Analytics in the Cloud is huge. According to a recent study from January 2015 by Enterprise Management Associates, cloud based strategies are increasingly important. 56% of respondents identified their organization as having cloud-based analytics as Currently Adopted and Essential or Currently Adopted and Important in their organization. Primary drivers can be found at a need for a decreased time to information and a need for agility, two topics not always easy to handle by Corporate ITs when building up that rock solid EDW holding the one truth to rule them all, well at least so defined by corporate standards that is.
The times where the only source of good information would come out of the EDW is long gone. Local departments have been eagerly finding creative ways to cater for their many ad hoc reporting requirements, while corporate IT is finding ways to convince local departments that is not why the company spend millions to build up the corporate memory. The truth, as always, is somewhere in the middle.
What I have found to be a continuous struggle at many big corporates is the need to find a solution to acquire, connect and merge the many data warehouses which have been build over the years. Quite frankly, looking at their EDWs and single sources of truth is more often than not, existing in many BI systems. Many are labelled as Enterprise Data Warehouses, non are fully harmonised and connected.
If SAP play their cards right, this is where they can actually make the difference.
Cloud BI at SAP
Cloud BI at SAP has always been a bit confusing to me. On the one hand, just a year ago the partnership with Birst was announced at Teched, which could be seen as an attempt to get a strong entry point into the market by leveraging the ETL and exploration capabilities of Birst. Smart move to quickly claim some market share, but seen as confusing by many. Why a partnership when you have flagship products yourself?
On the other hand we have seen that previous attempts also have not brought a wide success and adoption at customers. Not with the in 2010 introduced SAP BusinessObjects by Demand and not with it’s successor Lumira Cloud which will now be migrated to Cloud for Analytics.
So why could Cloud for Analytics work this time? The answer is HANA. Well, actually it’s not, the answer is Integration.
Cloud BI is difficult when not done right. Sure you can have a nicely polished visualisation tool with fantastic graphics and flying bars, but that’s not what it’s all about. Its about connecting and integrating with a multitude of data sources and Excel just happens to be the least important one.
I believe this is where SAP could be in the sweet spot of Cloud BI.
The CFA roadmap is already showing that today integration is one of the key capabilities of CFA. They are part of the core.
CFA will be able to connect to S/4 (naturally), to BWs and to other sources all throughout the corporate landscape:
- SAP Data Sources: HANA, BW, S/4 HANA
- Support for Oracle, SQL Server, Teradata through HANA Smart Data Access
- Planning Data Sources: BPC NW, BPC MS
- Static Data Sources: CSV, XLS
- Cloud Data Sources: salesforce.com
- Connect to on-premise S/4HANA, HANA, or BW systems without data replication
- Leverage the native analytical capabilities of SAP systems (hierarchy navigation, calculated KPI)
- Bi-directional integration with BPC NW/MS
The future developments will also bring increased connectivity to HADOOP (Spark Vora) and as the Roadmap puts it a bit cryptical “Additional on-premise data sources”, I’m guessing this will work out just fine when some of the secret sauce is added.
The secret sauce
Using the HCP as a basis for CFA should also bring the integration capabilities of the HCI in the form of “SAP HANA Cloud Integration for Data Services”. This in my view can be the secret sauce to cater for the integration challenges the big corporates are facing.
Having the possibility to not only simply bring sources together in the cloud, but to also have a simple way of transforming the data on its way to the cloud, might just fill the huge gap we have today. Combine that with a solution for a single entry point for reporting, dashboarding, planning and heck even for the board, might actually make the difference we have been long waiting for.
To find more information on the HCI, I recommend the following excellent YouTube playlist:
Thanks for reading and take care!
p.s. Many, many thanks for sticking with me to the end without me distracting you with any pictures of flying bar charts 😉