How an SAP Ecosystem Partnership Reduces Risk and Increases Cost-Efficiency Around Tax Management
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How an SAP Ecosystem Partnership
Reduces Risk and Increases Cost-
Efficiency Around Tax Management
Transcript of a discussion on how end-to-end visibility of business tax, compliance, and audit functions
allows for automated adherence to rapidly changing requirements.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Download the transcript. Sponsor: SAP Ariba.
Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and you’re
listening to BriefingsDirect. Our next data-driven tax optimization discussion focuses on
reducing risk and increasing cost efficiency as businesses grapple with complex and often
global spend management challenges.
We’ll now explore how end-to-end visibility of almost any business tax, compliance, and audit
functions allows for rapid adherence to changing requirements -- thanks to powerful new tools.
And we’ll learn directly from businesses how they are pursuing and benefiting from advances in
intelligent spend and procurement management.
To uncover how such solutions work, please join me now in
welcoming our guests, Sean Thompson, Executive Vice-
President of Network and Ecosystem at SAP Procurement
Solutions. Welcome back, Sean.
Sean Thompson: Hi, Dana.
Gardner: We are also here with Chris Carlstead, Head of
Strategic Accounts and Partnerships and Alliances at Thomson
Reuters. Welcome, Chris.
Chris Carlstead: Thank you, Dana.
Gardner: We’re also here with Poornima Sadanandan, P2P IT
Business Systems Lead at Stanley Black and Decker. Welcome, Poornima.
Poornima Sadanandan: Thank you.
Gardner: Sean, what’s driving the need for end-to-end visibility when it comes to the nitty-gritty
details around managing taxes? How can businesses reduce risk and increase cost efficiency --
particularly in difficult, unprecedented times like these -- when it comes to taxation?
Taxes in the time of COVID-19
Thompson: It’s a near-and-dear topic for me because I started off my career in the early ‘90s
as a tax auditor, so I was doing tax accounting before I went into installing SAP ERP systems.
And now here I am at SAP at the confluence of accounting systems and tax.
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We used to talk about managing risk as making
sure you’re compliant with the various different
regulatory agencies in terms of tax. But now in
the age of COVID-19 compliance is also about
helping governments. Governments more than
ever need companies to be compliant. They
need solutions that drive compliancy because
taxes these days are not only needed to fund
governments in the future, but also to support
the dynamic changes now in reacting to COVID-
19 and encouraging economic incentives.
There’s also a dynamic nature to changes in tax laws. The cost-efficiency now being driven by
data-driven systems helps ensure compliancy across accounting systems to all of the tax
authorities. It’s a fascinating time because digitization brings together business processes
thanks to the systems and data that feeds the continuing efficiency.
It’s a great time to be talking about tax, not only from a compliance perspective but also from a
cost perspective. Now that we are in the cloud era -- driving data and business process
efficiency through software and cloud solutions -- we’re able to drive efficiencies unlike ever
before because of artificial intelligence (AI) and the advancements we’ve made in open systems
and the cloud.
Gardner: Chris, tax requirements have always been with us, but what’s added stress to the
Carlstead: Sean hit on a really important note with
respect to balance. Oftentimes people think of taxation as
a burden. It’s often overlooked that the other side of that is
governments use that money to fund programs, conduct
social welfare, and help economies run. You need both
sides to operate effectively. In moments like COVID-19 --
and Dana used the word “unprecedented,” I might say
that’s an understatement.
I don’t know in the history of our time if we have ever had
an event that affected the world so quickly, so instantly,
and uniformly like we have had in the past few months.
When you have impacts like that, they generally drive
government reaction, whether it was 9/11, the dot-com bubble, or the 2008 financial crisis. And,
of course, there are also other instances all over the globe when governments need to react.
But, again, this latest crisis is unprecedented because almost every government in the world is
acting at the same time and has moved to change the way we interact in our economies to help
support the economy itself. And so while pace of change has been increasing, we have never
seen such a moment like we have in the last few months.
Think of all the folks working at home, and the empathy we have for them dealing with this
crisis. And while the cause was uniform, the impact from country to country -- or region to region
Governments need solutions that
drive compliancy because taxes
these days are not only needed to
fund governments in the future, but
also to support the dynamic changes
now in reacting to COVID-19 and
encouraging economic incentives.
