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I just finished my session at the SAP Financials Conference 2010 in Orlando.  By my eye, the customer turnout seemed to be up about 10% compared to last year’s conference and there were more vendors and exhibitors too…  another sign that this year should be more active on the customer front.

Here were my takeaways from the conference:

  1. BusinessObjects.  Quite a lot of material on Business Objects though maybe not as much as I had expected.  I saw Access Control in GRC.  On the Financial side there was an excellent session from SAP on PCM and how best to manage it with existing CO-OM and CO-PA solutions in ERP.  As expected, a lot of coverage was given to the SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation tools compared to only two BCS sessions.  It’s interesting that the conference can serve as a measuring stick for the industry as a whole in a way that the SAP sponsored functions like SAPphire can’t.  The WIS Expert conferences are dominated by Partners and Customers (Where are you ASUG?) so SAP’s opionions and market direction isn’t as prevalent here.  Based on that, BCS is dead and customers appear to be buying into BPC.
  2. IFRS.  Anything and everything to do with IFRS was covered.  From a purely SAP ERP Financial perspective I sense more and more people are now recognizing that there is much more to IFRS than just migrating from the classic GL to the (new) SAP GL.  I’ve sensed for awhile that most customers assumed that one was dependent on the other (it’s not) and that they are one in the same (definitely wrong).  But there was enough material and sessions that customers will start addressing IFRS soon.  Maybe this year…  but more likely they’ll continue to just gather information and cutover later.  They have until 2014 and there needs to be more clarity as to how IFRS will be interpreted here in the US.  There were several sessions on how to best approach the adoption of IFRS; major implications, project planning, key tasks, etc.  All in all it was a very informative area.
  3. In spite all of the new material for these new areas, the basics in FI and CO saw plenty of coverage.  I’ve always thought that customers still struggle with the basic block-and-tackling of SAP and that none of us should lose sight of this in spite of any of the new stuff…  in this case, “new” is anything that came out after 2000 (<– that’s both a serious statement and a joke at the same time).  FSCM, BOBJ, OutlookSoft, etc.  There are still numerous inefficiencies in basic GL processing, LIV, and most any other core FICO process that should warrant plenty of focus.  The sessions reflected that.
  4. The SAP GL.  This has been one of the dominant themes at the SAP Financials Conferences for several years now.  2010 didn’t see any drop off and the materials are getting better and better.  Plenty of informative guides on how best to implement the GL, different approaches, segment reporting and document splitting.  I sat in on some sessions from MI6 Solutions, QS&S and Vortex Solutions that were quite good.
  5. Audit.  There were 18 sessions on Audit as compared to only 8 for FI and 12 for CO.  I sat in on one session regarding GRC controls which got a bigger turnout than I would have normally thought.  As a consultant that tends to butt heads with the Security folks, I can’t say that I was happy to see this.  But seriously…  18 sessions on audit?  For an SAP event?  Wow.  It just surprises me that there was that much coverage and the turn out was as strong as it was.
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  1. Vijay Vijayasankar
    Interesting observations,Nathan, and I think this is pretty consistent with what i have noticed too. SEM BPS, BCS etc are being trade for BPC more readily now. And 7.5 version does make BPC a really nice solution.

    IFRS has picked up steam in a lot of client sites I have seen off late. But people struggle with getting a crisp explanation of what they need to do to cut over.

    Your comments on Audit fascinates me – and I should check out the GRC access controls.

    Thanks again for the excellent blog.

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  2. Gregory Misiorek
    Nathan,

    thank you for reporting from the trenches of conferencing. it’s a nice take on what SAP is offering and where it’s going with the most critical part of ERP. what you are saying makes a lot of sense. BO is the buzzword since the acquisition, IFRS is the new Y2K, and audit has always been there and it will be there, especially considering transactions and reporting moving more and more to the internet. the only opposite view i hold (dearly) is that BCS is not dead and will not go away despite the complaints, small footprint in the us, and being internally developed rather than acquired. consolidations is the super GL and when we look at BCS as an extension of FI/CO and add OLAP on top of OLTP it makes perfect sense to have a solution using both. BO is a nice add-on but it’s not quite there yet, at least not until it’s fully a part of ABAP. until then its roots in Microsoft are a disadvantage, but i do realize that without customers asking for BCS and with funding going to BO, BPC will eventually get there.

    i recall my conversation with a Cartesis consultant here in the US and they saw it one day competing head to head with Hyperion. fast forward 10 years and Hyperion is now Oracle, alive and kicking, and Cartesis after so many acquisitions is dead for all intents and purposes. nobody knows what future holds, and partners are taking care of their business by promoting the latest or BO.

    all in all, it’s important to know what the ERP Finance world is buzzing about, so keep on letting us know.

