation' to Build a Thriving Enterprise that took place at Business Transformation & Operational Excellence Summit in Financial Services Live.
SAP’s vision of Finance Transformation
In this session we’ll look at the changing role of finance and explain that while accounting skills still matter, finance folks will be expected to be IT savvy and understand enough about system design to drive discussions about what is needed and feasible. We’ll show how Finance is becoming a strategic partner, helping improve how you run the business, delivering insights and support strategy. We’ll look at the core processes in Finance: record-to-report and financial planning and analysis to explain what’s changing, what can be automated, and how to deliver real-time insights from a common data model.
We’ll also look at what stopped many organizations in the past, whether this was fragmented accounting systems feeding into huge data warehouses, fragmented accounting structures that grew with each acquisition, or 500 spreadsheets held together by an ERP system. Now we have one giant pivot table, the universal journal, a quest for common accounting structures that support business steering across the organization but offer the freedom to meet local legal requirements, and the move to capture information where it happens from different perspectives.
Janet Salmon directly from Frankfurt, Germany and joining us today. So Janet, very excited to have you with us.
Janet is currently the Chief Product Owner for Management Accounting working with development teams in Germany and China should design, develop, and test new in the editions of sap S four hana finance.
And she is an end to end process owner for financial planning and planning and analysis, working with customers from around the globe to understand their strategy and needs and adopt software accordingly.
She has experienced firsthand what a finance transformation means true for sap customers across all industries. And geographies and she will share her experience in her presentation today. Janet, Thank you so much for taking the time to share your expertise and insights with our global audience.
It looks good.
OK, so today I'm going to talk about SAP's Vision of Finance transformation.
So I'm going to talk, first of all, about the changing role of finance.
Josey didn't say, but I've actually been in the finance space for about 30 years now.
When I joined sappy, Finance was really known for being pretty backward looking.
Of course, we were out there trying to persuade customers that, Moving to SEP would make them more efficient, more robust, have better processes in place.
But, really, the truth of it was, even at that time, you know, people were closing in 15 days. one of my favorite stories was of a customer that said they had an ERP system that was holding together 500 spreadsheets.
That's not really where we want it to be at that time.
And I'm going to try and walk you through the way.
I think the role of finance is changing, the way the expectations of finance are changing, if you think what we've just been through in the last year, crisis is everywhere.
People want finance to tell them how to react, what to do, not just to be the people in the back office scrambling to get the local clothes into play.
I went to look at that at the way we're asking, we're working with customers now in better ways of steering the business.
Really critical decisions, how do you organize your company, how do you compare, how did you ensure compatibility?
And also, a question that I find a lot of the customers that I talked with asking at the moment.
is, am I actually still in the business. I was when I did my initial implementation, maybe 15, 20 years ago.
In some cases, obvious, we hear about the, sort of the ubers, the air-b.n.b., the guys who weren't there 20 years ago.
But I think it's just as important to look at traditional brick and mortar type companies and say, how's the world changing for them, do they still have the systems in place to help them steer the business?
If you've been following the sap space recently, you'll also have heard a lot about hana and how we're doing things faster, changing the system architecture. As a finance person, that tends to not wow you that much.
one of the other things we're doing equally is actually redesigning our user interfaces.
I'm a mom with two kids.
I don't think my kids are going to sit in a training center for six months. Like I did learn how to use an SEP system.
They want it to be intuitive, they want it to speak the language. They want to be able to chat while they're entering transactions.
It's a completely different world from a user perspective. My kids aren't told scared of being involved in a system.
I'm interacting with the system, but they feel the system should reach out and help them and not block them with strange error messages and things that They just don't understand.
I'll talk a little bit about Finance at the core of the business and what we're doing around things like new technologies, artificial intelligence, and so on.
Then, the way different customers that I've been working with have been approaching a transformation.
But upfront, I'd just like to say there's not one way to do it.
I think I've seen every leyva that's out there, just depending on where you're coming from and what it is you're trying to achieve with your transformation, then I'll wrap up and take your question.
So, we'll start with the changing role of finance.
And if you think about it, as I say, when I started, it was very much about daily routine.
It was about that operations piece, and you've probably seen variants of this slide over the years. People like the hacker group used to go out and say, what a wonderful thing it would be if we could go from being 80% operational them 20% insights, to exactly the other way round that we had a tips and insights and 20% operations.
And I think the vision is easy.
But the doing it is difficult. It's important to understand where you are today.
What is it that makes that operational piece so difficult?
Is it that you've got very fragmented systems, so I've worked with a lot of financial services companies over the years that don't even bring the general ledger data into their system till day after the period is closed.
You're not going to get real-time insights if you don't even have the data in your sap system until day one of the following period.
I then, then, people have got a lot of fragmented systems.
I work with a lot of German customers who tell me, Well, I have 35 sap systems. I said, great.
But then I have to build it, bring them into one common data warehouse, one consolidation system, to actually get the big picture to see where I stand.
Then, of course, there's the automation piece, and it's very easy to get taken away by all these new technologies, and all these fantastic new things are coming out.
