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High Stakes, High Rewards: Best Practices In Advanced Financial Analytics

Jayne Landry

Part one of a two-part series

How do best practices in data and analytics benefit the organizations that lead in these areas? According to a new study by EY and Forbes Insights, analytics leaders report gains in operating margins and revenues of 15% or more, while also seeing significant improvement in their risk profiles. In contrast, less-mature analytics practitioners typically experience breakdowns at critical stages of the business initiative process, starting when the company identifies new business opportunities and models ways to act on insights to measure outcomes of their data-driven strategies.

There are major advantages for companies that correct these problems. One of the most important underlying factors that fuels success is having a strategy that combines an enterprise-wide approach to data with resources that serve the unique needs of individual business units. Analytics often starts at the line-of-business level, where there’s a specific business problem that the department is trying to solve. This gives them the ability to address a specific need, but it comes at a cost in terms of security, trust, and organizational scale.

An enterprise-wide, collaborative approach

The key to analytics maturity is taking the step from having a series of ad hoc, federated activities to an approach that spans the organization and expands the benefits of data and analytics to all units. This requires close collaboration among a cross-section of business and technology leaders. The enterprise strategy must be embraced by everyone from the top executives to people in every department – and beyond your four walls to suppliers and customers.

In addition to a cultural shift, this broad strategy also requires a portfolio of data and analytics technologies, ranging from programs for data discovery and dashboards to predictive analytics. It’s best when all of these components run on a single platform, so organizations can have agility for individual use cases, while also developing trust in the data that comes from consistent management, security, and governance. The best practice is to combine top-level solutions, like the executive digital boardroom on a single platform, while departments like HR, finance, and marketing can leverage the same technology for their needs.

A strategic road map for gaining the highest returns

We recommend addressing this need starting with strategy-assessment services to help enterprise leaders identify analytics projects and assess their potential business benefits and investment returns. The strategy sessions then prioritize projects based on which ones will offer the highest returns and deliver value the fastest. In this way, companies can create a road map showing what the next project will be and the one after that. Looking at analytics from a portfolio perspective like this helps organizations put resources in the right places and generate the best results.

Many of the point solutions on the market address the analytics needs of business units, but fail to support enterprise security policies. A single platform brings these areas together.

The platform should address business agility with applications such as a data visualization program for business users and a cloud solution for planning, predictive analytics, and business intelligence – along with enterprise levels of scale and security. This way, when people try to access content, administrators can immediately authenticate them to make sure they’re viewing only the data they’re allowed to see. This is one of the ways to create an enterprise strategy while still addressing business agility.

Read the full report from EY and Forbes Insights, Data & Advanced Analytics: High Stakes, High Rewards.

Click on these links to learn more about business analytics solutions and how to build your BI strategy.

Follow SAP Finance online: @SAPFinance (Twitter)  | LinkedIn | FacebookYouTube

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Jayne Landry

About Jayne Landry

Jayne Landry is the global vice president and general manager for Business Intelligence at SAP. Ms. Landry joined Crystal Decisions in 2002 and came into SAP through the Business Objects acquisition in 2007. A seasoned executive with 20+ years of experience in the technology sector, Jayne has held leadership roles in high-tech companies in the CRM, mobility, and cloud applications space. Ms. Landry holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Auckland, and has continued executive development with Queen’s University, Ontario, and through work with the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia.

Why CFOs Are Getting Serious About The Cloud

Andy Greig

For CFOs, technology investment of any kind is a matter of dollars and cents, not access controls and business progress. Sure, they want the entire company to do things more efficiently, but the real question is whether operations will run more profitably.

Earlier this year, Deloitte released a perspective on eight tech trends that will test the strategic and disciplined nature of finance organizations. But as Estelle Lagorce, director of Global Partner Marketing at SAP, noted in her blog “2017 CFO Primer: 8 Emerging IT Trends That Will Redefine Finance,” CFOs should avoid taking extreme positions to mitigate potential risk at all costs. Instead, they should collaborate with CIOs to determine probable and acceptable levels of risk and better understand exposures, tradeoffs, and impacts of new technology.

