By Mariyah Saifuddin
This is the second in a two-part series featuring Nick Verhoeven. The first part was SAP Analytics Cloud for Planning.
Nick Verhoeven, solution manager for planning and analytics at SAP, recently rejoined our “Tech-Driven Business Podcast” to dive into how SAP Analytics Cloud‘s seamless integration between planning, reporting and predictive capabilities is modernizing Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) strategies.
As SAP continues to bring both the planning capabilities and analytics together in the SAC platform, it can be easy for enterprises to wonder if they are maximizing their IT investments. Often it starts with looking at the benefits of the tool being used.
Here are some of the benefits of working with SAC, according to Verhoeven.
Bridging flexibility and enterprise functionality
The flexibility of SAP Analytics Cloud emerges as a pivotal factor, bridging the gap between enterprise-level functionalities and the user experience. This adaptability ensures a dynamic and tailored approach, catering to diverse business needs.
This flexibility is made possible because of SAC’s integration with both SAP systems and non-SAP systems through commonly accepted APIs for metadata, as well as transactional data. What results is the ability to maintain data models for planning, with the extension to user interactions for data inputs, analysis and workflow. It’s the ultimate in flexibility.
“Having all these capabilities puts SAC Cloud in a true sweet spot in offering enterprise as well as flexibility,” Verhoeven said, “allowing for the FP&A persona and IT persona to work side by side on these different capabilities.”
It’s about offering two different paths for clients: either start with a flexible application where a business user takes ownership or start off with a guided approach and then let the business ease into the tool.
The path for current BPC clients
It’s often the elephant in the room that people struggle to talk about: How to incorporate newer technologies while supporting the tried and tested BPC software. Verhoeven offered valuable insights, emphasizing a realistic approach for transitioning to SAP Analytics Cloud. He highlighted that SAP has tied BPC support to that of BW for HANA.
Although 2040 may be a ways off, there is no forced migration of customers as SAP recognizes the major investments clients have made with BPC. SAP has ensured that SAC “neatly integrates” with BPC, leveraging its expanding functionalities without disregarding existing BPC investments. This approach allows businesses to embrace innovation at their own pace, enabling a smooth transition and evolution in FP&A processes.
Empowering business users with predictive capabilities
One of the revolutionary aspects of SAC lies in its ability to empower business users with predictive capabilities. The platform enables users to forecast and simulate scenarios, fostering a proactive approach to planning and analysis. Nick shared an example with his reference customer Roche, a big pharmaceutical company in France.
In Roche’s R&D expense planning, which is, of course, key as a pharmaceutical company, the company had to produce about 20,000 data points each and every time that they ran this situation. Using the predictive functionality, Roche automated 16,000 data points. This is where they’ve used the embedded predictive capabilities in SAP’s cloud for planning to automate, to a certain extent, their planning process. Not all of it, because not all is automatible. But they’ve used the points that are predictable. In turn, they were able to focus on the balance of 4,000 points that are currently not that predictable, and increase their accuracy.
Other examples revolve around controllers using SmartPredict for their profit and loss statements.
SAP will continue to infuse artificial intelligence into each and every workflow of SAP and its cloud for planning. This will go from version management to data management to scripting, Verhoeven said.
Use cases and enhanced user experience
The integration of analytical applications within SAC enhances the user experience, enabling intuitive and streamlined processes. Real-life use cases demonstrate how SAC’s functionalities cater to specific business needs, making complex tasks more manageable.
Verhoeven shared the sample scenario of a regional supermarket manager who finds themselves on the road a lot and needs to analyze financial performance as well as subjective scores on cleanliness of the stores, etc. As they enter the local supermarket, they want to input scores on their iPad while comparing the results to the financial performance.
After these inputs are completed, the regional manager wants to sit with the local store manager and figure out how to tweak local forecast numbers based on the latest actuals and market expectations. In this situation, the user wants a mobile experience that is easy, like entering numbers in entry forms with sliders. According to Verhoeven, this is not standard, yet available with SAC.
This is what’s possible in the world of planning in today’s environment. Not only is it about ease in scripting and flexibility, but it is also about exploring how AI is being leveraged and working with a strategy in mind.
His key takeaway? Think about where your FP&A team sees itself in the next one to five years in the world of AI, autonomous finance and big data. Your enterprise should be able to use this strategic vision and turn it into reality using rapidly evolving platforms with the latest technology in the cloud. According to Verhoeven, that’s the only place where this innovation can be offered.
Although he would say to look at SAP cloud, he knows that his colleagues will say to look at SAP Datasphere to have the surrounding data fabric. It is all about looking at possible innovations in alignment with your FP&A strategy.
You have a vision, you have something that you want to deliver on, and how can technology help you with that? And then as soon as you map that out, I’m quite sure the experts are more than willing to guide you on that.
About Nick Verhoeven
Nick Verhoeven is solution manager for planning and analytics at SAP. In this role Nick supports and aligns the various SAP functions to provide the best FP&A solutions that will facilitate optimal solutions through data. Nick’s discipline stems from professional sports, helping him drive enterprise engagements however sluggish processes might be.