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Hi Everyone,
As you can see in my bio, I’m a former BusinessObjects employee and I have been working for Global IT for 7 years with a key leitmotiv:
    
“Change how the business is dealing with numbers to move from an operational reporting to a decision tool”
In the past years, I have worked with the SAP HR Organization to empower managers by providing insights on their workforce, to understand their Headcount to steer, meet financial targets, and ensure optimal performance of their organizations.
You will see that we have implemented multiple solutions based on different SAP technologies – I tried to consolidate my findings in a kind of Pros & Cons tables which have to be taken in the SAP context and at the time of the implementation. Today, with the improvement of connectivities and the delivery of new releases, the technical limitations and issues would be probably fixed and technology positioning should be reassessed.

Focus on business expectations

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The main requirement was to deliver main KPIs around the headcount area in a very intuitive interface – What is easy with HR is the fact that those KPIs are quite simple and comprehensive as they deal with employees (and we are all employees):
  • Actuals (Headcount Relevant/Non-HC Relevant / C-users),
  • Terminations (Employee or employer initiated)
  • External Hires (direct or Acquisition related)
  • Current Vacant Positions,
  • Committed Headcount,
  • Budget, Forecast
  • Span of Control (average number of direct reports per manager)
In term of dimensions, we have the following ones:
  • Gender for diversity estimation
  • Management level
  • Age and Tenure
  • Education level
  • Functional areas (Sales, Services, …)
With specificities for the following dimensions with mandatory hierarchies:
  • Profit Centers (Management view)
  • Board Areas / Lobs
  • Regional views
We always tried to provide time visibility to allow managers to distinguish the trends and cycles in order to validate that they will reach their target. To allow this, it is not possible to plug the analytical solution on top of the ERP which provides only the current state of an organization. In BW we are able to take snapshots to freeze the headcount picture and implement special aggregation to display average on a given period, or projection at the end of the period.

1st implementation with Xcelsius and Database (LO + Webi)

After the integration of BusinessObjects by SAP, the connectivity between BW and BusinessObjects products was too limited to address the complex BW implementation on HR (support of complex hierarchies and variables, perfomance …). In addition, the BW HR area didn’t contain the right structure to fit business expectations et that time. It was decided to extract the data from BW, enrich it by the business and load it in a transactional database with Data Services. With Xcelsius, BusinessObjects Universe, Webi and Live Office, we were able to provide a desktop solution to HR business partners around the world.
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Pros Cons
• Ability to enrich data (excel file)
• Power of Xcelsius with interactivity
• No possibility to support complex authorization concept
• Limitation with Hierarchies
• Limitation with OLAP aggregation (end of period, average)
• High TCO

2nd implementation: Xcelsius on top of BW

We started 4 years ago with a first integrated solution based on Xcelsius using Crystal Reports and Live Office to extract data from BW system. It allowed us to tackle the hierarchy topics. Then we replaced the Crystal piece by BICS connectivity, and with some technical workarounds,  we were able to deliver multiple Xcelsius dashboards integrated in an HTML framework as shown below.
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Pros Cons
• Xcelsius calculation with Excel formulas
• Interactivity with multiple components
• Hierarchies not fully supported
• Performance – split dashboard in multiple sub-dashboards
• Not compatible on Mobile (IPAD – swf)

3rd implementation: Bi Mobile with Webintelligence

After the launch of the first iPad by Apple, it was decided within SAP Global IT to focus on mobile solutions. As a result, an analytical solution should be first delivered on Mobile; Desktop would become optional. We were asked to implement a solution for Top Management based on SAP BI Mobile and WebIntelligence reports.
BI Mobile offers a specific way to interpret Webi structure so we decided to define a unique screen structure to deliver different KPis : header, one graphical representation and a table.
 
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With links based on opendocument, we were able to offer a workflow with hierarchy and KPI selection and navigation through multiple levels. Nevertheless, performance was not good due to the complexity of the backend requests and the absence of a report cache on the BI Mobile side.
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Pros Cons
• Quick Mobile solution
• Possibility to have Webi calculation (ratio, alerter)
• Not able to offer the same kind of interactivity as Xcelsius
• Performance issue with no cache – refresh every time
• Limitation with type of graphics and hierarchies
• Mobile OR desktop / different styles

4th implementation: BI Mobile with Design Studio

At the beginning of 2013, we decided to evaluate Design Studio 1.0 integrated with BI Mobile to improve the usability of the BI solution implemented previously with WebIntelligence. We implemented a navigation framework based on Tiles to copy the LAVA style and Windows 8.
Design Studio allows the use of existing BW queries and quick implementation. It requires a small javascript knowledge as script editor is quite intuitive and SDK model is quite limited. The first version with DS 1.0 was based on more than 23 Data sources and took more than 45 seconds to open and refresh. With a rework of the workflow, we were able to reduce the number of data sources to 8 and the refresh to 15 seconds. To achieve this, we leverage 2 data sources across all the detailed pages and apply changes on the structure on the fly when we access the detail view. With new features in DS 1.2 (background process and selection of KPIs in graphical components) we were able to improve the usability and the user experience.
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Pros Cons
• Desktop and Mobile solution
• Support BW authorization concept
• Fully support BW Query (KPI aggregation, hierarchies, variables, filters)
• First releases of Design Studio with limited javascript model (SDK)
• 1 Component (table/graph) = 1 data Source (query)
• No possibility to create additional KPIs on top of data sources
• Limited Graphical displays
• Usability of certain components like Filter panel

5th implementation with Business In Focus

In the context of the implementation of SAP Business In Focus for the board members of SAP, it was requested that we implement a people section with the main HR KPis.
Business In Focus is a Cloud solution with a predefined mobile app. This platform contains a database, an OLAP engine and a Web modelization interface.In the SAP context with all the data consolidated already on a corporate BW system, we decided to extract the data into csv files and push it via an https webservice into the cloud. The data extraction is done via ABAP functions on top of Bex queries and is automated on an hourly basis. Some mappings are done on BW to translate BW keys into Cloud keys to bypass some length limitations. The mapping is maintainable in custom tables.
This solution also contains forecast and revenues pages and is used by the top management for forecast calls and latest estimate calls.
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Pros Cons
• Quick mobile implementation with Tile approach – no interface development
• Performance with pre-aggregation of data on the Cloud DB
• Excel upload available
• Simple authorization concept limits the deployment – only Top management with Full view
• Dimension Mapping on the cloud
• Support of hierarchies limited
• BW Extraction in csv with ABAP functions – no standard connector
• Only Mobile solution / No desktop solution
Conclusion
I tried to demonstrate via those multiple implementations the different possibilities that technologies enable. The goal was not to position today those different tools as the limitations faced 3 years ago would been gone with new releases or product roadmaps have changed, but more to present different displays of HR KPIs in different contexts.
I hope the read of the blog gives you some ideas and opens some doors to empower the managers of your organization.
What is not covered in this article is the last phase of a BI project which is coming after the implementation and validation: the change management or how to roll-out a solution to a maximum numbers of users with a proper adoption. This is another challenge perhaps more complex in big organizations !!!
Thomas
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