Panelists: Molly Boyle, Finance Transformation, BlackLine
Bill Thomas, Finance Transformation Lead, EY
Stephanie Miller, VP Finance CoE, SAP
It can be difficult to demonstrate the value of new technologies, such as SAP S/4HANA, that elevate accounting and finance departments.
One of the most effective approaches is to draft a compelling business case that proves the enterprise-wide benefit of these solutions. But figuring out where to start can be the highest hurdle.
Read this Q&A transcript of a discussion with Industry experts from BlackLine, EY, and SAP to learn the right steps to take to build your business case for SAP S/4HANA and other new technologies.
Comment From Cizer: What are the advantages that SAP S/4HANA brings, basically? Thanks and best regards
Stephanie Miller: The streamlined user experience combined with the simplified data model allows everyone from the CFO to the staff accountants to bring together insights and transactions. This allows for a more efficient and streamlined process. This is accomplished via the Universal Journal and a radically simplified user experience, delivered by SAP Fiori.
With SAP S/4HANA Finance, the Universal Journal is one large table that consolidates transactional information that was previously stored in multiple tables. It consolidates the General Ledger tables; sub-ledgers such as accounts receivable, accounts payable, and fixed assets; controlling tables such as cost center, project, and internal order data; and the material ledger and account-based profitability analysis. It also includes operational information such as customer and product IDs for more granularity in financial reporting.
Check out more details on the universal journal here: Moving to the Universal Journal – How does the “New G/L” Fit In?
SAP Fiori 2.0 is the latest evolution of the user experience for SAP S/4HANA. The user-centered design concept focuses on the way employees work and offers a variety of business benefits including:
- Increased productivity – faster and direct access to relevant information and applications
- Transparency on items needing your attention – timely notifications
- Helps users decide what needs to be done next
- Allows users to take quick and informed actions
- Increased user satisfaction
Check out more information on the UX SAP Fiori here: https://www.sap.com/products/fiori.html
Comment From Raffaele Bubola: What are the main differences (business functions not technological aspects) between BPC 10.1 classic and the last version of BPC on SAP HANA?
Stephanie Miller: The BPC optimized for SAP S/4HANA version can read data virtually from the Universal Journal, allowing planning and consolidation without replication of balances or master data so long as it lives within SAP. The classic version would copy the actual data into BPC (balances and master data). Form a business function point of view, the main difference is that IT is typically leveraged more heavily with optimized as they have the skill set to build the query against the SAP S/4HANA tables that are needed for BPC optimized. This is typically done through implementation. The business users are much more involved with the master data and model building in a classic model.
However, SAP is very excited about our newest innovations in the cloud SAP Cloud for planning, so I invite you to learn more about the business benefits here: SAP Analytics Cloud
Comment From Kedar: I recently learnt that the Leasing Engine available in SAP ECC is no longer available in SAP S/4HANA as a standard offering. Knowing there is a significant leasing footprint in our global template, and also the upcoming accounting changes/compliance needs for that area — can you help advise on how to move this elephant out of the room and start a pragmatic business case preparation exercise?
Stephanie Miller: As per the simplification list:
The leasing opening entry from the asset master record is not supported in SAP S/4HANA. You can use the Leasing solution of the component Flexible Real Estate Management (RE-FX) instead. For more information, see SAP Note 2255555.
Check out this link for more information on RE-FX:
SAP Documentation: Flexible Real Estate Management
Furthermore, SAP has partnered with Nakisa to offer a solution for end-to-end lease management for movable assets, accounting, and reporting which supports compliance with new lease accounting regulations. The solution brings real-time native connectivity with SAP ERP Financials modules including Asset Accounting, General Ledger, Accounts Payable, and Plant Maintenance. It allows customers to save on the significant costs coming from payment penalties, past-term leases and lost equipment.
Please connect with your SAP Account Executive to learn more about these offerings.
Comment From Werner: Why do traditional business cases fail, and what sets a good business case apart?
Bill Thomas - EY: Traditional business cases fail for many different reasons. Often, they have too few benefits articulated and ROI doesn't meet a required threshold. We recommend a “multi-dimensional” business case the puts many benefits in front of the executives. It should also include ways to overcome the concerns about time line, lack of resources, and general risks. Business cases that only put forward one angle for ROI will likely fail.
Comment From Arquimedes: Why should a company move from SAP ECC to SAP HANA today?
Stephanie Miller: As the successor to SAP Business Suite, SAP S/4HANA makes in-memory technology accessible to previous users of SAP ERP. To take advantage of the technical possibilities afforded by the SAP HANA in-memory platform, SAP had to simplify the underlying data model and provide for new interfaces in order to streamline processes and ensure an intuitive user experience.
