Inc. Magazine Unveils Its Annual List of America’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies—the Inc. 5000

TruQua Enterprises Ranks No. 2667 on the 2019 Inc. 5000
With Three-Year Revenue Growth of 145% Percent

CHICAGO, August 19, 2019Inc. magazine  revealed last week that TruQua Enterprises is No. 2667 on its annual Inc. 5000 list, the most prestigious ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies. The list represents a unique look at the most successful companies within the American economy’s most dynamic segment—its independent small businesses. Microsoft, Dell, Domino’s Pizza, Pandora, Timberland, LinkedIn, Yelp, Zillow, and many other well-known names gained their first national exposure as honorees on the Inc. 5000.

“We are excited to have experienced another year of fast growth” said David Dixon, one of the Partners of TruQua Enterprises. “Making the Inc. 5000 ranking once again serves as testament that we are effectively serving the needs of our customers and ecosystem.”

On the inclusion in this year’s list, Scott Cairncross commented, “We are honored to be recognized by such a distinguished institution for a second year. Our growth is a testament to our corporate culture and the core values behind it.”

Not only have the companies on the 2019 Inc. 5000 (which are listed online at Inc.com, with the top 500 companies featured in the September issue of Inc., available on newsstands August 20) been very competitive within their markets, but the list as a whole shows staggering growth compared with prior lists. The 2019 Inc. 5000 achieved an astounding three-year average growth of 454 percent, and a median rate of 157 percent. The Inc. 5000’s aggregate revenue was $237.7 billion in 2018, accounting for 1,216,308 jobs over the past three years.

Chicago-based TruQua Enterprises is an IT services, consulting, and licensed SAP development partner that specializes in providing “True Quality” SAP solutions to Fortune 500 companies with integrated, end-to-end analytic solutions.

Through project management, software innovation, thought leadership, implementation and deployment strategies, TruQua’s team delivers high-value services through its proprietary knowledge base of software add-ons, development libraries, best practices, solution research and blueprint designs. TruQua provides boutique consulting and software development services for Fortune 500 companies who organize and analyze their financials using SAP, allowing them to have greater visibility into how their company is running.

Complete results of the Inc. 5000, including TruQua’s company profile, and an interactive database that can be sorted by industry, region, and other criteria, can be found at https://www.inc.com/profile/truqua-enterprises.

“The companies on this year’s Inc. 5000 have followed so many different paths to success,” says Inc. editor in chief James Ledbetter. “There’s no single course you can follow or investment you can take that will guarantee this kind of spectacular growth. But what they have in common is persistence and seizing opportunities.”

The annual Inc. 5000 event honoring the companies on the list will be held October 10 to 12, 2019, at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort and Spa in Phoenix, Arizona. As always, speakers include some of the greatest innovators and business leaders of our generation.

CONTACT:        
Allison Murtagh
Marketing
TruQua Enterprises
allison.murtagh@truqua.com

More about Inc. and the Inc. 5000
Methodology
The 2019 Inc. 5000 is ranked according to percentage revenue growth when comparing 2015 and 2018. To qualify, companies must have been founded and generating revenue by March 31, 2015. They had to be U.S.-based, privately held, for profit, and independent—not subsidiaries or divisions of other companies—as of December 31, 2018. (Since then, a number of companies on the list have gone public or been acquired.) The minimum revenue required for 2015 is $100,000; the minimum for 2018 is $2 million. As always, Inc. reserves the right to decline applicants for subjective reasons. Companies on the Inc. 500 are featured in Inc.’s September issue. They represent the top tier of the Inc. 5000, which can be found at http://www.inc.com/inc5000.

 About Inc. Media
Founded in 1979 and acquired in 2005 by Mansueto Ventures, Inc. is the only major brand dedicated exclusively to owners and managers of growing private companies, with the aim to deliver real solutions for today’s innovative company builders. Inc. took home the National Magazine Award for General Excellence in both 2014 and 2012. The total monthly audience reach for the brand has been growing significantly, from 2,000,000 in 2010 to more than 20,000,000 today. For more information, visit www.inc.com.

The Inc. 5000 is a list of the fastest-growing private companies in the nation. Started in 1982, this prestigious list has become the hallmark of entrepreneurial success. The Inc. 5000 Conference & Awards Ceremony is an annual event that celebrates the remarkable achievements of these companies. The event also offers informative workshops, celebrated keynote speakers, and evening functions.

For more information on Inc. and the Inc. 5000 Conference, visit http://conference.inc.com/.

5 Tips for Creating and Designing Digital Boardrooms

Authors:
Nicole Aragon, Consulting Intern

Treeank Patnaik, Consulting Intern
JS Irick, Director of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence

When highly informed business decisions are needed, executives and key decision-makers are often faced with the complexity of having to refer to separate reporting solutions which often present isolated and static business data. 

To help organizations overcome this challenge, SAP has brought to market the SAP Digital Boardroom. A one-of-a-kind solution that harmonizes the view of an organization’s operations across all lines of business. The Digital Boardroom is an easy-to-consume, 3 touch screen touch setup that provides the means for more efficient and collaborative decision-making.

Image Source: SAP

Once an organization decides to embark on a Digital Boardroom initiative, it is essential that each boardroom is designed to be flexible, provide a collaborative reporting and analysis environment, is capable of handling digressions, and provides detail for a variety of job roles and goals. Here are 5 tips from TruQua on how to build and design a Digital Boardroom that will meet the needs of your organization.

Tip #1: Revisit Previous Meetings 
When debuting any new technology, it is critical to not demonstrate any gaps when compared to existing processes. Either through interviewing an attendee, or by reviewing the published minutes from the meeting, get an understanding of the content covered in previous meetings. Look for details in three key areas.

