Ferrara’s Cloud Strategy Supports Best-of-Breed Business Intelligence for Improved Agility

Learn how this sweet snack maker’s keep-it-sweet-and-simple approach impacts the customer experience

Susan Fisher, Story Acquisitions Lead, SAPinsider

Ferrara is an emerging North American powerhouse in sweet snacking with recent acquisitions of Nestle’s U.S. Confection and Kellogg’s Cookie, Cones, and Crust business which includes the beloved Keebler brands. Ferrara has been able to quickly realize the benefits of its investments by having information about new acquisitions available at its fingertips.

Mustafa Mustafa, Senior Director, Analytics and Technical Shared Services at Ferrara refers to this as “truly a paradigm shift in the organization.”

The company has achieved this through a best-of-breed approach for bringing in acquisitions data that delivers accurate business intelligence (BI) in real-time to support leadership decision-making and optimize market opportunities. This strategy is supported by Ferrara’s evolving journey to the cloud working with hyperscaler Amazon Web Services (AWS) and implementing SAP’s in-memory database, SAP HANA on Intel Xeon processors.

“Running SAP HANA on AWS enables unparalleled agility for reports and analytics across our business. SAP HANA empowers our business with a streamlined analytical process for making strategic, tactical, and operational decisions,” Mustafa says.

Putting all of the company’s data and analytics in one cloud environment near each other has resulted in less latency when moving information back and forth and increased performance and integration. In fact, the company has been able to significantly reduce the time it takes to bring in new information from two years to just one week by defining a new BI playbook.

When the Nestle U.S. Confection acquisition closed, Ferrara was able to scale up its environment and report on sales within three weeks. According to Mustafa, SAP HANA and SAP Analytics have provided visibility to demand, sales, and finance information from the newly acquired business.


A Keep-it-sweet-and-simple Governance Philosophy Explained and Implemented

“Being able to have an environment that is agile and meets the demands of the business is what brings outstanding value to our customers. As our business continually transforms, we need to be able to flex,” Mustafa says.

The BI team has been able to simplify their internal customers’ experience by understanding their business partners’ needs and aligning those with technology, resulting in a streamlined and simplified user experience.

According to Mustafa, the company was using SAP Business Warehouse to replicate and load its data, which can be challenging, especially if you want to make changes to SQL statements on the fly. Now, with SAP HANA, Ferrara has a data warehouse that allows the BI team to pull data from the company’s SAP ERP system as well as acquired companies.

It’s faster — you can make changes without having to reload data — and more flexible to use.

SAP Analytics Hub simplifies and centralizes access to different analytics resources and data sources. This solution allows the BI team to combine data sets from different sources, have one place for users to find the report or tool they need, and analyze on demand.


Mustafa Mustafa, Senior Director, Analytics and Technical Shared Services, Ferrara


Collaboration and Technology Enable Valued Partner Status

BI helps the organization’s business partners envision what’s possible with technology solutions. The result is stronger collaboration — a core value at Ferrara — between IT, cross-functional teams within Ferrara, and customers leveraging robust real-time data, that has positioned Ferrara as a valued business partner. According to Mustafa, BI Brainz drives Ferrara’s vision to develop dashboards and tie the company’s KPIs to every level of the organization.

SAP HANA and SAP Analytics provide the transparency and insights necessary to make strategic decisions across the entire business.

“Marketing and channel management need to know how to pivot by having visibility across our consumer base, to understand their needs and map them as they change, and historically, salespeople had a challenge gauging what their customer needs were,” Mustafa says. “SAP bridged these gaps.”

Qualtrics is another SAP solution helping define consumer and customer opportunities based on combining data from various sources. Ferrara conducts a lot of innovative research and development, including social media analyses, to align their products with the latest trends and bring greater value to the consumer.

Running SAP HANA AWS Cloud, Ferrara is 50% more efficient overall in development, and has reduced development costs by 70%. The first SAP dashboard that Ferrara deployed, working with Materials Management across their network of 20 plants to realize greater efficiency and align with KPIs, saved the company $200,000 within the first 15 weeks.

By leveraging their resources more effectively, they are seeing a 50% increase in productivity working collaboratively with business partners. The results are clearly impacting their employee, customer, and consumer experience.


Given the impacts of running SAP HANA on AWS, it is not surprising to hear Mustafa’s enthusiasm about beginning to work with machine learning, artificial intelligence, and predictive analytics, and for Ferrara’s continued cloud journey.