But often you need it, really need to go back to the bread and butter and say, when I capture my data, how good is the quality upfront?
Can I do certain checks on it as I capture it? Can I made sure that the profit centers are right? Can I make sure that some of that structural information is right?
Before I then tried to make decisions on that data.
Because if you think of what a lot of the people were doing 20 years ago when we said why your operation is taking up 80% of your time in finance, it wasn't just keying in data.
It was doing an awful lot of checking and matching and looking at the information in table A match The information in table B, match the information in table C, and I'll show you that as sap with redesigned assistant.
So that you've got a single source of truth.
But that single source of truth is as good as the data that you managed to get into it.
So let's say you've done that, You've managed to get that operations piece much, much smaller.
You've suddenly got the ability to get those real-time insights.
And one of the challenges here is really to make sure you've got the structure in place, so that you don't have to do a whole lot of transformation to get to the data that you'd really like to understand.
What happened a lot, 20 years ago was that people started to put in data warehouses. They were doing their local operational information in sap systems and other ERP vendors. And then they were putting a layer on top.
That was transforming it into a common chart of accounts, a common profit center structure, a common way of looking at the products and customers, which was great, It maybe gave them insights that they didn't have before, But that transformation in themselves in itself was slowing them down. It was stopping them really understanding where they were making their money, where they were driving that business.
So one thing we're trying to do is trying to get to a situation where, in your finance system today, you captured the data source, the way you'd like to have it rather than doing a lot of transformations and heavy lifting afterwards.
And of course, predictions 20 years ago, pretty minimalistic.
And what we're now trying to do is get to a situation where that analytics piece is really much better, where we can be more proactive in our business Dairying and really use the information that we have to drive the business going forward.
So that's maybe one way of looking at SAP's vision of a transformation.
Another is way of saying finance two different sides to the same coin.
Josie said, I work with customers all over the world.
A lot of them do with big Global's.
one of the challenges is the big Global's is which which side of this balance when?
Of course, we have to hand load all local gaps. If you're operating in India, if you're operating in Russia, if you're operating in China, we have to be able to handle those global accounting principles. We have to handle the local currencies in that cost in that company.
We have to handle the just simple requirements like where's your fiscal year? What what does your calendar looks like? We have to be able to deliver that legal reporting for each of those local entity.
What you often find, though, is that by focusing on that side of the business, those individual requirements in each of the countries that you're operating in, you end up with this data warehouse requirement to get everything into a common store.
So you can actually compel like with like so, most of the German companies that I'm looking for are looking for an equivalent system where they've got IFRS is a global common accounting principle for all the units that they're in, not just the European ones.
To give them that double accounting view, they want to have a group currency in addition to all those local currencies. So, if you headquartered in the US, it might not be IFRS as the leading accounting principle.
You might say that you want everybody to work with US GAAP and everybody to work with US dollars.
You've got this double requirement, then to have a set of accounts that's in US.
Gap for everybody, US dollars for everybody, but it also supports the fact that you're operating in Canada and Mexico as well. And you need to be handling Canadian Gap Mexican gap and so on. And of course, Canadian dollars. Mexican pesos and so on.
And of course, you want everybody working on the same Calendar there, as well.
You want those key key figures to be speaking one language across the organization.
There isn't a right and wrong here. I think both sides are equally valid.
And you'll find some companies that have been very strong on putting in a corporate chart of accounts, putting in common reporting structures, and maybe struggling a little bit, and doing a lot of manual work on the local side of things, or they've been very strong locally. Then they ended up doing a lot of manual work at period close to get that common view.
What we're trying to get to with our customers nowadays is to get to having the best of both worlds at one system, But I think before you understand, undertake a transformation. You have to understand where you as an organization stand here, Which one of those camps do you feel you're more strongly?
And, of course, you're almost certainly in both.
The other thing that I ask people to do is to actually ask, are they still in the same business that they were in when they first implemented SEP.
And if you read a lot of the Business Press, you'll see all about the Ubers and the air-b.n.b. and all the organizations that weren't even there 10 years ago.
Of course, I'm not knocking those, I think it's fantastic that they've been able to enter the business and be so successful.
But I think the lessons learned can also be from some of the more traditional businesses that have actually evolved and changed.
So I like to talk about Kaeser Compressors or John Deere, because they're very much a traditional business. Case a compresses. Essentially it's, it's make to order.
It's a very engineering heavy business John Deere Attractors, again, a very engineering heavy traditional business, but what they've both done is they've trying to turn around the way they work so of course they still make tractors. They still make compressors.
The case of compressors sells you air as a service, it handles the way you deal with that.
Rather than simply giving you a machine and saying off you go, get on with it.
The same with John Deere, they're working with us to actually predict when you need maintenance on your, on your tractor.
Working with farmers, in terms of the fields, and what sort of service do you need to support she, that it's a completely different way of saying, here's a massive capital investment, maybe, will lend you the money to, to have that tractor?
You'll actually find that a lot of these big engineering companies also have a banking solution to help them support their customers in dealing with these big expenses.