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-- is not equal. To that end, anything we can do to help make things easier in the transition,
we’re looking to do.
While taxes may not be the most important thing in people’s lives, it’s one last thing they have to
worry about when they are able to take advantage of a system such as SAP Ariba and
Thomson Reuters have to help them deal with that part of their businesses.
Gardner: Poornima, what was driving the need for Stanley Black and Decker to gain better
visibility into their tax issues even before the pandemic?
End-to-end visibility improves transactions’ taxations
Sadanandan: At Stanley Black and Decker, SAP Ariba procurement
applications are primarily used for all indirect purchases. The user base
spans across buyers who do procurement activities based on
organizational requirements and on up to the C-level executives who
look into the applications to validate and approve transactions based on
So providing them with accurate data is of utmost importance for us.
We were already facing a lot of challenges concerning our legacy
applications due to numerous challenges like purchasing categories,
federated process-controlled versions of the application integrated with
multiple SAP instances, and a combination of solutions including tax
rate files, invoice parking, and manual processing of invoices.
There were a lot of points where manual touch was necessary before an invoice could even get
posted to the backend ERP application due to these situations, including all the payback on
return, tax penalties, and supplier frustrations, and so on.
So we needed to have end-to-end visibility with accuracy and precision to the granular
accounting and tax details for these indirect procurement transactions without causing any delay
due to the manual involvement in this whole procurement transaction process.
Gardner: Poornima, when you do this right, when you get that visibility and you can be detail-
oriented, what does that get for you? How does that improve your situation?
Sadanandan: There are many benefits out of these automated transactions and due to the
visibility of data, but I’d like to highlight a few.
Basically, it helps us ensure we can validate the suppliers’ charge tax, that suppliers are
adhering to their local tax jurisdiction rules, and that any tax exemptions are, in fact, applicable
for tax policies at Stanley Black and Decker.
Secondly, there comes a lot of reduction of manual processes. That happened because of
automation, the web services, and as part of the integration framework we adopted. So tax
calculation and determination became automated, and the backend ERP application, which is
SAP at our company, receives accurate posting information. That then helps the accounting
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team to capture accounting details in real-time. They gain good visibility on financial
reconciliations as well.
We also achieved better exception handling. Basically any exceptions that happen due to tax
mismatches are now handled promptly based on thresholds set up in the system. Exception
reports are also available to provide better visibility, not just to the end users but even to the
technical team who are validating any issues that helps them in the whole analysis process.
Finally, the tax calls happen twice in the application, whereas earlier in our legacy application
that only happened at the invoicing stage. Now this happens during the requisition phase in the
whole procurement transaction process so it
provides more visibility to the requisitioners. They
don’t have to wait until the invoice phase to gain
visibility on what’s being passed from the source
system. Essentially, requesters as well as the
accounts payable team are getting good visibility
into the accuracy and precision of the data.
Gardner: Sean, as Poornima pointed out, there are many visibility benefits to using the latest
tools. But around the world, are there other incentives or benefits?
Thompson: One of the things the pandemic has shown is that whether you are a small,
medium-size, or large company, your supply chains are global. That’s the way we went into the
pandemic, with the complexity of having to manage all of that compliance and drive efficiency so
you can make accounting easy and remain compliant.
The regional nature of it is both a cost statement and a statement regarding regional incentives.
Being able to manage that complexity is what software and data make possible.
Gardner: And does managing that complexity scale down as well up based on the size of the
Thompson: Absolutely. Small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) need to save money. And
oftentimes SMBs don’t have dedicated departments that can handle all the complexity.
And so from a people perspective, where there’s less people you have to think about the end-to-
end nature of compliance, accounting, and efficiency. When you think about SMBs, if you make
it easy there, you can make it easy all the way up to the largest enterprises. So the benefits are
really size-agnostic, if you will.
Gardner: Chris, as we unpack the tax visibility solution, what are the global challenges for tax
calculation and compliance? What biggest pain points are people grappling with?