In the spirit of finding opportunities to reduce costs and do more with less, CFOs are beginning to realize that an on-premise IT landscape is not a financially stable option for keeping up with the pace of new technology adoption and continuous innovation. In response, CFOs are eyeing the potential of increasingly reliable and secure cloud environments. In fact, IDC estimates that 75% of 2017 enterprise infrastructure and software spending will go toward cloud offerings.

The growing maturity of the cloud earns CFOs’ attention 

After years of automating low-value tasks and making better-informed decisions with advanced analytics, the finance organization is still trying to crack the code for optimizing capital and reducing risk while driving business transformation, expanding business models with agility, entering geographies with flexibility, and accelerating business growth and innovation. As new applications are added to the existing on-premise IT landscape, additional layers of complexity get in the way of setting up systems and adapting business processes quickly.

With an enterprise cloud platform powered by in-memory computing technology and managed services, finance organizations are gaining an entirely scalable and secure solution to overcome the hurdles of IT complexity to accomplish its mission. Meanwhile, the reference architecture and cloud expertise delivered through this one-stop solution allow rapid deployment of standardized and customized capabilities needed to compete in an increasingly digital marketplace.

For example, Rexel Group, a French electrical-supplies distributor, migrated its IT infrastructure to the cloud when its on-premise systems became obsolete. Immediately, the smart, energy-saving solutions provider realized a simplified IT landscape. As a result, the company adopted an IT operational-expenditure model to lower costs by 35%, increase flexibility, and generate financial reporting five times faster. Outsourcing the management of its cloud allowed Rexel to dedicate more time toward innovating and delivering energy solutions for a greener future.

Change comes fast–and it’s enabled by the cloud

The degree of change happening today is unlike anything seen before. Go-to-market timelines are shorter, and competition arises without warning. Plus, the continued evolution of everything from business models to operational processes and decision-making will be accelerated.

To stay competitive, companies need to allow every business function to work together to deliver differentiated value to all customers. Finance teams can choose to accept this opportunity to become a strategic partner in enabling the business to work faster, more strategically, and with more agility and innovation. But first, a single platform—accessible anytime, anywhere in the cloud—is needed to align the IT infrastructure and supported applications to unlock real business value.

Unlock the full value of your data with SAP S/4HANA and SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud. Read the brief “Optimize Working Capital, Accelerate Time to Value, and Reduce Risk with SAP S/4HANA Finance in the Cloud” and visit our curated library of resources.

Follow SAP Finance online: @SAPFinance (Twitter)  | LinkedIn | FacebookYouTube

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Andy Greig

About Andy Greig

Andy Greig is the Global Marketing Plan Lead, SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud, at SAP. His primary focus is to create marketing and social media campaigns to help customers realize the benefits and value of SAP Services.

Dynamic Planning For A Dynamic World: Are You Ready For Change?

Brian Kalish

Part 1 in a series

The days of creating an annual plan and then reviewing that plan 12 months later, as the new annual planning season begins, are over. In 2017, the rate and magnitude of change continues to increase, and the premium on being able to make better, faster, smarter decisions continues to rise. Over the course of 12 months, there may have been major upheavals in your industry, in the economy, or in technology. If you haven’t thought about making adjustments to the changes in your world in real time, you may have missed major opportunities or warning signs.

We are living in an environment where our technology is changing much faster than our business processes and philosophies. Given that we have moved so far from living in the relatively static world of the past, does the idea of planning the old-fashioned way even sound proper, much less like the solution?

In today’s world, we need to be able to strike a balance between flexibility and strategy. The goal is to create an expansive, accountable plan, and then revisit that plan on a regular basis to adjust to changes (both positive and negative) that have occurred. We need to respond with tangible actions that reflect the new reality we face.

