Live From the SAPinsider Studio: PwC Panel on Financial Transformation

A panel discussion recorded live at Financials 2014

May 20, 2014

In this video, three PwC experts stop by the SAPinsider Studio during Financials 2014 to discuss the financials landscape. PwC's Kyle Lindquist, Gordon Roland, and Sundeep Gupta discuss finance transformation and the role of technology in that process. Topics covered include:

  • Challenges companies face in matching technology and processes
  • Importance of implementing technology properly in a finance transformation
  • How globalization is impacting companies' approach to finance transformation
  • What metrics are most important in measuring finance transformation

Full transcript:

Lucy Swedberg: Hi, this is Lucy Swedberg with SAPinsider, we’re here live in Orlando at our Financials 2014 event, and I’m delighted to be joined by a panel from PwC. I have with me Kyle Lindquist, Gordon Roland, and Sundeep Gupta, thank you gentlemen for joining me here today. 

So we’re here to talk about just some general overarching trends and things that you’re seeing in your own experience. I thought we could start by just introducing yourselves, maybe a little bit about your area of expertise and the types of projects that you’re working on, maybe also what you’re presenting here? So let’s start with you.

Kyle Lindquist: So my name is Kyle Lindquist, I’m in PwC’s finance transformation practice, and some projects I’ve been working on recently, some full roll-outs of SAP Finance, also some targeted, kind of flowing into what my presentation is really about, kind of enabling the fast close in SAP. And that’s designed to pick up some of those enablers that will make the close a little bit smoother. And then my presentation is specifically about how to align chart of accounts design with the finance kind of, overall strategy.

Lucy: Got it. Makes sense. Gordon?

Gordon Roland: My name’s Gordon Roland, I’m actually in a different group from Kyle, I’m in our IT and project assurance group, so I work specifically on controls integration projects across finance streams, procurement streams, and I’m also working with SAP’s GRC technology, so being able to embed process controls and fraud management and analytics into those key processes.

Lucy: Great, thanks. Sundeep?

Sundeep Gupta: Hi, my name is Sundeep Gupta, I work with PwC in the finance transformation projects too. My key areas in SAP have been in accounts, in general ledger accounts, payable/receivables, but my, for the last couple of years, I’ve been working on broadcasting profitability, and especially on some of the key areas like material ledger and transfer pricing, which I’m here for. I’m presenting on transfer pricing and material ledger. So those are some of the areas which I’ve been working for the last couple of years. About the projects, I have worked on small-scale projects, big-scale projects, which run around more than like two, three years, small-scale, they are quite interesting because you know, it’s kind of a realignment, I would say, of some of the business processes which clients are interested in. So those are the projects which I have worked on.

Lucy: Great so, you have a lot of experience under your belt. I was hoping you could just speak in general terms about some of the common trends maybe you’re seeing in the SAP customer base in the finance or wherever your area is, just some things that you’re maybe seeing across the board. Let’s start with you.

Kyle: So I think the biggest thing that we’re seeing today is that we have a shift from where finance before was kind of the bookkeepers, and that’s kind of where they live. And now they’re really growing towards trying to be a true business partner. So it’s how do you enable the technology to equip yourself with the finance organization to kind of get to where you’re going?

Lucy: Right, great. And you, Gordon?

Gordon: One of the main things we see, and this might be more cause I work in the GRC space, but continuing impact of legislations like Sarbanes-Oxley, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, invalid vendor payments, things like that, you know, they’re continuing to write laws that require and put more and more stress on businesses, so organizations, I’ve found, are struggling to be able to keep ahead of that, but really with another major trend, with the cloud technology trend, there’s new solutions coming out all the time that are trying to enable companies to be able to meet these new requirements that are put on them, there’s just sometimes a disconnect between finding that right technology for whatever compliance objective you’re trying to meet.

Lucy: Sure, great. Sundeep?

Sundeep: Yeah, so I think that Gordon did bring that more and more word, right. So that’s quite interesting actually, my recent client, we talk with the CEO and the CFOs, so they quite express their willingness to change, you know? But the new technologies, what they’re seeing out like cloud, HANA, BW, all these are new technology which is coming out. So traditionally if you see the CFO or the CEO, role was to act on the past data. They never used to react on the latest data, right? That was a more traditional role for them. But now the trend I think has been changing for a couple of years, as we see new iPhones right, when we see these cloud-based technologies coming in. So I see the change from the CFO and the CEO side, they want more and more too. So they’re demanding the real-time data, they want the real-time data so that they can react fast, they can react quick. So I see that change happening, not just within the technology companies, I see that in the manufacturing as well.

Lucy: Sure. I would imagine too they see it and want it now, and there’s probably a bit of a disconnect between once you’re down in the systems, how long it’s actually going to take to make that happen, you know it’s easy for the CEO or CFO to say “I want that” but to—I’m sure you’re working through with companies, you know, how they’re going to make that actually happen. So let’s talk about that a little bit from a technology point of view, to sort of make these challenges, move them forward or find solutions to them, what challenges are they running into from a technical standpoint, in terms of their solution landscapes, anything you’re seeing there where they’re trying to figure out any changes to make in their technology, their solutions, Gordon, I’ll start with you on that one.