Challenges span globe, businesses small to large
Carlstead: If I may just take a second and compliment Poornima. I always love it when I hear
customers speak about our applications better than we can speak about them ourselves; so,
Poornima, thank you for that.
Essentially, requesters as well as
the accounts payable team are
getting good visibility into the
accuracy and precision of the data.
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And to your question, because the impact is the same for SMBs and large companies, the pain
centers around the volume of change and the pace of that change. This affects domestic
companies, large and small, as well as multinationals. And so I thought I’d share a couple of
data points we pulled together at Thomson Reuters.
There are more than 15,000 jurisdictions that impact just
this area of tax alone. Within those 15,000 jurisdictions, in
2019 we had more than 50,000 changes to the tax rules
needed to comply within those jurisdictions. Now
extrapolate that internationally to about 190 countries.
Within the 190 countries that we cover, we had more than
two million changes to tax laws and regulations.
At that scale, it’s just impossible to maintain manual processes and many companies look to do
that either decentralized or otherwise -- and it’s just impossible to keep pace with that.
And now you introduce the COVID-19 pandemic, for which we haven’t yet seen the full impact.
But the impact, along the lines where Sean was heading, is that we also expect that supply
chains are going to get reevaluated. And when you start to reevaluate your supply chains you
don’t need government regulation to change, you are changing. You’re moving into new
jurisdictions. You are moving into new supply routes. And that has huge tax implications.
And not just in the area of indirect tax, which is what we’re talking about here today on the
purchase and sale of goods. But when you start moving those goods across borders in a
different route than you have historically done, you bring in global trade, imports, duties, and
tariffs. The problem just magnifies and extrapolates around the globe.
Gardner: How does the Thomson Reuters and SAP Ariba relationship come together to help
people tackle this?
Thompson: Well, it’s been a team sport all along. One of the things we believe in is the power
of the ecosystem and the power of partnerships. When it comes down to it, we at SAP are not
tax data-centric in the way we operate. We need that data to power our software. We’re about
procurement, and in those procurement, procure-to-pay, and sales processes we need tax data
to help our customers manage the complexity. It’s like Chris said, an amazing 50,000 changes
in that dynamic within just one country.
And so, at SAP Ariba, we have the largest business network of suppliers driving about $3 trillion
of commerce on a global basis, and that is a statement regarding just the complexity that you
can imagine in terms of a global company operating on a global basis in that trade footprint.
Now, when the power of the ecosystem and Thomson Reuters come together we can become
the tax-centric authorities. We do tax solutions and help companies manage their tax data
complexity. When you can combine that with our software, that’s a beautiful interaction because
it’s the best of both worlds.
It’s a win, win, win. It’s not only a win for our two companies, Thomson Reuters and SAP, but
also for the end customer because they get the power of the ecosystem. We like to think you
choose SAP Ariba for its ecosystem, and Thomson Reuters is one of our -- if not the most --
successful extensions that we have.
Within the 190 countries
that we cover, we had more
than two million changes to
tax laws and regulations.
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Gardner: Chris, if we have two plus two equaling five, tell us about your two. What does
Thomson Reuters bring in terms of open APIs, for example? Why is this tag team so powerful?
Partner to prioritize the customer
Carlstead: A partnership doesn’t always work. It requires two different parties that complement
each other. It only works when they have similar goals, such as the way they look at the world,
and the way they look at their customers. I can, without a doubt, say that when Thomson
Reuters and SAP Ariba came together, the first and most important focus was the customer.
That relentless focus on the customer really helped keep things focused and drive forward to
where we are today.
And that doesn’t mean that we are perfect by any means. I’m sure we have made mistakes
along the way, but it’s that focus that allowed us to keep the patience and drive to ultimately
bring forth a solution that helps solve a customer’s challenges. That seems simple in its
concept, but when you bring two large organizations together to help try to solve a large
organization’s problems, it’s a very complex relationship and takes a lot of hard work.
And I’m really proud of the work that the two organizations have done. SAP Ariba has been
amazing along the way to help us solve problems for customers like Stanley Black and Decker.
