Do I want my financial planning data in the Cloud?

20 January 2015

Paril Popat

Paril Popat

Consultant

SAP recently announced the upcoming release of SAP Cloud 4 Planning (C4P). I’m not going to lie, it has me very excited, about enhanced usability and features.

Despite that however, I have three main questions which have arisen from conversations with clients and other consultants that I really want answered by SAP before I embrace its latest and greatest for planners.

But firstly, I’ll start with the basics.

What is the Cloud?

I’d always been apprehensive about the Cloud, mainly because I wasn’t sure how it would impact the EPM world. I was put at ease however at an event where I left having (finally) understood the meaning of SaaS, PaaS and IaaS - all of which seemed like gibberish before.  

If you are in the position I was in, I would definitely recommend reading Brenton O’Callaghan’s blog post Does anyone know what the Cloud actually is?

What is SAP Cloud 4 Planning?

SAP Cloud 4 Planning is a new SaaS offering from SAP to be released in early 2015. Check out It’s finally happened: SAP Cloud for Planning by Tristan Colgate

SAP is positioning the tool to be used by businesses (FP&A teams) to plan and analyse their data on this Cloud platform which can be integrated with other existing SAP EPM solutions or using data loads from other systems.

The benefits are numerous, but for me the top three are:

  • The ease of development of a model within the system. Different functional areas can now create their own planning models rapidly, suited to their specific needs
  • New collaborative functions. Embracing an enterprise social media vibe
  • A dashboard tool. This allows users to create and share “on the fly” dashboards with the click of a few buttons.

I’ve seen some of the early beta versions of the offering and all aspects look very good and has already got me thinking about where I can use it, which customers to talk to about it and what I would like to see in future releases.

My questions for SAP

Where is my data?

This is a point that concerns people I have spoken to the most. If I am going to be using a system for planning and analysing my company’s financial performance, am I comfortable with not having full control over the data?

I’m sure (I hope) there will be lots of security measures in place and so it would not cause a problem, but haven’t there been a lot of recent security issues? For example celebrity iCloud accounts and Sony’s emails, makes you question how secure will/could data be in the cloud.

How will a multi-tenanted solution perform?

This simply means all customers will use the same servers and software versions etc. (a central concept for the cloud). This would imply that the control of the system layer (including upgrades) would not be up to each customer but controlled centrally. Any major issue causing downtime will affect everyone (could be a positive as there will be more emphasis on fixing it) and performance could be affected, especially as the majority of customers are going to use the system at the same time (month end, budgeting cycles etc…).

What do I do with my current licenses?

Where previously you would buy licenses for the number of users you require and then pay the annual support cost, now it will be a per user per month cost, this might seem a good option as you won’t require any hardware, but do I throw away my existing investments and start again or is there a more sensible approach?

How much can I configure?

As the system is going to be used by multiple people on a shared infrastructure, the amount a company will be able to customise their solution will (naturally) be restricted. So my question is, will this give all the options that an agile FP&A team might require?

In summary

So the solution itself has me really excited and I can’t wait to get my hands on it, but these questions are niggling at the back of my mind. I am also not the only one asking these questions as I have had numerous conversations with customers and colleagues on this topic.

So I want your opinion, would you be happy with your financial planning data “in the Cloud”?

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