SAP S/4HANA Finance is SAP’s biggest innovation and upgrade since SAP R/3. Architected to take advantage of the advanced in-memory technology and remove the traditional boundaries between transactional, analytical, and planning systems, it provides instant insights with on-the-fly analysis across dimensions and data.
Read the transcript of this live Q&A with experts from BlackLine and SAP to learn how you can migrate to SAP S/4HANA Finance with confidence. Get answers to specific questions about modernizing your data, preparing for future innovation, and migrating to the cloud.
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Meet the panelists:
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.
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.
Thank you for joining today's chat on maximizing your move to SAP S/4HANA Finance. I am excited to be joined by SAP's Dr. Christoph Ernst and BlackLine's Steve Stechschulte.
Dr. Christoph Ernst is the global Solution Owner for SAP’s Accounting and Financial Close Solutions, based out of Walldorf/Germany. In this role he is responsible for the solution strategy of SAP Accounting in SAP S/4HANA and all the related solutions which help to digitize and transform the finance function. For 15 years he has formerly been with SAP Deutschland in different customer facing roles, shaping the Germany Presales and Business Development for LoB Finance. Before joining SAP in 1999 he has been with SIEMENS AG.
Steve Stechschulte is a Senior Solutions Consultant with Blackline. In this role, he is responsible for sales support and demonstrations of Blackline products and functionality. Steve has been a CPA for 25 years, experienced as an auditor with Price Waterhouse, controller for a medical management corporation, and financial software sales and implementation. Prior to coming to Blackline, Steve spent 7 years with SAP as a financial solutions consultant.
Q: What changes are required in other SAP applications when moving 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 go through the list and learn about the changes.
Comment From AnnaB
How is SAP S/4HANA security different from ECC security? For example, how would you create/secure financial transactional data in SAP S/4HANA? Is it the same as it is in ECC by creating a PFCG role and adding transactions and completing authorization objects values?
Great question.It is quite comparable with what you know from the ECC world. You create PFCG roles, Fiori tiles and roles are also handled via PFCG - and then add the respective authorization objects according your needs.
Comment From Guest
What are the key integration points to all SAP applications to consider when implementing SAP S/4HANA Finance on premise?
The main integration routes are comparable to the SAP ERP world — so logistics and human resources. If you think of 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.
Comment From Tandeep Sandhu
How does the close process get optimized using the approach being discussed, when organizations have multiple SAP or non-SAP ERP systems. The backend ERP systems (with finance) also required to be closed before the central system would need to be closed.
The close process can be optimized for multiple SAP instances and non-SAP systems with information supporting or supplementing the close using the SAP Blackline Connector, via Blackline, an SAP endorsed business solution partner
Comment From Bolognesi
For those still running the classic general ledger (GL), is it necessary to upgrade to the new GL before migrating to SAP S/4HANA Finance?
While the new GL definitely helps, it is not a must. 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, coming with a lot of more flavors compared to the new GL.
Comment From David Lawn
How much ABAP remains in SAP S/4HANA Finance?
Looking into the application layer there you will find ABAP which remains in SAP S/4HANA Finance as well. However, the entire user experience is HTML5 (Fiori) so completely new stuff and no ABAP at all.
Comment From Rick
Our company is now building a business case to move to SAP S/4HANA. The plan targets Q2 FY18 for the kickoff. We are a BlackLine customer as well but don’t own the BlackLine SAP connector. How does that play into our move?
The Blackline SAP Connector provides a significant improvement in not only the move to SAP S/4HANA but in the ongoing automation of close processes of your SAP environment when utilizing Blackline. The Blackline SAP Connector provides opportunities to integrate information from SAP into Blackline, including automation of Open Item Management in SAP as well as account reconciliations, and sending journal entries into SAP. The Blackline SAP Connector is highly recommended for the move to SAP S/4HANA.
Comment From Casimiro
What we must consider if clients are planning to migrate SAP HANA cloud or on premise? Thanks
For example, SAP S/4HANA is using the Business Partner (instead of customer and vendor master data). So it is a must to check your master data in that area in advance to find a proper way into the SAP S/4HANA world.
Moreover, if you used customer credit control in ECC this will be replaced by the credit management in SAP S/4HANA (more a technical step, nothing to worry about).
Comment From Guest
Can companies implement SAP S/4HANA Finance without implementing SAP Fiori? Can you share with us documentation to follow if we want to implement SAP S4 Finance Brownfield approach?
