In partnership with SAP Gold Partner MDS ap, The CFO Middle East hosted a roundtable discussion on the benefits of enterprise performance management solutions for the finance department.
Measuring success and failure is not as straightforward as it may seem to the untrained eye. With a whole host of KPIs needing to be taken into account, and with streams of information constantly flowing into an organisation, ‘success’ can turn into ‘failure’ within hours – or even minutes. With all this in mind, a selection of the UAE’s top CFOs gathered to discuss what they felt enterprise performance management solutions could do for their organisations.
Setting the tone for the roundtable was special guest speaker Pradeep Kumar, CFO of UAE Exchange. Kumar highlighted his experience in working with MDS ap to deploy SAP’s Business Planning and Consolidation software, which he says will bring tangible results to the remittance firm. “It’s been a great help in terms of tracking and meeting our timelines,” he says. “It’s improved our accuracy, and really enhanced our governance. Beforehand, it wasn’t uncommon to make modifications to our budget via email. Now, any change goes through the system, giving greater transparency to our governance and planning.”
He spoke highly of the support provided by MDS ap in the journey. “They were supportive in terms of meeting our deadlines, which meant they often had to work overtime,” he says. “They did a great job in supporting our domain team for budgeting and accounting and were highly knowledgeable.”
Next up was another guest speaker – Dave Jones, chairman of EPM International – who shared his insight on how EPM was a mainstay throughout any economic conditions. “EPM is almost counter-cyclical,” he said. “In a recession, its sales don’t decline, but there’s no time when it particularly booms either. It’s important that EPM software can provide accurate and efficient forecasting, giving you the budget of now, and not one of five months ago. In tough economic times, you need to quickly reflect and plan. I am a firm believer in using rolling forecasts.”
Gautam Pradhan, CFO, National Marine Dredging Company, highlighted the need for a careful and considered change management process in any EPM project. “Like any project, you have to take into account the internal user base with EPM,” he said. “We have 65-year-olds and 22-year-olds working for us; all ages have to be catered for in EPM’s usability.”
Sangeetha Nahar, Senior Manager, Finance Process and Systems, Dubai Properties Group, highlighted concerns surrounding the need for the finance department to be autonomous from IT in getting full benefits from any potential solution. “You need functional consultants in order to make it work,” she said. “IT guys don’t understand the business in the way we would like, but business guys equally don’t have the requisite understanding of systems.”
Union Properties’ CFO Murtaza Chevel agreed, saying an internal figure would be necessary for a solution to work. “It’s nice to have IT consultants who can come in and marry business and IT, but you need someone internally who can oversee this process,” he said. “If there is a problem with IT then you often will only hear excuses, but if there’s an issue with payroll, then they understand very clearly.”
Anthony Murphy, CFO of United Arab Bank, believed that the finance industry has reached a turning point in terms of EPM solutions. “It’s clearly a time for change in this respect,” he said. “Now more than ever, we need enhanced dashboards, new strategies and new annual budget processes. Data is still very finance-heavy; we need tools for financial and non-financial information.” Murphy went on to highlight how timely data was a necessity. “Quite often, by the time data is pulled it can be out of date,” he said. “If information is not available by working day five then you cannot act on it.”