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.

Perrigo, a global, leading provider of over-the-counter (OTC) self-care products across various OTC categories, was able to establish a global platform for the finance organization by implementing SAP S/4HANA for central finance.

And Excelitas, a global technology leader focused on manufacturing photonics components,  is already seeing how SAP S/4HANA for central finance will help the company achieve visibility and integrate acquired companies’ financials faster. “We knew SAP S/4HANA for central finance would be a game changer, especially for that single chart of accounts,” says Excelitas’ Vice President for Global Business Services, Robert Ersoni.

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.” 

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