  • What information was presented, and at what level?
  • What were the follow up action items from an analysis perspective and can these action items be achieved quickly in your digital boardroom? 
  • What opportunities exist to bring in non-financial data sources? Were details from operations, HR, R&D, customer relations or production a major part of the meeting, and could they be integrated into the digital boardroom to provide a more holistic view of the organization?

Tip #2: Determine “Analysis Paths” 
Based on the presented information in the previous meeting, what were the follow up questions asked?  These questions can fit into one of three groups:

  • Drill down based questions such as, “How did each product line perform?”.
  • Filtering based questions such as “How are doing in South America?”
  • What-if analysis/simulation such as “What if we increase marketing spend?”.

Typically, you can theme pages in your Digital Boardroom to encompass these question areas. Depending on the data and dimensions available, you can create charts and graphics to view overall performance for products and sales channels or do an analysis strictly on operational reporting.  

By using the Linked Analysis function, drilling down in a chart will update all elements of the page to show a more granular and focused view of performance. Similarly, choosing the right filters can offer new perspectives and effectively handle potential questions in each of these areas. 

Shown below is a Digital Boardroom built to track a company’s financials across channels and products considering different expenses and revenue. As you can see, by drilling down on Product Type 3 in the Cost of Revenue Pie Chart, the rest of the page updates to display the same overall analysis for Product Type 3 and performance for the products within that product type.

Tip #3: Create a Filtering and Navigation Strategy

Based on the analysis paths determined, create a filtering strategy for your digital boardroom. Should filtering be done at the boardroom, page or chart level? If filtering is to be done at the boardroom or page level, use Linked Analysis to trigger the proper overall filtering when an individual chart is filtered. Similarly, make a strategy for navigation across pages.

In a lot of instances, adding page filters will be the best strategy for your digital board room. If you have a page in your digital boardroom already dedicated to analyzing channel and product performance, it wouldn’t be efficient to have a filter for channel or product at the boardroom level even if there are other parts of the boardroom that could be filtered by these dimensions. If we have a page dedicated to operational reporting, filtering by channel and products could bring valuable insights whereas in a page dedicated to product and channel performance, other things may bring better analysis such as filtering by region or customers. 

Adding filters on the Digital Boardroom level is usually most fitting when performing analyses on different and unrelated versions of data. An example of this could be when working with different customers or comparing performance across different years.  

Tip #4:  Champion Training 

Prepare training specific to your Digital Boardroom for the person who will be “driving” the meeting. The most effective training will leverage the conclusions from reviewing the previous meeting in order to train on the exact questions generated during the previous meeting. This not only ensures that the digital boardroom created will hit the mark, it also allows the presenter to build confidence using the tool. It may be helpful to have this person practice teaching the tool to less technical colleagues to pinpoint which areas are harder to understand and will need to be elaborated on more.

Allow the champion to become comfortable with the filtering and navigation strategy. They should be capable of understanding how to use a relatively data dense screen such as the one below and drive to the necessary data the attendees need.

Tip #5: Presentation and Review

After a successful meeting, it is valuable to review what worked well, and which aspects of the Digital Boardroom can be leveraged to enable self-service analytics across the organization. Charts, visualizations and scenario tools can be broken out into distinct stories or integrated into existing analysis processes. 

Conclusion

Digital Boardrooms are custom solutions to complex business problems used for reporting and analysis. There is no uniform template or guide for exactly how a Digital Boardroom should be built or what exactly it should look like but following these 5 tips can ensure your Digital Boardroom is useful and effective.

About our authors:

Nicole Aragon

Nicole Aragon

Consulting Intern

Nicole Aragon is a Senior at the University of Texas at Austin, where she studies Management Information Systems in the McCombs School of Business. She plans on continuing her experience working in data science after college.

Treeank Patnaik

Treeank Patnaik

Consulting Intern

Treeank Patnaik is a Consulting Intern at TruQua, working on improving business intelligence by using advanced analytics and machine learning software. He is currently pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, along with certificates in Applied Statistical Modeling and Foundations of Business Administration. 

JS Irick

JS Irick

Director of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence

JS Irick has the best job in the world; working with a talented team to solve the toughest business challenges.  JS is an internationally recognized speaker on the topics of Machine Learning, SAP Planning, SAP S/4HANA and Software development. As the Director of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence at TruQua, JS has built best practices for SAP implementations in the areas of SAP HANA, SAP S/4HANA reporting, and SAP S/4HANA customization.     

For more information on the SAP Digital Boardroom and how it can help streamline the way in which your organization views, analyzes, and presents its business data to key decision makers, contact TruQua using the form below. 

 

Central Finance Exchange Customer Survey: Key Business Objectives and Priorities of leading SAP Central Finance Customers

This past June, TruQua, in collaboration with Magnitude SourceConnect and SAP, hosted the annual SAP Central Finance Exchange event in New York City at SAP Hudson Yards office.

This year’s event brought together 40 Finance and IT professionals representing 11 different companies and provided the opportunity for these individuals to connect, listen, learn, and share experiences, related to their Central Finance deployments and planned innovations.

Leading up to the Central Finance Exchange, SAP conducted a survey to better understand the audience’s current landscape, business priorities, and objectives for Central Finance to help drive the discussions at the event.

SAP Central Finance Exchange Company Profiles
At this year’s event 6 industries were represented, with Consumer Goods/Appliances (33%) representing the largest portion. Organization sizes varied from 0 – 25,000 employees (33%) to more than 100,000 employees (40%).

