3 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your SAP Financial Reporting

Mark Pockl - Senior SAP Solution Engineer

Over 25 years of experience working directly with SAP solutions and a regular speaker at SAP trade shows and events.

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If you’re like many CFOs or financial professionals, you’re probably turning to SAP and its Finance and Controlling module (or “FICO”) in either S/4HANA or ECC to manage your organization’s reporting. On the surface, this seems logical given the extensive collection of pre-built reports that are available and created in accordance with accounting standards. Sounds simple enough. But as it turns out, not so much. Unfortunately, common pain points almost always present themselves as you go through the process of creating and delivering reports to your stakeholders – experiencing numerous bumps along the way.

What are these roadblocks? Many native ERP-based reporting platforms are configured around the specific requirements of finance, but the standard reports provided may not fulfill all of the reporting requirements of finance users. While SAP has an extensive library of FICO T-codes for reporting, in many cases it’s not possible to meet all your needs with a single report.

Also, the data required for reports usually spans multiple SAP modules, so you have to pull it from all of these disparate sources to gain a consolidated view. Given the complexity, this ultimately demands that you pull in the IT team to design new reports or modify existing ones. And in a world where time is at a premium, and comes at the cost of business agility, it’s a cost that can’t be tolerated.

These issues have been amplified by modern ways of working. With many – and in some cases, all – employees now working from home, the ability to communicate and gather information from all of the necessary sources has become even more of a challenge. In addition, management teams and boards of directors now want frequent updates and analyses from their CFO in order to make more informed decisions in a market that is highly unstable and uncertain. This often means daily or weekly reports, on top of the typical monthly, quarterly and annual cadence – upping the pressure on finance teams.

if you want to go beyond the out-of-the-box capabilities of SAP and get the most of out of financial reporting, you may want to consider adding software that simplifies the process (as well as other financial functions like planning, budgeting and tax management) through automation and also allows you to link to your SAP data in real time. These capabilities can eliminate common pain points so you can focus your efforts on providing the timely strategic guidance your organization needs instead of gathering and consolidating data and building reports. Here are three things you should consider when aiming to gain maximum benefits from your financial reporting:

1. Turn Excel into a Real-Time Data Powerhouse

In our increasingly digital era, the reality is that finance professionals still do much of their work in Microsoft Excel. This is understandable. It’s a long-standing tool that’s been widely used, and it is capable of sophisticated analysis without having to pull in the IT department.

In addition, consolidating all of the data you need out of SAP can be challenging since the information usually spans multiple reports and/or modules. This is compounded by the fact that you must then move large amounts of data out of SAP and into Excel, which can be a cumbersome and time-consuming process. Not to mention, once data is exported from SAP and imported or pasted into Excel, it becomes static. The real-time link to SAP data is broken. The result? Users often find that the information is out of date by the time the reports have been finalized, rendering them relatively meaningless to their intended audience. This is unacceptable, as business agility becomes a key competitive advantage in both stable market conditions and times of volatility.

Be sure you have real-time access to SAP so that your data is directly accessible within Excel. This makes your reporting faster and easier – and more accurate, since you’re removing the human error associated with constantly cutting, pasting and manipulating static data within spreadsheets.

2. Automate Your Drill-Downs

After investing hours of your time to create a detailed summary analysis for the management team, you’ll inevitably be asked to provide more details about some of the numbers. Or, perhaps you’re just trying to reconcile accounts or analyze variances. In any of these scenarios, once your financial data has been formatted in Excel, the ability to drilldown to the line item and document level details while staying in Excel, has been lost due to the static nature of the data.

Instead, you’ll want the ability to instantly drill down into your live SAP data from within Excel. This allows you to do things such as examine your balance sheets, income statements and subledgers at a granular level, and when an adjustment is posted, see it reflected immediately within the reports.

3. Be Sure Cloud Migration Will Be Seamless

SAP has made its cloud plans clear. Ultimately, it will require its existing ECC customers to migrate to S/4HANA. But based on pushback from customers, SAP has extended the support timeframe for ECC. Many of its existing customers are delaying the migration to the cloud-based S/4HANA based on time and cost constraints.

But the eventual shift to S/4HANA is inevitable. It’s not a question of “if” but “when.” With that in mind, be sure you’ll have complete, seamless and secure migration of your data, as well as optimal performance when importing and exporting data. Also, you should ensure that any reports you build for ECC today will work in S/4HANA once you’re ready to make the move.