Enter dynamic planning

Dynamic planning enables companies to evaluate risks, seize new opportunities, adjust to new challenges, react quickly and properly to threats, adapt to changing technology, and make decisions that help it thrive.

The organization must still set unambiguous, broad, visionary goals. Goals are like a roadmap for determining whether an opportunity has a high enough ROI to pursue.

It’s like planning a trip: If you don’t know where you are going, how can you tell if you are on the right path to get to there? Dynamic planning still requires the organization to create longer-term plans and goals. The big difference with static, traditional planning is that you set a much shorter horizon one and consider it an ongoing process rather than a one-and-done.

The traditional planning process is focused on predicting, or guessing, what will happen in the future, often with a timeframe of a year or more.  Dynamic planning focuses on shorter-term time periods. The strategy is to concentrate one’s efforts in a more step-by-step process to lead to your ultimate goal, all the while adjusting to changes, both pro and con, that occur.

Building flexibility into your plans

For example, instead of estimating what the next 12 months will look like, break your planning process down into four quarters and adjust the plans as each quarter rolls off. Focus on the short-term while actively analyzing the results of your efforts. By monitoring your activities in the short term, you will gain the flexibility to affect change as your surroundings change.

A simple way of viewing this is to think about taking a car trip across the United States. Your goal is to travel from New York City to Los Angeles, roughly 3,000 miles, and you expect it will take six days. As you are traveling, you may encounter traffic, road closures, weather, and other factors that cause you to deviate from your expected path, but you remain focused on your ultimate goal. Your attention is on the immediate situation, focusing on how to minimize your time given changes in your environment.

The goal of dynamic planning is not just about minimizing the downside; it is also about maximizing the upside. It is difficult, if not impossible, to forecast, predict, or plan for unforeseen opportunities. By breaking your planning process into smaller consumable pieces, you’re better able to seize upon opportunities. Maybe a competitor goes out of business or changes its business plan. With the flexibility to deploy resources, for example, you can take immediate actions that will move you toward your long-term goals and plans.

Follow SAP Finance online: @SAPFinance (Twitter)  | LinkedIn | FacebookYouTube

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Brian Kalish

About Brian Kalish

Brian Kalish is founder and principal at Kalish Consulting. As a public speaker and writer addressing many of the most topical issues facing treasury and FP&A professionals today, he is passionately committed to building and connecting the global FP&A community. He hosts FP&A Roundtable meetings in North America, Europe, Asia, and South America. Brian is former executive director of the global FP&A Practice at AFP. He has over 20 years experience in finance, FP&A, treasury, and investor relations. Before joining AFP, he held a number of treasury and finance positions with the FHLB, Washington Mutual/JP Morgan, NRUCFC, Fifth Third Bank, and Fannie Mae. Brian attended Georgia Tech in Atlanta, GA for his undergraduate studies and the Pamplin College of Business at Virginia Tech for his graduate work. In 2014, Brian was awarded the Global Certified Corporate FP&A Professional designation.

Running Future Cities on Blockchain

Dan Wellers , Raimund Gross and Ulrich Scholl

Building on the Blockchain Framework

Some experts say these seemingly far-future speculations about the possibilities of combining technologies using blockchain are actually both inevitable and imminent:


Democratizing design and manufacturing by enabling individuals and small businesses to buy, sell, share, and digitally remix products affordably while protecting intellectual property rights.
Decentralizing warehousing and logistics by combining autonomous vehicles, 3D printers, and smart contracts to optimize delivery of products and materials, and even to create them on site as needed.
Distributing commerce by mixing virtual reality, 3D scanning and printing, self-driving vehicles, and artificial intelligence into immersive, personalized, on-demand shopping experiences that still protect buyers’ personal and proprietary data.

The City of the Future

Imagine that every agency, building, office, residence, and piece of infrastructure has an entry on a blockchain used as a city’s digital ledger. This “digital twin” could transform the delivery of city services.

