How To Get The Most Value From Consulting To Support Your Digital Finance Transformation

Bastian Naul and Stefan Henkel

In a digital economy where everything is moving faster, it’s no surprise that many organizations rely on consultancy services to support their digital finance transformation. Given our experience, we thought it would be useful to explain some of the different approaches of working alongside business and IT where consultancy can help you best realize the value.

What is innovative consulting?

With the economic shift towards technology, we recommend that you consider creative digital ways to help the business compete and flourish – and that’s one area where consultants can bring a useful perspective. Let’s first share a few thoughts about the components of an innovative consultancy:

“We Athenians do not consider consultations as obstacles in the way of action, but we consider them necessary conditions for action.”

Pericles, Athenian politician and general, circa 500-429 BC

We think that good consulting starts with a trusting relationship at eye level, a future-oriented partnership that contributes to the company’s stated goals as well as the latest status quo on methodology, knowledge, and toolsets. A good consultant stays in the background and contributes to the customer’s success – for example, by bringing in expertise in innovative methods and toolsets to support project success. These might include agile methodology and design thinking, which can introduce important extra ingredients within a fast-paced development environment.

What’s in it for you as the customer? It’s simple! On one hand, you are purchasing knowledge that you may not have within the company. On the other hand, internal stakeholders must be certain that the consultancy will deliver a measurable outcome. We think that only both can bring a transformation journey to success.

Who comes first – business or IT?

Now let’s explore the challenges consultants face within IT. In most companies, there is an internal fight over who comes first.

Is it the business with process requirements that need to be fulfilled, or is it IT that provides the layer to enable the business to perform its processes?

It is always the same emotional argument. But why does this happen? Looking at the figure, the conflict is quite clear. However, the right answer is in between.

process and data are critical

Companies have similar challenges in determining what comes first – processes or data

In fact, both IT and the business should come first. Depending on the point of view, it is a real challenge to find the right equilibrium. Neglecting one or the other will result in a lack of balance and non-acceptance of the affected key player. This can be a huge risk, unless the project is clearly labeled as purely functional or technical.

Good consultancy should clearly differentiate the two and ensure the right balance. An essential concept here is that data is useless if it is not used properly; processes are obsolete without the required data to perform them. The tradeoff between IT and business on what is really required is challenging. Too often one or the other side neglects dependencies and requirements for the sake of convenience. Often, clear communication and collaborative teamwork are missing to reach to the essence. Thus, the question should not be “‘Who comes first?” but ‘“What comes first?” Only with a future-oriented mindset on the part of both business and IT can companies achieve their overall goal. Here, the process of getting there should be the main focus.

How can business and IT align?

A second important factor is change management, which has a huge impact on the success of the digital journey. Attitudes like “We have always done it like this” or “‘It’s not my responsibility” become showstoppers, limiting the ability to break up established and outdated structures as well as mindsets. Thus, consulting with a structured, well-defined and -aligned change management framework is key.

The business and IT worlds are continuously developing and moving quickly – and they need to be moving in the same direction. Transformation projects should therefore involve both from the very beginning. That’s where experienced consultants can provide the right foundation to start your journey. Enjoy!

For more on this topic, please read “Fostering Digitalization: The Journey Of Digital Metamorphosis.”


Bastian Naul

About Bastian Naul

Bastian Naul is a principal business transformation consultant in the business unit CFO Advisory within SAP, with technical and functional knowledge in the areas of finance, controlling, and SAP S/4HANA. He has worked on various projects within national and international companies to facilitate the implementation of digital transformation strategies in finance.

Stefan Henkel

About Stefan Henkel

Stefan Henkel is a senior business transformation consultant in the business unit CFO Advisory within SAP, with a focus on SAP S/4HANA Finance. In recent years, Stefan has actively driven international customers’ digital transformation projects from different industries and within different roles