Slow, slow, quick, quick: If you’re familiar with ballroom dancing, you may recognize these as the basic steps for a foxtrot. If you are a financial analyst or accountant, it might occur to you that these steps characterize your month-end close process. The “slow, slow” is the incessant waiting for data to be updated, downloaded, and reformatted, which is followed by “quick, quick” periods of panic to post necessary adjustments. This situation is compounded by another slow wait until the following day to see if your changes had the desired effect. The process steps may resemble a foxtrot, but it’s anything but a smooth one.
If you want to stick with the “quick, quick” steps, move your process to a real-time environment that lets you stay on top of month end by posting, reviewing and—most critically—analyzing results before the deadline. Moving to a real-time reporting environment is easier than you could ever believe, so let’s explore how you can cut the “slow, slow” steps from your current routine.
Finding the Source of Slow Steps
Delays in getting the data come from two very different sources: end users downloading data from their SAP ERP system and reformatting the data in Microsoft Excel for presentation, or users waiting for their reports to be created from data loaded periodically from the data warehouse.
The inherent delays in these “download and reformat” steps occur because the process isn’t easily repeatable and only presents a snapshot of the current situation because the SAP data isn’t live, so you must therefore intermittently repeat the steps to get the latest information in Excel. Repeating these complex processes and setting up the necessary links can lead to spreadsheet errors that may or may not be spotted or corrected in time.
The speed in which data is loaded into the SAP Business Warehouse (BW) varies greatly between customers. Users often don’t mind waiting minutes for reports, as this is unlikely to impact month-end reporting. However, when data needs to be refreshed overnight in BW, any journal adjustments that day will only become apparent the next. This sort of delay is going to have an impact, and you may have some sleepless nights over your lost time waiting to view outcomes and a significantly reduced time window for managing further adjustments.
You might be lucky if, as month-end closing approaches, your IT team boosts the frequency SAP data is refreshed in BW (and your reports) so that it’s now updated hourly. This is a much more productive scenario, but time is still lost when you can least afford it because you still do not have real-time data.
While access to real-time data at month end is especially critical, real-time data should be available any time you need to review the latest numbers. A bigger time window at month-end and real-time data in the run up to month-end means Finance has valuable time to see how balances evolve, understand the data, and act accordingly.
Of course, analyzing and understanding the data is where Finance adds real value to their organization. The other big upside to real-time data is that you have more breathing space at month end so your team is less stressed, makes fewer mistakes, and is perhaps less likely to look for alternative employment.
A New Move: The Panic-free Quickstep
What if you could easily learn a new month-end dance that exchanges your panicky adjustment moves for a smooth quickstep with fast, real-time data? Excel-add ins let you—the business user—create reports that directly link to live SAP data any time you want, whether during month end or not.
Through these real-time reports that bypass awkward BW downloads and IT support, you can drill down and get document details, better understand how data is trending, and quickly get to the underlying causes of discrepancies. Posting journal adjustments directly into SAP is easy using a complementary Excel add-in upload approach, which uses your existing SAP workflows and approvals. And, you will be comfortable (and relieved) to use an Excel-based tool that masks the inherent complexity SAP brings to the dance floor.
Of course, you don’t want to step on the toes of your colleagues in IT while improving your month-end and other reporting moves. A committed buy-in for a new reporting strategy is necessary from both Finance and IT, and add-ins fortunately can offer a readily demonstrable “time to value” because they don’t involve big, clumsy, and costly implementation projects.
To fast track your conversation with IT, let them know that code from select Excel add-ins is built around standard SAP function modules and is SAP Certified. Also, your desktop support should know that such add-ins are compatible with Microsoft’s deployment tools, especially if there are lots of PCs to update.
Put Your Best Foot Forward and Glide through Month End
Customers often complain that their SAP instances are large, complicated, challenging, and really cramp the “style” of many of their processes. The best way to start perfecting your month-end dance moves is to just simply trial an Excel add-in. That way, you and your IT team can see how you could benefit from flexible reporting and journal posting, based on refreshable Excel templates. With them, you can glide through month end and other reporting processes without a stumble.