And now they're going to a different world.
Again works not even a question of making, or buying, buying or leasing a tractor. It's actually about borrowing some of that big capital expense equipment when you need it.
Another company that I've worked a lot with over the years has been Under Armor, and in principle there are their retailer, they make sports clothing.
Nothing very exciting about that, but what they've done on top is they've done a lot of work to connect with the individual athletes to understand what their individual, runner's, football players, whatever they are, what they need, what they use.
So it becomes more than just a question of buying a new shirt. They're using the data, they're collecting to suggest that your running shoes might be wearing out and it might be time to invest in a new pair of running shoes.
This may be time to just think who you are, or what you're doing, where you're coming from.
I've got two customers that I've actually presented with over the years.
one is ..., which is that they're actually a Swiss and digital services late, they were originally newspapers, and so on.
And I think it's really easy to see with an example like that, that you've got a very traditional business.
When they started out with a Sappy, they are based out of Switzerland.
They were one of the very first customers to implement Sappy outside of Germany, and in those days, they were selling magazines. They were selling newspapers.
They were, their job was to make sure all those newspapers, magazines were in the shops and in the station so that when people went to work, they could pick up that physical newspaper, read it.
And of course, they still do physical newspapers, but then now very much about digital content, managing that content. And if you think about what that means for finance, it's a complete change to the business.
They're no longer working just with the wholesalers that would put out that print information to the shelves for us to pick it up.
They're working with each, and every one of us, who has a subscription to one of their magazines, It's completely changing the volume of data that they have to bill for. It's completely changing there.
Consumer, debt customer process.
I realize we're in a financial service environment here, but I think it's still worth stopping and thinking, am I still offering the products that I had before, and I'm still serving the customers the way I did before?
Another custom that I've presented within the past is balanced agree nutrients, down in New Zealand, and they started out they, they were making fertilizer essentially.
Pretty standard, making a physical product, getting it to the wholesalers.
and the farmers would come along and buy, and by the nutrient jacker nutrients, what they now do is they, they have a management system for you to manage your fields.
So they'll help you to decide what fertilize it makes sense. When you should put putting it on the fields, they'll lend you the quit the equipment to help you do these things.
It's a totally different experience of how you deal with and the customer.
And of course, that, again, dealing with the end customer at the individual farmers rather than the big wholesalers that used to sell there there. And.
There, fertilizes, these may be quite extreme examples, but I think they're very helpful in terms of seeing what maybe you were doing 20 years ago and what you're doing today and how the two can be radically different.
But of the customers that I worked with haven't changed so much in the way that their business is the oil and gas companies are still getting oil and gas out of the ground and providing it to the consumer.
Same with the energy customers. That's, there's not a huge difference in the business per se.
But what's happening is that finance are being asked to do less with more, and then it's about looking for inefficiencies in the process.
So I presented with Veolia in Australia last year.
And it was all about getting some common practices in place, getting some getting away from some of those fragmented processes.
Getting everybody talking the same language, and getting away from those inefficiencies that come from the fact that your data's lumpy. That people are doing things different ways. That they're not handling things the common way.
Same with NGO, an energy company. They had a lot of manual stuff that they were doing. It just not the most efficient way to run the business.
And of course, this things get hard. We can't afford to do that sort of thing anymore. We can't afford to have 20 people that are managing spreadsheets and trying to manipulate and more and handle data. We want to capture it clean, we want to capture it with good quality, and then be able to act on that the minute we captured that data.
So with that basic idea in place, I hope you've got an idea, maybe, of what sort of business you're in, and how much it's changed over the years.
And now I'd like to ask, the question of how you steer your business.
These can be the three drivers for change.
It's important to understand the organization itself.
Now, of course, I miss Sappy, I don't go in and change your organization.
I don't even go to make recommendations about maybe you should change your organization, but I get customers coming to me and say, You know, the company structure that we set up? We did it because of this, that or the other. But, it's not actually that useful anymore.
The way we set up our profit centers, the way we set up our business segments, it's not really the way we want to run our business nowadays.
And, I'll then sit down and work with them about What do they want to do? How do they want to organize that business?
You know, have they got lots and lots of different charts of accounts? They want to get to a common accounting structure. They got profit centers that are all over the place. They want to get to a common profit center structure.
Then, if you think what I just talked about in terms of changing business model, often will find that the products and services have changed. So 20 years ago, when SEP first started to go to market with the idea of an industry solution, we had very much the physical products, the chemical products, that.
The engineering products, and so on. And then we had the service industry. So we were thinking about the banks and insurance companies and so on. And the two, what kind of worlds, apart?
OK, so somebody like John Day would sell you attractor and would have a banking solution to help you borrow the money for it. But even there, they were two solutions that didn't really meet that much.
And now, we're seeing those two coming back together.
What you're seeing is not just a car company making cars, but a car company that wants to sell you a mobility service, and wants to manage that mobility service, and all the upgrades that go with it.
Those two worlds are moving much closer together.
And that's often a driver for change to say, can I actually manage?
the situation that I have with the system I have in place today?
