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SAPinsiderAPJ Preview: Damien Fribourg on SAP Cloud for Planning

August 4, 2015


Damien Fribourg, Director Global COE, EPM, SAP, joins SAPinsider for a podcast on SAP Cloud for Planning. Fribourg will present a session on SAP Cloud for Planning at the SAPinsider Finanicals 2015 event in Singapore.  Topics of this discussion include:

  • Features such as a modern user experience, and built-in analytic and collaboration capabilities
  • How customers can use SAP Cloud for Planning in a hybrid scenario in parallel with SAP Business Planning and Consolidation (SAP BPC)
  • The plan to offer seamless integration with other SAP applications and solutions, such as SAP Business Suite 4 SAP HANA (SAP S/4HANA)

Listen to the podcast, and read the edited version of the transcript here:

Ken Murphy, SAPinsider: Hi, this is Ken Murphy with SAPinsider, and this morning I am pleased to be joined by Damien Fribourg, who is the Director, Global CEO, EPM, SAP. Damien will be a featured speaker at the upcoming SAPinsider Financials event in Singapore, which begins Sept 1. He will be presenting a session on SAP Cloud for Planning, and he’s joined us today to tell us a little bit about the solution. Damien, thanks for joining us.

Damien Fribourg, SAP: Thank you. Thank you for having me today.

Ken: Damien, please tell our listeners a little bit about SAP Cloud for Planning. What’s it all about?

Damien: Sure. Cloud for Planning is our new planning solution that we made available to customers earlier this year, end of March. That’s our new planning solution that was really designed for the cloud. We thought we wanted to come into this cloud market with a fully dedicated solution, so we have revisited all of the traditional concepts. Planning solutions, if you look at them most – even for the cloud vendors – were conceived and designed 10 or 15 years ago, and they still embrace the old concepts. So what we really did was try to see what change we could bring into the solution and really deliver to users a brand-new experience.

Ken: So what is that change, that shift from what you said was the old concept to a new concept in cloud for planning? How does the new solution simplify planning for customers?

Damien: There are many aspects to that question, but just as an introduction if you look at even cloud vendors today most have designed their cloud solution like 10 years ago, and you can see that from the user interface first, which looks kind of old and outdated at times. Also if you look at the key concepts such as modeling your applications, such as how you can report on your numbers, how you can build nice visualizations, there are many of these old concepts that you can find all over the place.

So what we did with Cloud for Planning is we thought that our customers obviously they need to have a lot of planning capabilities in the way that they can build complex models, they can perform very complex calculations as well. But beyond that, the way they work with the application has to be made easier than ever. So our key approach was to make it as easy as Microsoft Excel. And this is something that people can actually see when they are doing and building reports, or also when they do modeling, such as creating new dimensions, creating members, adding more attributes to your cube and all of that is extremely easy to perform. So the user experience is very radically different from what you see on the market today. And besides that one of the other key aspects is everything that we bring beyond the traditional planning aspects such as business intelligence (BI), analytics being part of the solution so in Cloud for Planning we have a lot of analytical capabilities. One can build their own dashboards, they can share them with their peers and other stakeholders within the organization, they can build nice stories with the dashboards, so a lot of the analytical capabilities that other teams within SAP in the BI space had put on the market are also aspects that we have incorporated into the solution. So that’s the second next big thing that we have with this product.

And the last one is the collaboration capability which is included in the solution; as you know time is very tight for most of the finance users and those involved in planning processes. And sometimes via the old and traditional approach to for example how you organize your time, what is it you have to do, what is the next due date you have to meet when it comes to evaluating the next budget version, reforecasting and so on. This is usually surfaced through a functionality called a workflow. And what we thought is that for most people workflows are always a bit tricky and a bit complex because it’s really hard to see what is the next thing that you should deliver; what is your next deadline and due date for this next thing you need to get done? So the way we thought into that is the way we want to expose workflows is much closer to what users are used to doing in their day-to-day lives, and we’re showing that through a calendar and people can actually visualize from their calendars all of the tasks they have ahead of them, all of the processes and how these tasks relate to one another so that if you have a big event for example getting your quarterly business review done and getting the next monthly forecast done, this is going to be an item in your calendar that you can immediately see and you can prepare for it. You have reminders, you have these deadlines nicely presented to you. So it is extremely easy for anyone within the application to organize themselves and do what they have to do in due time.  So all of that altogether, user experience as easy as Excel, BI and analytical capabilities embedded into the application as well as the calendar and people-centric based approach to organizing your work is pretty unique to this solution.

