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The insideEdge

Up Close with SAP's Thack Brown and Henner Schliebs

by Thack Brown and Henner Schliebs | SAPinsider, Features, Volume 17, Issue 1

January 1, 2016

The finance function has evolved into an organization that incorporates real-time, live, dynamic planning cycles and analytics into its processes in a shift toward becoming a strategic, value-added partner to the business. Thack Brown and Henner Schliebs of SAP examine in greater detail how a need for flexibility and speed is being met by advances in technology that enable profound process transformations.

We have a running dialogue with CFOs around the world, and a recurring topic in our conversations is the need for greater enterprise flexibility to adapt to increasingly volatile financial markets and the demands of a digital economy. Long-standing financial processes that have served the enterprise well for decades are now obsolete; the world is moving too fast to rely on a rigid 30-day close cycle.

We are at the outset of a once-in-a-generation wave of innovation and transformation that is affecting every business in every industry and offers nearly unprecedented opportunities for businesses to become digital pioneers. Enterprises at the forefront are reimagining traditional processes and beliefs about the role of the finance organization. The finance function has evolved considerably; checking off a month-end reconciliation checklist has given way to an organization that incorporates real-time, live, dynamic planning cycles and analytics into its processes in a shift toward becoming a strategic, value-added partner to the business.

The need for greater flexibility and speed is emerging in parallel with technology changes that enable profound process transformations. In the past, processes were built around technology; this is now reversed. With a flexible, next-generation, real-time platform in SAP S/4HANA Finance, finance organizations can build completely new business processes in ways they may have yet to even consider. No longer restricted by technology, organizations can now base decisions on where they want to take the business, and imagine what processes should look like for the enterprise of the future competing in a digital environment. If a 30-day close isn't sufficient, what should a soft close look like? If a quarterly or annual budget cycle doesn’t provide the needed granularity, what will?

Organizations have already experienced some pretty amazing results by adopting this new mindset. One SAP customer, a Fortune 100 insurance company, is in the process of moving its finance-based processes to the cloud and directly integrating advanced planning into its core finance landscape. The company identified a soft close as one of its key requirements for the project, and saw a cloud deployment of SAP S/4HANA Finance as the most efficient, cost-effective way to achieve this goal. We see other SAP customers moving to the platform to accelerate acquisitions and consolidate a large number of SAP and non-SAP ERP systems to a single instance with the Central Finance deployment option of SAP S/4HANA Finance.

In the not-so-distant past, an attempt at this type of transformation would have taken years and untold expense for little more than incremental improvements to what remained largely unchanged processes. Today, with a fraction of both time and expense, the enterprise can leverage the tools it needs to completely rethink the business and make changes that just a few years ago would have been unthinkable.

With more than 2,000 customers choosing SAP S/4HANA Finance, it is the fastest growing product in SAP’s history and the platform of choice for finance organizations around the world looking to transform themselves for the digital economy. And empirical evidence shows that the digital economy is affecting businesses at every level — with no signs of slowing down. By taking steps to transform their business processes and business models, these digital leaders will be in a great position to shape industry-specific change in the years to come.

To compete in the digital economy, companies cannot afford to sit back and wait to mimic what these leaders accomplish. By that time, the pioneers will have started blazing a new path.

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Thack Brown
Thack Brown

General Manager and Global Head of Line-of-Business Finance

Henner Schliebs
Henner Schliebs

Global Vice President Audience Marketing, SAP S/4HANA, SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud, and Finance

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