Will often find that this people are using different SAP's health systems to handle their production in their service environment just because that's historically how they've done it.
And then they have a massive disconnect between the product being finished, the car rolling off the production line, and any services that you have with respect to that car later.
The other thing we see changing is the way people deal with the customer.
So a lot of the close companies, for example, that I've worked with other fashion companies.
Their job used to be to get that fashion into the stores. Stores were the wholesalers. And then you and I, the consumer, went down to the stores and we bought the items of clothing.
Now of course things are changing, we do still occasionally go into a store, less and less at the moment up for obvious reasons.
Will find that some of those have actually opened their own retail spaces, because they want to control that space, rather than just being part of a big store.
An, almost everybody now has gone on line, They've got some kind of online experience.
And the idea, of course, which has been particularly useful for almost all of us in the last year. Is that we can make all those purchases online, if we want to.
And then comes the challenge for the retailer to understand what their market is.
Their market is maybe less about looking, is it better to have a store in this part of downtown and more about how do I reach that consumer in that particular segment is changing the way we segment our customers? It's changing the way we understand people's buying procedures.
I took when I talked about the local versus the corporate, about the challenge of the currencies And almost everybody I work with now is wanting to go for this double view, this corporate currency and then the local currencies that they need in their individual, countries that they're operating in.
What they're also often doing, is they're trying to go to a double way of looking at their books. The one from the local legal reporting point of view, that saying, what's my business looking like in Mexico, what's it's looking like in Canada, how does it look like in the US?
Then, this corporate view that says, let's imagine that I'd already consolidated. Let's imagine that everything's already transformed into the same structure.
How does that look today?
If we think about data itself, obviously we tend to think of finance as being about capturing your actual business transactions.
And, of course, that's the baseline. Without that, we can do nothing.
But it's also important to understand how you plan. How easy is it to plan?
You plan in some completely separate system, or do you plan using data already captured in your actual?
How you make predictions? And, again, that's something that's very driven by your, your industry that you're in.
So a consumer product company might be able to see predictions couple of weeks, couple of months out, car companies, maybe a little longer.
And in financial services, if you've read insurance company, you can often predict really quite well where you are, because you've got all these long running cons, and contracts with people.
So it's about understanding your contractual information, and saying, how much that does that allow me to predict the future?
And then, also, to understand, your steering levels. Are you trying to optimize the individual legal entities?
Are you trying to optimize as a group?
And I have a lot of discussions with customers at the moment about how to get that group view in parallel with the local legal view, because they're both important, but they drive complete different decisions at times.
So in terms of our product, what have we just done with SEP, as for hana, is we've taken those organizational structures, the products, the services, the customers.
When we brought them all into one space, this thing, this universal journal, is really just an enormous pivot table.
So historically, we had lots of very fragmented applications in accounting, so we had general ledger accounting, cost central ..., project accounting, profitability analysis, profit center counting, also all over the place, different ledgers, different structures. And we've brought them all into one place.
So all those entities adjust a column in a table, which you can select the idea being that I maybe I'm looking at revenue for the Company code France, I'm looking at revenue for a Customer group, X Y, Zed.
They're just different aggregations at the same data, and then we have these separate views that allow us to say, which currency? Are you looking at? Do you want the entity view, or the local, or the group view? Do you want predictive data?
It's all very much cleaned up and tied it up and ready to go, So the idea being that we're capturing all those individual entities in the universal journal.
The idea is that of course, you don't just capture actuals. You also want to put a plan, you want to set a target, which you want to understand for each of those entities. Where do you want to go?
And that can be organizational goals, so you wouldn't goals for your legal entities, goals for your segments, goals, for your profit centers, and also goals for those nitty gritty pieces. How much do I want to grow within a particular product? How much do I want to grow with a particular customer segment, and, of course, we want those two views to line up.
So, the planning table is essentially just a direct derivative of our actual table, and then on top, we've got the group view, what are we trying to say, how do we want to steer the business as a whole.
Of course, that won't have all 340 fields that you would have the actual operational accounting, But it will have those consolidated, consolidated entities that you report outside at group level, and I think that's a very important piece.
And if you think about that very first slide, I showed where I say, What's going on in operations?
We're often very focused on that bottom level on getting everything in the local accounts correctly, and then we end up doing a lot of lifting and transformation to get that group.
What I tell people now, going into a transformation is to really think about the three areas together. So think about your requirements for consolidation. Think about your requirements for local legal reporting, and think about your requirements for controlling, and make sure you have all those entities in that base layer.
So it's then easy to perform the eliminations and get that corporate view without having to do lots of heavy lifting it period clothes, because that will take time out of your clothes.
So, what happened fairly early on, as we, we fairly quickly got people doing the local closing two days, but they were still often taking 15 days to get to there, and to their group close, and that's a long time to be waiting for real-time information, that you, when you could have real-time information that you could be acting on.
one of the other transformations I see, though, is nothing to do with data and data quality.
It's about making the information we collect, actionable.
one of the things we've been doing a lot of in recent times is, is what we call the SEP feel fiori Initiative. The idea is really a user driven design approach that makes it really easy to consume this information.