“What provides a great foundation for an organization shifting from enterprise to cloud is a focus on culture, execution, partnership, and governance. It brings value, simplifies the experience, and enables our company’s success,” Mustafa says.

What Does This Mean for SAPinsiders

  • Empower your BI teams to deliver innovation across the organization by first understanding their business partners’ goals and roadmaps, then leveraging technology solutions like SAP Analytics Hub to simplify and centralize access to different analytics resources and data sources across the enterprise.
  • Look to cloud first when deciding about architecture decisions for speed, access, best practices, and having experts manage the SaaS model and infrastructure versus internal resources. Business leaders and IT can instead focus on data management, analytics, and decision-making, remaining agile and competitive.
  • Before signing a long-term agreement for SaaS, understand what flexibility exists. “At Ferrara, we want to make sure we have flexibility in the future to be able to adjust to market demands,” Mustafa says.

Watch a short video to learn how Ferrara’s cloud strategy supports best-of-breed business intelligence for improved agility, and how this candy maker’s keep-it-sweet-and-simple approach impacts the customer experience. 

For Premium Members —

>> Watch the full on-demand session from SAPinsider’s March 2020 virtual event, “Customer Journeys to the Cloud,” featuring Ferrara, Commscope and Lloyds Register, from SAPinsider’s 2021 SAP S/4HANA, Data and Analytics, Cloud and Admin event. You’ll learn how they targeted systems to move to the cloud, and successful use cases; how they were able to demonstrate ROI for their cloud migrations; and hear lessons learned and emerging best practices for cloud migrations.

>> Become a Premium Member and gain the insider advantage.

SAPinsider is the largest, most influential and fastest growing global membership group of SAP professionals. 

Video: Learn How Ferrara's Keep-it-sweet-and-simple Approach Impacts the Customer Experience

Ferrara is an emerging North American powerhouse in confectionary with recent acquisitions of Nestle US Confection and Keebler brands. Ferrara has been able to quickly realize the benefits of its investments by having information about new acquisitions available at its fingertips. Mustafa Mustafa, Senior Director, Analytics and Technical Shared Services at Ferrara refers to this as “truly a paradigm shift in the organization.”

Learn how Ferrara’s cloud strategy supports best-of-breed business intelligence for improved agility, and how this candy maker’s keep-it-sweet-and-simple approach impacts the customer experience.

Watch >>


Read the full story  


For Premium Members —

>> Watch the full on-demand keynote session, “Customer Journeys to the Cloud,” featuring Ferrara, Commscope and Lloyds Register, from SAPinsider’s 2021 SAP S/4HANA, Data and Analytics, Cloud and Admin event. You’ll learn how they targeted systems to move to the cloud, and successful use cases; how they were able to demonstrate ROI for their cloud migrations; and hear lessons learned and emerging best practices for cloud migrations.

>> Become a Premium Member and gain the insider advantage

SAPinsider is the largest, most influential and fastest growing global membership group of SAP professionals.

Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc., Undergoes a Retail Finance Transformation to Drive Innovation

What started as a technology play to replace old legacy systems was reimagined to “how can we drive more innovation, create value, and transform our business?”

by Susan Fisher, Story Acquisitions Lead, SAPinsider

Shifts in what and where consumers purchase are creating disruption and innovation across product development, sales channels, and supply chains. Having products consumers want, readily available and at a profitable price point has never been more challenging.

Walgreens Boots Alliance’s (WBA) ability to continue to deliver exceptional customer experiences in over 9,100 Walgreen’s stores in the US and through expanded omnichannel capabilities requires efficient processes and real-time visibility into operations. A transformation initiative is underway to modernize the company’s core business processes so access to better data in real-time empowers all levels of the organization to manage greater complexity.

SAP S/4HANA is WBA’s modern ERP digital foundation, replacing a highly customized legacy core. The phased implementation is initially focused on finance, retail, supply chain, and inventory management.

“With over 9,000 stores, we’ll have the world’s largest retail implementations of SAP S/4HANA of this scope globally,” Mark Slater, VP, Platform Information Officer, Business Services, WBA, says. SAP S/4HANA has been rolled out to all 9,000+ stores and with noticeable improvements as a result of capabilities enabled by SAP. Hosted on Microsoft Azure, which provides the infrastructure to scale with tremendous volume, SAP S/4HANA has streamlined processes, analytics, and decision-making, and is providing greater accuracy and confidence in the data due to more rigorous controls, governance, and training.

