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SAP ECC and IM Practice convergence Vis a vis S/4 HANA

Introduction: Organizations, for decades, have divided Transactional systems and Data warehouse teams into  separate practices, as they required different skill set, timelines, technologies, and processes.  With the latest innovations in SAP HANA, Information management tools and technologies are evolving so fast and getting lean and agile.  As the IM processes and technologies are converging, there is a need for converging people part of the practice.  This article explains why SAP Business Suite and Information practices should be converged sooner than later.

SAP Information Management practice at a glance:

Data ware house: Information management practice largely deals with Managing, Building, Transforming, and migrating,  simple Data warehouses to complex Enterprise Data warehouses.  It also deals with some of the managing applications based on BW technologies like SEM Consolidations, BW Integrated Planning, Advanced Planning Optimizer,  Strategic Enterprise Management, Profitability analysis etc.,

Performance Management Technologies: Performance Management Technologies deals with Business Planning, Financial Consolidations, Management Consolidations, Profitability analysis

Business Objects: Business Objects involves a range of reporting tools like Analysis for Office, OLAP analysis, Crystal Reports, Crystal Enterprises, Business Explorer. It also includes data services to help huge data conversions, migrations and Master Data Governance tools.

Changes in SAP IM technologies since SAP HANA:

Data warehouse:  SAP Business suite based on net weaver, has an embedded BW, since EHP 4. Many did not know it.  Since HANA, several new applications are now available in SAP Embedded BW like profitability analysis, Embedded based BW Integrated planning applications, and so on. Having HANA as a database for Business suite, providing a great opportunity to create data warehouse applications with new technologies like Virtual Cubes, Real Time Cubes, Input Ready Data stores, HANA views, new HANA DB connection enables connection to ECC via Analysis for Office etc.,

Central Journal Functionality can connect to legacy systems to pull the finance data directly and post it to ECC for centralizing financial reports, which was a function of BW before.

Performance Management Tools: Business Planning and Consolidation is at the chore of PMT practice. With HANA, SAP introduced BPC 10.1 Embedded version, which will be an add-on, on top of, Embedded BW-IP and Simple Finance.  Though the embedded version works, at present, only for planning applications, SAP Roadmap indicates that Consolidations will be available in embedded version by end of 2015.  Embedded BW based planning  closely integrates with ECC as Actual data and Master Data are captured from ECC directly via Info Objects and Info Providers, built on HANA Views, on ECC tables. This means the PMT practitioners now has to know where the master data and actual data in ECC.  The functions in BPC admin console is now restricted to few things like Business Process flows, Work status, Model on top of BW info providers, Local Providers etc., Those organizations who do not have much complexities in planning  normally won’t use those functions, hence BPC admin becomes irrelevant for them. Once Consolidations are available, it will have the lean and agile functionalities as planning. Overall, BPC will be very visible for ECC practitioners and most of the Finance practitioners in ECC, especially those who come from accounting background, can easily pick up the BPC business processes and can easily deliver the planning and consolidation projects/ support.

Business Objects: Business Object reporting tools have not changed much, except that Analysis for office now connects to MDX applications. With that, BPC EPM add-on becomes less relevant for planners on top of Embedded BPC.  Analysis for office can now connect to ECC via HANA views. This means, ECC practitioners can now build cross application reports or queries without having a BW system. Business Objects Data services can still deliver data conversions for non-financial data and financial data, however, once the central journal functionality extends to supply chain and logistics, BODS may become irrelevant in future.  Much of the MDG functionalities are now available in embedded BW, which does not require a standalone BW any more.

Conclusion: As most of the technologies of IM now, closely integrate with ECC, agility of HANA reduces the Data print, it is now much simpler for practitioners in Business Suite and IM to collaborate and deliver high performance applications in much shorter times. Indeed that convergence of SAP and IM practices provides a very high efficiency for Project and client organizations. However, embedded BW cannot provide much of EDW capabilities yet, as usual, SAP licensing does not allow storing more than 20% of Non-SAP data in embedded BW.  Embedded BW is not recommended as EDW, due to technical reasons also. This means EDW teams can remain as a separate team, for some more time.

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