So, it's quite important to think about all the cost center managers, the project managers, all those people that are out there, that are responsible for spending.
We don't want to send them an e-mail once a month saying, hey, you really ought to look at your figures, your budgets, wale, we want to give them the sort of reports that are really easy to consume, that have graphical, that are really easy to use.
And this is just one sample report for managing project costs.
The idea being that you've got the selection area up the top, where you can select what it is you want to look at, you can then dig down into some of these standard visualization.
Then, the thing that I think is really powerful, is that you can see the line items behind that.
I mean, people have been showing dashboards conferences for years.
Yeah, they all look very, very nice and pretty, but it's when I can really drill down and see that it's that document that drove that number.
That it's that combination of documents leading to that number that just looks wrong, that can't be right, Or maybe it is right because there's something out there that I haven't realized. That's when that information becomes actionable. And I start to trust those figures, because I can act on them, and really interrogating to understand what's out there.
I have to say this is actually my favorite furey application.
I spent the last 30 years drawing T accounts on whiteboards, trying to explain to people what we're posting when? What's on the left? What's on the right?
This is taking any single document that's being posted as a journal entry and visualizing it the way an accountant sees it.
So, you know, if I think back to my early days at SEP, I was sitting in the training center with accountants. They were all qualified accountants.
They all knew how you posted these take, or how you accounted for these things.
But the whole act of trying to understand how we stored the data and how we put it into the system, was like learning a foreign language today, And this is really coming to an accountant and speaking their language.
And I think as part of the finance transformation project, that's really important to make information actionable.
You store that project report.
If you can't make sense of that as a project manager, you may be in the wrong job.
If it's an accountant, you can't immediately grasp what's going on in this screen. You may be in the wrong job.
This is something else that I've actually loved, is, it's maybe not the best example for financial services, but the idea is it walks you through a textbook process. So you've got an inquiry, you got a quotation, you've got a sales order. You've made a delivery, you've maybe made a transfer, you've got credits. What's happening at the top is the logistics flow. And at the bottom, you've got that document flow. Is it showing up in the GL?
It's really easy to understand what's going on in the outside world, how that's showing up in finance.
And I appreciate that maybe this isn't the best example to the financial service, people who are out there watching, because that real-world is what you typically do in your own backend systems. But, I still really like it as a, as a way that ... going with its user interfaces.
The other one I like is, this idea of intelligent goods received an invoice receipt.
Now, you know, the problem has been around for years.
You capture that receipt, you catch an invoice receipt, and there's some kind of difference in place, but focus less on the problem, and more how we've been trying to solve this problem.
So this started off just as an analytical application. We tried to collect the information that we thought was relevant. We visualized it, and we make it easy for people to act on it.
Gradually, we started working with shared service centers to understand these smart facts. What are the typical things that go wrong? And actually, there's only about six things that go wrong.
Imagine the invoice is wrong, The man two quantities are wrong.
Does either goods receipt missing or invoice receipt missing?
When we started to use the system to simulate what people were doing manually before.
So they were chasing the purchase, the vendor, they were trying to do manual write-ups, we're using the system to watch what the or the user's been doing. And then make proposals, In principle, it's no different from what happens when you make a purchase with Amazon or something that they tried to suggest.
If you bought the things on my Bookshelf, you probably also want something, another book at this kind. Here, we're trying to make suggestion.
But the idea is that we free up time, we use the information we use, the actions, that you've already done, to try and drive future business drive future decision.
If we think about Finance as the core, I think it's very easy, too.
Think of finance.
It's just something that happens at the end of the process, we, we collect all the pieces and trying to put it in one place, but it's very important to get that record report process clean to capture the data reliably in the first place to improve the data quality.
It then takes time out of your financial accounting process.
Because you've done it right upfront.
Managing the financial close is all about really understanding the steps, understanding the dependencies, really treating it like a project, and trying to really pin down what needs to be done and how.
And then, of course, to be able to act on that.
As we get into management accounting, we become more open in terms of, what kind of cost center structures do you need?
What kind of profit center structures do you need, in margin analysis.
What is it you're actually looking at, Maybe a key takeaway for that those of you who are watching from a financial service point of view.
Historically, you've often only had things like Cassandra counting and project accounting in your sap system, and you've done all that nitty gritty analysis of, you know, who's buying my life insurance, Who's doing this, that and the other in a separate system, because of the granularity of the data.
And we're now working with customers like you to bring that information into the journal, into the General Journal, to be more granular, and to have that more nitty gritty detail about what you're spending with whom.
Then, of course, it's about planning and target setting, and setting up prediction.
So if you think those is the two core process.
And as I said, the big innovation with S four is that we're putting it all into one place into this universal journal.
We've got a new data platform. So, if you've heard about SEP, hunted, the idea is that that can really capture data in real time. It can give you those drill downs. You can combine transactional analytical data on one system.
And of course, I'm working them with a lot of customers to try and brings a lot of the stuff that they used to do in a data warehouse down into that operational system.
