Optimising financial processes

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Buzzword Bingo: The Cloud Confusion Game

Whether you are a leader in Finance, Shared Services, IT, Risk management, Audit or Compliance, the promise of everything getting simpler has become a haunting concept. It’s not just the general promise of technology, it goes far beyond that to the principles of business functions and as always, the devil is in the detail…

Experience tell us things are never as good as promised or as bad as we feared. We like to take a healthy skeptic view at Consider, and our favourite image that remains relevant to a lot our business discussions is the below: Gartner Hype Cycle.

Over the years, we’ve been through this hype cycle numerous times. Problems with “islands of automation” have been addressed with “integrated ERP suites” and then more recently “cloud” has become the holy grail solution for every problem, including “struggling dinosaur on-premise” applications.

The promise of the early 2000s of a single integrated business ERP that will run the whole company proved to be a challenge. We are now firmly in the era of a hub and spoke model, focussing on best in class applications for specific functions, that plays well to cloud and SaaS opportunities.

I am haunted by the promise of “easy simplicity” for two reasons:

  • Firstly, because in practice so many variants and hybrid solutions are marketed that I sometimes get lost in who is talking about what.
  • Secondly, all business discussions are hampered by spending time verifying that all stakeholders are on the same page or worse, not verifying at all and just assuming.

If all of this has passed you by, you should be very relieved.

Let’s look at a very current example. Its far from unique, so prolific is this problem, but I will focus on one that we probably all have had some experience with: SAP.

When the term “HANA” is dropped into a meeting, it can mean any number of different things to the many people involved. Anything from the classic SAP Business Suite on HANA (“oh, just another database”), to HANA1 (“oh, an early implementation of Simple Finance”), to HANA2 (“oh, the full S/4HANA cloud suite”). And to make it even more complex, there is even an S/4HANA on-premise, as well as a Cloud and SaaS version and still of course, the old/current SAP Business Suite (that will still be around for much longer than we all think). And because of the hub and spoke model, this new architecture will not only include this core component but also a landscape of other cloud applications for T&E, Purchase to Pay, e-commerce, HR etc.

Still with me?

So, imagine you are in this meeting where the HANA term has been dropped in. We have resolved this initial confusion in our meeting and it’s time for our second cup of coffee. But hold on: what do we mean by Cloud? Single-Tenant, Multi-Tenant, Private Cloud, Pure SaaS, IaaS, PaaS? And does it matter from a business point of view? Do we have a common approach or are we actually talking about Hybrid Cloud? If you weren’t confused before, you probably are now…

It takes another 15 minutes (if you are lucky) to get everyone back on the same page and eventually we jump this confusion hurdle too.

So just before getting our next cup of coffee and starting to address the REAL business topic of the discussion, the seemingly ‘simple’ question is posed:

“So I understand you want to move from on-premise SAP Business Suite to a Private Cloud S/4HANA?”.

At this point the IT architecture expert answers: “Um, uh, eh? Sort of. We will move our ECC to S/4HANA as you said, but run the two in parallel and migrate per business line. We will keep our current on-premise BW (data warehouse) and we are already moving it to a HANA database. And of course, we have Ariba, Concur and WorkDay on other Cloud environments to communicate with. And…”

To be clear, if your central ERP is Oracle, Microsoft or Infor etc, the situation and conversations are similar…

If you make it this far, coffee is no longer sufficient and I am thinking of something much stronger…

With thanks to our COO, Hans Van Nes for this light hearted blog contribution.

Does any of this sound familiar? If this is a genuine concern and you are in need of clarity from people with some objectivity, let us know.