SAP Simple Finance – the dawn of a new age for Finance professionals

9 June 2014

Mark Chalfen

Mark Chalfen

Former SAP S/4HANA Global Lead

Last week at SAP’s flagship conference SapphireNow 2014 the major announcement from the keynotes was the introduction of a new Finance solution called SAP Simple Finance. As part of this drive to “Run Simple” SAP has started by focusing on the core aspect of the majority of their ERP user base. I for one, would like to applaud SAP for making this move and I am very supportive of the direction it’s now taking.

The new solution will enable the current SAP customer base to refocus how they use their core ERP solution, how data is entered and analysed.

The benefits can be broken down into three core areas:

  1. Removal of aggregation tables
  2. New user interface utilising SAP Fiori apps
  3. New functionality linking data processing and analysis

Removal of aggregation tables

This is not the sexiest of changes. To be fair, a Financial Controller or Director will not care too much around tables and how data is sorted. The CIO or CTO will have an eye on this change as it will reduce the size of the underlying tables. Moving to SAP HANA can be costly, however reducing the size of the database will reduce the costs of SAP HANA for customers. A standard migration to SAP HANA will see a reduction of size of 5:1 (old database size: SAP HANA database size). With SAP Simple Finance, the SAP HANA database can be reduced by a further 40-60%, (the amount will of course vary depending on the Finance modules being used). Apart from the size reduction implications, the removal of aggregation tables will enable processes to be run more efficiently such as cost allocations and the ability to perform analysis within the SAP Business Suite on HANA environment rather than from a data warehouse.

New user interface

The new user interface, in isolation, could be the real turning point for SAP. The traditional SAP Gui UI is dated to say the least and, in reality, today’s users won’t accept working on the grey screens SAP made famous 20 years ago. Users want a common platform with simple to-use screens. With this initial release, SAP has moved some of the most common Finance SAP transactions and reports making use of SAPUI5 via SAP Fiori apps. The look and feel is totally different and it brings financial processing into the 21st Century. The only downside is that not all of the SAP Finance screens will get a SAP Fiori overhaul and will need to be consumed via the standard SAP Gui.

New functionality

An output of the new table structure and the emphasis SAP has made around the UX has enabled SAP to create some new fancy Finance based apps. Cash Management, Integrated Planning, and Treasury are areas where new apps have been created. The apps focus on blending data processing and analysis all from a single system. Prior to SAP HANA, users would enter data in an ERP environment and report and analysis via a data warehouse potentially utilising SAP BusinessObjects. SAP has simplified the UX by allowing the end-to-end process to be consumed via a single app which will speed up productivity.

Why should you be looking at SAP Simple Finance?

If you are looking to move to SAP Business Suite on HANA, it makes senses to make the jump to SAP Simple Finance at the same time. SAP has indicated that the migration and upgrade will take around 3 months, (take this as indicative).

If you have not previously considered migrating to SAP Business suite on HANA, SAP Simple Finance can provide additional benefits that you may not have previously considered.

  • A further reduction to your database size due to the reduction of the aggregation tables slashing SAP HANA costs
  • All of the new SAP Fiori apps are only available via SAP Business Suite on HANA (the first release of SAP Fiori apps can be consumed on non-SAP HANA Business Suite solutions)
  • The new apps within SAP Simple Finance improve usability and reduces the reliance on Data Warehouse systems for reporting and analysis
  • The reduction of the aggregation tables will speed up the month-end processes as the need to reconcile Finance and Controlling data is removed as all of the data is held in a common structure
  • The In-Memory functionality within SAP HANA can be utilised to speed up reporting within the SAP Business Suite system and in turn speed up tasks such as GR/IR clearing and cost allocations.

What options are there for SAP Simple Finance?

Assuming you are sold, or at least interested in the functionality within SAP Simple Finance, how you perform this is important. There are two ways to consume SAP Simple Finance as a ‘product’.

  1. The first is to use the SAP HEC (Hana Enterprise Cloud). The SAP Cloud offering will reduce the initial cost of the migration and provide the management of the solution to a 3rd party
  2. The second is an on-premise option; it is worth noting that the name of this solution is slightly different (SAP Business Suite on HANA Finance Add-on). It is the same product and is available via Enhancement Package 7h within SAP Business Suite on HANA. Details of the functionality and landscape can be found in SAP Simple Finance launched at SAPPHIRE NOW 2014

When should you migrate?

The solution is currently not in General Availability (GA) so you cannot purchase it right away. Only SAP is live with this solution (via HEC) and there are a further nine customers who are in ramp-up. As mentioned earlier, whilst the new apps are available, not all of the SAP screens are ready to be consumed via SAP Fiori.

SAP is making massive strides to speed up this progress and I would expect to hear more about this over the coming months. Further to this SAP have indicated that the concepts that they have followed to create SAP Simple Finance will be extended to other functional areas such as Sales, Logistics and HR.

Considerations

Whilst SAP Simple Finance is a fresh new way to systemise Finance processes, it is worth noting that most of SAP’s current customers have a level of bespoke transactions. Some reports that have been built may report on the aggregation tables that are being removed and therefore these will have to be re-written. Not all of the SAP Fiori screens will meet business requirements and may require modification. All of these areas will increase the scope and the cost of an upgrade to SAP Simple Finance. It is worth reviewing code and transactions prior to the upgrade and remove where possible bespoke transactions. It is a great opportunity to revert back to standard where possible and it is worth considering some of the new apps delivered as part of SAP Simple Finance will be able to replace bespoke transactions and reports.

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About the author

Mark Chalfen

Former SAP S/4HANA Global Lead

Mark tells it straight - as an ex-boxer, what else would you expect?  Both his knowledge and experience of SAP products allow him to cut to the chase dispelling myths and hearsay.

As a result of working closely with various SAP Finance Product Management teams on product development, Mark understands these products inside out. This depth of understanding has led to him become a ‘thought leader’ in his field; after all, it is not often SAP consultants have helped shape and develop the very product they are selling.

Having such a strong relationship with SAP alongside being an SAP Mentor and Moderator means that Mark has an extensive network within SAP. For clients, this relationship proves to be a huge advantage and leads to configuration issues being resolved rapidly.

Mark has worked on short proof of concepts through to year-long multi-million pound global roll-outs. However, no matter how large or small the project, the true value Mark brings to his work is in the guidance he provides to senior stakeholders. In essence, he assists them to implement more effective processes and drive better behaviours within their finance teams.

Helping organisations transform their business with SAP S/4HANA is Mark’s current focus. The benefits of S/4HANA are numerous, including the simplification of tasks, embedded analytics and improved user engagement. Whilst the eventual move from SAP Business Suite into S/4HANA is inevitable, the journey to it is not always clear. Mark’s ability to understand an organisation’s needs coupled with his deep understanding of S/4HANA provides clarity and eases their transition.

Bluefin and SAP S/4HANA - welcome to the one horse race