Gardner: Poornima, you are the beneficiary here, the client. What’s been powerful and effective
for you in this combination of elements that both SAP Ariba and Thomson Reuters bring to the
Sadanandan: With our history of around 175 years, Stanley Black and Decker has always been
moving along with pioneering projects, with a strong vision of adopting the intelligent solutions
for society. As part of this, adopting advanced technologies that help us fulfill all of the
company’s objectives has always been in the forefront.
As part of that tradition, we have been leveraging the integration framework consisting of the
SAP Ariba tax API communicating with the Thomson Reuters ONESOURCE tax solution in real-
time using web services. The SAP Ariba tax API is designed to make a web service call to the
external tax service provider for tax calculations, and in turn it receives a response to update the
During the procurement transactions, the API makes an external tax calculation. Once the tax
gets determined, the response is converted back per the SAP Ariba message format and XML
format and it gets passed on by the ONESOURCE integration and sends that over to the SAP
The SAP Ariba tax API receives the
response and updates the transactional
documents in real time and that provides
a seamless integration between the SAP
Ariba procurement solution and the
global tax. That’s exactly what helps us in
automating our procurement
The SAP Ariba tax API receives the response
and updates the transactional documents in
real time and that provides a seamless
integration between the SAP Ariba
procurement solution and the global tax.
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Gardner: Sean, this is such a great use case of what you can do when you have cloud services
and the right data available through open APIs to do real-time calculations. It takes such a
burden off of the end user and the consumer. How is technology a fundamental underpinning of
what ONESOURCE is capable of?
Cloud power boosts best business outcomes
Thompson: It's wonderful to hear Poornima as a customer. It’s music to my ears to hear the
real-life use case of what we have been able to do in the cloud. And when you look at the
architecture and how we are able to drive, not only a software solution in the cloud, but power
that with real-time data to drive efficiencies, it’s what we used to dream of back in the days of
on-premises systems and even, God bless us, paper reconciliations and calculations.
It’s an amazing time to be alive because of where we are and the efficiencies that we can drive
on a global basis, to handle the kind of complexity that a global company like Stanley Black and
Decker has to deal with. It’s an amazing time.
And it’s still the early days of what we will doing in the future around predictive analytics, of
helping companies understand where there is more risk or where there are compliance issues
That’s what’s really cool. We are going into an era
now of data-driven intelligence, machine learning
(ML), applying those to business processes that
combine data and software in the cloud and
automate the things that we used to have to do
manually in the past.
And so it’s a really amazing time for us.
Gardner: Chris, anything more to offer on the making invisible the technology but giving
advanced business outcomes a boost?
Carlstead: What’s amazing about where we are right now is a term I often use, I certainly don’t
believe I coined it, but best-of-breed suite. In the past, you used to have to choose. You had to
go best-of-breed or you could go with the suite, and there were pros and cons to both
Now, with the proliferation of APIs, cloud, and the adoption of API technology across software
vendors, there’s more free flow of information between systems, applications, and platforms.
You have the ability as a customer to be greedy -- and I think that’s a great thing.
As a consumer, you are used to downloading an app and it just works. And we are a little bit
behind on the business side of the house, but we are moving there very quickly so that now
customers like Stanley Black and Decker can go with the number-one spend management
system in the world. And they can also go with the number-one tax content player in the world.
And they can have the expectation that those two applications will work seamlessly together
We are going into an era now of
data-driven intelligence, machine
learning (ML), applying those to
business processes that combine
data and software in the cloud.
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without spending a lot of time and effort on their end to force those companies together, which is
what we would have done in an on-premise environment over the last several decades.
From an outcome standpoint, and as I think about customers like Stanley Black and Decker,
getting tax right, in and of itself is not a value-add. But getting it wrong can be very material to
the bottom line of your business. So for us and with the partnership with SAP Ariba, our goal is
to make sure that customers like Stanley Black and Decker get it right the first time so that they
can focus on what they do best.
Gardner: Poornima, back to you for the proof. Do you have any anecdotes, qualitative or
quantitative measurements, of how you have achieved more of what you have wanted to do
around tax processing, accounts payable, and procurement?
Accuracy rules, no more wrong or delayed payments
Sadanandan: Yes, all the challenges we had with our earlier processes with respect to our
legacy applications got diminished with respect to incorrect VAT returns, wrong payments, and
delayed payments. It also strengthened the relationship between our business and our
suppliers. Above all, troubleshooting any issues became so much easier for us because of the
profound transparency of what’s being passed from the source system.