While most of the attendees were based in the North American region, 89% of those surveyed identified themselves as being a part of global organizations.

All of the projects (100%) are integrating non-SAP systems as part of their initiative, with JD Edwards and Oracle being highlighted as the most prominent non-SAP systems.

Central Finance Business Priorities and Project Goals
Respondents shared their business priorities, which included the key driving factors of Speed & Efficiency (100%), Transparency & Accountability (78%), Operating Costs & Productivity (56%), Strategy & Planning to Execution (30%), Revenue (11%), and Service Level (11%).

As it relates to Central Finance goals, the top performers included Application/System Consolidation (78%) Finance/Business Transformation (78%), Central Finance as a Stepping Stone to S/4HANA (67%), Application/System Consolidation (57%), and Shared Services Process Executions (56%).

In addition, Central Finance business objectives that ranked the highest among the group included Cross-Entity Reporting, Single Source of Truth (100%), Process Standardization (78%) and an Advanced Finance Data Model (100%).

Live and Targeted Solutions
As it relates to SAP Central Finance live and targeted solutions, Intercompany Reconciliation was listed as a planned solution above the rest (78%). Financial/Management Reporting, Business Analytics (33%) was the most popular live solutions. From there Accounts Receivables/Accounts Payable (22%), Real-time Consolidation/Group Close (22%), and Financial Accounting/Entity Close (22%) were evenly distributed.

Conclusion
This year’s Central Finance Exchange proved to be a wonderful opportunity for customers to connect and share challenges, successes, and ideas among their peers. TruQua and Magnitude will be sponsoring the European version of this event this September in Berlin, so we’re looking forward to gaining even more insights!

For the latest information and updates on SAP Central Finance, contact the TruQua team today at info@truqua.com.

New Perspective Blog Series: Achieving Success in Recruiting and Talent Development

Welcome to TruQua’s New Perspectives blog series.  This blog series provides a platform for our consultants to share their perspectives, insights, and experiences on emerging technologies such as SAP HANA and SAP Analytics Cloud. 

As this is our fifth installment of New Perspectives, we are mixing it up a bit. Today we are not speaking with a Consultant, but instead with a critical member of our management team – Stephanie Hettrich. Stephanie is the Director of Recruitment for TruQua and has been incredibly successful in her 20 years of experience in recruiting, talent development, marketing, and business development. This should be an interesting read for SAP customers, as well as current and prospective consultants.

 

Perspective 1:
Cultivating a Diverse Team

JS Irick:  As anyone who has built something more complex than an Ikea dresser knows, diversity leads to stronger organizations. The ability to draw on different experiences and different skill sets leads to more flexibility and better overall project results than homogeneous teams can provide. On any large enterprise IT project, there is at a minimum the need for expertise in the customer’s business area, computer science, accounting, finance, and mathematics.

Stephanie, I am consistently impressed with your ability to recruit diverse talent, both in terms of background and cultural origin. How do you go about identifying this talent, and what do you do to ensure a good corporate culture fit? I’d be especially interested in any insights you have on foreign or neuro-atypical talent.                

Stephanie Hettrich: Resumes are the most common currency for any job applicant trying to get their foot in the door with hiring managers. I personally think what a person portrays on paper is often misrepresentative of what he/she really brings to the table, or worse, misaligned with other skills that can’t translate on a resume. I tend to zero in on the summary applicants write about themselves and pay less attention to the ensuing details. The personal story people can write reveals far more than chronological job history descriptions. If the hard skills match the role at hand and the resume is succinct (one-page resumes with a smart layout and key points beat endless pages of data any day!), the next key qualifier is how well they engage with me during the recruiting process: Are they responsive and timely in communications? Can they write professional emails? Is their level of enthusiasm and drive palpable in communications leading up to their interview? Everything communicates, and I value this process as a key qualifier when searching for new “unknown” talent.

TruQua is also extremely well connected in the SAP world. LinkedIn plays a key role in revealing who knows whom, and their respective connection paths. This is a driving search criterium for me and one I rely on quite a bit. I don’t use any other search platform outside of LinkedIn as it occupies a reign supreme for professional recruiters, but more importantly because the best talent is on LinkedIn whether they’re actively looking for new opportunities or not. Some of the best finds are the result of passive searches on LinkedIn, where I can leverage connections with our current employees. Additionally, as a top social media platform, LinkedIn also allows for wide-ranging searches across the globe, hence allowing us to find top international talent.

The pre-screener is the first one-on-one interaction between applicants and TruQua. I like to start off this meeting by letting candidates know I am looking to get to know them better, as well as answer any questions they may have. Allowing recruits to feel comfortable usually reveals who they really are and avoids perfunctory, rehearsed answers. Once nerves are calm and I make candidates feel comfortable, I like to dive into behavioral questions that allow me to best evaluate culture fit along with our internal motto of “Smart Driven Nice.” Here I’m assessing EQ more than anything else; not hard skills as this is further drilled down during technical interviews. Also, we believe at TruQua that “culture eats strategy for lunch” so this is a pre-requisite to moving on to the next level. At this point, my goal is to glean more out of the individual than what appears on his/her resume. Some of the questions I ask for example are:

SMART:
Gives us a piece of feedback you recently received from your boss that depicts something about you we may not read on your resume.

DRIVEN:
Describe a good hustle you went through at work or in your own life.

NICE:
What do you consider the nicest skill you possess?

As to diversity, no doubt it enriches a company’s culture and skills across the board. As an intimate firm, we represent 12 countries with employees from Mexico, Brazil, China, Korea, Rwanda, South Africa, Argentina, France, India, Lithuania, Moldova, Taiwan. This rich mix of cultures is rare for in any company, let alone a small start-up like TruQua.