Mark Slater, VP, Platform Information Officer, Business Services, Walgreens Boots Alliance


The integration of SAP Customer Activity Repository’s retail applications module with SAP S/4HANA underpins innovation. The module feeds all point-of-sale (POS) transactions into SAP S/4HANA, acting as an automation engine and provides real-time visibility into inventory, reports, and dashboards. Additionally, core SAP S/4HANA reports provide analytics as well as extracts to other data lakes, allowing WBA to integrate with multiple data sources. According to Slater, leveraging other SaaS tools to achieve advanced predictive planning is on the horizon.

Transformation Shapes a Modern Customer and Employee Experience

Process automation and improved visibility into better data are shaping a modern experience for WBA customers and employees.

In retail stores, automation of inventory management and document processing is enabling WBA’s store employees to spend less time on manual tasks and more time engaging with customers and other higher-level tasks. Automation is helping with decisions around more effective labour deployment too.

Microsoft Azure delivers improved performance and data centralization, according to Slater, that helps provide better customer service. Azure also provides flexibility in scaling when WBA starts to see consumer trends, positioning the company for the future.

Procurement is experiencing greater agility from better insights to what and how consumers are purchasing which helps WBA keep pace and meet growing complexity in its customers’ needs like real time visibility into the demand for PPE, masks, and sanitizer during the peak of the pandemic. Further benefits include increased sales velocity, better return on inventory, and margin protection, as well as improved forecasting and inventory management.

Automating manual invoicing was a top priority since the 9,100-store retail chain generates between two and six million invoices monthly. This was all done manually prior to the roll-out. OpenText Vendor Invoice Management (VIM) for SAP Solutions, SAP Ariba, and electronic data interchange technology support this automation. VIM and the invoice matching capabilities of SAP Ariba have reduced errors and issues and help protect margins from a COGS standpoint.

Finance colleagues are in a much better position by month end as the close process becomes more automated with less reconciliation and data clean-up during the close, enabling them to focus on analytics and decision making. Through the in-flight implementation of BlackLine, labour-intensive processes like manual journal entries will be automated, and month end time to close will continue to improve as SAP S/4HANA has now been rolled out to all stores.

BlackLine has helped with account reconciliation, WBA’s close, and getting the balance sheet wrapped. Rolling out additional SAP S/4HANA Finance capabilities will continue to advance process automation moving WBA closer to a “lights out finance” approach enabled through SAP solutions.

Revenue leakage, margin improvement, COGS improvement, Sales General & Administrative (SG&A) expense reduction, working capital improvement, and controls/compliance improvement are key levers to drive business value at WBA, and a way to benchmark for ongoing measurement as the company continues to invest in its SAP S/4HANA ecosystem.

Ecosystem partners include GenPact and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). GenPact is WBA’s Finance Shared Services partner and is relied on for expertise in process transformation, automation, and thought leadership

TCS is WBA’s application and technology management partner, instrumental in ongoing run operations and process improvement, including input into the SAP S/4HANA roadmap.

Accenture provided advisory, planning, and delivery support to WBA’s recent SAP S/4HANA implementation.

What Does This Mean for SAPinsiders

  • Set realistic expectations among the business user community because there is a lot of complexity. Consider if other products are compatible, the time commitment required, and what value users will receive.
  • Appreciate the need for continuous training. Slater is bullish on continuous training to support employees to best use the system which helps the organization realize its full potential. “SAP is more rigid with business rules, validation, and substantiation which provide a lot more confidence in the data. Continuous training supports the best chance of having good data.”
  • Build on the foundation and investment made in SAP S/4HANA and ask “where can we drive more value”?


For Premium Members —

>> Watch the full on-demand session, “Customer Journeys in Finance and Accounting: An executive perspective.”

>> Become a Premium Member and gain the insider advantage.

SAPinsider is the largest, most influential and fastest growing global membership group of SAP professionals. 

Video: Hershey Demonstrates the Strategic Value of Controls & Compliance

The mention of Hershey might bring to mind an image of chocolate and it should, but there is a lot more to discover: a chocolate and confectionary leader, The Hershey Company has over 90 brands.

