That simple question – “Wait, no more Excel?” was something that I heard on a daily basis at my most recent project. A customer that relied so heavily on Excel was shocked to see how easy it was to use SAP instead of Microsoft Excel for finance operations.
After joining SAP about 3 years ago I was bombarded with buzzwords and sales type material that would tout benefits such as “streamlining processes” or “eliminate manual effort.” I quickly adopted this language and would give presentations exclaiming “SAP’s services team will do a deep dive into your core business processes and streamline these operations.” While giving these presentations I knew that at least half of the audience was thinking the same thing as me – “Well what does that actually mean?” It wasn’t until I saw a customer’s daily schedule that I truly understood what these SAP benefits meant. I watched as an AP clerk’s morning went from spending 2 hours of updating spreadsheets to 10 minutes of running SAP reports. All of the sudden, “streamlining processes” started to have some real meaning to this person.
This experience happened at a very successful apparel and footwear customer on the West Coast. Their company was growing at such a rapid pace that it was becoming harder and harder for them to keep up. Their business was now operating in 35 different countries yet many of their operational tasks were still being done manually through Excel and email. I spent my first week on the job combing through a list of over 35000 assets that was kept together by two asset accountants. By migrating all of their assets into SAP, these accountants were now able to manage fixed assets for every country allowing greater visibility and reduce manual errors in calculation. Also, automated reporting across depreciation areas for tax and external authorities made the month end and year end closing processes much easier. Depreciation runs became automatic batch runs instead of manual depreciation calculations. Asset simulation for projected depreciation made the budgeting and planning process more efficient.
In addition to a more automated system for asset accounting, the other area that needed an overhaul was global compliance. Each country was using offline Excel spreadsheets to manually manipulate data in order to comply with local regulations. In SAP, local ledgers or special GL accounts were maintained to keep statutory adjustments. By using account assignment rules, postings became automated for local GAAP requirements. Also, by leveraging SAP Best Practices, the customer was able to use various standard global reporting forms. Overall, their global finance teams could now utilize the same platform to comply with local regulations.
Because this was my first full SAP implementation it’s hard for me to judge whether this type of reaction from the customer is the norm. The one thing I do know for sure though is that if you can eliminate an hour or two of Excel work from a person’s day, they will be extremely grateful. In the grand scheme of this project the customer saw benefits well beyond a reduction in manual work. But for the finance clerks that I dealt with every day, this was the area that they appreciated the most.