Once you've got that bread and butter information in place, you can then start to bring in some of these intelligent technologies. You can start to bring into predictive analytics. You can try and use the patterns that you have in your data to predict what's going to happen.
The machine learning is sitting behind things like good receipt, invoice receipt clearing, and watching what somebody's been doing. And, of course, you can do that with open receivables, cash, and so on, as well, just to try and predict.
Watch what a human's been doing and try and predict the way forward there.
And we're also trying to improve the user interface, not just in terms of the fury that I showed you, But in trying to give you alerts, make you aware of what's happening, provide you that business context. Which was often missing in some of the old transactions. You know, people would often spend 2 or 3 years really trying to make sense of the data that we were giving.
We just haven't time for that now. None of us have time to spend six months learning how to use an sap system.
And then, another two years to really understand what we're seeing there.
That sort of thing has to happen really quickly.
So, just to give you an idea of some of the latest automations systems, we go pretty much across the board. I've been focusing very much on accounting and financial planning and analysis.
But we've also got predictions going on in Treasury around the cash and liquidity forecasting, around the operational side of things. So, trying to automate the dispute process and the cash collection process to automate customer payment, and credit scoring, and so on.
There's a lot of things happening out there, and if you're interested, definitely dive a little bit more into that. Then maybe not where you think SEP strength has been in the past. But that's definitely where we're going.
But when it comes to transformation, I think it's, it's quite important to get the basics right, if you've not got good data underneath.
Then trying to put a prediction on top released not going to help you a whole lot.
one of the other big questions that's going a lot at the moment is the question cloud or on premise.
Obviously, we have both solutions.
I don't think it necessarily has to be an either, or, sorry, an either, or It can be a both.
I also work with customers who say, you know, in headquarters where we've got these released, N challenging environment, we need that flexibility, that non premise system. Gibbs says we're not ready to go to the cloud that we don't think you can handle yet.
But, we've got a small units out in, wherever we need some local finance out, wherever, and we're going to do that in the Cloud. So we're going to experiment with a couple of entities and maybe use those in the Cloud as well.
And that brings, of course, its own challenges in the sense of bringing those two systems together, allowing them to share data, so that I really get a common view.
And, of course, it's not just about finance systems, there, you get the same discussions going on in terms of, What kind of an HR system do you want, what kind of manufacturing system do you want, and so on.
So how people been approaching a transformation set in the last five years, I've been talking to an awful lot of customers about transformation.
Of course, you know, there are many, many ways to skin a cat.
The simplest way is simply to do a conversion, so sap themselves, we've been running our own SEP system for years and years, suddenly for as long as I've been at SEP, which is nearly 30 years, and in 20 15, we just took our existing corporate system, and we moved it to them: Tube S Vahana, So we converted the database.
We did a conversion to move the separate accounting applications into the one table, and that was as going forward. We were able to go to Sapphire and say, hey, you know? We do it we run our own system, and I've seen other customers do that as well.
Others are looking at their existing systems. And this question doesn't have to just apply to an sap system. It can apply to any ERP system you might have there. And they're saying, you know, a lot of the decisions that we made back in 19 95, they just don't hold anymore or legal entities are all over the place. A profit center structures don't make sense. Or cost centers are not where we want them to be.
We've put in controlling areas that are just too small.
We've got a 1 to 1 relationship between our company codes and our controlling areas.
If we only knew each day, if we'd only known then what we know today, we would build a different system.
And a lot of those customers are actually doing a new implementation, some of the going on premise. Some of them are going into the Cloud.
But the idea is just to really understand, what's the the art of the possible?
What could you do if you really started again.
And then, of course, there's plenty of landscape transformations going on.
People with the 35 separate ERP systems are maybe not trying to get down to one system, but they're trying to bring several different systems together and reduce that complexity.
So in terms of the system conversion, plenty of people have done it, plenty of tools out there to do it.
I think the important thing with a system conversion is, you can still spend quite a lot of money doing a migration, moving data from one system to another, and to get a benefit from it.
You really need to understand where you want to go, what you want to change. So SEP them says, This is, I said, Data conversion, pretty early on.
But the, we then went back and said, You know, the way we do profit central counting today, in a separate data store, that's not really the way we want to do it, going forward.
And they moved that profit center analysis into the Universal Journal into that one piece, so that everybody's really using that single source of truth going forward.
And we do these constant iterations to try and squeeze a little bit more out of our own implementation.
So, although it might seem that it was a one stop, you know, we went from A to B into there's no 15, and then we stopped. We've actually done a lot of iterations since to get to a more leaner meaner more efficient way of running our own system.
I'm working with a lot of customers who've been doing obviously, a new implementation if you didn't run sap before, but also people who are taking their own legacy SEP.
And sometimes, that's because they've grown by Acquisition's, they've got several, very, very different ACP implementations out there, different system structures out there, and they tried to get them speaking a common language So they can really compare like with like.
So the typical things that we find people doing is that changing the way they handle their currencies they're changing the way they structure their profit centers.
They're changing the way they really steer their business using the data that they're collecting.
