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Maximize Your Move to SAP S/4HANA Finance

Q&A with Dr. Christoph Ernst of SAP and Steve Stechschulte of BlackLine

by Dr. Christoph Ernst and Steve Stechschulte | insiderPROFILES, Volume 8, Issue 3

July 20, 2017

BlackLine QA

As more and more customers are moving to SAP S/4HANA Finance, they have many questions about how to prepare for the transition and about how the company’s finance and closing processes will be affected. During a recent SAPinsider Live Q&A, Dr. Christoph Ernst, Global Solution Owner for Accounting and Financial Close Solutions at SAP, and Steve Stechschulte, Senior Solutions Consultant at BlackLine, answered questions from attendees regarding integration, analytics, automation, and more.

Below is an abridged transcript of the SAPinsider Live Q&A conversation where Christoph and Steve discussed what changes to expect with the move to SAP S/4HANA Finance and how BlackLine can help. The full transcript is available on SAPinsider Online at bit.ly/MaximizeYourMove.

Q: What changes are required in other SAP solutions to move to SAP S/4HANA Finance?

Christoph Ernst (CE): In the preparation of a potential move to SAP S/4HANA Finance, many customers have profited from a public document called the “simplification list” (found at http://help.sap.com under SAP S/4HANA), which lists the differences and areas of changes throughout the entire SAP suite. Piece by piece, customers can review the list to learn about the changes.

Q: What are the key integration points for SAP applications to consider when implementing SAP S/4HANA Finance on premise?

CE: The main integration routes are comparable to the SAP ERP world for logistics and human resources. But for customer relationship management and cloud applications — like Concur solutions for travel management, SAP Fieldglass solutions for contingent labor, or SAP Ariba solutions for procurement — there are new integration points to consider. SAP S/4HANA Finance comes with native integration into these cloud offerings.

Q: Is it necessary to upgrade from the classic general ledger (GL) to the new GL before migrating to SAP S/4HANA Finance?

CE: While the new GL definitely helps, it is not a musthave. You can start the journey to SAP S/4HANA Finance coming from the classic GL. If you run the new GL with parallel ledgers and document splitting, then it is fairly easy to use the GL in SAP S/4HANA Finance in the same way. Technically, in SAP S/4HANA Finance, the new GL is already in place and is quite comparable to what you know from existing new GL technology; however, it comes with a lot of more flavors compared to the new GL.

Q: Can companies implement SAP S/4HANA Finance without implementing SAP Fiori?

CE: As long as customers run SAP S/4HANA Finance on premise, they still have full access to the classic user experience. They don’t need to implement SAP Fiori. However, all the innovations are basically shipped with the SAP Fiori user experience.

Q: Do any embedded analytics come with SAP S/4HANA Finance? Are there pre-installed tools or add-ons for analytics and reporting?

CE: Embedded analytics comes with SAP S/4HANA Finance. The reports are pre-installed and shipped in the SAP Fiori apps or accessed via SAP Fiori. The general reports (line-item browser, for example) come with nice layouts so there is no need for additional tools. However, customers could also run SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for Microsoft Office, or SAP Lumira on top of the core data services views to leverage business intelligence front ends and self-service, but there is no need to do so.

Q: How should finance organizations prepare to move from SAP ERP to SAP S/4HANA Finance?

Steve Stechschulte (SS): Finance organizations can utilize BlackLine, an SAP-endorsed business solution partner, to provide support and documentation of balances for accounts and to reduce manual activities — opening up time to engage in more strategic tasks — in preparation for the move to SAP S/4HANA Finance. BlackLine can provide assistance in reconciling account balances, monitoring account activities, and automating manual processes. Customers can optimize the close process for multiple SAP instances and non-SAP systems with information supporting or supplementing the close process using the Blackline SAP Connector.

Q: What role does BlackLine SAP Connector play in the move to SAP S/4HANA Finance?

SS: The BlackLine SAP Connector is highly recommended for customers moving to SAP S/4HANA Finance. It provides a significant improvement in not only the move to SAP S/4HANA Finance, but in the ongoing automation of close processes in SAP environments that utilize BlackLine software. With the BlackLine SAP Connector, the integration of information from SAP ERP to BlackLine applications — for the automation of account reconciliations, journal entries, and open-item management, matching, and clearing — can be maintained for multiple versions of SAP ERP. As an SAP-endorsed business solution, BlackLine is contractually obligated to support SAP R/3 and SAP S/4HANA versions, keeping close processes efficient and seamless throughout the transition to SAP S/4HANA Finance.

Q: Can accounting and IT departments leverage BlackLine pre-migration capabilities across SAP S/4HANA Finance and other accounting systems?

SS: BlackLine can simultaneously incorporate and utilize information from SAP S/4HANA and other accounting systems to facilitate efficiency, control, and visibility around close processes — such as account reconciliations, task management, open-item management, importing journal entries, and monitoring of consolidation data between multiple types of systems.

Q: How should enterprises sequence their BlackLine and SAP S/4HANA implementations?

SS: Enterprises can sequence their BlackLine and SAP S/4HANA implementations simultaneously and sequentially because BlackLine applications can support customers working with legacy data for its close processes until the switchover to SAP software occurs. Then companies can easily use the BlackLine SAP Connector to quickly begin to utilize data from their SAP systems to facilitate their close processes.

Q: How can BlackLine reduce the effort of historical data migration into SAP S/4HANA Finance’s newly defined accounting structures?

SS: BlackLine provides a repository of account reconciliations and account activity that can be migrated and mapped back into SAP S/4HANA Finance’s new structures. This data is easily extracted in a flat file format that can be mapped to new structures with a minimal amount of effort. 

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BlackLine QA
Dr. Christoph Ernst

Dr. Christoph Ernst is the global Solution Owner for SAP’s Accounting and Financial Close Solutions responsible for the solution strategy of SAP accounting in SAP S/4HANA and all the related solutions that help to digitize and transform the finance function. Christoph has been with SAP for 15 years, formerly working with SAP Deutschland in different customer-facing roles. 


BlackLine QA
Steve Stechschulte

Steve Stechschulte is a Senior Solutions Consultant with BlackLine responsible for sales support and demonstrations of BlackLine products and functionality. A CPA for 25 years, Steve has experience working in auditing, controlling, and consulting on financial software implementations. Prior to coming to BlackLine, Steve spent seven years with SAP as a financial solutions consultant.



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