We also take a very holistic approach to our recruiting and talent development to promote diversification of skills. We believe great consultants need to know how to speak to both CFOs and CIOs at any large organization. Our consultants are encouraged to continuously grow and acquire news skills around four key areas: Functional (finance, accounting, business), Technical (all-things-SAP-Finance but mostly latest & greatest on a continuum), Business Development (pre-selling and selling), Project Management (knowing how projects are run from blueprint to reporting).

As to further diversifying our talent pool, the two big areas of opportunity would be:

  1. Hiring more female consultants. The fields of IT and Consulting have historically been predominantly male, especially in the U.S. Times are changing, however, and younger children are learning how to code as early as elementary school. Girls are also bolstered and encouraged to get into STEM fields through visionary organizations like org, Girls Who Code, Kode with Klossie etc. The gender chasm in what used to be a male-only vocation is closing, and we want to further represent this progressive mindset and positive change.
  2. Hiring neuro-atypical talent. I would personally love to embark upon this next frontier (1) as a mother of a child with autism and (2) given SAP is a huge investor in hiring Differently Abled People:

At SAP, we believe that differently abled does not mean unable. Differently abled individuals are typically able to find unique and innovative solutions to challenges. Their perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds support the diversity SAP needs to achieve our strategic objectives. Our focus is on skills and strengths, rather than what others may see as impairments. This view has helped us see new possibilities. SAP’s internationally recognized Autism at Work program, operating in 13 countries, shows this commitment, employing more than 160 colleagues with autism. By embracing differences, we help spark innovation — while challenging assumptions and inspiring change.

JS Irick: Perfectly said. I am so happy you mentioned Girls Who Code. In my work supporting underrepresented communities in tech, the number one intervention was simply showing positive role models. The work of charities like Girls Who Code and My Block, My Hood, My City (formyblock.org) are transformational.

 

 

Perspective 2:
Getting into Consulting

JS Irick: Our Data Science summer interns started last week, and one of my key goals is to help prepare them for their eventual job search. A big part of this is the preparation of their project and writing portfolio so they can go into an interview with concrete examples of their work. Obviously, this comes from my perspective as an interviewer and manager, I’d like to hear your perspective from the recruiting and talent development side.

Stephanie Hettrich: Without a doubt, concrete examples of work are a great measure of a candidate’s current stock and future potential. As I mentioned before, resumes only reveal so much, but the same could be said about interviews. When you think about it, interviews are similar to being up on stage and putting on your best act; rehearsing lines, dressing up, memorizing questions and thus not necessarily reflecting your real self. On the other hand, seeing actual work says much more about what candidates can actually do. It’s the difference between saying what you can do versus seeing the end-result of it.

JS Irick: Knowing what you know now, put yourself in the shoes of a College Sophomore. What would be your strategy to best prepare yourself for a consulting career?

Stephanie Hettrich: There are no undergraduate degrees that teach consulting, let alone SAP consulting. That said, the SAP Finance portfolio of products has evolved from being purely technical to being much more functional over the past few years, especially with S/4HANA and Central Finance playing such key roles in the market. As such, I would say majoring in Finance, Accounting or Business would offer a great foundation to learning the functional side of SAP consulting. On the other hand, Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Applied Mathematics, Economics/Econometrics, Data Processing using algorithms are great fields of study to learn the purely technical side of SAP software. MIS is likely the closest hybrid between technical and functional ability that resembles the core skills needed to learn what we do. Regardless of hard skills or college majors, however, SAP consulting can really only be learned on the job as consulting is a way of life in and of itself. It also requires myriad soft skills and EQ, which is seldom learned at a college level. We take great pride in offering our very own TruQua TONE – Training and Orientation for New Employees – to cover the fundamentals of SAP and Consulting over 3 intensive weeks of hands-on courses.

Perspective 3:
Career Development

JS Irick: At TruQua, we take a tremendous amount of pride in the growth and development of our employees. I consider the first year on the team to be a transformative one, not only for new hires but for newly hired senior team members as well. We are in an industry that moves incredibly quickly, in order to provide long term stability and growth for our team members it is imperative that we provide the ability to consistently upskill.

What can organizations do to ensure an environment where their team can continually grow?

Stephanie Hettrich: Our people are our best asset. It is thus paramount that we allow our talent to continuously develop their skills set, as well as advance their careers in a direction that is meaningful to them. We’re lucky that our Leadership is obsessed with always being cutting edge with SAP technology and its advances in the market. By extension, our company ethos is about constant learning and always running ahead of the technology (1) to be highly competitive and relevant in the market and (2) to foresee how we can pivot our internal skills set accordingly. It trickles down from above, but it also requires access to the right people at SAP in order to gain the right knowledge and resources. As a trusted SAP partner, we pride ourselves on cultivating key relationships, growing our network of connections by regularly attending and speaking at marquee SAP conferences around the globe, investing in R&D, as well as exponentially increasing our marketing presence across strategic channels. All these efforts have made our reputation and brand name as a premium provider of bleeding edge SAP Finance software and services stronger than ever. As we grow externally, it is imperative that we synergize efforts internally by giving our consultants access to the newest learning tools. In parallel, we strive to align key skills sets with our consultants’ areas of interest to capitalize on their core strengths and passions for optimal future development. In order to get there, we promote open and regular internal communications, mentor assignments, regular check-ins with consultants of a higher ranking, and regular internal training. These initiatives are done as a complement to our formal yearly performance review process so as to ensure consultants can grow and learn new skills based on their own subjective drive, versus as a product of management goals.