Making adjustments of that scale to an already established application like SAP ERP would be simply impossible which is where the SAP S/4HANA solution comes in.
SAP S/4HANA leverages not only simple interfaces based on streamlined data structures, but the capabilities of its underlying platform, as well – including full text search. This provides companies with a technical foundation for improving their current processes and defining new ones as a basis for new products, services, and brand-new business models.
Here is a great link with more details: SAP S/4HANA: 10 Questions Answered
Comment From Davood: How do I balance qualitative factors with “hard and fast” quantitative ROI in a business case like this?
Bill Thomas - EY: You have to throw everything you can into a business case. Quantitative and qualitative measures should have equal representations. They should also include clear definitions on scope and process, well-thought out team structure. Last step is to align the business case to the company’s strategy.
Comment From Maureen: What are the key components of a successful SAP S/4HANA business case?
Bill Thomas - EY: Elements of good plan
- Align to corporate strategy
- Start with process framework, foundation for scope
- Then map organization/resources to process framework, identify individual’s formal and informal roles to help determine their alignment to the project and ability to participate
- Then map performance management framework to process, sets the foundation for measuring the impact of the process
- Then map control framework to process, adds more tangible benefits for the program
- Then map technology framework to the process to identify all the impacted applications and data stores.
- This exercise should be in a business modeling application so it can evolve as changes are made. It becomes a living roadmap.
- Taking these steps upfront provides answers for executive’s primary concerns: Cost, resources, effort, and risk and also becomes a tool helping to managing the program during the project.
The items in the plan should include benefits and improvements in terms of the following areas:
Comment From Raymond: How does BlackLine fit in with SAP S/4HANA?
Molly Boyle - BlackLine: BlackLine and SAP S/4HANA have complementary capabilities. While SAP S/4HANA offers powerful in-memory computing, innovates ERP data, and has leading reporting and visualization functionalities, BlackLine fills the “white space” between ERPs (among other data sources) and processes like consolidation and financial reporting. BlackLine offers streamlined and consistent solutions for account balance substantiation, including workflow and auto certification. In addition, BlackLine has numerous other solutions within its integrated platform. These include: task management, journal entry, and variance analysis.
BlackLine is the only SAP-Endorsed Business Solution for Financial Close, and the only unified solution built entirely for the cloud specifically for accounting and finance. The BlackLine Finance Controls and Automation Platform complements SAP by automating account balance and transaction reconciliations, strengthening controls, and streamlining core close tasks. More than 2,200 companies around the world trust BlackLine, including over 500 running SAP.
Visit https://www.blackline.com/erp-integration/sap-integration to learn more about how companies like Under Armour are running SAP and closing with BlackLine.
Comment From Tom: How should we think about the sequence of the two in our project plan?
Molly Boyle - BlackLine: Sequencing a BlackLine implementation prior to your SAP S/4HANA implementation offers:
- A “quick win” that delivers time savings and an ROI
- Designing processes that are “desired state” rather than replicating “current state”
- Automate manual tasks within SAP
- Identifying balance sheet risk and analyzing trends before upgrade
- Easier validation of financial data before, during and after cutover
In addition, BlackLine helps free-up accounting professionals to serve as valuable resources on the SAP S/4HANA implementation. Visit www.blackline.com for more information or read this blog post HOW TO MAXIMIZE YOUR MOVE TO SAP S/4HANA FINANCE to learn more about how BlackLine can help maximize your move to SAP S/4HANA.
Comment From Foad: What is Central Finance and how does it work with SAP S/4HANA?
Stephanie Miller: Central Finance is a solution offered by SAP which enables FI documents to be replicated in a new system running on SAP S/4HANA. Central Finance is relevant in an organization where there are multiple ERP instances — both SAP and non-SAP. It is also relevant for a customer who wants to take advantages of SAP S/4HANA but is not yet ready to migrate their full ERP landscape — this is sometimes referred to as a side car approach.
Central Finance exploits the capabilities of SAP HANA, i.e., real-time, speed and agility to replicate financial documents into the central system, giving a real-time organization-wide financial view. In short, Central Finance allows you to create a common reporting structure for an organization. Furthermore, the Central Finance approach allows you to deliver a variety of shared services activities including but not limited to centralized planning, consolidation, payments, collections, disputes, cash management and account reconciliation through BlackLine.
Comment From ManuelR: Is it possible to implement SAP S/4HANA without SAP Fiori?
Stephanie Miller: Yes. Many clients phase in SAP Fiori by region or line of business to facilitate change management.
Comment From Guest: How do you recommend to go about a business case for a greenfield implementation. Elaborate on the approach you recommend to develop such a business case.