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  3. Witalij Rudnicki
    Interesting notes, Nathan.
    I am comparing this to WIS conferences I attended in the past in my area: NetWeaver BI/Portal and Reporting&Analytics. What I liked about them is what you mentioned: being driven by customers and SIs, more down to the ground, and not SAP marketing vehicles. But unfortunately I see some tendency towards putting more SAP-preferred topics. Same with WIS’s BI publication “BIExpert”. But this way WIS may shoot themselves into the leg, because then their conferences will be no different from TechEd.
    Second thing you mentioned: the basics, in spite all of the new areas. This is something I saw missing in BI conferences since BO acquisition. Everyone wants to be fancy, so we have countless speakers repeating BO products matrix and roadmap. While in BI we need more (and better) sessions on proper modelling, environment management (landscape, ILM, test data), business content, in-depth performance tuning etc.
    Cheers,
    -Vitaliy
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    1. Nathan Genez Post author
      The partner and consultant involvement has always been high but, at least for Financials, is nearly 90%.  SAP’s involvement is much lower than it was when it started in 2003. When was the last time a consultant from SAP authored a session that wasn’t geared around a product roadmap or incorporating some new application?  A loooong time ago.  I’ll have to look at the conference index again but I think all of the SAP sessions were regarding BusinessObjects.
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    2. Nathan Genez Post author
      I forgot..  I’ve presented at the Expert conferences since 2003 and have found that the session material at the WIS conferences has always been much more pragmatic than SAP events.  That’s still the case on a comparative basis but with all of the new products out there is definitely a lot of “how to approach, how to implement” type of sessions and less “step 1-2-3” sessions.  But in the areas of SAP GL, segment reporting, document splitting et al. there are quite a few configuration focused items.  I think this just reflects that NW & BI have undergone the most change recently and require more product management sessions…  but I hear your pain.
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  4. Tammy Powlas
    Your comment Where are you ASUG? has been weighing on my mind too…I may post something on asug.com

    I agree with Vitaliy that more in-depth sessions are needed on BW; with BO, NetWeaver BW has all been forgotten.

    I’ve attended your WisPubs sessions before on Asset Accounting and they were excellent; I wish I could attend more.

    Thanks for posting!

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    1. Nathan Genez Post author
      Just to clarify…  my comment was directed at ASUG itself.  My partner, Eric Barlow, and I have been involved as far as back as 1998 and Doug Mrozinski has been involved even longer.  Our involvement continued even after we left SAP but since not all of the groups have a chairperson it is harder and harder to keep that relationship going.  With the rise of the WIS conferences in 2003, which I think are much more pragmatic and have an overall higher quality level, the emphasis on attending ASUG has decreased.  With the rise of SCN, the reliance on the ASUG message boards (which we actively support) has also decreased.  I’m not predicting the demise of ASUG but am curious how they plan on offering knowledge for their members in a way that SCN and WIS don’t already provide.
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      1. Tammy Powlas
        Nathan – what you said there makes great sense – it’s what I have been thinking, but you articulated it better.  As an ASUG volunteer myself, I am wondering the same thing – how can we offer knowledge for our members that SCN/WIS do not provide?

        The only response I can come up with is webcasts; ASUG webcast attendance in the last year has skyrocketed.  WIS has webcasts but they charge a fee while SCN offers them for free; with ASUG you have to be a member.

        You raise an excellent question…

        Thanks,
        Tammy

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        1. Nathan Genez Post author
          I was thinking the same thing.  We will be planning a webex in a few months regarding IFRS (NewGL + Fixed Assets) and we plan to use ASUG for that.
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  5. Graceanne Bowe
    Hi, Nathan:
    Thanks for the positive feedback and insights into Financials 2010. Our team is already hard at work gathering feedback that will drive next year’s content.  We strive to build our programs from the customer’s perspective, so any comments or suggestions for next year are always welcome. Anyone reading this blog is free to send ideas my way for Financials 2011 (http://www.financials2011.com/).
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  6. Dheeraj Mahajan
    Thanks Nathan ,Thats was a real good quick summary

    With regards to BCS vs BPC there seems to be lot of confusion in mArket as what I understand & concur  with Greg Misorek ,that  BCS has picked up well ( even though it was decalred dead) as BPC hasn’t really measyred upto expectation for COnsolidation functions expecially for complex holding strcutre companies & SAP has also extedned the support for BCS

    Will be interesting to understand from you why you thought BPC or BO is the nextthing for consolidation

    Rgds

    Dheeraj

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    1. Nathan Genez Post author
      My comments were based on the content at the conference and not my opinion on the market as a whole.  The conference producer (WIS) does market studies in advance so I view the conference orientation as a reasonable gauge on the market as a whole.  There were only 2 sessions on BCS as compared to the numerous BPC sessions, both lead by SAP and other consultants.
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