How SAP S/4HANA brings value to your finance organization
There is no doubt that new technology like SAP S/4HANA helps companies keep pace with today’s increasingly complex, competitive and global marketplace. For finance professionals, technology is there to boost efficiency and effectiveness and drive strategic value. What exactly is the value-add of SAP S/4HANA for your CFO office?
“More and more CFOs are transforming finance to take on a more strategic role, on top of purely transactional tasks,” explains Jeroen Van Hulle, SAP Financials architect. “SAP S/4HANA helps them empower their teams to change the way they work by ensuring an effortless user experience, optimizing and automating finance processes and taking controlling to the next level.” He illustrates his claim with examples:
1. Optimizing finance processes
“By offering one common view of financial data, enabling real-time data processing and providing embedded and predictive analytics, SAP S/4HANA optimizes every finance process,” Jeroen explains. A popular example is the period end closing process. In the past, finance teams used a multitude of tools to handle this task, manually consolidating data from many different sources. With SAP S/4HANA, they have access to real-time figures and get a cockpit overview of all the corporate entities and the related figures. SAP S/4HANA Cloud for Advanced Financial Closing allows users to plan, execute, monitor and even analyze financial closing tasks for every entity – so that you can close the books much faster while improving compliance.
2. Automating finance processes
SAP S/4HANA can automate a wide range of finance processes, like accounts payable, accounts receivable and general ledger accounting. Jeroen: “One very tedious accounts receivable process has always been the matching of bank statements and invoices. Well, SAP S/4HANA uses machine learning to automatically match open receivables with incoming bank statement items by learning from accountants’ past manual actions. New incoming payments and open invoice information are passed on to the matching engine, and proposed matches are either automatically cleared or flagged for review by accountants.”
3. Next-level finance/controlling
At the heart of SAP S/4HANA is the Universal Journal – the best possible example of how SAP S/4HANA takes controlling to the next level. “The Universal Journal brings together all finance transactions – accounting and controlling – in one, single table,” Jeroen explains. “Every finance professional that uses SAP S/4 HANA is wild about this feature, as it eliminates the need to reconcile different datasets for financial accounting and controlling, and you have one ultimate pivot table that brings together all dimensions needed to steer your organization. That helps finance teams save a lot of time in, for example, the closing process. And as there’s one single source of truth, it becomes easier for CFOs to respond quickly to inquiries about the financial implications of business decisions or to provide the sales team or the management with valuable insights.”
4. Ensuring an effortless user experience
On a more general level, SAP S/4HANA’s Fiori user interface is a step-change difference from the SAP interfaces of the past, making the life of finance professionals much easier. “The user interface is based on the layouts of consumer devices, which makes working easier and more fun,” says Jeroen. “Even more, users get the same experience and information on their laptops, iPads or smartphones, so they can work on the fly.”
“The best example of how SAP S/4HANA improves the user experience, however, is the role-based homepage: when users log into the SAP platform they see a collection of tiles that represent business applications. The tiles can display live status indicators, such as the number of open tasks to be completed, KPIs or an overview of process receivables. With just one click, users can then dig deeper to see more details and immediately take action – like sending a reminder when they notice a payment is overdue. Moreover, SAP S/4HANA uses an exception-based approach: users immediately spot exceptions in their home page, as these are highlighted – so they immediately know what to focus on. That saves finance teams a lot of time, which they can dedicate to more value-added tasks instead.”
Making your business case
“When SAP introduced its SAP HANA architecture, the Finance & Controlling line of business was the first to adopt the power of SAP HANA. As a result, SAP S/4HANA includes plenty of mature features to support finance teams – from accounting and financial closing, treasury and cash management, accounts payable and receivable to finance planning, risk management, and more,” Jeroen says. With so many benefits, however, it is key to make a business case for SAP S/4HANA and determine which features add the most value for your team. “Make sure to get experts involved in building the business case,” Jeroen adds. “It takes finance business expertise as well as familiarity with SAP technology to make sure that the solution will work for you.”