Bill Thomas - EY: Greenfield implementations require many of the same elements as an upgrade business case but have a stronger case because so many processes are improved. Moving from an existing environment can run into the question, “can't we just stay with the current solution,” but a greenfield is often replacing manual solutions so the case for change is much better.
Either way you still need to build a comprehensive business case. Don't take short cuts and make sure you cover the risks and concerns most executives have with these programs.
48% of executives believe their organization is “only somewhat” or “not at all” prepared to successfully execute a business transformation today.
This will be true for a greenfield because you may have not taken on a project like this in the past. You need to overcome executive concerns by being overly prepared.
Comment From Aileen Tynan: What are the differences between SAP ERP and SAP S/4HANA with regards to cost allocations?
Stephanie Miller: With SAP S/4HANA Finance, the Universal Journal includes a single field account that covers both the general ledger (G/L) account and the cost element. This allows profitability analysis to be much easier and faster.
As companies migrate to SAP S/4HANA Finance, the system merges their existing G/L accounts and cost elements. The transactions for the creation and maintenance of cost elements become obsolete, replaced by a single transaction for account maintenance. However, this technical change does not mean that the idea of a cost element has disappeared with SAP S/4HANA Finance.
This blog provides some great details: S/4 HANA Finance – Dealing with Cost Elements
Comment From Siva: How do we plan for the preparation phase for the SAP S/4HANA upgrade when we are already on SAP General Ledger (NEW GL)?
Bill Thomas - EY: First, I would go back and find the original material from your GL project. Look at the scope and business case and see how much of that still applies. Second, look at the list of open improvement requests. You will likely find that scope was cut from the first project and never addressed after go-live. So the original benefits for the current GL where probably not realized so one of your arguments for the upgrade is to finally realize the original goals from the GL project. Then layer in the additional items you can address with the new solution. After that, do a stronger business case, leveraging the original material but adding elements from some of my other responses. Main thing most people miss when building a business case is aligning the request to the company’s strategy. For example, if you are trying to grow through acquisition as a corporate strategy, evaluate if the current GL is in a position to support an acquisition.
Comment From Pedro Piedra: Would you be able to share in five bullet points the most important advantages that SAP S/4HANA and the next-generation of technologies have in regards of previous versions of SAP?
Molly Boyle - BlackLine: Innovative technologies are helping to change the way businesses operate by providing information when and where it is needed. Technology is also changing and expanding the role of accounting and finance in the organization. Some of the key benefits of technologies like SAP S/4HANA and BlackLine include:
1) Increased productivity and better utilized employees, as automation replaces mundane tasks. This leads to improve recruiting, development and retention of top talent;
2) Faster and direct access to relevant information;
3) Transparency on items needing your attention – timely notifications helps users decide what needs to be done next;
4) User-friendly, integrated interfaces are intuitive and powerful;
5) Automation helps de-risk and enhance organizations’ control environments.
Comment From Manjul: How do you handle change impacts to user community if you go to SAP S/4HANA from SAP ECC?
Bill Thomas - EY: User community activities will definitely change for the better in an SAP S/4HANA environment but you do have to be mindful of what is communicated. First, communicate that work load will be rebalanced. Time users would have spent waiting for systems to respond will be reduced so they are able to do more activities in less time. This will mean process steps and potentially control frameworks will be changing so that needs to be communicated. Second, they will have the opportunity to spread out work more evenly across the period so that will require a rethinking of roles and responsibilities. For example, things you could have only done at the end of the month can now be done daily, so if you keep your current processes in place you have missed an opportunity to benefit from the new environment. I recently came across a company that did not do enough to change their monthly processes and are not getting the benefits of a real-time, in memory solution. Sometimes upgrades are communicated as a technology project and end users are not told what it will mean for them. Moving to SAP S/4HANA brings a major benefit for end users but not if they aren't part of the project and preparing for the change.
Comment From Mary: What are quick wins that your company can leverage now, to expedite the process?
Stephanie Miller: Central Finance is an extremely popular approach to drive quick wins (refer to the answer to Foad). With Central Finance in place, you immediately have a centralized reporting repository — giving you real time visibility into PL, Balance Sheet and Cash Flow reporting. With the SAP S/4HANA system in place receiving real-time feeds from your source ERP systems, you can also add additional solutions for financial operations.
A second way to get quick wins is to explore the multiple solutions in the cloud offered by both SAP and BlackLine that can free up resources to be available for an SAP S/4HANA project.
Also refer to Molly's response to Tom where she posted a link to a blog post on quick wins.
Stephanie Miller: Thank you so much for participating in the Q&A.
Bill Thomas - EY: Thanks to everyone for their great questions. Looking forward to the next time we can connect.
Molly Boyle - BlackLine: Thank you, everyone, for your questions today. It was a pleasure.