BAT automates SAP data extraction to free up auditing resource

British American Tobacco (BAT) deploys automatic data extraction tools in its SAP to aid auditing and reduce fraud through duplicated suppliers

British American Tobacco has deployed automatic data extraction tools on its SAP environment to free up auditor time.

David Barkhausen, senior IT auditor at British American Tobacco (BAT), spoke on the extraction of SAP data for audit and compliance using LiveCompare at the recent SAP UK & Ireland Users conference in Manchester.

He told delegates how the BAT audit function put an end to manual SAP data extraction using tools to automatically read and extract database records.

BAT has 56,000 employees, operates in 180 country markets, sports 200 brands and sells 700 billion cigarettes every year. And to manage that it has a complicated SAP environment, said Barkhausen.

The company currently has regional, functional and business SAP instances, as well as those from acquired companies. It has around 100 auditors.

The audit function uses the LiveCompare tool from Bristol-based Intellicorp to extract data from twelve of the company’s SAP instances. It started doing that some five years ago, said Barkhausen.  

“It’s a cool tool for managing your SAP lifecycle,” he said, confirming that BAT had worked with the supplier to beef up the extract, transform and load ETL capabilities embodied in the LiveCompare product.

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Prior to the tool’s implementation they had spent three weeks per month manually extracting SAP data to support audits with data analytics. Now that process happens automatically, saving 100 man hours per month. 

“We can focus on auditing the business,” said Barkhausen. 

It also reduces opportunity for error in manual extraction and transformation.

But, beyond cost savings and convenience, the data analytics server has enabled the audit function to drive business initiatives, such as an SAP utilisation metrics project. The dashboards from that, based on 52 metrics, show how well each country is using SAP “in terms of BAT's internal standards and procedures, giving red, amber, green indications”, said Barkhausen. 

That is important for moving to a single global instance of SAP.

“BAT has gone from a franchise-like business, where each country ran pretty independently under the banner of British American Tobacco, to a more centralised model,” said Barkhausen. 

“We are spending £1bn on that programme, so it is important that we are using SAP consistently and getting the most out of it. A year ago most of our country markets were in the red zone in SAP utilisation, now most have gone green.

“We have come a long way, but we are still quite old school in data extraction and analysis methods, having started this process some five years ago. Now there are emerging big data analytics tools to simplify processes and integrate the extraction and analysis. 

"For example, the SAP HANA platform accelerates data extraction and analysis. Despite our advances, it still takes us a week each month to extract the SAP data from all twelve instances.”

Nevertheless, the BAT audit function has moved from a reactive to a proactive analytics mode. This has made more visible data that can be used for management information. 

“One example of that is identifying duplicate vendors,” said Barkhausen. “There is no functionality in SAP to do that automatically.”

But BAT can, using the LiveCompare tool, use “fuzzy matching to identify duplicate vendors”. 

This means BAT can check for duplicates on a monthly basis, rather than wait to an end-of-year audit. This reduces the risk of fraud and over-payment.

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