JS Irick: That’s an inspiring answer! You recruit based not only on a person’s current capabilities but their potential as well. What is one way in which you identify candidates that will continue to grow and excel?

Stephanie Hettrich: TruQua gives a lot of autonomy to its employees. There is a lot of work to do, deadlines to meet, pressure and stress to endure, but the most common goal amongst our employees is to achieve “weightlessness,” an internal concept that promotes quality, diligence, and self-efficacy. Weightlessness is about seeking out new skills in order to advance to new levels of professionalism. It is about increasing one’s strengths so that ever-greater challenges can be surpassed once previous struggles are mastered and newly gained knowledge is internalized along the way. Through weightlessness, anyone can grow and make an impact at TruQua no matter their background, tenure or previous experience. I see potential in people who embody weightlessness in all its forms: By going outside of their comfort zone to learn new skills, by conquering complex problems that involve struggle, by selflessly making time for their teammates to teach them those same steps, by volunteering to alleviate a colleagues’ workload even if the work isn’t directly in line with a given workstream. You can do a good job of staying in your lane, but you can do a great job by facing ambiguity. Those who grow and excel usually take on new challenges first and foremost for the betterment of the team, and secondarily for themselves.

JS Irick: Stephanie, thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. Your answers were both incredibly detailed and truly aspirational. We are so proud of the team you have helped to build at TruQua, and I hope this discussion helps other organizations build stronger, more inclusive groups. Thanks so much for sharing your expertise, and I look forward to our future discussions.

About our contributors:

Stephanie Hettrich

Stephanie Hettrich

Director of Recruiting

Stephanie Hettrich has been spearheading Recruiting at TruQua Enterprises, LLC since the company’s inception. With expertise in relationship management, communications, marketing, and project management, Stephanie has leveraged her skills to find talent and manage TruQua’s growing team of experts.

JS Irick

JS Irick

Director of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence

JS Irick has the best job in the world; working with a talented team to solve the toughest business challenges.  JS is an internationally recognized speaker on the topics of Machine Learning, SAP Planning, SAP S/4HANA and Software development. As the Director of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence at TruQua, JS has built best practices for SAP implementations in the areas of SAP HANA, SAP S/4HANA reporting, and SAP S/4HANA customization.     

Thank you for reading this installment in our New Perspectives blog series. Stay tuned for our next post where we will be talking to TruQua Interns Nicole Aragon and Treeank Patnaik on breaking into consulting and learning new technologies.

For more information on TruQua’s services and offerings, visit us online at www.truqua.com. To be notified of future blog posts and be included on our email list, please complete the form below.

 

Engaging Experiential Data (x-data) in Financial Planning

Authors:
Nicole Aragon, Consulting Intern

Treeank Patnaik, Consulting Intern
JS Irick, Director of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence

Bill McDermott’s SAPPHIRE keynote focused on the Experience Economy – how businesses must enrich their financial and operational processes with customer feedback. To quote McDermott, “Experience is now the organizing principle of the global economy”. This blog will examine how experiential data or (X-Data), can be combined with operational data or (O-Data) and how SAP Analytics Cloud, in turn, supports the concurrent analysis of multiple data sources (“Data Blending”) to create more powerful analytic applications for the Experience Economy.

To show the power of blending X-Data and O-Data, we will review data from the 10 highest grossing movies of the summer. Our operational data set includes box office performance, ticket sales, and production cost data for each of the films.  (“Information courtesy of Box Office Mojo. Used with permission.” – see more great movie analysis at boxofficemojo.com). For our experiential data set, social media postings for each movie are analyzed based on data collected from Twitter (i.e.- keywords, hashtags, and the Twitter handles). Utilizing a Machine Learning technique called Natural Language Processing (NLP), we’re able to understand the emotion present in each tweet (this is also called sentiment analysis) and by combining the NLP analysis and location data, we can then begin to understand how each market is reacting to the various films.

To account for the informal language used on Twitter, the NLP library used in this analysis weighs capitalization, punctuation, and emojis. Including these features in the analysis of sentiment allows it to be as accurate as possible.

 

Data Blending

SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC) allows any number of local or remote data sources to be present in a given story, allowing analysts to avoid the data silos which are often present in legacy reporting tools.  SAC can join separate models together based on their corresponding dimensions in a process referred to as, Data Blending. This process makes it possible to draw conclusions from one model in relation to another and to identify patterns that can be used to establish a correlation between two sets of data. By linking the sentiment analysis model to the box office performance model, it is possible to analyze how the financial performance of a movie is influenced by the customer experience.

SAC makes it incredibly simple to couple models based on similar dimensions between them. For instance, we were able to link our Twitter and box office data models by their dimensions related to movie titles and dates.

By linking these two models and blending their data, visualizations can be created in SAC that displays information from both simultaneously. This allows us to discover connections on a larger scale, and focus on specific elements within each model. In the visualization below, the financial metrics of approximate ticket sales and studio revenue are contextualized and presented alongside a graphic related to the volume of posts made on Twitter and their overall sentiments.  This uniform presentation makes it possible to then observe our X-Data and O-Data for individual movies and examine the relationship between their financial and social media metrics. For instance, the first image below shows data for the movie Booksmart, while the second shows the same data, but for the movie Brightburn.

Visualization displaying box office and social media data for the movie Booksmart.

Visualization displaying box office and social media data for the movie Brightburn.

 

Reporting

Combining these two streams of data with the modeling capabilities of SAC allows for the creation of robust visualizations, which can be used to more effectively examine relationships within the data and provide context for key business problems. These visualizations provide an avenue for furthering the insights generated by the models created in SAC and offer a means of integrating predictive analytics technology with already existing data.

