Accountants have never received the corporate recognition they deserve. Often dismissed as the “bean counters,” these are the people who underpin the business and keep it afloat.

The British comedy troupe Monty Python famously lampooned accountants in this sketch. The fictional accountant Mr. Anchovy wanted to branch out from accountancy into lion taming, only to be told by his vocational guidance counselor that a direct move from accountancy straight into lion taming “might be a bit of jump.” Though today, that might not be so true.

Fast Forward to Digital Business

Thankfully today, we understand that digital business runs on information and that the financial function is at the center of any data-driven, globally connected organization.

Finance has progressed so far that we have seen technology companies grow up from a foundation in accounting to provide end-to-end enterprise resource planning (ERP) suites. These are ultimately evolving into data-empowered, analytical platforms that help businesses manage their operations.

This almost sounds like SAP, right?

FP&A = Financial Planning and Analysis

So where are we now? We know that today’s ERP suites are wider and weightier systems designed to absorb (perhaps we could even say welcome) financial data for strategic business management. These systems depend on this data, in fact.

We also know that finance has become a business driver rather than just a business service. This is the point at which accounting inspires another acronym: financial planning and analysis (FP&A). This function can truly steer company strategy and tactics.

Connecting Finance Functions in the Cloud

Given its background in accounting software, ERP, and the company’s work in data analytics (most notably with SAP HANA), SAP has now added a more-powerful set of FP&A capabilities to the SAP Analytics Cloud portion of the SAP S/4HANA Cloud.

SAP is trying to help customers eliminate the need for separate planning, analytics, and financial products.

Financial-Nonfinancial Disconnect

Let’s discuss the issue that SAP has highlighted: There’s a disconnect going on. Within any given finance function, teams often struggle with aligning operational and financial plans. It’s hard to bring together financial and nonfinancial data throughout the organization to establish one single source of the truth.

Now those teams aren’t made up of only accountants. They might include accountants, financial analysts, risk gurus who hail from an actuarial background, bankers, forensic finance whizzes, legal and insurance specialists, FP&A professionals, or perhaps a combination of all of the above.

According to SAP, these teams have to deal with disconnects that arise from different processes, discipline, stand-alone spreadsheets, and planning products that exist outside the company’s financial software.

Telling the Story Behind the Numbers

A unified financial management suite with built-in planning and advanced analytics can help FP&A teams become more agile and transform their organization into an intelligent enterprise, which is what SAP aims to deliver.

SAP lauds this suite as a complete solution for finance, including support for profit and loss, balance sheet, and cash-flow planning. It allows for easy data collection with SAP S/4HANA Cloud and analytics with SAP Analytics Cloud.

“SAP Analytics Cloud is a simple cloud application, which includes planning, business intelligence, and predictive analytics capabilities that automate insights. Machine learning technology built into SAP Analytics Cloud highlights key drivers of variances, predicts forecasts, and augments data. It tells the story behind the numbers by bringing planning and analysis together and eliminating the need to use separate planning, reporting, and predictive analytics tools,” detailed SAP, in a product statement.

Embedding SAP Analytics Cloud into all types of applications is just one way SAP is working to improve data literacy across organizations.

Lions and a Single Source of Financial Truth

With disconnected IT systems, legacy systems, non-analytics-empowered systems, and (in this case) fragmented spreadsheets, it can be a rough journey to get to the single source of truth for FP&A excellence that so many customers aspire to have.

Financial Planning & Analysis may not be a pathway to lion taming. But for those of you who have had to pry spreadsheets out of your coworkers’ hands, it may not feel that different. The good news is that, like the lions, you can throw them a tasty steak in the form of a far superior system. And that system is the key to making the members of the financial team the strategic company heroes that they can be.

Interested in taming your spreadsheets and training your analytics team? Join us at BI + Analytics and SAP-Centric Financials in Dallas.

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