From Excel and external accounting to SAP S/4HANA Finance in three months: Massive company growth over the past years forced the software company sovanta to implement a professional finance system.
1. The Situation
The software company sovanta grew from five employees in 2010 to more than 70 by mid-2015. Now, 110 people work there. But despite this growth, external accountants still did the accounting and were sent the printed invoices by courier every week. “We weren’t using professional business software – we worked with Microsoft Excel and co.,” says Michael Löckelt, project manager and solution architect at sovanta.
It’s no wonder that Susanne Schähfer, head of finance and controlling at sovanta, last year demanded that financial processes should be made more efficient and integration gaps eliminated. More and more documents and posting records were putting great pressure on her five-person department. She explains: “The work for internal controlling was mounting as a result of our sales growth and ever-increasing customer numbers.”
What’s more, the management team sometimes asked for figures about customers and business development, and usually wanted them “pretty quickly.” A small business had developed into a midsize enterprise.
2. The Requirements
At the end of July last year, the ERP@sovanta project team defined the requirements: independence from external accounting, the timely posting of invoices and services, and a real-time insight into the company’s figures.
“We wanted numbers and data to be accurate to the day, and we wanted to see what’s happening at the touch of a button,” Schähfer explains. “And we didn’t want to take detours via Excel spreadsheets or external accountants any more if we needed ad hoc information. Apart from that, we wanted a system that would grow with us.” The first step for Schähfer was to make the move from external accounting and do everything in-house.
3. The Decision
As a software company that’s very active in the SAP environment, the decision to implement an SAP product was a given. Furthermore, it was clear from a technology perspective that a solution powered by SAP HANA would be favored, not least due to its analytical capabilities. Ultimately, sovanta opted for the most innovative of all solutions, SAP S/4HANA Finance, not least because, as solution architect Löckelt explains, the company wants to continue to grow.
“We want to build something future-proof and deploy software that we’re familiar with in terms of how it works, and we want to profit from the latest and most modern development,” Löckelt says. What’s more, sovanta is now planning to integrate its HR processes, too – and use a solution that it actually implements at its customers. This means the adjustment of these processes won’t cause any additional external costs.
“We’ve now started something that we can carry on developing ourselves,” Löckelt explains. For the solutions commonly deployed in the midmarket, like SAP Business One or SAP Business ByDesign, it would have been necessary to build up expertise within the company or get external experts on board. “SAP S/4HANA is also competitively priced compared with other systems that are perhaps designed more for midsize enterprises,” says Löckelt. This is also down to the fact that sovanta operates the on-premise solution itself and enhancements are possible in-house.
4. The Approach
The project took just three months – from the fine-tuning of requirements with the SAP consulting firm UNIORG Consulting GmbH, which was commissioned to perform the implementation, to functional testing in the test system, the implementation of the SAP HANA server, and the first successful payment run in the company’s own new accounting system on January 19, 2016.
“We were lucky that we didn’t have a legacy system and that a complex data migration wasn’t necessary,” says Löckelt, outlining why the implementation was so fast. In addition, the sovanta employees had entered the master data themselves. “We didn’t have to do that much work manually. It was quite manageable,” adds Schähfer.
Another factor was that Schähfer’s team could adopt most of the standard processes and no custom developments were necessary, which would have meant additional developer resources and time. As soon as the year-end closing is complete for 2015, the figures from the last fiscal year will be entered in the system so that the company – including the executive board – will be able to take advantage of “top-level reporting and new comparison features,” Löckelt explains.
5. The First Tangible Benefits
Today, if the management team urgently needs up-to-date figures on business development, there’s no need to resort to Excel or even call on the services of external accountants. “The current figures can be retrieved on an ad hoc basis,” says Schähfer, who is pleased that she now has all the tools at her fingertips that “make enterprise management more precise and correct.” Postings and accounts are now available in much greater detail – a good basis for future analyses.
If the purchasing department negotiates with customers, it has immediate access to the customers’ accounts and histories. “This means we know where we can start negotiating in terms of daily rates or volumes,” Schähfer explains. She can still clearly recall how arduous the task of gathering this information used to be.
And the SAP S/4HANA standard reports are already in use. “The results are more detailed than they previously were, and they’re updated every day,” Löckelt says, who now enjoys the great benefits of being able to create evaluations whenever he wants, without having to ask anyone.
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