And, as I mentioned, this improves the
supplier relationship in that payments are not
getting delayed and there is improvement in
the tax calculation. If there are any
mismatches, we are able to understand
easily how that happened, as the integration
layer provides us with the logs for accurate analysis. And the businesses themselves can
answer supplier queries on a timely manner as they have profound visibility to the data as well.
From a project perspective, we believe that the objective is fulfilled. Since we started and
completed the initial project in 2018, Stanley Black and Decker has been moving ahead with
transforming the source-to-pay process by establishing a core model, leveraging the leading
practices in the new SAP Ariba realm, and integrated to the central finance core model utilizing
So the source-to-pay core model includes leading practices of the tax solution by leveraging
ONESOURCE Determination by integrating to the SAP Ariba source-to-pay cloud application.
So with a completion of the project, we were able to achieve that core model and now the future
roadmaps are also getting laid out to have this model adopted for the rest of our Stanley Black
and Decker entities.
Gardner: Poornima, has the capability to do integrated tax functionality had a higher-level
benefit? Have you been able to see automation in your business processes or more strategic
flexibility and agility?
Sadanandan: It has particularly helped us in these uncertain times. Just having an automated
tax solution was the primary objective with the project, but in these uncertain times this
automated solution is also helping us ensure business continuity.
If there are any mismatches, we are able
to understand easily how that happened,
as the integration layer provides us with
the logs for accurate analysis.
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Having real-time calls that facilitate the tax calculation with accuracy and precision without
manual intervention helped the year-end accounts payable transactions to occur without any
And above all, as I was mentioning, even in this pandemic time, we are able to go ahead with
any future projects already in the roadmap because they are not on a standstill, we are able to
leverage the standard functionalities provided by ONESOURCE and that’s easier to adopt in our
Gardner: Chris, when you hear how Stanley Black and Decker has been able to get these
higher-order risk-reduction benefits, do you see that more generally? What are some of the
higher-order business benefits you see across your clientele?
Risk-reduction for both humans and IT
Carlstead: There are two broad categories. I will touch on the one that Poornima just
referenced, which is more the human capital, and then also the IT side of the house.
The experience that Stanley Black and Decker is having is fairly uniform across our customer
base. We are in a situation where in almost every single tax department, procurement
department, and all the associated departments, nobody has extra capacity walking around. We
are all constrained. So, when you can bring in applications that work together like SAP Ariba
and Thomson Reuters, it helps to free up capacities. You can then shift those resources into
higher-value-add activities such as the ones Poornima referenced. We see it across the board.
We also see that we are able to help consolidate resourcing from a hardware and a technology
standpoint, so that’s a benefit.
And the third benefit on the resource side is that as you are better able to track your taxation,
not only do you get it right the first time, when it comes to areas of taxation like VAT recovery,
you have to show very stringent documentation in order to receive your money back from
governments, so there is a cash benefit as well.
And then on the other side, more on the business side of the relationship, there is a benefit we
have just started to better understand in the last couple of years. Historically folks either chose
not to move forward with an application like because they felt they could handle it manually, or
even worse, they would say, “We will just have it audited, and we will pay the fine because the
cost to fix the problem is greater than the penalties or fines I might pay.”
But they didn’t take into consideration
the impact on the business relationship
that you have with your vendors and
your suppliers. If you think about every
time you have had a tax issue between
them, and then in the case in many European countries and around the world, where VAT
recovery would not allow that supplier to recover their taxation because of a challenge they
might have had with their buyer, that hurts your relationship. That ultimately hurts your ability to
do commerce with that partner and in general with any partner around the world.
If you think about every time you have had a
tax issue between [your vendors and your
suppliers], … that hurts your relationship.
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So, the top-line impact is something we have really started to focus on as a value and it’s
something that really drives business for companies.
Gardner: Poornima, what would you like to see next? Is there a level of more intelligence, more
Post-pandemic possibilities and progress
Sadanandan: Stanley Black and Decker is a global company spanning across more than 60
countries. We have a wide range of products, including tools, hardware, security, and so on.