And, of course, I can't tell you if this is right for you. It really depends where you're coming from.
What history, what legacy you have.
In fact, one of the best practices that I, that I heard was one of the customers that I worked with, they actually brought back the people who were still in the, in the same organization from the original implementation and ask them, what are the things you wished you'd known back in 19 95? Because those are the things we're going to try and change those things We're going to try and sort out. And I thought that was a really nice way of learning from the past rather than just flinging the baby out with the bathwater and hoping that there would be this magic transformation that would make everybody happy.
Then of course, we also have these landscape transformations.
Many, many different reasons to do it, but the idea is we have tools that will allow you to select the data and move it into a new system, whether that's an existing SEP system or a legacy system.
And to transform it, enrich it. Make it future proof.
So, I try and wrap this up before we go into questions, And I hope people have been asking lots of questions in the chat.
I don't think finance transformation is ever an end in itself. I think the question you've got to ask is, you know, are you still in the same business? You know, do you actually need change? What's driving change? And there can be two things that can drive change.
one can be, The business world has actually changed.
If you think about the car companies, you're not just physically making a car and hoping somebody buys it.
You're selling a car with the mobility services and all the things on top that go with it.
You're changing the world.
You think about the newspapers, You're changing, way you do business. It's, there's still things from the past that are in there, but there's also very definitely things that have changed.
The other is just pure efficiency.
You know, have you grown from mergers and acquisition?
just, finance structures are all over the place and that's actually getting in the way of, of really running your business efficiently. Do you need to change those structures?
Do you need to get everybody speaking the same language Then the question of, you know, how do you steer your business and how real-time is the information that you have today.
And of course, is finance able to help you to steer that business with the information that you're collecting and at the answers there is no or No, not really.
Then you may be looking at a transformation.
It's also important to ask how you how you work.
I often ask people to show me that spreadsheets, because that's where I find all the sort of nitty gritty dirty work arounds that people are doing.
Because they're not capturing the data that they need because they're doing all sorts of manual work to try and reconcile things. That should be inherently in one place.
The other interesting thing I've been finding it as it is, is we've been hiring younger colleagues.
They don't want to work with transaction codes anymore. They don't want to work with menus. They want to work with fiore's that reach out and make things just more tangible and more easy to understand. And I think we have to respect that.
As an organization as SEP, we tried to support them in that work, But, of course, you've got to be realistic as well.
There aren't infinite resources that they're, there aren't him, from the Infinite Resources, Change, Finance, or to rebuild your IT systems, those hugely expensive projects that maybe were around 30 years ago. Nobody can afford to do that anymore.
It's often about tweaking a system, trying to make it more, and meaningful as you go along and really have good goals in place so you can get where you want to want to be.
For those of you who've liked what you, Ted, before I open for questions, recommend a couple of my books. So if you're really interested in the nitty gritty technical stuff, have a look at my book about First Steps and ... ends.
If you're more interested in the business things and why we think the world of finance is changing, the reference guide to what's new will help you understand how we think the finance world is changing, and what we think maybe could help.
With that, I'd like to open up for questions.
Janet, thank you so much for your presentation. You covered so much ground in a topic that is so critical for so many organizations. We are right at the time to do the wrap up here. So, I'm gonna ask you one question from there was an overall thing from the audience.
And if you can give me like a minute answer on that, through the, You have been doing this for quite some time. I remember myself, like mid 19 nineties, my first ERP implementation. And the, and the and the experience is always painful, to a certain extent, and to a certain extent is because of, of the technology itself. But for ..., a lot of it, to a great extent. It is because of what you mention, that the implementation of this technology forces the business to ask some very fundamental questions, and those fundamental questions are just really hard.
And, uh, and whether or not it's the fault of the ERP system the ERP system gets blamed for unearthing some of that stuff.
So as we move 30 years into where we are today, when you look at Success factors today for implementing ERP systems, if you could give me like, a couple of the key success factors that you say, you know, if you want to set up yourself for success, there are a couple of things that you need to do to get started.
I mean, I think you're absolutely right, that SEP gets the blame for being very complicated.
And actually, it's mega complicated, because the reality out there is mega complicated, and the challenges: to get stakeholders in the business who really know what they want to see, how they want to structure that information, know what the segments of the business that are really, are, how you want to organize it, how you want to split things up, and can get people to talk one language.
And if I think about the challenge, is it just something simple, like changing a chart of accounts?
The challenge is, it's partly technical, but it's also a business challenge. What is it you want to see? How do you want to organize it?
And of course, I'm kind of pushing the, the problem to everybody else and saying, Well, if you tell me what you want to do, I'll help you do it. But I think if you don't know what you want to do, you can waste a lot of time going round in circles.
The most successful implementations are the ones where somebody's really sat down upfront and said, this is what he wants to do. This is what I want to achieve. This is how I went to structure my company.
This is how you want to structure my finance and then it's just a question of ticking all the boxes and getting everything to fit into that system.
And if every time you revisit those same questions and maybe we could do it differently, maybe we should re-organize it and maybe that's not the right way to do it.
