Answers to Burning Questions on SAP S/4HANA Finance, Central Finance, Universal Journal, and More

SAP Consultant Paul Ovigele Shares Insights on the Impact of SAP S/4HANA to Finance Departments

by Lauren Bonneau, Senior Editor, SAPinsider

Day Two of SAPinsider 2020 brought with it tons of great sessions, conversations, and learnings. The day kicked off with an informative Q&A session with Sven Denecken, Senior Vice President of SAP S/4HANA Product Success and Customer Co-Innovation at SAP, who discussed the journey to SAP S/4HANA and the overall considerations for the business and IT. Later in the afternoon, I had the pleasure of moderating a session with SAP finance expert Paul Ovigele, President and Founder of ERPfixers, who shared his insights specifically on what finance departments need to know about the new capabilities delivered with SAP S/4HANA.

Ovigele, who started out as an accountant, has been an ERP financials consultant for over 20 years and has helped SAP customers in many industries maximize their investments in their SAP ERP systems. During the interactive Q&A, the conversation began with some high-level questions about the top pain points Ovigele is seeing SAP customers struggle with today, current areas of investment in finance, and the strategies that financial leaders are prioritizing. “Right now, the four key issues I typically come across over and over are related to reconciliation, consolidation, usability and user-friendliness of certain interfaces, and the speed it takes to extract reports,” he said. “And SAP S/4HANA addresses most of those challenges, if not all of them.”

He stressed the importance of data integrity for financial reporting. “Everything that’s done in finance comes down to having reliable, accurate, consistent reporting,” he said. “And over the last few years, some SAP customers have responded to the few issues that I mentioned by investing in a cool reporting tool, which may be SAP-owned or something separate, and embedding or interfacing it with SAP data. But the thing is, even if a report looks nice and pretty — with graphs you can slice and dice — if you don’t have reliable underlying data, then you still have a problem.”

He also noted the change in how the Accounting department is viewed today — with data being one of the biggest resources that any company has and accounting having more access to that information than any other department.  “Accounting is now in the front of the organization and steering it,” he said. “And investing in the right tools that can make that data meaningful will help steer the organization in the right direction.”

Ovigele said that when it comes to strategy— especially in these uncertain times where we don’t know what will happen in the next few months — being able to predict and respond to data is key. “The accounting function should be more proactive, less responsive, and more predictive,” he said. “Nowadays, there’s even more emphasis on being able to see the road ahead and responding before you get to it. Companies should invest more in predictive accounting and predictive analytics — and it may not mean totally different software, as SAP S/4HANA has some of these capabilities.” For example, predictive tools allow for a ‘soft close,’ which provides a snapshot of how a lot of the big pieces would look if the close were that day and prevents any big surprises or things coming out of left field.

Opening up the conversation to the audience, Ovigele then answered a steady flux of questions directly from attendees on all-things SAP S/4HANA Finance. He described what the Central Finance deployment option really means and covered topics such as the Universal Journal, the universal allocation SAP Fiori app, the extension (simulated) ledger, and the material ledger (now-mandatory in SAP S/4HANA).

As there was only one hour of time allotted to field questions, there were a number of questions that went unanswered in the live Q&A. However, Ovigele was kind enough to answer those questions off-line. Those questions and his responses are below:

Q: Relative to finance functionality, are there any major differences between SAP S/4HANA Cloud and the on-premise SAP S/4HANA system?

Yes, there are some differences as far as I know. It seems like the cloud option has some more advanced functionality, which will be available in future releases of on-premise versions.

Q: How much historical transactional data do we have to load in the Central Finance system? Do you have any recommendation from SAP or from your own experience?

There is no need to load any more than five years of data. It depends on how much historical data is needed for transactional processing and reporting. Remember that the source system will still be available for access.

Q: Can the Central Finance use case be consumed as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) construct and used as a permanent repository and source for all SAS cloud applications? My question is more from a licensing perspective. Can Central Finance be consumed as an operational licensing v/s a capital expenditure?

That is a question for SAP or an SI. In my opinion, it should be able to be consumed as an operational expense just like other SAP S/4HANA Cloud options.

Q: In Central Finance, can you easily change company code currency in production?

The limitations that exist in an SAP S/4HANA system also exist in a Central Finance system, so you will not be able to do this in a live system.

Q: How long does it typically take to implement Central Finance?  Would it not be worth it for an interim release that would ultimately be replaced with one implementation of SAP S/4HANA?

It depends on various factors. It will not take less than six months. You will need to evaluate whether it is worth doing a Brownfield, Greenfield or Central Finance implementation, depending on the number of different source systems that you have.

Q: Is cross-company allocation possible now using universal allocation, or is the limitation still there?

Because of the Universal Journal’s integration of FI and CO, you should be able to do cross-company allocations, which will create an additional Cross Company Document. This posting will only be stored in tables COEP and ACDOCA, not BSEG.

Q: Does the change to SAP S/4HANA have a significant impact on the processes or automations implemented in Winshuttle?

As far as I know, some automation will exist in SAP S/4HANA (for example, G/L Upload Fiori App), but you will need to check whether the specific scenario is covered.

A recording of the full interactive Q&A will be available on demand soon. For more insight, check out some of the other sessions on SAP S/4HANA at the virtual event.