Hershey is continuously challenged to innovate and at speed to meet changing consumer preferences and in a global context, like a shift to better-for-you healthy eating, and omnichannel shopping experiences.  The need for greater efficiency in core business processes and controls, better data, analytics and insights, and increased organizational agility, has never been stronger.

Learn how  Hershey integrates security and control initiatives within major systems implementations, and demonstrates the strategic value of controls and compliance.


Read the full story.

For Premium Member insiders:

Watch the full on-demand session, “How Hershey is Leveraging GRC to Increase Control Automation with SAP S/4HANA,“ at the SAPinsider 2021 Financials, GRC and Cypersecurity event.

Become a Premium Member and gain the insider advantage

SAPinsider is the largest, most influential and fastest growing global membership group of SAP professionals.

Hershey Demonstrates the Strategic Value of Controls & Compliance

Learn how the chocolate and confectionary leader integrates security and control initiatives within major systems implementations

by Susan Fisher, Contributing Writer, SAPinsider

The mention of Hershey might bring to mind an image of chocolate and it should, but there is a lot more to discover: a chocolate and confectionary leader, The Hershey Company has over 90 brands.

Hershey is continuously challenged to innovate and at speed to meet changing consumer preferences and in a global context, like a shift to better-for-you healthy eating, and omnichannel shopping experiences. The need for greater efficiency in core business processes and controls, better data, analytics and insights, and increased organizational agility, has never been stronger.

These are some of the drivers behind the level of resourcing and engagement across and up the organization to realize value for the business, including increased collaboration, restructuring of teams, and a move to SAP S/4HANA.

Hershey’s move to SAP S/4HANA is partially forcing a re-evaluation and redesign of key business processes — a change that requires audit and controls to keep pace, map their structure and processes accordingly, and avoid significant and costly consequences if their considerations are left until the end.

“We’ve had very mature processes for a long time,” Mike Rosten, Manager of Internal Audit, says. “One of our challenges was to step outside of that and ask ourselves how we could adapt to some of these new strategies to best fit our end goals. SAP S/4HANA really gives us that opportunity with a clean slate, to validate best practice and benchmark against other industry leaders.”

Internal Audit’s Strategic Advantage

The implementation will include a high degree of change in processes and technology. Hershey’s control strategy is evolving to ensure compliance through the transition and begs the question: how to best integrate controls throughout all phases to support governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) integrity? The answer, according to Jon Laubenstine, Senior Director, Internal Audit, is both simple and complex. “If you are responsible for controls or audit, you must have a seat at the table and early, and fully integrate into the project. It provides the opportunity to be informed, to move and flex, and better define your strategy. You are seeing progress in the project and seeing everything in real time,” he says. Laubenstine is also a member of the Project Management Office for the implementation, attending related board and audit, as well as executive committee meetings.


Jon Laubenstine, Senior Director, Internal Audit, Hershey


Hershey has had to adopt the whole model for maintaining and updating its internal controls, and a control mindset, to best deploy Internal Audit (IA) to provide independent, objective assurance and advice that promotes and facilitates innovation and improvement. It’s working well. IA resources were reviewed, restructured and baked into the SAP S/4HANA project plan upfront, ensuring audit and control resources were specifically dedicated to the implementation.

The team used an Agile implementation approach to build controls into the process along the way, check performance, learn, and then adapt quickly when necessary, leveraging SAP Access Control and SAP Process Control. SAP’s GRC solutions provide Hershey with control integration across its SAP and non-SAP system landscape, enabling transparency and accountability, driving more cost-effective compliance, and simplifying both process execution and cross functional risk management.

“Getting involved proactively, especially with an Agile approach, has given us the opportunity to really influence the future design of the process so that controls are innately embedded,” Laubenstine says. “We want controls that support the business’s ability to be nimble and profitable.”

Measuring the Success of Hershey’s New Strategies

From a control’s perspective, Hershey has set objectives based on best practices and benchmarking against other leading consumer packaged goods companies to understand where it sits, how mature its processes are, and what is realistic.

Hershey will deploy SAP S/4HANA one region at a time. This phased approach will allow IA to look at adoption rates, whether control failures went up or down, and understand to what extent IA is leveraging GRC. Using SAP Process Control, rationalization of manual controls is targeted at 35% and control automation is expected to increase from 20% to over 50%.

