Let me introduce my guest
My today’s guest has more than 15 years of experience in the SAP industry, especially in introducing business transformation and innovation. He has worked in transformation projects involving business and IT consulting, from a small SAP project to the entire company’s broadly understood transformation. He is also a book author and blogger.
About the responsibilities of a Central Finance Architect, possible ways to automate testing of S/4HANA conversions projects, and innovations in the SAP world, especially in the finance field – Nitin Gupta is interviewed by Jarosław JZ Ziółkowski.
Reading time: 5 minutes
1. You are an experienced SAP Central Finance Architect. Thus, I need to ask: what exactly is your job about?
My job is straightforward *smile*. I help customers define the right process with the balance of technology and benefit from it. Central Finance is all about the thread of systems connected and sending/receiving data to/from each other. If the data model is right and design is effective, then investment in S/4HANA Central Finance is worth advising customers. Central Finance does not reap benefits in the short term.
Unless you move finance processes in S/4HANA, there is no benefit which CFIN will give, so I always say to customers, having patience as organized and simple system architecture will give benefits. But I don’t mean only about replicating data from one system to another in the short term. And it’s a non-disruptive way to start the S/4HANA journey.
2. Since you’ve already addressed the subject of S/4HANA I need to ask you the following question: How does SAP S/4HANA differ from SAP ERP ECC in practice?
There are plenty of changes. SAP S/4HANA is still an ERP like ECC, but it has improved a lot from a technical standpoint and end-user experience.
It’s reflected, e.g. in reporting, and how a user accesses the system is changed with Fiori. The technical table structure is changed too, contributing to working and CFIN (only in S/4HANA). It means that you can replicate the date from your multiple ERP systems into one harmonized model.
3. And what about testing? Do you think there is any way to automate testing of S/4HANA conversions projects?
Testing is a broad area. In conversion projects, we have few tools available to prevent issues and analyze things before migration like custom code analyzer.
Taking an example of Central Finance, I have never seen any automated testing tool that can remove manual error-prone work and even pre-checks before testing. It generally involves multiple systems like source, middleware, target, governance, etc. However, there is no focus on automated testing. Maybe it’s on a long term SAP agenda as SAP is still busy enhancing core products, but I see automated testing as a huge value addition to the organization.
4. So, you have expertise in driving business transformation and innovation as well. I’d like to focus on the second word and ask what innovation means to you?
Using a calculator instead of using a manual calculation method can also be an innovation. Still, a true definition of innovation for a business is when your investment benefits your customers. Using automated ways to reduce errors and improve efficiency and deliver value to your customers is innovation. You implement millions to implement technology, but there is something wrong if your customers are not leveraging.
5. Okay, and what about innovation in the SAP world? In particular, in the field of Finance.
I have worked on Robotics process automation in finance, where I have created robots to do manual and repetitive tasks. Thanks to this, humans were able to focus on the tasks, which machines couldn’t do. Nowadays, we are dealing with a digital transformation, so it’s all about focusing on process & technology improvements and delivering benefits to the customers.
6. Continuing the topic, which is your specialty? In which cases would you recommend implementing S/4HANA Central Finances rather than BPC or Group Reporting functionalities?
Central finance is a very favourable deployment option when you have multiple ERP systems in the current landscape. This helps in data harmonization by implementing a Global/Universal Data model. For instance, today you have 5 different GL accounts for travel expenses, and in future, you can map all those to 1 in S/4HANA, so you have simplified the chart of accounts. Once data from ERP systems start coming in S/4HANA, you can plan to transform your finance processes. I mean such things like for example payments for vendors from multiple systems, that could be replaced by one activity from one S/4HANA by reducing your technology debt of multiple connectors and satellite systems. BPC or Group Reporting are consolidation tools. After implementing S/4HANA Central Finance, you can implement Group Reporting on S/4HANA for group consolidation and reporting.
CFIN is the best choice today by several large organizations to simplify the heterogeneous landscapes.
7. Let’s go forward to my last technical question for today, which is the following. What are the main challenges about keeping the Master Data mapping updated in Central Finance? Any tips about that maintenance?
Master Data is always a challenge. Also, it’s not just about using a tool; rather, it should complement the right process and people. It is always good to have a governance process and tool around master data to ensure mappings are doing in pace. And if mappings are fixed, then the errors in replication will go down. Based on my CFIN projects experience, I can say that 80% of errors in data replication are about data. Fix your master data and system will be stable. As a tip, I would say that using the right application with the right process can keep the system clean.
8. When it comes to your skill-set, you have certificates – not only in the SAP area. I’m wondering which of them was the most difficult to get. Which one do you think is most useful in your daily work?
I think certificates are part of learning. Nevertheless, the certificate is not the passport to success, so we need to talk about continuous learning. As you see with S/4HANA, every quarter there is a new release, so unless you learn yourself, you can’t advise customers or resolve the design gap that the customer might have.
9. But the most endorsed skill on your Linkedin profile is called “Business Process”. It’s a broad concept, but I’m wondering what mistakes in your customers’ business processes you encounter most often and how you try to solve them.
Agree, a business process is a comprehensive term and has no simple definition. I have been generally involved in core business processes like Record to Report, Order to Cash, Procure to Pay, and Management Reporting, which mainly touch the finance side. Among the common mistakes that I have seen is using technology to solve a business issue. People think we can do anything with technology. Of course, technology is fairly near reality in the business environment, but if a problem can be solved by adjusting the business process, why keep technology debt. So I always advise the customers to solve business problems in business ways and optimize them. Still, technology should not be used as an option.
10. Last but not least. You are the author of the book “Mastering SAP S/4HANA 1709 – Strategies for Implementation and Migration: Transition to S/4HANA with tried and tested deployment scenarios”. I’m wondering, do you plan to publish more? Maybe it’s time for an SAP PRESS Book?
I thought about it once I completed the first book. Basically, I had a plan to upgrade the book as the S/4HANa release got an upgrade. However, currently, I am spending time writing blogs and videos on S/4HANA topics to give back something to the learning community. For sure SAP PRESS Book may be on the radar in the future sometime.