Successes – And Failures – In Transforming Finance Sales Support Processes

Vaag Durgaryan

Part 3 in the “Digital Finance Sales Support” series

In the first two blogs in this series, we looked at how our team reached the furthest corners of the MENA region and simplified interaction with customers. Now I have the courage to share a few of our mistakes during the transformation of the finance sales support process.

SAP’s global approach to transform these processes consisted of two simple yet effective steps.

Step 1: Bundle volume operations

We identified volume operations across multiple deal-support processes: standard contracting, invoicing, cash collections, and so on, and bundled them in shared service centers throughout the world. Tasks are now performed by shared service center teams for all country offices in a standard way that not only is efficient, but also enables us to support increasing volume and ensures compliance through process standardization.

Step 2: Use freed-up capacity to innovate and disrupt

After bundling volume operations, substantial time was freed up in country offices. The extra capacity allowed us to challenge the status quo and look at root causes of business problems. As a result of multiple things we did, we completely changed the deal-support role in country offices. Instead of performing volume back-office operations as in the past, we became the front office, and now have:

  • Started to meet customers more often to discuss deal-support topics and deals
  • Digitized multiple processes
  • Turned data into real business insights for leadership teams

How did we fail?

Initially, newly hired team members in shared service centers did not know country and customer specifics well, so country teams had to invest some time for extended coaching and support. Also, we underestimated the number of interfaces that needed to be created between new shared service centers and country offices: virtual collaboration among employees sometimes worked well and sometimes did not.

One could think of this as a failure. However, we saw it as an opportunity. We invested additional time in coaching of shared service center teams and change management efforts via different workshops, communications, and extended work shadowing.

Celebrating both success and failure

We celebrated successes … and failures too. We created a culture of high performance – and learning. The result was above expectations, and productivity skyrocketed. Each failure was an opportunity to make the process even better. Country and shared service center teams started to act as one single extended team. For instance, I have invited the shared service center teams supporting the Middle East and North Africa region to my team meetings as extended but integral team members.

In fact, we took it to the next level, and our shared service center teams now participate in our innovation and digitalization activities too. But that is another story.

Michael Jordan once said, “I have failed over and over again, and that’s why I am successful.”

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Vaag Durgaryan

About Vaag Durgaryan

Vaag Durgaryan is the commercial finance director for SAP in the Middle East and North Africa, which comprises of over 20 countries. Starting in 2017, he oversees a multinational team that provides finance expertise, knowledge, and strategy outlook for finance sales support in the region. Prior to that, Vaag was chief of staff for the CFO for SAP Global Field Finance and co-drove global transformation initiatives with focus on process simplification and people enablement. He holds an Executive MBA degree from ESSEC Business School and Mannheim Business School. Vaag has a passion in digitalization and learning culture.