“We’re working on getting a hard target on how much time we are giving back to the business since less time is being spent executing manual controls and reporting,” Laubenstine says, “and then also from the audit standpoint, how much time we are saving through automation while doing an effective test of these controls simply by going to GRC. Because everything’s in one spot, we don’t have to run populations, send emails, follow-up, and request documentation. While this is a little bit further out, we’re looking at building benchmarks against this.”


Mike Rosten, Manager of Internal Audit, Hershey


Technology & Partners

Hershey runs SAP Access Control and SAP Process Control and has upgraded to the new GRC 12.0 version allowing it to monitor privileged access at a database level, getting the organization ready to control access even from an SAP Fiori standpoint. SAP Fiori represents the new interface for SAP S/4HANA and future SAP solutions. Hershey needs to prepare for those solutions, which carry with it some unique administration and security requirements. This is a prerequisite for its SAP HANA and GRC core.

“Our focus is also on data analytics tools to compile, cleanse, and visualize data that we use in our audits selecting more of an analytical base sample, looking for anomalies and process gaps or exceptions to processes that we can potentially come up with a solution to close and make them part of our standard process or create a workaround for them,” Rosten says. Analytical tools and data visualization are significant in reporting to senior management who might not be focused on the underlying details.

Alteryx supports data cleansing and extraction for Internal Audit at Hershey.

Accenture is Hershey’s system integrator, leading the overall implementation through the Agile approach, bringing best practices forward and helping Hershey think through the overarching system landscape and what makes sense on a go-forward basis.

PwC was Hershey’s partner when they initially implemented SAP Process Control, and the organization continues to leverage PwC’s expertise, their understanding of Hershey’s environment and landscape, and familiarity with the SAP S/4HANA system as it relates to control. “Their internal training helped us create experts in that space, in terms of how to use the technology and build tools,” Laubenstine says.

Hershey has been talking about bringing continuous monitoring and continuous auditing to the organization for years to reduce security, technology and process risks, significantly improve efficiencies and compliance, identify deviations, and monitor data integrity and adherence to process controls. With SAP S/4HANA as an enabler, this is becoming a reality and the end result will be greater business resilience and ongoing innovation.

What Does This Mean for SAPinsiders

  • Understand early and prepare for the process impact of a move to SAP S/4HANA. Process redesign and standardization bring business benefits but also impact audit and process controls.
  • Get out in front of the process with your business partners so you can inform and co-create, making them aware of control considerations that will impact their decisions.
  • Challenge your current processes and leverage technology and external expertise to support adoption and behaviour change. Asking questions like “what is your biggest pain point” and “how do we benchmark against our peers” is important.

Watch a short video to hear how  Hershey integrates security and control initiatives within major systems implementations, and demonstrates the strategic value of controls and compliance. 


For Premium Members —

>> Watch the full on-demand session, “How Hershey is Leveraging GRC to Increase Control Automation with SAP S/4HANA,“ at the SAPinsider 2021 Financials, GRC and Cypersecurity event.  

>> Become a Premium Member and gain the insider advantage 

SAPinsider is the largest, most influential and fastest growing global membership group of SAP professionals. 

Expert Q&A: Best Practices for Continuous Control Monitoring

Many SAP users are simplifying and automating continuous control monitoring (CCM) to manage their GRC environment. Marie-Luise Wagener-Kirchner, Vice President of Governance, Compliance and Digital Services at SAP, recently sat down with SAPinsider to share best practices for CCM.

Wagener-Kirchner has been involved in the SAP ecosystem for approximately 20 years, always with a focus on audit controls and security. In her current role she is responsible for internal and external reporting, governance around reporting guidelines and policies, and for the GRC systems and the automated internal controls at SAP.

In the following video she explains how customers are utilizing CCM in innovative ways, what components make up a good control setup for successful monitoring, and common pitfalls that organizations should watch out for.

First, says Wagener-Kirchner, you need to understand where the control comes from, what makes a good control, and be able to identify inherent risk in your business processes.

Watch the video to learn more.



Marie-Luise Wagener-Kirchner Vice President, Governance, Compliance & Digital Services - Global Risk & Assurance Services, SAP SE
Read More

Marie-Luise Wagener-Kirchner has more than 20 years of SAP experience in auditing, consulting, training, and architecture for various releases and SAP solutions. She worked for seven years in the consulting area as a senior SAP auditor and as a consultant with clients from multiple industries, for five years as the global SAP security and compliance architect for a worldwide manufacturing company, and for three years as the EMEA GRC practice head. Marie joined SAP SE in 2015 as vice president for global GRC.

