Q: SAP solutions are usually managed by the IT department. What level of control would finance have over the forecasting solution?
A: SAP BPC is designed to integrate closely with other SAP modules to ensure maximum efficiency and automation. This requires a level of consistency and control that is usually owned by the IT department. SAP BPC does, however, provide a level of finance ownership within the application enabling changes to be made to master data, reports, etc. without the need to involve IT.
Q: How easy is it to make tweaks to the forecast templates? Is it easily done or will it mean the commencement of another IT project?
A: Forecast templates can easily be “tweaked” by the process/system owners without recourse to a new project. These changes can be done by finance and once the template is changed all users will automatically have access to the new version. Furthermore, if the templates are well designed and “dynamic” in nature, changes to the BPC system such as adding an account or a product are usually automatically accommodated in the templates without the need even for a “tweak”!
Q: How do I best leverage my investment in the tool? What else can I do apart from budgeting and forecasting?
A: In addition to budgeting and forecasting, BPC is a fully functional financial consolidation tool capable of multi-GAAP, multi-method consolidations. BPC can also be used as a standard multi-dimensional database enabling a wide range of non-financial and qualitative applications to be developed.
Q: Will I be able to make efficiency (i.e. headcount) savings in our support team? And in finance?
A: When the BPC Netweaver version is implemented in an environment that is already using SAP BW, the additional support required is minimal. The savings accrue from not having to support a separate forecasting system and from removing a significant amount of low value-add effort required in the finance department to manage a manual or Excel-based process.
Q: Will it mean that we can spend more time reviewing forecasts rather than compiling them? Will the forecasting process be more rigorous?
A: Absolutely! BPC removes the time-consuming work required to collect and load the forecast information, freeing up the finance team to spend more time analysing the data. BPC also ensures that the process has rigour by enforcing the use of central assumptions and adherence to the agreed process.
Q: Will we be able to get rid of all the various offline models in operation today?
A: The network-based nature of BPC means that there is one central database that all users access. There is no need for offline models or other “spreadsheet workarounds”. The only other models would be created by finance, if required, for archiving or other needs.
Q: I’m fed up of not having information at my fingertips. Too often I make a request for information and there’s an inefficient process of downloading and merging information using VLOOKUPS in Excel before I can get what I need. How will BPC improve this?
A: With BPC all the relevant financial information, in real time, is at your fingertips. Flexible dynamic Excel-based report templates provide a window on this data. If the standard reporting templates do not satisfy the requirement then the wide range of ad hoc reporting tools will almost certainly do so. If the information in BPC is not sufficiently detailed, then the drill-through functionality lets you get to the underlying transactional detail. As well as Excel-based reporting, web reports and interactive dashboards further augment the user interface.
Q: Will BPC provide me with the “single version of the truth”?
A: BPC provides a single source of the truth, i.e. the same data accessed by all. A well-designed BPC system will indeed give a single version of the truth providing the underlying business processes support this with consistent measures and definitions.
Q: Can I use BPC to store non-SAP data, such as health and safety stats?
A: Non-SAP (or other financial system) data can indeed be held within BPC. This can be loaded by automated interface, from flat files or loaded manually using Excel-based input forms. Additionally, BPC can hold non-numeric information (comments) and unstructured data such as backing information in spreadsheets, Word documents etc.
Q: Will I be able to gain more transparency by importing data for our joint ventures that are not using our own SAP platform?
A: Many companies using BPC have a mix of SAP and non-SAP units supplying information. This is either transitory in nature (for example acquisitions not yet brought onto the companies systems) or joint ventures or associates that have other platforms. The ETL (Extract, Transform and Load) functionality of BPC allows interfacing of non-SAP systems and can provide significantly improved visibility of these units.
Q: How soon will the investment payback? In cash terms? In P&L terms?
A: This is a difficult one to answer as it depends upon the scope, the functionality required and a host of other variables. Most BPC projects pay back, in cash terms, in between 1 and 2 –years. This depends also on the nature of the realised benefits. If the system being replaced is very manual in nature then the headcount savings may be quickly realised whereas a project improving the quality of control, decision-making and risk-reduction, may appear to payback over a longer period unless these intangible benefits can be monetised. In P&L terms, a payback of 1 – 3 years is likely to be achieved.
Q: Will I have the ability to create overlays and carry out sensitivity analyses?
A: Scenario planning and “what-if” analysis is really simple and quick to do in BPC. The ready availability of this functionality changes the way companies using BPC plan and forecast. An analysis that is “not worth doing” because “it takes so long that it is out of date before it is completed” can now be done quickly and easily without involving any collection of revised data.
Q: Do I need to make the investment? What does SAP’s roadmap say about our existing tools?
A: Investment decisions are seldom black and white. There are alternative SAP tools that can support the forecasting process as well as a raft of other, standalone offerings. The main alternative solution in SAP is Integrated Planning (IP). This BW-based solution does not have the wide functionality of BPC and SAP have recently announced that, starting with BPC v10.1, IP planning cubes will integrate with BPC. The SAP roadmap therefore is supporting a convergence of the products under within BPC.
Q: How will the implementation of BPC support the company’s strategic actions?
A: BPC is designed to support companies’ strategic actions such as acquisitions and disposals, new product development etc. BPC enables new scenarios and structures to be developed to enable visualisation of the impact of strategic actions and inform and support quality decision-making.
Q: What are other companies’ experiences of implementing BPC?
A: The most frequently quoted impact of implementing BPC is that of speed and efficiency. Reduced cycle-times, greater agility and the ability to forecast and plan more frequently are key to this. The elimination of “spreadsheet-hell” is also a major feature with companies reporting that version control is greatly improved and meetings no longer start with a long argument over whose number is correct!