For example:

  • Property owners could easily monetize assets by renting rooms, selling solar power back to the grid, and more.
  • Utilities could use customer data and AIs to make energy-saving recommendations, and smart contracts to automatically adjust power usage for greater efficiency.
  • Embedded sensors could sense problems (like a water main break) and alert an AI to send a technician with the right parts, tools, and training.
  • Autonomous vehicles could route themselves to open parking spaces or charging stations, and pay for services safely and automatically.
  • Cities could improve traffic monitoring and routing, saving commuters’ time and fuel while increasing productivity.

Every interaction would be transparent and verifiable, providing more data to analyze for future improvements.


Welcome to the Next Industrial Revolution

When exponential technologies intersect and combine, transformation happens on a massive scale. It’s time to start thinking through outcomes in a disciplined, proactive way to prepare for a future we’re only just beginning to imagine.

Download the executive brief Running Future Cities on Blockchain.


Read the full article Pulling Cities Into The Future With Blockchain

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Dan Wellers

About Dan Wellers

Dan Wellers is founder and leader of Digital Futures at SAP, a strategic insights and thought leadership discipline that explores how digital technologies drive exponential change in business and society.

Raimund Gross

About Raimund Gross

Raimund Gross is a solution architect and futurist at SAP Innovation Center Network, where he evaluates emerging technologies and trends to address the challenges of businesses arising from digitization. He is currently evaluating the impact of blockchain for SAP and our enterprise customers.

Ulrich Scholl

About Ulrich Scholl

Ulrich Scholl is Vice President of Industry Cloud and Custom Development at SAP. In this role, Ulrich discovers and implements best practices to help further the understanding and adoption of the SAP portfolio of industry cloud innovations.

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4 Traits Set Digital Leaders Apart From 97% Of The Competition

Vivek Bapat

Like the classic parable of the blind man and the elephant, it seems everyone has a unique take on digital transformation. Some equate digital transformation with emerging technologies, placing their bets on as the Internet of Things, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. Others see it as a way to increase efficiencies and change business processes to accelerate product to market. Some others think of it is a means of strategic differentiation, innovating new business models for serving and engaging their customers. Despite the range of viewpoints, many businesses are still challenged with pragmatically evolving digital in ways that are meaningful, industry-disruptive, and market-leading.

According to a recent study of more than 3,000 senior executives across 17 countries and regions, only a paltry three percent of businesses worldwide have successfully completed enterprise-wide digital transformation initiatives, even though 84% of C-level executives ranks such efforts as “critically important” to the fundamental sustenance of their business.

The most comprehensive global study of its kind, the SAP Center for Business Insight report “SAP Digital Transformation Executive Study: 4 Ways Leaders Set Themselves Apart,” in collaboration with Oxford Economics, identified the challenges, opportunities, value, and key technologies driving digital transformation. The findings specifically analyzed the performance of “digital leaders” – those who are connecting people, things, and businesses more intelligently, more effectively, and creating punctuated change faster than their less advanced rivals.

After analyzing the data, it was eye-opening to see that only three percent of companies (top 100) are successfully realizing their full potential through digital transformation. However, even more remarkable was that these leaders have four fundamental traits in common, regardless of their region of operation, their size, their organizational structure, or their industry.

We distilled these traits in the hope that others in the early stages of transformation or that are still struggling to find their bearings can embrace these principles in order to succeed. Ultimately I see these leaders as true ambidextrous organizations, managing evolutionary and revolutionary change simultaneously, willing to embrace innovation – not just on the edges of their business, but firmly into their core.

Here are the four traits that set these leaders apart from the rest:

Trait #1: They see digital transformation as truly transformational

An overwhelming majority (96%) of digital leaders view digital transformation as a core business goal that requires a unified digital mindset across the entire enterprise. But instead of allowing individual functions to change at their own pace, digital leaders prefer to evolve the organization to help ensure the success of their digital strategies.

The study found that 56% of these businesses regularly shift their organizational structure, which includes processes, partners, suppliers, and customers, compared to 10% of remaining companies. Plus, 70% actively bring lines of business together through cross-functional processes and technologies.