Irrespective of these challenging times, all our priorities regard the safety of the employees and
the families and keeping the momentum of business continuity responding to the needs of the
community … these all remain as the top consideration.
We feel that we are already equipped technology-wise to keep the business up and running.
What we are looking forward to is, as the world tries to come back to the earlier normal life,
continuing to provide pioneering products with intelligent solutions.
Gardner: Chris, where do you see technology and the use of data going next in helping people
reach a new normal or create entirely new markets?
Carlstead: From a Thomson Reuters standpoint, we largely focus on helping businesses work
with governments at the intersection of regulation and commerce. As a result, we have, for
decades, amassed an extensive amount of content in categories around risk, legal, tax, and
several other functional areas as well. We are relentlessly focused on how to best open up that
content and free it, if you will, from even our own applications.
What we are finding is that when we can leverage ecosystems such as SAP Ariba, we can
leverage APIs and provide a more free-flowing path for our content to reach our customers; and
when they are able to use it in the way they would like, the number of use cases and
possibilities is infinite.
We see now all the time our content
being used in ways we would have never
imagined. Our customers are benefitting
from that, and that’s a direct result of the
corporations coming together and
suppliers and software companies
freeing up their platforms and making
things more open. The customer is
benefiting, and I think it’s great.
Gardner: Sean, when you hear your partner and your customer describing what they want to
come next, how can we project a new vision of differentiation when you combine network and
ecosystem and data?
We see now our content being used in ways we
could have never imagined. … That’s a direct
result of the corporations coming together and
suppliers and software companies freeing up
their platforms and making things more open.
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Thompson: Well, let me pick up where Chris said, “free and open.” Now that we are in the
cloud and able to digitize on a global basis, the power for us is that we know that we can’t do it
We also know that we have an amazing opportunity because we have grown our network
across the globe, to 192 countries and four million registered buyers or suppliers, all conducting
a tremendous amount of commerce and data flow. Being able to open up and be an ecosystem,
a platform way of thinking, that is the power.
Like Chris said, it’s amazing the number of things that you never realized were possible. But
once you open up and once you unleash a great developer experience, to be able to extend our
solutions, to provide more data -- the use cases are immense. It’s an incredible thing to see.
That’s what it’s really about -- unleashing
the power of the ecosystem, not only to
help drive innovation but ultimately to help
drive growth, and for the end customer a
better end-to-end process and end-to-end
solution. So, it’s an amazing time.
Gardner: I’m afraid we will have to leave it there. You have been listening to a sponsored
BriefingsDirect discussion on reducing risk and increasing cost efficiency as businesses grapple
with complex and often global taxation management challenges. And we have learned how the
payoff to gaining such a full and data-rich view of compliance spend patterns reduces errors,
enables new business efficiencies, and leads to better strategic spend management.
So a big thank you to our guests, Sean Thompson, Executive Vice President of Network and
Ecosystem, SAP Procurement Solutions. Thank you so much, Sean.
Thompson: Thank you, Dana.
Gardner: We have also been with Chris Carlstead, Head of Strategic Accounts and
Partnerships and Alliances at Thomson Reuters. Thank you so much, Chris.
Carlstead: Dana, thank you. I have really enjoyed the time with you.
Gardner: And lastly we have been with Poornima Sadanandan, P2P IT Business Systems Lead
at Stanley Black and Decker. Thank you so much, Poornima.
Sadanandan: Thank you, Dana. I enjoyed the conversation.
Gardner: And a big thank you to our audience as well for joining this BriefingsDirect modern
digital business innovation discussion. I’m Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor
Solutions, your host throughout this series of SAP-sponsored BriefingsDirect discussions.
Thanks again for listening. Please do come back next time, and feel free to share this
information across your IT and business communities.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Download the transcript. Sponsor: SAP Ariba.
That’s what it’s really about -- unleashing the
power of the ecosystem, not only to help drive
innovation but ultimately to help drive growth.
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Transcript of a discussion on how end-to-end visibility of business tax, compliance, and audit functions
allows for automated adherence to rapidly changing requirements. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC,
2005-2020. All rights reserved.
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