If all existing companies wish to benefit from data generated daily, many of them still wonder what type of architecture they should implement to retrieve KPIs (Key Performance Indicator) from their ERP (Enterprise Planning Resource) system.
Because several factors might guide your decision when thinking about starting a business intelligence (BI) project, completing a thorough actual state analysis is crucial to select the appropriate option.
- Where is my data, in which SAP version?
- Do my key indicators include a wide variety of business processes? Are they calculated from several source systems?
- What is the appropriate time horizon that should be taken into account when analyzing my data in order to be able to identify significant and relevant trends?
- How can I use that information, what SAP tool should I use?
If there once were as many approaches as there are answers to these questions, that time is long gone. Indeed, since the HANA era, information architectures and options for usage are now drastically simplified.
Indeed, beyond streamlining their decision-support application portfolio, SAP also took into consideration the growing needs for operational reporting by gradually embedding it into their ERP, thus allowing staying true to their “Run simple” course of action. Because of this, the best information extraction and restitution method will be guided by the SAP version.
When working on SAP ECC anyDB, data often transit through a data warehouse similar to SAP BW to be modelled into manageable structures for easier analysis. The existence of SAP BW is validated because of the impressive number of standardized data tables (legends say that there are over 80,000 of them comprised into SAP ECC) and therefore hard to use for multidimensional analysis. Other SAP BW advantages comprise the fact that it not only fulfils typical ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) functions, but also that it is the No. 1 choice data warehouse when addressing ECC. The ECC segment of BW benefits from native extractors thus allowing to retrieve transactional data, to structure it, and to store it in order to visualize key indicators in any business intelligence (BI) application.
Suite on Hana is, in fact, a typical ERP, with the difference that it is using a HANA database. We can therefore free ourselves from a business warehouse (BW), and replace it with HANA Live. Which allows organizations to harness the strength of in-memory computing within an operational reporting setting and to proceed with real-time data analysis. HANA Live is delivered with preconfigured content, namely HANA views, called Virtual Data Model (VDM), developed in SQL language directly within the database. We can thus note a “before” and “after” HANA corresponding to the first step toward the simplification of KPIs extraction.
This being said, Suite on HANA is often the transitory step of an ERP toward its final migration to S/4 HANA. SAP quickly set aside HANA Live in favour of S/4 HANA and its new modelling concept found within with the arrival of Core Data Services (CDS).
S/4HANA (including Simple Finance)
The concept here is quite different since the great strength of S/4HANA is the inclusion of analytics, called embedded analytics, in the very core of its transactional solution. Thus, SAP’s investment to supply real-time operational indicators to its users within its ERP, also benefits the extraction and transformation process of more global data. CDS (Core Data Services) views delivered through SAP S/4HANA, on which are built the embedded analytics, are equally ready for use with more sophisticated analysis tools. In that case, the BI application will be directly connected to those CDS without having to retrieve, load, replicate and model the information in a data warehouse. To this day, S/4HANA, counts over 6,000 CDS ensuring the coverage of all functional processes, a true revolution that considerably simplifies data usage for the purpose of real-time KPIs tracking!
Note that S/4HANA also comprises a BW that allows modelling from multi-source data. However, you should be careful not to store an excessive volume of data, which could affect the performance of your transactional system. According to SAP, data stored in an embedded BW should never exceed 20% of the ERP’s total volume.
All specific cases could simply be addressed with S/4HANA.
SAP Analytics Cloud to visualize data
When considering what SAP provides users to be able to use that information, we recommend SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC) to visualize your data. A cloud solution combining data exploration, visualization and forecasting functionalities. Simple to implement, since only one URL is required, it differs for SAP’s BusinessObjects, a typical OnPremise BI comprising several independent analytics applications.
SAP Analytics Cloud is the most recent application coming from SAP’s business intelligence portfolio that benefits, by extension, from all the most recent artificial intelligence innovations developed by SAP. It perfectly satisfies the concerns of users seeking self-sufficiency: intuitive and user-friendly, it allows to quickly give shape to data while offering guidance in their analysis by means of “intelligent” functionalities. Machine Learning and predictive algorithms, are indeed part of the new SAP Analytics Cloud embedded technologies allowing companies to better understand factors that affect their performance and to predict them. It is a definite competitive advantage for this ever-evolving application.
In a nutshell, this solution has a promising future!