Increasing Threats Highlight the Need for Robust Enterprise Risk Management

by Fred Donovan, Senior Editor, SAPinsider

In the face of challenging micro and macro events companies need to be able to anticipate and better manage the impacts on their core business objectives. Additionally, legacy business models and IT landscapes don’t contain all of the capabilities necessary to manage risk across the entire enterprise. For example, intelligent technologies like robotic process automation are not available in older ERP systems. As a result, there is an urgent need for a new approach to risk and compliance by incorporating governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) and security in digital transformation initiatives.

This innovative approach requires an integrated enterprise risk management (ERM) program. “Integrated enterprise risk management should not be considered an issue for only IT or auditors to address,” Michael Heckner, Senior Director of GRC Solution Marketing at SAP says.

“Having transparency into all the business risks that stand in the way of achieving strategy and business objectives is key to accomplish risk-adjusted management and to help carry on performance and keep processes running in any environment,” he adds.

Integrated ERM Trends

The integrated ERM trend is accelerating, with 98% of organizations saying they have a full or partially integrated ERM program, an increase of 26% from 2017, according to a recent survey by the Risk Management Society (RIMS).

Three-quarters of senior leadership teams and boards are applying ERM insights for business decisions, and close to half of respondents said that “meeting strategic and operational objectives” is ERM’s greatest value to the organization.

More than half of ERM programs have shifted their focus to health and safety and business continuity as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and 22% of respondents said there has been an increase in resources allocated to ERM in response to COVID-19.

“Enterprise risk management is now an accepted mainstream business discipline. That said, work still needs to be done to make ERM fully integrated, agile, and proactive,” according to RIMS.

SAP Solutions and the Three Lines Model

SAP bases its GRC solutions on the Three Lines Model (Figure 1), which provides a framework for managing GRC:

  • Operational management: identify, assess, document, and respond to risks in business operators; comply with laws, regulations, and internal policies; monitor risk, responses, and compliance status; raise, report, and respond to incidents and breach events; accept advice from the internal audit team.
  • Corporate risk and compliance: set the context and provide frameworks for GRC; oversee risk and compliance management methods; monitor risk and compliance outcomes; aggregate and report GRC insights and conclusions; accept advice from the internal audit team.
  • Internal auditors: manage audit activities for the first and second lines; plan and perform audits to support assurance requirements; communicate the results of engagements; and report on the reliability of work performed in the first and second lines.

Source: SAP

The model provides a self-correcting framework in which each line collaborates with the others to provide integrated and reliable information and response. SAP supports the framework with its SAP Digital Boardroom built on SAP Analytics Cloud.

To secure its systems, SAP offers a GRC solutions suite that includes SAP Risk Management, SAP Process Control, SAP Access Control, SAP Business Integrity Screening, SAP Audit Management, and SAP Tax Compliance.

SAP’s GRC solutions help enterprises simplify their GRC processes, gain insights from detailed reports, and enable continuous monitoring of risk and controls.

To learn more about managing enterprise risk and SAP’s GRC solutions, read SAPinsider’s recent article “How to Manage Enterprise Risk in Remote and Digital Environments.”

Shift to Remote Work Underscores Need for a Robust Identity and Access Management Program

by Fred Donovan, Senior Editor, SAPinsider

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote workforce models are likely here to stay. This shift magnifies the importance of organizations guaranteeing that only authorized individuals can access their network and data. The best way to avoid unauthorized users from entering SAP systems is through a robust and automated identity and access management (IAM) program.

According to a survey of IT decision-makers by LastPass, 98% of respondents said they depend on IAM platforms to secure their business in the current work-from-anywhere environment, and 96% said that remote work had impacted their IAM strategy.

More than half of respondents strongly agree that increasing security for their remote workforce using IAM is critical.

Respondents recommended IAM solutions such as single sign-on, multifactor authentication, and password management to secure remote workers while IT retains visibility and control over logins.

Sarma Adithe, SAP’s Chief Product Manager for Access Governance, advises organizations to adopt cloud-based user authentication and provisioning to ensure a unified approach for IAM and support the identity lifecycle of employees.

