SAP Financials 2018: Looking to Eradicate Wasteful Tasks with Automated Financial Processes

Last month, we took our trip to Financials 2018 in Las Vegas, the annual event by SAPInsider for organizations that use SAP for financial processes. This year’s show buzz was a bit different than that of years’ past, which we’ve described in previous blogs. Today, we’ll take a look here at this year’s developments, including the need for better process automation and the inflexibility of SAP Analysis for Microsoft Office.

The Big Picture

The common themes of discussion we heard from booth visitors this year were surrounding process automation. S/4HANA, Fiori, and SAP Analysis for Microsoft Office were big topics from past years, and while we still heard plenty of chatter along those lines, process automation seemed top of mind. This preoccupation with process automation isn’t too surprising, given that PwC’s Finance Effectiveness Benchmark Report 2017 noted that “35-46% of time for several key finance processes could be eliminated by automation and eliminating waste,” as we described in another blog.

At Financials 2018, attendees specifically referred to the need for addressing keystroke automation, task-oriented automation, and the continual processes around manual data extracts from SAP to Microsoft Excel for reporting purposes. In particular, we had some interesting booth conversations with companies in the automotive and general consumer industries. Their chief complaints were around the many current manual financial processes they have that take valuable time for users to perform. Automation of processes around tasks like reporting was a key consideration for them.

A Chief Pain Point

One sore spot we heard about was the perception that SAP users are being “force fed” SAP Analysis for Microsoft Office, which has been promoted as Business Intelligence (BI) and multi-dimensional data analysis software that makes it easy to filter and manipulate data in Excel. Attendees expressed that they found the tool to be rigid and incapable of solving all their reporting needs. This supports other user complaints we’ve heard about SAP Analysis for Microsoft Office providing staged instead of real-time data, outputting data as a table object instead of cell by cell, creating dependencies on IT, and restricting report layouts and data combinations.

Roadblocks to More Automated Reporting

When booth visitors were asked if they planned to explore other reporting tools, whether from SAP or other vendors, the chief barriers were lack of IT budget, concerns over SAP security, and reservations about adopting “yet another” reporting solution. In recent years, attendees at the Financials 2018 event were hesitant to explore new reporting solutions based on the uncertainty of their S/4HANA situation. This roadblock wasn’t as evident this year because although S/4 HANA is on the radar, companies we spoke with said their timelines to adopt/implement it have moved out two to five years and even beyond—a finding that supports studies we cited in a recent blog on S/4HANA adoption.

We did find that booth attendees were open to hearing how Excel add-in software could help automate financial reporting processes by linking to real-time SAP data, eliminating the steps for manual extracts to Excel. They were encouraged to hear that this software preserves existing SAP security roles, works with the S/4HANA platform for future needs and comes at a reasonable price point with simple installation for IT.