By creating a firm foundation for transformation, digital leaders are further widening the gap between themselves and their less advanced competitors as they innovate business models that can mitigate emerging risks and seize new opportunities quickly.

Trait #2: They focus on transforming customer-facing functions first

Although most companies believe technology, the pace of change, and growing global competition are the key global trends that will affect everything for years to come, digital leaders are expanding their frame of mind to consider the influence of customer empowerment. Executives who build a momentum of breakthrough innovation and industry transformation are the ones that are moving beyond the high stakes of the market to the activation of complete, end-to-end customer experiences.

In fact, 92% of digital leaders have established sophisticated digital transformation strategies and processes to drive transformational change in customer satisfaction and engagement, compared to 22% of their less mature counterparts. As a result, 70% have realized significant or transformational value from these efforts.

Trait #3: They create a virtuous cycle of digital talent

There’s little doubt that the competition for qualified talent is fierce. But for nearly three-quarters of companies that demonstrate digital-transformation leadership, it is easier to attract and retain talent because they are five times more likely to leverage digitization to change their talent management efforts.

The impact of their efforts goes beyond empowering recruiters to identify best-fit candidates, highlight risk factors and hiring errors, and predict long-term talent needs. Nearly half (48%) of digital leaders understand that they must invest heavily in the development of digital skills and technology to drive revenue, retain productive employees, and create new roles to keep up with their digital maturity over the next two years, compared to 30% of all surveyed executives.

Trait #4: They invest in next-generation technology using a bimodal architecture

A couple years ago, Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president at Gartner and global head of research, observed that “CIOs can’t transform their old IT organization into a digital startup, but they can turn it into a bi-modal IT organization. Forty-five percent of CIOs state they currently have a fast mode of operation, and we predict that 75% of IT organizations will be bimodal in some way by 2017.”

Based on the results of the SAP Center for Business Insight study, Sondergaard’s prediction was spot on. As digital leaders dive into advanced technologies, 72% are using a digital twin of the conventional IT organization to operate efficiently without disruption while refining innovative scenarios to resolve business challenges and integrate them to stay ahead of the competition. Unfortunately, only 30% of less advanced businesses embrace this view.

Working within this bimodal architecture is emboldening digital leaders to take on incredibly progressive technology. For example, the study found that 50% of these firms are using artificial intelligence and machine learning, compared to seven percent of all respondents. They are also leading the adoption curve of Big Data solutions and analytics (94% vs. 60%) and the Internet of Things (76% vs. 52%).

Digital leadership is a practice of balance, not pure digitization

Most executives understand that digital transformation is a critical driver of revenue growth, profitability, and business expansion. However, as digital leaders are proving, digital strategies must deliver a balance of organizational flexibility, forward-looking technology adoption, and bold change. And clearly, this approach is paying dividends for them. They are growing market share, increasing customer satisfaction, improving employee engagement, and, perhaps more important, achieving more profitability than ever before.

For any company looking to catch up to digital leaders, the conversation around digital transformation needs to change immediately to combat three deadly sins: Stop investing in one-off, isolated projects hidden in a single organization. Stop viewing IT as an enabler instead of a strategic partner. Stop walling off the rest of the business from siloed digital successes.

As our study shows, companies that treat their digital transformation as an all-encompassing, all-sharing, and all-knowing business imperative will be the ones that disrupt the competitive landscape and stay ahead of a constantly evolving economy.

Follow me on twitter @vivek_bapat 

For more insight on digital leaders, check out the SAP Center for Business Insight report, conducted in collaboration with Oxford Economics,SAP Digital Transformation Executive Study: 4 Ways Leaders Set Themselves Apart.”

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Vivek Bapat

About Vivek Bapat

Vivek Bapat is the Senior Vice President, Global Head of Marketing Strategy and Thought Leadership, at SAP. He leads SAP's Global Marketing Strategy, Messaging, Positioning and related Thought Leadership initiatives.