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Live from SAPinsider Studio: Christian Rodatus of SAP on the Elevated Role of Finance

SAP's SVP and GM, Analytics stops by the SAPinsider Studio at Financials 2014 in Orlando for a post-keynote interview

April 23, 2014

In this interview recorded live at Financials 2014, Christian Rodatus, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Analytics at SAP, describes how predictive analytics can elevate the role of finance within the organization. Other topics include the role technology is playing in driving this change and how finance can get out of its day-to-day routine.

Full transcipt:

Lucy: Hi, this is Lucy Swedberg with SAPinsider and I’m here live at the Orlando Financials and GRC 2014 event. I’m honored to be joined by our keynote speaker, Christian Rodatus, who is the senior vice president and general manager of SAP Analytics at SAP. Thank you so much, Christian, for joining us.

Christian: Thanks for having me, Lucy, great day so far!

Lucy: Yes. So in your keynote this morning, sort of if I had to characterize the over-arching theme, it’s sort of the shift in the finance organization to become much more of a strategic player in sort of bringing new initiatives to the table and trying to get out of the day-to-day. Could you talk a little bit about the drivers of that change, what’s going on in companies and the environment that are forcing financial organizations to take a different look at how their role is perceived in the organization?

Christian: I mean, if you look at it, the finance organizations have been very much focused on providing operational efficiency, they need to transact the business, they need to make sure that all the data is available to meet regulatory reporting requirements and things, but if you look at the assets a finance organization has in terms of data, the people, all the business analysts they have, they’re a perfect organization to provide services to the business that are of a way more strategic nature and in fact, what I find interesting, you see enterprise analytics organizations in many organizations are part of the CFO organization. So this by definition elevates the finance organization and makes it way more strategic than it used to be. What these organizations are doing, they’re getting engaged now in very in-depth business analysis, predicting what will happen in the decision process and so they become more strategic in looking at growth initiatives and investment opportunities and how organizations can capitalize on the innovations they bring to market.

Lucy: It seems like from the insights we were learning this morning that’s really what the organizations are looking to the finance teams to bring to the table. So, interesting to understand your thoughts on what role technology plays in all of this, how are folks looking at their technology landscape to really help drive some of these strategic initiatives?

Christian: Yeah, that’s an interesting question, and as we’ve learned from the panelists this morning this was quite a diverse discussion, I think that the general notion was that technology is a key enabler and driving this change of the finance functions, everybody has heard of big data, everybody is kicking off thoughts and ideas how they can implement big data initiatives, but there is still a discrepancy in how technology is being adopted and leveraged to really transform the finance organization and bring it to what we call “financial brilliance.” And I believe the advantage is there, the technology is getting there, there’s still—and I think Rob Kugel from Ventana Research said it very good, so finance is doing what they always used to do, right, so we need to overcome that obstacle and he also referenced a change, a generation change that’s going on in finance, so there’s more and more younger , technology- savvy people that are coming into the finance functions, and they will drive the adoption of sophisticated technologies for the finance functions while moving forward, and I think a couple to name here would be enterprise analytics and predictive capabilities and how they relate to leveraging the data assets that finance organizations have and integrate those into great decision making processes, visualization and self-service capabilities for business analysts is another big one, and I think the way how all this is being combined at an application level can really make a difference in the finance business process.

Lucy: So let’s speak a little bit about SAP’s solutions specifically. There’s a lot of new things, new capabilities always coming about, we demoed a few of them I saw this morning. From your point of view, what are some of the latest and newest technologies that you can already see your customer base really getting excited about and asking a lot of questions about from SAP?

Christian: I think since two years ago, we have been completely re-inventing our portfolio. So we are bringing our real-time HANA database under literally everything that SAP does, which gives us real-time capabilities, not only in transacting the business but also in analyzing the business against the same dataset. The second thing is we mobilize everything, so that everything SAP does can be consumed on any device, which is a great thing if you think about shortened, the need for shortened decision cycles, approving workflows on the fly and on the go, so these are important things, and eventually everything we do will also have a cloud option versus the traditional on-premise option that we had as a primary deployment model. And if you look at some of the innovations that we’ve seen this morning, I’m specifically excited about three things.

Number one, about the HANA-based applications that we bring to market and Kevin McCollum presented the audit management solution today, and we got a lot of great analyst feedback following the keynote about specifically that solution. The second one is mobilizing enterprise performance management solutions, and with our EPM Unwired solution, we are the only vendor that can really do this, you can actually transact within the performance management solution on your mobile device, so that is a very compelling value proposition.

And probably the thing I’m most excited about are these integrated scenarios, where you pull data from the transactional systems, you match it with your planning data from your performance management systems, you apply predictive capabilities against it and have a business user that really doesn’t have—doesn’t need to have very advanced skills in applying predictive analysis solutions, have them visualize it in Lumira for very advanced analytics. And these integrated scenarios is really where I believe really the meat is, this is where finance as an organization can totally make the difference and bring sophisticated analytic capabilities back to the function that is tightly, those are tightly integrated in the regular finance business processes.

Lucy: Great, a lot going on!

Christian: Absolutely!

Lucy: Some very exciting solutions for SAP customers out there, so Christian I wanted to thank you very much for taking the time. Again, we’re live in Orlando for SAPinsider Financials and GRC 2014. Thanks for joining us!

Christian: Thanks Lucy!            

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