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Hello again,

 

with only one week from launching SAP Financials OnDemand at SAPPHIRE NOW in Madrid, I thought it would be good to revisit some of the key innovations we are introducing with this new cloud offering.

 

Before I jump into this, I'd like to spend a few words on the concept of innovation itself, so we have a common understanding. Here is what wikipedia has to say about this:

 

Innovation is the development of new customers value through solutions that meet new needs, inarticulate needs, or old customer and market needs in new ways. This is accomplished through different or more effective products,processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are readily available to markets, governments, and society. Innovation differs from invention in that innovation refers to the use of a better and, as a result, novel idea or method, whereas invention refers more directly to the creation of the idea or method itself. Innovation differs from improvement in that innovation refers to the notion of doing something different (Lat. innovare: "to change") rather than doing the same thing better. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Innovation

 

A key difference is made between improvement and innovation (which I agree with) and I think we are hitting both points with SAP Financials OnDemand. For those of you that are not familiar with this new product, here is a short summary of what we are doing differently with this solution:

 

  • Focused on everyone in the business, not just experts, unlocking financials for all (Our Ambition)
  • Embedded financial analytics and collaboration to deliver insight to action in real time on single source of truth (Our Value Proposition)
  • Easy configuration of end to end financial processes with deep global compliance (Our Differentiation)
  • Open interfaces and adapters that plug into best of breed components so customers can build a loosely coupled, “Best of Suite” (Our Vision)

 

"Hmmm ..." some of you might say at this point. "Is this really new?". "Have we not heard this all before?" or "Where is the innovation in this?"

 

Let me address these four points in a bit more detail.

 

Focused on everyone in the business ...

SAP Financials OnDemand is being developed with a mindset of targeting the "average user" in the business, with a goal of becoming relevant to every person. Of course, we will still have to deliver all the fundamental capabilities that central financial departments demand, but the whole idea is to unlock financial information for everyone in the business, at the right level of relevance, at the right time and using their preferred method of information consumption. The idea of delivering information to everyone the enterprise is not entirely new to software, of course, but it is new to core financials systems. With SAP Financials OnDemand we are able to deliver the combination of several main innovation dimensions (Cloud, mobile, social, In Memory, .. ) together in one easy to configure solution that not only reduces manual data entry through automation, but really allows users to focus on their specific personal KPI's. And, more importantly, it allows them to directly drill into the underlying financial data in context, right on their mobile device. Take a look at what this will look like from an end user perspective: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zz-X3JOU3ZA&feature=youtu.be)

 

Embedded financial analytics and collaboration ...

SAP Financials OnDemand is being developed to maximize the potential of HANA on the one hand, allowing rich, flexible multi-dimensional reporting on a single set of reconciled information, and SAP JAM collaboration on the the other hand, allowing business users to not only consume information in real time, but to also take action in context by involving colleagues and experts using instant messaging or other collaboration options. By combining HANA and JAM, we are well under way to deliver our main value proposition of allowing customers to go from insight to action in real time on a single source of truth. Again, this vision in itself is not entirely new, but with SAP Financials OnDemand we are able to deliver all these innovations in a package that is easier to consume than ever. To some extent, SAP Financials OnDemand is a case in point for applying technological innovation in a business relevant context. Which brings me to the next point.

 

Easy configuration of end to end financial processes with deep global compliance

SAP Financials OnDemand is leveraging and building upon the financial processes developed and proven with SAP Business ByDesign in more than 1100 installations. And since we are building on a stable platform, SAP Financials OnDemand is also able to leverage the embedded feature of "business configuration". Business Configuration is a simple adaptation tool ("Click to Adapt") that allows to configure and change the system in a fraction of the time it used to take for solutions of this kind of scope and depth. Business Configuration allows, among other things, easy selection of processing options, relevant work centers, and global standards and localizations. And when we are talking about localization, we are talking about "deep" localization and global compliance, not just translation related to user interface and reports. We are talking about support for specific local regulations, legal compliance and country-based processing rules. Again, some might say "how is this new or innovative?" However, removing a major hurdle to solution implementation and adaptation with a proven, easy and flexible methodology for solution configuration counts as innovation in my book.

 

Open interfaces and adapters that plug into best of breed components

SAP Financials OnDemand is being developed to form a modern, cloud-based financials core that can be the foundation for a "Best of Suite" approach for customers. The assumption is that customers will "mix and match" and pick cloud solutions that best fit their specific business problem. But the assumption is also that customers will increasingly call for a cloud-based, modern financials "engine" to tie all these cloud solutions into a losely-coupled suite with a common financial core. To enable this, we will allow customers and partners to leverage multiple methods to achieve this coupling. At the core of the integration concept lies the open "process library" embedded within SAP Financials OnDemand as well as the available Software Development Kit and public solution model. The process library is a set of fundamental, executable process blueprints covering scenarios such as managing sales orders or procurements. The library makes these processes available for consumption, but it also presents well-defined entry and exit points into the embedded end-to-end processes for easy integration. So, with the process library approach customer can either use the embedded processes, or simply couple a relevant best-of-breed solution such as SuccessFactors Employee Central or Ariba vendor management into the solution with a minimum of integration hassle. And with each future release, we will enrich the process library and SDK and public solution model with more capabilities for both customers and partners. And, as we bring more and more capabilities into the solution with each progressive release (every 3 months), the newly announced SAP HANA Cloud platform will keep offering more and more options to integrate, enhance and expand the "Best of Suite" aspect of this new solution in all dimensions.

 

It is impossible to mention all the different things that are going on in a short blog like this: Native cloud, HANA, mobile, social, embedded analytics, easy business configuration, simplified general ledger, simultaneous multiple sets of books (GaaP & IFRS), fast close, workflows with built-in internal controls, automatic reconciliation, embedded mobile and social capabilities, flexible UI, deep global compliance, etc. Other vendors might, with HALF OF WHAT WE HAVE, easily claim that they have re-invented financials. We won't be so bold. We are happy to say we are bringing all of our financial expertise as well as our bundled innovation power to bear on our new financials solution in the cloud. It is the beginning of a journey, and we are inviting customers and partner to co-innovate with us. Pundits tend to agree. The influencers we spoke to in our pre-briefings had lots of detailed feedback and some truly great ideas, but overall, all seemed genuinly impressed with what we are trying to do with SAP Financials OnDemand.  An overall sentiment probably best summarized by the following quote:

 

  “While Cloud-based Financial applications have gained traction among SMB buyers for several years now,
Saugatuck believes that the conditions are finally ripe for adoption of core Financial applications among upper-mid and large enterprises.
SAP’s new large-enterprise targeted Financials On Demand leverages its long heritage / leadership in the space,
with a modern set of capabilities that aim to help support the broader roles and responsibilities that CFOs now have,
and which their current systems are often challenged to deliver
.”
(Bill McNee, founder and CEO, Saugatuck technology)

 

That's sums it up for a short pre SAPPHIRE NOW peek. I look forward to your feedback and maybe we can catch up "live" in Madrid

 

Chris Horak, Walldorf, 07, November, 2012

 

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