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. On http://help.sap.com --> SAP S/4HANA, you should be able to find documentation on how to start the migration in a Brownfield approach. So mainly, what to consider, which check reports to run etc.
Comment From Brittany
My organization is considering a move from ECC 6 to S/4HANA. The IT and Finance teams are on the project but there is confusion surrounding how and where to get our finance org ready for the move. What have other customers done to begin the move to S/4?
Your finance org can utilize Blackline to provide support and documentation of balances for accounts in preparation for the move, and provide reduction in staff time and open up time for the finance organization to engage in more strategic tasks around the move to SAP S/4HANA.
Comment From Bhushan
Do any embedded analytics come with SAP S/4HANA Finance? Are there pre-installed tools or add-ons for analytics and reporting?
Embedded analytics is coming 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.
Comment From Vijay Pratap
As the cloud upgrade takes place ever 3 months, how do we ensure that business end users are comfortable with the system usage.
Good Question - thanks. Before any upgrade takes place you are informed, be able to get familiar with certain functionality enhancements. So no surprises... With regards to the timing of the upgrade: this will be performed on a weekend or so to keep disruption at a minimum level.
Comment From Bhushan
Is costing-based CO-PA available in SAP S/4HANA Finance?
Excellent question. The costing-based CO-PA is fully available in SAP S/4HANA Finance. So you can continue to run your costing based CO-PA there and secure your investments.
Nevertheless, I would strongly recommend to have a deeper look into the Profitability Analysis we provide in the Universal Journal. You can easily get rid of a lot of reconciliation efforts between FI and CO-PA. And you can leverage real-time Profitability there.
Comment From Vijay Pratap
What changes are required in other modules for moving to SAP S/4HANA?
In the preparation of a potential move to SAP S/4HANA many customers have profited from the so-called "simplification list". It is a public document (to be found under http://help.sap.com --> SAP S/4HANA) which lists the differences and areas of changes throughout the entire suite. Piece by piece you can go through it and learn about the changes.
Comment from Patti
What can finance organizations do to prepare for the move from SAP ERP to SAP S/4HANA Finance, and how can BlackLine help?
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 and monitoring account activities, automating open-item management, matching and clearing of accounts, as well as automating imported journal entries. Customers can optimize the close process for multiple SAP instances and non-SAP systems with information supporting or supplementing the close using the Blackline SAP Connector.
Comment From Vijay Pratap
For client with EHP 6 New GL , SAP S4HANA on premise or on the cloud, which demands more investment?
Good question - while it is difficult to judge from a high-level perspective without any further insight I would think going to the cloud would require less effort. Mainly due to two aspects: no need to take care about the technical infrastructure and secondly, you find best-practices content in the cloud system which helps you to set up your process in a streamlined way.
For either way, I think EhP 7 would be the starting point, but I am not 100% sure for the cloud way.
Comment From Guest
What are the key integration points to consider for all SAP modules if we implement SAP S4/HANA Finance on premise?
The main integration routes are comparable to the ECC world: so Logistics and HR.
If you think of CRM, and cloud applications like Concur for travel management, SAP Fieldglass for contingent labor, or Ariba for Procurement - there are new integration points to consider. SAP S/4HANA comes with native integration into these cloud-offerings.
Comment From Patti
Can you share more details on what role the BlackLine SAP Connector plays in the actual move to SAP S/4HANA Finance?
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 of 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.
Comment From Nancy
Can accounting and IT departments leverage BlackLine pre-migration capabilities across SAP S/4HANA Finance and other accounting systems?
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.
Comment From Patti
Are there any technical implications/considerations that should be evaluated if the decision is to not activate document splitting in S/4HANA when it is active in ECC?
Nothing comes to my mind immediately - but why would you do so?
Comment From Patti
Follow up response on document splitting ... Document Splitting is not active in all ECC instances. Within SAP S/4HANA we would want a global design so will need to evaluate activating in SAP S/4HANA for everyone or not activating at all. What do you see as the advantages for activating Document Splitting in SAP S/4HANA if it's not in use today within ECC?
OK, got it. Did not think of such a situation immediately. But makes sense.
As you are certainly aware of: Doc splitting allows to run perfect, exact segment reporting to the lowest level. So it depends on your business and reporting requirements to what degree you would need Doc. splitting.
Comment From Len
How should enterprises sequence their BlackLine and SAP S/4HANA implementations?
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.
Comment From Ken
How can BlackLine reduce the effort of migrating and mapping historical accounting data into SAP S/4HANA Finance’s newly defined accounting structures?
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 than can be mapped to new structures with a minimal amount of effort.