 

Certain functionalities allow for the creation of charts showing financial measures, such as unit sales, and measure them against Twitter sentimentality. This allows for the analysis of patterns that may predict the performance of a product. For instance, in the case of the movie Pokémon Detective Pikachu, a high volume of tweets that were predominantly positive were immediately followed by a spike in ticket sales.

By mapping the number of Tweets posted that associated with specific films across days in the month of June, we can see how overall Twitter activity related to each movie varies as days go by. As demonstrated, this visual can display this data for the entire month of June but can be effortlessly adjusted to do so by day in order to offer more detailed insights. The visual language capabilities of SAC allow for this relationship to be expressed in a distribution chart that not only utilizes engaging aesthetic elements but takes advantage of these elements to communicate information directly and effectively.

Modeling in SAC also allows for geo-enrichment, after which data can be presented in dynamic map visuals such as the one above. This map contains two layers of information related to our X-Data and O-Data. The size of each bubble indicates how many tweets related to our set of movies were posted in each country, while the shading of each country indicates the average positivity of these tweets in that region. The visualization separates the data in a way that makes it easy to measure activity by region and displays it in a coherent and interesting manner. In the same way that other charts can be filtered to highlight relevant data, these maps can be altered to focus on specific geographical areas or movies.

Map filtered to show global social media activity related to only the Pokémon Detective Pikachu movie.

 

Conclusion

Within this blog, we have examined some of the powerful ways in which experiential data can be used to better understand operational performance. Using SAP Analytics Cloud, we can visualize these insights and easily follow trends over time as well as compare them to different metrics, driving “Experiential KPIs”. Collaborative Enterprise Planning with SAC replaces data and process silos with seamless collaboration to present and analyze data from different angles. The visualizations presented to allow for greater discovery of patterns and causation that may have been previously hidden in large spreadsheets, divided among separate department and buried in vast amounts of data. With the facilitated discovery, drawing insight becomes less of a challenge and easier to transform into planning and solutions. The experiential economy is won and lost on data insights, and the analysis shown today are just some of the ways to achieve those insights.

This blog was created by TruQua’s Summer 2019 Interns, Nicole Aragon, and Treaank Patnaik. Stay tuned for our upcoming “Movie Watch” blogs, where we will continue to analyze social media trends for this summer’s hottest films.

About our authors:

Nicole Aragon

Nicole Aragon

Consulting Intern

Nicole Aragon is a Senior at the University of Texas at Austin, where she studies Management Information Systems in the McCombs School of Business. She plans on continuing her experience working in data science after college.

Treeank Patnaik

Treeank Patnaik

Consulting Intern

Treeank Patnaik is a Consulting Intern at TruQua, working on improving business intelligence by using advanced analytics and machine learning software. He is currently pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, along with certificates in Applied Statistical Modeling and Foundations of Business Administration. 

JS Irick

JS Irick

Director of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence

JS Irick has the best job in the world; working with a talented team to solve the toughest business challenges.  JS is an internationally recognized speaker on the topics of Machine Learning, SAP Planning, SAP S/4HANA and Software development. As the Director of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence at TruQua, JS has built best practices for SAP implementations in the areas of SAP HANA, SAP S/4HANA reporting, and SAP S/4HANA customization.     

Editor’s Note

TruQua is currently hosting a closed beta for the Social Media analytics tools described in this article.  If you are interested in joining the beta program, please contact js.irick@truqua.com

 

Movie Sources

Aladdin, Directed by Guy Ritchie. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6139732/

Brightburn, directed by David Yarovesky. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7752126/

Booksmart, Directed by Olivia Wilde. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1489887

Pokémon Detective Pikachu, Directed by Rob Letterman. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5884052

For more information on TruQua’s services and offerings, visit us online at www.truqua.com. To be notified of future blog posts and be included on our email list, please complete the form below.

 

New Perspectives Blog Series: Digital Transformation with SAP S/4HANA

Welcome to TruQua’s New Perspectives blog series.  This blog series provides a platform for our consultants to share their perspectives, insights, and experiences on emerging technologies such as SAP HANA and SAP Analytics Cloud. 

Today we are speaking with TruQua Senior Consultant, Trainer, and Speaker, Matt Montes. Matt specializes in digital financial transformation, using the Central Finance deployment option to help customers leverage the financial and controlling components SAP S/4HANA without disrupting their current landscape.

 

 

Perspective 1: Looking Back to ECC

JS Irick: Matt, you represent a new generation in that you started your consulting career just before Simple Finance was released, so you are one of the first industry experts who “Grew Up” with S/4HANA. Obviously, you spend a lot of time with previous ERP versions working with Central Finance, as well as needing to communicate effectively with business stakeholders who are in the system day-to-day. There are hundreds of articles about what people with extensive ECC 6.0 think of S/4HANA, but I’d like to flip that on its head. What is your perception of ECC 6.0?

Matt Montes: This is a great question, especially in the context of how my SAP career started. My first implementation as an SAP consultant was actually a BPC Standard (10.0) Financial Consolidation project for one of the largest utility companies in Texas. To provide some context here, this project dealt with 55+ company codes and an enormous amount of master data. As you can imagine, I was in SAP terminology overload and immediately overwhelmed. Insert ECC6.0. Once I gained access to ECC I realized that all the information I needed was at my disposal, and quickly began analyzing and dissecting the Enterprise Structure.

From here I was able to better understand how SAP modeled core FI concepts (Company Code, G/L Account, Version) and tie them back to BPC. This was my lightbulb moment per se, which allowed me to start connecting the dots between the various financial modules and their integration points.

