5 ways to improve SAP processes in 2017

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Change is hard — but organizations need to embrace change or risk falling behind the innovation curve. They can start by taking a closer look at their most important business processes.

Companies running on SAP systems -- one of the most commonly used ERP platforms, with tools for workflow management for accounts payable and receivable, order management, human resources, and more -- can benefit from improving business processes in the areas of procure-to-pay and order-to-cash, but not every business benefits from increased efficiency equally. That’s why it’s important to be flexible to better understand process flow and the specific needs of your organization.

Evolving best practices and new technologies can make it necessary to revisit outdated processes and shift the focus on value. With so many ways to improve processes, it can be difficult to decide where to start first. Here are five ways that companies can start to drive meaningful SAP process improvements:

1. Improve speed and accuracy by going paperless
Reducing paper remains a goal for companies that continue to receive a significant amount of orders and invoices through the mailroom. Existing scan and capture technology can be expensive, error prone and out-of-date. Going paperless can make processes faster, more accurate, increase operational productivity and reduce costs.

2. Automate workflows using intelligent automation
Automating workflows on its own increases the speed of processes but does not automatically improve the overall efficiency. However, when using smart applications and robotic process automation, improvements to both is possible. Applications that use artificial intelligence eliminate repetitive or redundant work and can save a significant amount of processing time, allowing businesses to focus on more valuable processing tasks.

3. Move to the cloud where appropriate
Cloud-based solutions are appealing due to their flexible pricing and modern design; however, it’s important to move to the cloud where it makes the most sense for your organization. Move consumer processes, content-centric processes or processes that are relatively self-contained to the cloud first. Additionally, moving to the SAP HANA Cloud platform will ensure seamless connectivity between on-premise systems and new cloud components.

4. Enhance order-to-cash processes
Order-to-cash processes cover a broad range of activities, across multiple departments, touching many different systems, in many different locations. This level of complexity and coordination is the greatest challenge of the process. It is also the primary reason why organizations in every industry rely on large ERP systems such as SAP to coordinate order-to-cash activities across the organization. However, even with a system of record, many organizations face challenges at each stage.

Each organization must examine the unique aspects of its order-to-cash process and uncover the specific areas and reasons why orders are blocked. In some cases, problems can be easily fixed using simple updates to existing practices; in other cases, larger process innovations may be necessary. This will help the organization prioritize changes and review which improvements will add the most value for the organization. Start by considering how each improvement will increase the accuracy, speed or transparency of the order-to-cash process.

5. Consider that value is more important than cost
Although reducing costs is important and a goal for most companies, it should not be the only factor in deciding how to improve processes. The best process improvements deliver greater efficiencies and increase value by making processes more effective, thus reducing costs. Companies should look beyond simple efficiency gains and costs savings, and determine how changes will make the process more effective and deliver better value to the company.

With these five improvements in mind, organizations can ensure that they are using technology to drive meaningful process improvements. Improvements that truly add value within SAP systems will result in significant rewards to both the finance department and the company at large.

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