Greenskies Streamlines Complex Financial Processes with SAP S/4HANA
Client:Greenskies Renewable Energy LLC
- Enterprise system needed to support a complex financial operation
- Financial system had to be integrated with custom and third-party systems
- Rapid deployment required to complete project before new fiscal year
- Partner with DXC Technology, which has experience with similar organizations and with SAP S/4HANA
- Implement SAP S/4HANA Finance and integrate it with a custom project management system and several third-party systems
- Host the system in the cloud
- A common view of all financial and operational data, a common data and reporting structure, profit center analysis, multiple financial reports, and improved compliance and control
- Ability to measure lifetime asset financial performance across multiple companies
- Faster and more accurate accounting processes, including work-in-progress reports that take seconds instead of hours to run
A singular mission
Greenskies Renewable Energy’s singular mission is to provide low-cost, reliable, clean electricity to diverse portfolio of commercial and industrial clients, municipalities, government agencies, educational institutions and utilities through distributed solar power-generating facilities — and that mission requires a system that can manage complex financial processes. With help from enterprise software maker SAP and DXC Technology, Greenskies implemented a system that has streamlined processes by any measure.For example, the company can now run work-in-progress (WIP) reports for 400 construction projects in seconds, with just a push of a button. Before using the new software, running the reports took the company a full day. “We are changing the solar industry by managing processes end to end,” says Eric Zenner, vice president of IT at Greenskies. “Our priority in the last 2 years has been developing a proprietary, best-in-breed solar project management system built on SAP HANA. Now we have integrated that project management system with our core accounting system.” Greenskies is an early adopter of SAP S/4HANA Finance, SAP’s next-generation financial solution that is part of its S/4HANA suite. DXC worked with Greenskies to configure and deploy S/4HANA Finance on time and on budget. The implementation, DXC’s first in North America, illustrates DXC’s successful collaboration with SAP as a Global Services Partner. Choosing DXC as a partner to assist in the implementation was pivotal. Greenskies has a small internal IT team, and Zenner says doing the work in-house was not an option. “We needed an experienced partner, and DXC had just done a project with a construction company, so they could relate to our structure, because construction is a large part of our organization,” he says. “They were more focused on understanding our business processes, rather than just talking about IT,” Zenner says.
Because of its innovative business model, Greenskies has fairly complex operations, with a mix of business development, construction management and asset management for intercompany and third-party assets. The software Greenskies had been relying on was unable to deliver a cohesive enterprise view of company finances. The biggest problem, Zenner says, was data management for the wide variety of data stored across multiple systems. “We needed to centralize all of the data, which over time had become too much for the teams to efficiently and effectively handle,” he says.What Greenskies needed was a system to help it determine the profitability of each solar array* project — which can involve multiple entities under the Greenskies organization — during the project’s entire life cycle, explains Greenskies Controller Steven Gianotti. Consider the complexity of a single project: A customer hires Greenskies to develop and build a solar array; Greenskies then works internally and with third-party firms to fulfill the project. Greenskies builds and delivers the array to the customer, which contracts with Greenskies or a Greenskies’ affiliate to manage the array, often for a period of 30 years. Greenskies needs to be able to look at the same project as a construction project and as an asset-management project, together and separately, to measure financial performance. “It was difficult to aggregate all of the data, the time periods, the different parties,etc., to determine a comprehensive IRR [internal rate of return],” Gianotti says. Further, because the data had to be manually entered and tracked in various places,the system was susceptible to errors.
Greenskies uses big data technologies to collect, aggregate and analyze its solar project performance data. The software that makes this possible is the custom project management system Greenskies implemented in 2014 on SAP’s HANA in-memory database to allow for rapid data analysis. The result, Greenskies says, is a sophisticated IT platform that differentiates it from competitors.“The key differentiators for Greenskies are a focus on big data, the mining of our project data, the management of our and others’ assets, and our custom project management system. The addition of the financial software lets us integrate it all into our financial reporting,” Gianotti says. In September 2015, Greenskies and DXC kicked off the project to deploy S/4HANA Finance. The system runs in the cloud, and includes multiple modules, such as general ledger, profit center accounting, accounts receivable, accounts payable and more. The rapid-deployment project was finished in January 2016, in time for the company’s new fiscal year. DXC’s focus on how the SAP solution would benefit Greenskies, the effective use of budgeting, and DXC’s ongoing support — both during deployment and after the software went live — have been a big part of the project’s success, according to Zenner and Gianotti.
With the new system, Greenskies now has a common view of all its financial and operational data, automated processes and streamlined data for financial auditors. The company is able to close its books faster, improve compliance and control, and reduce closing workloads.“By consolidating onto SAP S/4HANA, we are able to track all third-party and intercompany activity separately in a common reporting structure,” Gianotti says. The company also can better manage assets and track multiple depreciation schedules for fixed assets in real time, he says. In the system’s first year, the company ran more than 15,000 invoices through it. Greenskies has consolidated 168 entities down to 38 company codes, and more than 650 profit centers have been mapped and created in the system. The next step is to bring the remaining core business processes, such as inventory management and procurement, to the SAP S/4HANA platform. Greenskies plans to partner with DXC on those migrations as well. “I have had experience with other consulting companies that have come in and done great work. But DXC demonstrated a dedication to seeing this implementation through to the end that was incomparable,” Gianotti says. Services were provided by CSC, which is now part of DXC Technology.