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Live from the SAPinsider Studio: PwC's Cliff Eng Talks Finance Transformation

An interview recorded live at Financials 2014 in Orlando

May 20, 2014

In this video, PwC's Cliff Eng stops by the SAPinsider Studio to discuss finance transformation. Topics covered in the discussion include:

  • A more concise definition of finance transformation
  • The finance "triangle" of processes and how it can help you plan transformation
  • The benefits of benchmarking in the finance transformation process
  • Examples of solutions that help a company gain insight into its finances
  • The potential role of SAP HANA in the finance organization

Full transcript:

Lucy Swedberg: Hi, this is Lucy Swedberg with SAPinsider, we’re here live in Orlando for our Financials and GRC 2014 event, and I’m delighted to be joined today by Cliff Eng, who is a partner in the SAP consulting practice at PwC. Cliff, thanks so much for joining us here today.

Cliff Eng: Very good to be here.

Lucy: So just to start off, introduce yourself, give us a little bit about your experience and your background.

Cliff: I’m, like you said, Lucy, I’m a partner at PwC, I focus in SAP finance transformation, I help my clients get more value out of their SAP investment, I’ve been working in the SAP space for more than 15 years, that includes in the early ages of ECC, doing transactional systems, doing APAR fixed asset, FI, GL, and the like, and then more recently we have been spending a lot more time in the analytics space and also in the CPM space, in particular BPC, as well as BPC on HANA-type areas.

Lucy: Right, always an evolving field, always new projects to be working on for sure. So, you mentioned the term financial transformation, and I’ve heard that a lot this week actually, at the keynote and in various sessions here so I think it’s a big concept, so can you maybe help us define it a little bit, and explain what it means to SAP customers?

Cliff: Sure, no problem. I think finance transformation is a term that can be a little bit vague, so what we’ve done is we’ve tried to make it a little bit more concise for other people to use. So, in our minds finance transformation really is spun across three triangles, if you will. On the lower left-hand side, you see transaction efficiency, on the far right you’d see GRC and compliance, and on the top you would see more the business insight, so if you think about it, finance is really categorized in those three areas. When we talk about finance transformation, it’s nothing more than improving each of those functions, to the extent, and maximizing the capabilities of each of those functions.

Lucy: Got it. Can you explain a little bit—I like that triangle image—maybe why it’s structured that way with you know the core is, it feels like it’s the core at the bottom, is that right?

Cliff: Absolutely right, Lucy. So if you think about it, on the bottom you have the heavier transactional processing, and that’s kind of everyday life, these are day in the life, and things that keep the, you know, the organization in compliance, so that might be recording a transaction, processing a transaction, or performing some type of compliance function. The reason why we’ve structured it in the triangle is because that’s foundational, as you said, the top of the triangle is more business insight, this is helping clients and helping our finance function unlock value to the business, so oftentimes our finance functions come to us and they complain we’re spending so much time in process transactions, we’re spending so much time in compliance, we don’t really have the opportunity to really extend the business function and provide them the capabilities and all the, answer all the questions that they want from a finance perspective. So, we are starting to see that, as a trend right now, is, you know, a lot of companies are asking how do we spend less time, reduce the cost of the transactional activities so we can spend more time providing value to the business.

Lucy: Right, so it seems like getting efficiencies in that core is even part of the journey of the transformation because then ultimately that could lead you to be able to spend more time at that strategic level, is that right?

Cliff: Absolutely, absolutely. And it, for every company, it’s a little bit different, they’re in different parts of their maturity as a finance organization, they also have different core components, different challenges they need to, you know, respond to.

Lucy: Right. So in terms of, you know, getting inspired by this concept and trying to make finance transformation happen, it seems like, to put it into practice, do you have any advice there, you know, to sort of evaluate where they are and how they might make that step forward?

Cliff: Absolutely. So, as you start to think about your own finance function, it should be more of a self-evaluation across those three areas, where are you effective, and efficient, in each of those core areas? To the extent you’re able to maximize, improve, or move the needle to improve that performance, that would be the greatest ability to do that. Typically, a lot of our clients will actually do a benchmarking. We offer benchmarking, several other firms also offer benchmarking. But the benchmark is really perspective in context, it’s really in context relative to where you are relative to your other peers, and how effective your are as it pertains to that particular function. So for some companies, they want to be a world-class finance organization, they want to move the needle all the way to the top, ok. For other organizations, they want to be a little bit selective in how they approach it, they may not have all the, you know, resources that they need, in that case they might stretch their timeline or their horizon of their strategic roadmap, and they may selectively pick different key areas in which they want to improve upon.

Lucy: Got it. So, just if, you know, I’m trying to get toward that pinnacle, that insight layer, could you just give a little, maybe some examples of the types of projects or solutions that would help a company sort of get there?

Cliff: So, SAP offers a lot of different solution sets that will help companies enable and reach some of those capabilities for business insight, some of the toolsets we see, and some of the projects we see are related to BPC, BPC Planning, BPC Consolidation, and also enabled through an analytic foundation set such as HANA. And HANA is actually quite intriguing, we’re getting quite a bit of calls lately on HANA, a lot of companies are asking use case, how can I leverage HANA to actually drive more efficient and more, more value out of my organization and that’s been a successful platform. So we are seeing a lot more inquiries and the trend has been BPC on HANA, for, you know, business planning and consolidation, and forecasting.

Lucy: Right. Great. So it sounds like a company just sort of needs to evaluate themselves, maybe get a little bit of perspective—sometimes it’s hard if you’re working on these things day-to-day to step back and really think about where you want to go and make a determination of what would be the next step, but it seems like with some help or some thought that that’s really the path forward.

Cliff: That’s, that should be the typical path for most companies to you know, approach it in a structured manner, to do an evaluation, assessment, either self or external and then start to build their, you know, roadmap, their own strategic roadmap.

Lucy: Great. So thank you so much Cliff, I think you’ve really helped crystallize this sense of finance transformation and I know our readers and viewers will really appreciate it, so thank you for taking the time.

Cliff: Thank you, Lucy.                                 

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