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Attending various sessions at the SAPInsider Financials in Orlando last week revealed several important facts about the way SAP customers work and more importantly why continuously reevaluating the status quo is the key to getting ahead in the game.

I had the privilege of attending the SAPInsider Financials show in Orlando, FL last week and unlike previous events, this show was held at the aging Dolphin and Swan Disney resort and was spread across several floors of the conference facility.

I have attended numerous Insider Financials shows in the past but this particular one returned to the concept of a Finance show for Finance professionals and the agenda contained some particularly good sessions by a variety of consultants and software houses as well as SAP.

Continuing the theme of other SAP related events, there was a great deal of discussion of HANA, predictive analytics, Lumira, Fiori and the upcoming promise of Smart Accounting, Smart Financials or the SmartGL. The news about a new way of accounting was interesting but not suprising, anyone who works with Classic or NewGL can tell you that the existing accounting solution is far from ideal for today's generation of analytics.

As with all things though, there were a number of sessions that focused on new functionality but a great many also spoke to how certain configurations inhibited certain functionality or presented a difficult operational situation to the business. This operational situation often then had to be addressed by purchasing a third party reporting solution like Global Software’s Spreadsheet Server, an add-on like SAP Fiori or an integrated automation tool like Winshuttle Transaction.

Catalysts for change

Sometimes the challenge is introduced by a changing operational landscape such as in the case of Domtar who had disparate SAP environments and challenging statistical and performance reporting and in other instances it was in direct response to a groundswell of complaints and vitriol among existing customers around usability in the case of SAP Fiori.

For Winshuttle customer Rowan Companies it quite simply came down to having to deal with an extraordinary level of data changes based on  a change in accounting policy and striving for improved tax efficiency. Members of the audience did ask why certain approaches were being used with respect to data management and it transpired that some of these were because of the way the system was configured or because of the way Rowan accounts for certain assets. Once again, bearing out that different organizations use SAP in different ways to achieve the same objectives.

Listening to customers

Attending sessions conducted by companies living the SAP experience in my opinion always carries more value than listening to a vendor spouting about product features and capabilities. In addition, I noted that the customer story sessions also seemed to be the most intensively attended suggesting that others have the same sentiments.

Customers are the kings in relating how solutions fit for the way they work or want to work and I think it is important that consultants and technologists make sure that they get a good mix of exposure to customer stories in order to understand how effectively their services and solutions are addressing the market.

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