Ken: Quite a few advancements then. So what is the roadmap for customers to take advantage of this new functionality?

Damien: In this V1 we a lot of capabilities already included, and people can start now and be able to build their own custom applications which can serve a lot of various needs such as traditional financial planning and budgeting processes, but beyond that instead of letting customers customize the application for them we’re going to release a series of vertical apps on top of it such as headcount planning. These kinds of apps would turnkey solutions so that customers would not have to build the content by themselves on their own but they would have preconfigured content that will save them a lot of time when it comes to implementing it. That’s one big thing ahead of us we have already started, so we should have this content start to become available in the next few months.

Besides that, another key development area for us is also to provide more connectors to other systems so we’re going to bring more connectivity within the SAP landscape in general. Later this month we’re going to release a BW connector. We already have provided BPC, Microsoft, and BPC NetWeaver connectivity earlier in June, so July is BW connector and we are going to work on connecting to S/4HANA, especially for those customers who want to deploy S/4HANA in the cloud. And even third-party applications in the area of sales management or HR management could be applications that we want to connect to. So the list of connectors that we are going to provide I think is getting bigger and bigger.

Ken: And just to elaborate on the connectivity with the landscape because you mentioned BPC connectivity, I’m just curious if I’m running BPC on-premise how does Cloud for Planning integrate with BPC? Is it meant to extend that solution, or replace it?

Damien: Excellent question. Obviously as we come up in 2015 with this new planning solution for our customers a lot of prospects or customers that we have met for the past three months have been asking us “Is it going to replace BPC or can I use it in conjunction with BPC?” And the answer is that this is definitely not a replacement to BPC. BPC remains our leading solution when it comes to the EPM portfolio; but again as I said by way of introduction we really wanted to come with a natively cloud-based solution for this new segment of customers who want to deploy a solution in the cloud and not having the hassle of installing, tuning, setting up an application on their own systems. So we had to embrace the new direction the market is taking by having this product. So making it simple, in a nutshell, but BPC remains our leading software for the on-premise whereas Cloud for Planning will be our go-to solutions for the cloud customers, those who want to use a subscription-based product.

And when it comes to our existing BPC customers, they also have the possibility to actually connect Cloud for Planning to BPC and we have thought of what we call a hybrid scenario where existing BPC customers could actually extend their BPC models using Cloud for Planning and therefore extend their BPC models by adding for example more dimensions, more granularity into existing dimensions. A typical use case would be in a large corporation HQ users have some particular planning requirements but at the same time users at the more local level, divisional level, business unit level, they have a lot of requirements and needs that usually are not satisfied and can hardly be satisfied with one single planning app. Things such as when you do headcount planning you usually have the need to really do this planning exercise at an employee level for example. So if you think of a local business unit manager that is very relevant for him to have his employees and all the names of his employees into the application so that he can plan on salary reviews, salary increases, and so on. But if you look at from an HQ perspective having all of that data in a single planning app doesn’t make sense. People at corporate if you think of a large organization they have no interest into reviewing individual salary increases. The only thing they would focus on is the overall salary expense corporate-wide. So different needs at different levels, and now with Cloud for Planning we have this nice capability to push a BPC model into Cloud for Planning and have local users extend the BPC model and really make it more suitable to their needs and have a much more detailed model for themselves locally. So there is a very nice scenario where both solutions can really complement one another.

Ken: Damien, the SAP Financials event kicks off in Singapore in just a little over a month. Will this be your first speaking engagement there or were you a speaker at last year’s event as well?

Damien: I was a speaker last year in Singapore, and I also presented Cloud for Planning earlier this year at SAPinsider’s Nice conference in Europe, so this will be the third for me in the last 12 months.

Ken: I appreciate you joining us today to share your insights on this podcast for SAPinsider, and we will look forward to hearing all about session in Singapore.

Damien: Thank you very much.

Ken: Again, this is Ken Murphy with SAPinsider, and we’ve been chatting with Damien Fribourg, Director, Global CEO, EPM, SAP.

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