Taking what I learned in FI and figuring out how that tied into the Controlling and Logistics modules allowed me to gain a more holistic understanding of ECC. ECC to me is a revolutionary ERP that can be strategically leveraged to improve financial proficiency throughout an organization. Today’s strategic conversations are hyper-focused on S/4HANA being the next generation ERP, specifically for those organizations looking to undergo a financial transformation and gain the benefits of a relational database, real-time centralized financials, and a unified financial table (ACDOCA). However, I will argue that without the core concepts and modules within ECC, S/4HANA wouldn’t be as profound as it is today. This is bolstered by the fact that when I deliver customer demos of S/4HANA I tend to focus on the Fiori user experience, as this is an added benefit to the core concepts and modules that the customer is already used to in ECC” Ultimately, my perception of ECC is that it is the foundation for what an ERP should be, while simultaneously allowing S/4HANA to build upon that core foundation and deliver additional value.

JS Irick:  I love the positive take.  ECC stands as a true technical accomplishment, weathering major infrastructure, network, architecture and industry changes. It is refreshing to hear someone talk about the benefits of S/4HANA without denigrating the parts of ECC that have aged poorly.

You talk about three key benefits – being on a relational database, real-time centralized financials, and the Universal Journal.  Frankly, all three are critical, can you dive down on one of them a bit more to give our readers some more insights?

Matt Montes: Absolutely. As you are aware, financial reporting in ECC today can be quite convoluted as there are a variety of tables that house actuals data (BSEG, BKPF, COEP, COBK, FAGLFLEXA, etc). This often leads to a BW driven reporting solution with multiple cubes pointed to multiple tables, and data is loaded via batch jobs. The Universal Journal (ACDOCA) is a game-changing concept as it allows enterprises to persist all of their actuals data in one central table, which is a stark contrast to the complexity associated with a BW reporting solution. In addition to housing actuals data in one universal table, the data is also written to ACDOCA in real-time, which eliminates the need for batch jobs and provides the business with quick access to their data. Centralized reporting and real-time data can significantly increase how businesses operate and conduct their financial reporting and analytics.

 

 

Perspective 2: Hidden Advantages of SAP S/4HANA

JS Irick: With its strategically limited scope and replication-based architecture, Central Finance implementations are an order of magnitude faster than a full-blown S/4HANA rollout. This means users get into the system on live data fast. Based on the compressed timeline, I would expect the transition to the Universal Journal and Fiori based applications to be even more refreshing. Everyone’s S/4HANA talk track seems the same “single source of truth, profitability on all dimensions, role-based mobile enabled user experience, etc. etc.”. What are some of the S/4HANA advantages in process, UX, reporting or operation that doesn’t get enough press in your opinion? Sell me on S/4, “What nobody mentions, but you’ll love is ______”.

Matt Montes: There are some benefits of S/4HANA that are going to steal the headlines, such as increased performance, coding block simplification, digital core, and unified financials. However, those benefits barely scratch the surface on what makes S/4HANA the ERP of the future. Fiori gets a lot of praise, rightfully so, but the praise usually highlights the tile-based user experience or mobile accessibility. What isn’t as talked about is the innate drill-down functionality and linkage amongst the financial tiles.

For example, within Fiori, a financial analyst can select from a variety of tiles such as display financial balances, display financial line items, manage journal entries, or journal entry analyzer. However, if they were to start with the financial balances tile (summary level data), they can seamlessly drill-down to the line items without having to open another tab or access a different tile. Furthermore, from the line item tile, the end user can now manage journals from a specific document or run a journal entry analyzer report. To me, this adds an enormous amount of value for the financial analyst or accountant who needs quick and easy access to their data. When accessing data via ECC or S/4HANA you are susceptible to multiple sessions and multiple TCODES to access data, and this isn’t efficient nor effective. Everybody talks about “single source of truth”, but doesn’t mention the operational benefits of having an actual, plan, and consolidated data spread across ACDOCA, ACDOCP, and ACDOCU. Think about the reporting landscape today for an ECC environment, which is almost always a batch process populating various BW cubes in which reports are subsequently built off of. In addition to the batch processing causing a delay in real-time reporting, there is also a concern of reconciling the data in ECC vs what was loaded into the BW cubes. The operational benefits of having three core financial tables with actual, plan, and consolidated data persisted in real-time, which can then be queried through Analysis for Office, Fiori, or CDS views is unquantifiable. S/4HANA’s value proposition lies with its ability to integrate a multitude of technologies and software’s into one all-inclusive ERP that meets statutory, management, and internal requirements.

JS Irick: That’s a great way to describe the tangible benefits of the improved user experience. I hear “Role-Based UX” so often, but you’ve really explained what that means in terms of the user experience within discrete processes.

I’m a huge fan of the Launchpad UX in S/4HANA and SAC. Not only for the simplified way to change your shortcuts/tiles, but also the fact that you can introduce key metrics into your Launchpad. A question for you – Have you seen much adoption of the Fiori KPI tiles? To me, they’re one of the 4 pillars of S/4HANA reporting (along with AO, SAC and Fiori Reports), but I don’t see them mentioned very often.

