SAP Group Reporting: Optimally Determine Starting Point and Milestones
Which route option is the right one?
Users of established SAP tools for creating consolidated financial information will have to reorient themselves. Maintenance of the well-known EPM systems SAP EC-CS, SAP BCS, SAP Business Planning & Consolidation, and SAP Financial Consolidation is expected to end at the end of 2027.
How Should the Finance Department Meet This Challenge?
There are already no further developments in sight for the tools mentioned. It is certainly a good idea to look at the alternatives promptly and sort out the options for the cutover process. After all, SAP also recommends harmonizing master data, processes, and the technological landscape as far as possible in the run-up to a transition in the finance function of a corporate group.
Haste Makes Waste: The Finance Function Feels the Pressure to Change
Experts agree that digitization is already exerting enormous pressure for change in the finance function. In parallel to the tasks that increasingly have to be mastered through distinctive soft skills, there are already many new challenges in terms of content. There is no doubt that traditional approaches and the classic understanding of tasks in the finance function, which are characterized by a "passion for data collection" and "silo existence", are no longer able to meet the information requirements of corporate management in a constantly changing economic context.
On the part of large consulting firms and the practice-oriented literature, it is recommended that Accounting & Controlling should defend their interpretive sovereignty by interpreting their role as business partners for corporate management in the future. In this context, data must not only be collected and controlled in the future, but rather moderated. Undoubtedly, the upcoming shift to new technology around Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) should also pay attention to the performance of the finance function, which is to be enhanced. This makes it even more important to select the right route option in the navigation system and to get from A to B without any accidents.
Hybrid Operating Mode Instead of Big Bang
SAP supports its customers with recommendations for transformation, with a particular focus on those users who want to replace the somewhat inflexible (and aging) SAP EC-CS or the SAP Financial Consolidation, which was later integrated - sometimes imperfectly - into the SAP world.
If SAP EC-CS is to be replaced, a time-limited hybrid operating mode for both applications may be an option - instead of taking a full risk with a hard switchover. During a transition period of, say, two years, the old and new systems are used in parallel to generate consolidated financial statements. If SAP Group Reporting delivers satisfactory results at the end of the parallel operation, EC-CS can be switched off. However, this option is dependent on the SAP S/4HANA version used as the basis for Group Reporting. For the use of the financial information to be consolidated in this transition scenario, it is also important that the sequence of process steps and the parameterization of Group Reporting specified in the SAP process documents for this procedure model are strictly adhered to. This hybrid option is already available in the system's basic settings, but must of course be activated by the user when selecting the transaction. Here, too - in close coordination with SAP support - it must be ensured that the protocol is followed. "Quick & dirty" approaches are not a good idea here, "low hanging fruits" are hard to find.
The SAP Financial Consolidation User Group was recently surprised from French developer circles with the clever approach of using the Data Collection App (GRDC), which is actually intended for data collection at the group periphery (or for non-financial information), for the application shift. In the future, the mapping layer available within the GRDC should be able to transform master data and also transaction data from SAP Financial Consolidation into the format of Group Reporting and transfer it to the ACDOCU table. For the actual transition process, consolidated financial data would be sent as well as unconsolidated package data including manual postings would find their way into the new Group Reporting and the table structure there. Based on reports, the already consolidated data ("snapshots") for the required consolidation groups can then be compared and analyzed line-by-line with the consolidation results reprocessed in Group Reporting.
So Test Therefore, Who Joins (Forever)
There is no doubt that a decision in favor of SAP Group Reporting - loosely based on Schiller - is not one for eternity. But it is certainly an undertaking that is calculated for several years and cannot do without the corresponding initial investment. The empirical values of the more technological transformation consulting with SAP Group Reporting and GRDC can be reduced to a simple denominator: the early mistakes (or those at the beginning of a S/4HANA transition process) are the most expensive and should be avoided at all costs through suitable quality assurance measures (e.g., proof of concepts or control flow-oriented procedures such as white-box testing). The closer an optimal starting point for the changeover approaches, the fuller the order books of those service providers who can provide qualified support for such a process will indeed become.