Doug Henschen on Analytics, Big Data & Smart Apps
SAP Financial Excellence Forum offers a preview of TechEd announcements including S/4HANA Finance and SAP Cloud For Analytics. The finance app needs a lift from S/4HANA Logistics while Cloud For Planning is joining a suite.
Attendees at this week’s SAP Financial Excellence Forum 2015 at the company’s North America headquarters in Newtown Square, Pa., got a sneak peek at two announcements set for SAP TechEd next week in Las Vegas. In both cases, important financial apps will be part of a bigger story.
The first app in question, SAP Simple Finance, was the center of attention at the Financial Excellence Forum (#FinancialExcellence). The app itself is not new, but at TechEd, SAP is rolling out a new name, S/4HANA Finance. The “S/4HANA” naming scheme will extend to all of the suite’s coming, next-generation components, including an S/4HANA Logistics app that’s next in line for release.
Simple Finance – sorry, S/4HANA Finance – was the subject of multiple vendor and customer presentations at the Financial Excellence Forum. SAP Exec Bob Jenkins, for example, talked up in-memory-powered, real-time analytics and responsive, user-friendly functionality. Demos highlighted modern Fiori user interfaces with type-ahead searching, real-time analytics, predictive capabilities and the in-memory-supported ability to drill-down to granular data for root-cause analysis.
Execs from SAP customers New York Life and Florida Crystals were on hand to highlight their S/4 Hana Finance deployments, and an executive from a $4 billion unit of GE talked about that organization’s proof-of-concept project on the app. New York Life’s Jon Feinstein said the insurer revamped its financial apps to gain better access to financial data that’s helping to drive faster, better decisions and better outcomes. The company went live on S/4HANA Finance in July and is now in the midst of its first quarterly close on the app.
Sugar manufacturer Florida Crystals became the first SAP customer to deploy Simple Finance early this year. The company’s enterprise architect, Sergio Nunez, said that despite a few rough edges in the early product, his firm was able to deploy the Simple Finance within eight weeks. It helped that the company was already on HANA, having been among the first to run ECC on HANA in the cloud back in 2013.
SAP Cloud For Analytics
The second, and bigger, bit of TechEd news previewed at the Financial Excellence Forum was the impending release of SAP Cloud For Analytics. A comprehensive suite built on the HANA Cloud Platform, SAP Cloud for Analytics will include components for BI, planning and, eventually, predictive analytics and GRC (Governance, Risk and Compliance).
In another name change, SAP’s previously available Cloud For Planning app is morphing to become the planning component of SAP Cloud For Analytics. Thus, Cloud For Planning is now, surprise, surprise, “SAP Cloud For Analytics For Planning.” As before, this planning app is aimed at the many line-of-business users outside of finance who need planning capabilities. Power users and those inside finance are much more likely to use SAP Integrated Business Planning for Finance, which is the vendor’s next-generation planning module for traditional ERP or S/4HANA deployments.
SAP’s financial apps executives didn’t dwell on the other components of SAP Cloud For Analytics, but the BI and visualization capabilities will borrow from and replace SAP Lumira Cloud (while Lumira Desktop and Server will remain the on-premises products). Customers will subscribe to SAP Cloud For Analytics, paying base fees for each component (BI, Planning, Predictive, etc.) plus per-user subscription fees. I’m told there will be public-cloud multi-tenant services as well as private-cloud deployment options.
MyPOV On S/4 HANA Finance and SAP Cloud & Analytics
SAP says 25 customers are in production on S/4HANA Finance (Simple Finance), 275 more have projects in the works and that more than 1,000 have licensed the app. That’s not bad considering that the app wasn’t generally available until March, but that’s scratching the surface of the total SAP customer base.
Talking to customers at this week’s form, I get the sense that S/4 HANA Finance is a nice to have, promising improved productivity and a start on analytical decision support within finance department. But the bigger payoff in real-time analytics and money-saving business optimization will be opened up once S/4HANA Logistics and other modules become available. That’s when the finance team and others will start to be able to crunch really crucial business data in real time. To paraphrase one customer, S/4HANA Finance is the gravy while S/4HANA Logistics is the steak.
On SAP Cloud for Analytics, I really like the idea of an integrated, cloud-based suite combining not just reporting, visualization and predictive capabilities, but also planning and GRC. We’ve seen BI and planning together from Adaptive Insights and BI and Predictive from SAS and IBM, but this is a novel, expansive combination in the cloud. Having a consistent look and feel and promised ease of use across all these categories will be a breakthrough for SAP, which has to live down the BusinessObjects legacy of disparate tools and interfaces.
The “For Planning” component will be available immediately and the “For BI” component by year end. We’ll have to see how soon SAP follows through with the “For Prediction” and “For GRC” components of SAP Cloud for Analytics, as well as all the data-integration options customers will need to connect to on-premises and cloud-based data sources.