Gordon: Sure, and I think that you brought up a good point, you know, that a lot of people are saying yes, I want that, yes, that sounds great, but some of these technologies are so new that technically there’s not the expertise out there to be able to implement it properly, so we’re seeing that you know, people are going ahead and getting that new technology but haven’t always, you know, found the right path from A to B, they got one thing but maybe the way their business functions, it’s not exactly aligned with using that technology properly, so there’s still a disconnect there as people get to better understand, you know, the opportunities that this technology has out there for them.

Lucy: Definitely. Kyle?

Kyle: You know I think something else we’re starting to see is kind of the globalization. And once you start doing that you deal with a lot of our clients that have disparate systems in a lot of different countries, so you may run a big SAP platform in one geographic region, but you may be looking to Europe or Asia or something like that where they don’t have that incorporated yet. So it’s not only a challenge of just doing it in SAP, it’s how do I bring all my other systems together with that same data.

Lucy: Sure, makes sense. Great, Sundeep?

Sundeep: So, in terms of challenges, I think that whenever we go for a project, what I have seen, they always demand what’s my KPI, right, what’s my metrics, what will I get out of this project at the end? So some of the key things, like fast close, which Kyle is working on, I think that’s one of the KPIs for any company. Lot of companies, they take five days, ten days to close their books, but with the fast close they can close in maybe a day or two. So those are the KPIs which actually, SAP is coming out, which, if we can explain, if we can show the clients how these challenges can be overcome with these new technologies, I think that’s quite interesting, I see those as quite beneficial.

Lucy: Do you think the KPIs are fairly common across the different clients that you work with, or does it seem to be different depending on the company?

Sundeep: It’s, I’ve seen it’s a little different client to client, but my current client, they don’t really give too much importance on the fast close but what they do know is they need management reporting. That’s very important for them. Standard SAP gives a lot of reports but as we have seen, you know, the management wants a different kind of report. That’s where we have a tool, EPM, BPC, your consolidation tool can help you to give them those kind of reports.

Lucy: Great.

Kyle: I think a lot of different clients want a lot of different KPIs, so it’s not like there’s a magic book that says here’s the one that you specifically need but, like Sundeep was mentioning, it kind of depends on the area that the particular client’s looking at. If they’re trying to do something in fast close, they say this takes forever, let’s try to harmonize the process, then maybe they are looking at how many days it takes to close, how may GL accounts did you have, what are we actively posting to but, I think it just kind of tailors based on a particular project.

Lucy: Sure, and I’m sure what industry they’re in, whatever, what products they’re selling, whatever it is I’m sure it’s—

Kyle: And every time we show up everybody wants to know, well what’s the benchmark for this? It’s like we have a magic book we go to and we say oh, ok.

Lucy: Great. So we’ve talked about a lot here today. If you had to sort of crystallize a few pieces of advice for customers, attendees at a show like this or our viewers on SAPinsider Online, maybe a couple top tips or pieces of advice that you could share, you know from anything that you’ve seen so far? Let’s go down the line.

Kyle: One thing that I’ve seen, and not just here or anything like that, but companies, when they come into kind of an implementation effort or something like that, they want to just replace what they have today, instead of really thinking through and saying are we doing it the right way, should we be using a new tool like HANA or something like that? Even GRC, it all kind of fits into it, how can we look at what we’re doing today at a different angle?

Lucy: Interesting, great.

Gordon: Yeah, I think there’s a lot of opportunities to move from what has been largely manual processes in the finance world and the procurement world and to automate those, and to see you know, vast efficiencies in terms of being able to focus less on arduous manual tasks, and focusing more on the analytics side.

Lucy: Sure.

Gordon: Not just doing a task cause it has to be done but being able to glean information and insight out of doing those tasks, and I think with you know, the technologies that are out there, with the, what SAP has there’s a lot of opportunities for that, and I think you know a lot of times people are, like Kyle said, just trying to replace those tasks with the new technology, when they can really be improving on it and finding value in it.

Lucy: Great.

Sundeep: So, from the lessons learned point of view, I mean this kind of setup I would say is perfect, SAPinsider is perfect for the clients who actually want to go for SAP, with my current client I did recommend them to come here and see what SAP can give you, because sometimes what happens is you know they do some things in Excel, and they are immediately going in SAP. It’s a huge jump for them, they don’t realize the benefit, what, I mean not the immediate benefit, they always are short-sighted, right, they want to just immediately see the reaction.

Lucy: Right.

Sundeep: So we should do these kinds of conferences so that clients can see what SAP can provide, and they are, I mean once they go back, my couple of clients they have gone back and told me oh, Sundeep, I understand now what SAP can do on some of these key topics, because I learned something, probably I was not eager enough to listen when you were there, but now I know, you know, what, I mean, probably we are on the same path now, we are on the same page. So those are kind of lessons learned, I would say, but you get a reaction only when they, you know, when they see this crowd, when they see oh, this many companies are actually doing it.

Lucy: Right.

Sundeep: So I mean, those are the lessons, I would say, you know. We should continue to do these kinds of conferences and educate clients.

Lucy: Yes, that’s definitely the expertise that folks like yourselves can lend to these projects, so I thank you a lot for sort of sharing your insights and I’m delighted again to be joined by the experts from PwC here, again, Kyle, Gordon, Sundeep, I really thank you for joining us, and again we’re live here from SAPinsider Financials 2014, and thank you so much.                     

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