Figure 1 — The identity lifecycle of employees

Managing the identity lifecycle of employees (Figure 1) is vital for production and compliance. Productivity is impacted when an employee cannot access required resources to accomplish a task. Regulatory compliance issues can arise when an employee keeps access rights to resources no longer needed or authorized.

Automating IAM in a Complex Enterprise Environment

Automating IAM helps the IT team secure a remote workforce in a complex enterprise environment, James Roeske, CEO of the Customer Advisory Group says. “Getting people the right access in an automated, safe, and Segregation of Duty (SoD)-free way helps everyone.”

An automated IAM system that defines and grants access triggered by HR events will enable a new employee to be productive on day 1. An automated IAM platform will continue to boost productivity because it adjusts the employee’s access as roles and responsibilities change. And once the employee leaves the organization, all access must be canceled to ensure that person no longer has access to corporate resources.

In addition, IAM controls should align to corporate governance objectives and polices. “The cycle should be able to identify risk, associate mitigation control, and apply Continuous Control Monitoring (CCM) to help ensure mitigation controls are still effective,” Adithe observes.

Automated IAM needs to be supported by human-instituted policies and controls to protect organizations, comply with regulations, and enable maintenance and cleanup of access.

“Assigning access that honors all the required policies and regulations from a compliance standpoint should be an inherent process,” Adithe says. He also recommends harmonizing access and defining employee responsibilities and roles in a standardized way.

Automated IAM, along with good access hygiene, effective role design, and human decision-making, will help keep organizations secure in a remote and constantly evolving work environment.

To learn more about automated IAM in the enterprise, read SAPinsider’s recent article “How Identity and Access Management Technology Is Supporting People Power.”

SAP Experts Comment on Technologies and Strategies Driving Trends in Finance

By Brianna Shipley, Director of Editorial, SAPinsider 

Finance and accounting serve as the centerpieces of a company’s ERP strategy. SAPinsider’s research consistently shows that new upgrades and innovations related to SAP technology — whether related to SAP S/4HANA or other automation — start with finance.   

Automation has been identified as a priority for the finance function. A majority of finance and accounting survey respondents — 87% — said in the latter half of 2020 that they have already taken their first steps toward automation. Driving forces behind this strategy include:  

  • The need for accounting and financial planning and analytics (FP&A) professionals to focus on higher-value accounting and planning activities 
  • A desire to reduce overhead costs for financial activities 
  • The opportunity to automate financial processes presented by a move to SAP S/4HANA.  

These initiatives speak to the strategic role that finance plays in many organizations and require finance teams to achieve operational efficiency within the record-to-report process to provide business value.  

Automation is one way to help finance professionals complete the financial close faster. According to Maximilian Koebler, Global Solution Owner, Advanced Financial Closing at SAP, many companies spend a lot of time and effort in this regard. “But companies today should be taking a different approach all together,” he says. 

Koebler cites consolidation as a strategic priority for the finance function, and says that replacing the extraction, transformation, and loading (ETL) process with more modern solutions can greatly improve the record-to-report scenario. The largest IT firm in Denmark, KMD, an NEC Company, was able to achieve multiple benefits by re-conceiving its consolidation process using SAP S/4HANA Cloud for group reporting. As a result, the company shortened its time to close from 8 days to 4, dramatically improving data quality, and reallocating time previously spent on reconciliation to analysis. 

Following consolidation, leaders in finance are acquiring a continuous global view of the business, says Kirk Anderson, Chief of Financial Solutions at TruQua, an IBM Company. Globalization should be happening from both a reporting and a processing perspective. “Being able to consolidate a lot of the traditional activities, like cash application, within a single central environment, makes processes more efficient, especially as companies move more and more towards shared services centers and try to optimize transactional processing costs,” Anderson says. 

This level of process management and integration provides a solid basis for automation and streamlining manual tasks, enabling businesses like The Comfort Group to become more forward-thinking. The leader in the Australasian bedding market was able to automate its closing processes by implementing SAP S/4HANA Cloud for advanced financial closing, improving the integrity of the month-end process, and user experience and efficiency. 

Jobs within the finance function are being shaped by efforts to achieve consolidated views of data, streamline global and real-time visibility, and replace manual tasks with automation. As a result, finance professionals can dedicate more time to learning new skill sets, like data science, and help position the business to become more predictive.  

Read more about these growing trends and how technology is helping elevate the finance function in SAPinsider’s article, “The Strategic Role of Finance in Today’s Business Landscape.”