I have spent much of my time over the last month or so discussing the virtues of SAP EPM 10 Planning & Consolidation with our client base. A pertinent question I am repeatedly asked is whether the functionality in SAP EPM 10 offers anything new to the consolidation user. Admittedly this question has come from existing clients developing a business case for migrating from SAP BPC 7*, however the question is important for both existing SAP BPC users and clients evaluating SAP EPM 10 as a potential solution.
I was fortunate enough to attend the SAP BPC 10.0 Mega Elite Enablement sessions in Philadelphia. Now, I am normally a bit of a cynic when it comes to training or enablement sessions in any shape of form (having been self-taught throughout my career), however I had to admit that I was very impressed with the event, in particular the quality of the teaching staff (or enablers as I presume they would prefer to be called) and the quantity of materials conveniently provided on an IPad for each of the 130 delegates (and yes, each one was rightfully returned by the end of the week!).
The enablement sessions were "hands-on heavy", with numerous exercises encompassing the salient facets of SAP EPM 10. I especially liked that I got to work on my own server in the Cloud, thus allowing me to freely interact with SAP EPM 10 throughout the week.
I wanted to get a handle on what SAP EPM 10 had to offer, with particular reference to how it tackled the area of financial consolidation. I was interested to see how SAP's "Harmonise, Connect, Extend" theme had been applied to the consolidation arena, and am able to summarise my findings as follows.
The most striking observation relates to the administration interface developed using Web 2.0. Previous incarnations of SAP BPC had used a combination of Excel and Web screens which confused users and generally led to a disjointed administration experience. The redesigned interface provides an all encompassing administration portal, which allows the administrator to configure the application (or model as they are now known) using a single point of access.
SAP has developed a more coherent method for defining the consolidation framework. The framework controls how the consolidation engine uses the data in the model, using a combination of methods and rules. SAP EPM 10 delivers this functionality through a single Business Rules folder, allowing the developer to add consolidation methods and associated business rules using a common interface:
Whilst the complexity involved in developing logic to satisfy consolidation requirements still exists, SAP has made the process more logical and intuitive, which means less time scrambling around numerous screens, second guessing where you are up to in the configuration process!
A common question posed to our consultants relates to the integration of performance management applications with source systems. This is of particular importance to our clients who possess a SAP landscape, and would like to interact with various layers of data within a common portal.
SAP EPM 10 comes with improved integration with SAP NetWeaver security, allowing users to dynamically synchronise BPC role and profile settings with underlying SAP NetWeaver systems.
More relevant for the consolidation user is the improved integration with SAP NW, SAP ERP, and other business analytics applications. The integration will improve data flow; allow a simpler drill through capability, and provide better data manageability overall.
Notwithstanding the efforts SAP has gone to harmonising the user experience, particularly with regard to administration, the main reason for migrating/choosing EPM10 will undoubtedly relate to the enhanced consolidation functionality. With SAP EPM 10, SAP has extended the consolidation experience by providing capabilities for consolidation monitoring, enhanced control & validation and incremental consolidation.
The functionality is delivered from a redesigned interface, aptly named Consolidation Central.
Consolidation Central brings together all consolidation related features in one place, including:
The Ownership Manager is the much awaited replacement of the Dynamic Hierarchy Editor, and is the understated star of SAP EPM 10. The Ownership Manager allows the definition of organizational structure that is time, category, and scope specific. It controls the definition of which entities are to be consolidated and maintains the relationships between the various subsidiaries involved in the legal structure.
The Ownership Manager interface provides a flexible approach for defining consolidation scopes. Users are able to automate the calculation of methods and percentages based upon ownership data entry, and general maintenance is enhanced with an improved visual representation of scope members and options to copy definitions to future periods.
The Control Monitor links the selected ownership structure to a series of controls (data validations) that ensure data consistency within the saved data records. Users are able to check the status of entities under their control, at both a consolidated and individual entity level.
I am about to use a term I thought I would never use, however the advent of the consolidation monitor is rightly heralded as a "game changer".
The Consolidation Monitor allows the user to track information for a given group, sub-group or entity, including the control status, work status or consolidation status. Users are able to complete consolidation tasks directly from the Consolidation Monitor.
SAP has enabled considerable performance improvements with incremental consolidation capability enabled by the consolidation monitor, however I believe it is the element of visual control over the consolidation process that will be of key interest to users.
With SAP EPM 10 Planning & Consolidation, SAP has managed to complete the integration of its performance management and analytical suite, thus delivering a more consistent and functionally-rich user interface.
The continual improvement with its integration of source systems and business intelligence assets, coupled with the innovation displayed with the emergence of mobile technologies and in-memory computing, herald a welcome transformation in the EPM market space.