Matt Montes: This is a great point JS, I haven’t seen much adoption of the Fiori KPI tiles; however, I do have some hands-on experience using them. In one of my previous engagements, we leveraged Fiori KPI tiles and SAP Smart Business to create utility-centric tiles. In the utility industry companies have to report two sets of financials, one for GAAP accounting and another to abide by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) standards. Within the FERC reporting requirements are metrics like Rate of Return, Rate Base, Return on Equity, Capital Structure, and Revenue Requirement. Each of these metrics is vital to a utilities regulatory decision-making process, as well as determining the amount of money they can recoup on their infrastructure-based investments (Power Plants, Natural Gas Pipelines, Water Treatment Plants, etc). The Fiori KPI tiles and SAP Smart Business enabled us to create a utility-focused dashboard within Fiori that gave business users a medium to analyze their regulatory data. I think as Fiori continues to evolve, we will start to see a lot more integration of the KPI tiles, specifically as companies work towards building an S/4HANA environment with actual, plan, and consolidated data.

 

 

Perspective 3: Upskilling for the Future

JS Irick: In my opinion, your dedication to educating and training our Central Finance customers is crucial to our project success, and one of the reasons your customers are so happy with the final result. Any major technology disruption can be really scary to IT organizations because their day-to-day requirements don’t slow down, even as this major shift in their role is on the horizon. What’s your actionable advice for gearing up for S/4HANA, especially on a tight schedule?

Matt Montes: You bring up a really good point here. Digital transformations or changes in technology can be very demanding on the IT organization. Asking someone to acquire a skillset in new technology while simultaneously maintaining their day-to-day duties can be incredibly cumbersome. My advice would be simple, understand your organizations business processes and financial data model as best you can in order to reduce any uncertainties and close any knowledge gaps. Said more precisely, understand what modules of your ERP are being utilized and what data is associated with those modules. As an SAP consultant, we often analyze business processes, master data, and configuration to gain an understanding of an enterprise. Therefore, IT organizations can also embark on a similar exercise to analyze and digest the business processes, master data, and configuration that make up their organization. This understanding helps to eliminate any uncertainties and close any potential knowledge gaps as the gearing up for S/4HANA occurs. Another approach to gearing up for S/4HANA is to undergo a POC that is designed to address the potential uncertainties or gaps that may exist within the ERP. POC’s can be extremely informative if positioned correctly, and they help to ramp up the end users by giving them hands-on experience prior to the full implementation. A majority of the configuration and master data that exists within ECC will be leveraged and reimplemented in some form or fashion into S/4HANA; therefore, truly understanding the inner workings of your ERP will help to reduce some of the barriers to entry that come with S/4HANA.

Another approach to gear up for S/4HANA is through training or knowledge transfer sessions. At TruQua, we understand that a lot of the changes that come with a digital transformation often produce more questions than answers, so we have developed a repository of training material known as TruCert. The TruCert material can be compiled and constructed to address one technology in detail, or multiple technologies at a high-level. In conclusion, understanding your ERP at a process level, gaining hands-on experience with S/4HANA, and ramping up on your S/4 knowledge are all ways in which the digital transformation to S/4HANA can become less intimidating.

JS Irick: “Truly understanding the inner workings of your ERP will help to reduce some of the barriers to entry that come with S/4HANA” – I think you’ve really hit the nail on the head here. Those who truly understand their current system are indispensable in a Financial Transformation. Can you lay out a couple of areas where customer knowledge is crucial? I know that’s a super broad question, but I’m looking for something along the lines of “Understanding Customer/Vendor enhancements vis-à-vis the move to Business Partner”. 

Matt Montes: Customer Vendor Integration (CVI) to Business Partner is definitely a big component of the transition to S/4HANA; however, for me the most important area of customer knowledge lies in the ability to understand and speak to the cost flow and end-to-end business processes associated with your ERP. It is one thing to understand your ERP at a process level, but even more important is understanding what master data and configuration points are being leveraged throughout those processes. It is critical to not only understand how things are done, but why they are being done as well. For example, a quick analysis of an ERP can uncover the fact that certain costs booked to sending Cost Centers are ultimately settled to a Fixed Asset; however, understanding why those costs are being settled and what configuration is dictating that settlement is exponentially more valuable. To me, this type of skill-set and knowledge can be the difference between a good implementation and a great one.

Matt Montes, thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. S/4HANA and Financial Transformation are such broad topics, with so much content published daily, that it is really refreshing to sit down and speak with an expert about a few key areas. All the best in your upcoming projects and I look forward to speaking with you again.

About our contributors:

JS Irick

JS Irick

Director of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence

JS Irick has the best job in the world; working with a talented team to solve the toughest business challenges.  JS is an internationally recognized speaker on the topics of Machine Learning, SAP Planning, SAP S/4HANA and Software development. As the Director of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence at TruQua, JS has built best practices for SAP implementations in the areas of SAP HANA, SAP S/4HANA reporting, and SAP S/4HANA customization.     

Matt Montes

Matt Montes

SAP Financials Senior Consultant, Trainer, and Speaker

Matt Montes Montes is a Finance and Data-driven professional currently working as an SAP Financials Senior Consultant. He received his education from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Finance and a minor in Accounting. His professional experience is comprised of financial analysis, budgeting, consolidation, accounting, and data analytics. Matt Montes has 4 years of financial consulting experience utilizing Central Finance, S/4HANA, ECC, Fiori, and BPC. In addition to 2 full lifecycle implementations, product development, and 6 POC’s, Matt Montes also works as a trainer and content developer. Matt Montes has conducted two internal and external training covering Central Finance, Group Reporting, SAC, and Reporting & Analytics. Additionally, Matt Montes has written and delivered two blogs, a webinar, and a 3-part demo series on Central Finance.

Thank you for reading this installment in our New Perspectives blog series. Stay tuned for our next post where we will be talking to Recruiting Director Stephanie Hettrich on identifying and developing young consulting talent.

For more information on TruQua’s services and offerings, visit us online at www.truqua.com. To be notified of future blog posts and be included on our email list, please complete the form below.

 

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