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Panelists say S/4HANA is core of digital business transformation

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In a panel at the SAP Sapphire conference, early adopters shared ideas about how S/4HANA forms the core of their digital business transformation.

SAP S/4HANA has been called a revolutionary technology since it was announced last year, but can it really be the foundation of a digital business transformation? Some early adopters say “yes” and give S/4HANA an unqualified thumbs-up.

Several SAP customers touted the benefits of putting S/4HANA at the center of their digital business transformation during a panel discussion at SAP’s Sapphire conference, held in Orlando May 17-19.

The panel’s participants included companies that are in varying stages of implementing S/4HANA, but most agreed that the technology had streamlined old processes, improved the user experience, and in some cases justified and supported an entire digital business transformation. Most of the customers began implementing S/4HANA with Simple Financeprojects, and favored a step-by-step process.

New York Life Insurance Company was an early adopter of S/4HANA, and vice president Ray Carney said that one of the goals it had in adopting Simple Finance was to change the roles of the company’s finance professionals to more than just collecting and manipulating data.

“We wanted to move our finance and accounting role to more of a strategist role, and in order to do that we needed to change our platform,” Carney said. “Our ledger was SAP ledger that we put in in 1999, so when we started the project a couple years ago it was 15 years old.”

The system worked, Carney explained, but it had spawned a culture of homegrown databases with many disparities between different business units, eventually growing to 15,000 general ledger accounts and more than 5,000 profit centers. “We looked around at the time and decided that Simple Finance was really the way to go,” he said.

The software, since renamed S/4HANA Finance, provided a foundation for simplifying all these processes and streamlining the accounts and profit centers, paring down to around 3,500 accounts. Once this intensive foundational work is done, Carney said that the company can really begin to transform the work that’s done by the finance professionals.

“We’ve done three quarter closes already and each one gets a little better, so everyone’s now comfortable with it and now we have to get to the next level to change processes and change people’s skill sets,” he said. “We’re making good progress and each quarter we’re lending more value to the company and getting more insights, so the product with our changing mindsets is doing really well.”

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