It's just like walking in quicksand, so of course, it may be easy for somebody from S A P. Say, if you know exactly what you want to do, I'll help you do it.
But I think that is the key to a successful project, is to really know what you want to do, what it is.
You're trying to transform, what the business problem is you're trying to solve, and then to make that happen, rather than going into endless discussions about, well, we could do it this way that way or the other way.
That is terrific insights there, the clarity of purpose and in alignment in the organization that they you, that you have highlighted as as critical. Janet, thank you so much for taking the time for sharing this expertise and experience with us. We'll ask the audience to go into LinkedIn and the post any questions that you may have there that you didn't get answered during the presentation. and what is another way that the audience can get hold of you? Is there a best best way that they can follow your work somehow?
I mean, you can certainly You'll see me on LinkedIn. I do update things there.
I'm actually working on a new book as: Well She said: shamelessly, you've got my e-mail there as, well, if you've got very specific questions about FTP, implementations, already project you might be involved in.
Thank you very much. On behalf of the over 2000 registered participants, some Financial Services Live, a big thank you for taking the time to share your expertise from Germany to the world, on the on the, on enterprise resource planning systems. And sap be, thank you very much.
Thank you very much, Jesse, and thank you very much to everybody who's been listening or Vespa Bay.
Bye, thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, there was Janet Samah, who is a leader, Chief Product Owner for Management County, and SEP. And that really guided us for a journey of, the, of, the, of, the why, the, the what, the how on, on, on SEP, as a as a platform.
But even beyond that, on the, on the, on the, on the, on a system that asks very fundamental questions about the business, and our vision about the business, and the future of the organization. And the.
And then how can automation, Happ, help us achieve that vision. So, thank you very much for that. This wraps up our session for today. And we will start back up tomorrow depending where you are in the world.
It could be morning, afternoon, or evening, but, we're going to get start at 8 zero AM, Eastern Time, US time, and we will and will cover, let me give you a little bit of a preview. Of course, we don't get started at eight AM tomorrow, we start at nine AM, US Eastern Time, and we're going to start with a panel discussion that you do not want to miss. It's about automating resilience in banking and financial services and we're going to have Amit Kumar who is the Senior Director for Banking in Kanpur and Capital Markets for a UI path and that he's going to be on a panel with a Senior Leader from alliance data on the use of automation. And also the managing director of global digital transformation for JP Morgan Chase Shift, Ali Shah and we're going to discuss the first session how banking and financial services are automating for greater resilience.
That will be followed up by re-engineering as a methodology to streamline the claims process and identify opportunities for robotics process automation. We will have a deep dive with Shantanu Khadija, who is the head of operations and enablement for Sun Life, Financial, in Asia.
So he's going to be broadcasting live on that topic, followed up by Advancing Market Segmentation during and post covert 19, and that's going to be a session led by a Senior Leader of Corporate Strategy and Strategic Planning and Wells. Fargo. Saeed ... is going to be with us and discuss about how Wells Fargo is. Is, is dealing with the impact of the pandemic and transforming itself for the, supposedly, Neil normal or dislocation that we're going to have post pandemic times. And then we're gonna wrap up tomorrow with a with a present present are directly from Melbourne, Australia, it will be Beverly Hartson, She has a group credit leader for the Adecco group, and she's going to be talking about transforming the business of the future. So, not just transforming now, but transforming the business of the future.
She is going to be talking about the, the, the, the journey of cultural business and digital transformation in financial services. From a global perspective, looking, from the perspective of Australia, but, really, apply to, to, to, to all other countries, as well.
And, and, what it takes to have the successful transformation, and create this business of the future. So, I hope that I get to see you again, or, if I don't get to see you, I get to see your questions tomorrow, and I look forward to our interaction throughout the day tomorrow. Thanks, everybody, for being highly engaged. They had lots of questions. Again, if some of your questions did not get an answer, jump on LinkedIn. Look under my name is Joseph Various. I will have a quick update this afternoon on, on, on that on that post about what happened here today. Ask questions if you have questions that were answered.
If you want to say thank you to the speakers, Congratulations. You know, make sure you drop a note there as well. But, we'll be back here tomorrow, and there with the other four fantastic set of speakers and presentations. So, hope you have a good rest of your day, and I'll see you back tomorrow.
Chief Product Owner Management Accounting,
As the Chief Product Owner for Management Accounting I work with development teams in Germany and China to design, develop and test new editions of SAP S/4HANA Finance.
As the end-to-end process owner for Financial Planning and Analysis I work with customers from around the world to understand their strategy and needs and adopt our software accordingly. This can involve major collaborations lasting several years, smaller interactions to fix perceived functional gaps and working with user groups on topics such as usability.
I began my career as a linguist and still spend my day translating business requirements into technical specifications and then articulating the benefits of the latest and greatest functions to the wider business community.
I’ve written several books including SAP S/4HANA Finance: The Reference Guide to What’s New, First Steps in SAP S/4HANA Finance, Controlling in SAP ERP, and SAP S/4HANA Finance: Functioned, Neuerungen, Migration.
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