Have you ever spent more time trying to understand what reports are telling you than analyzing and interpreting the results? If you have, you’re not alone. At least this is my assessment after talking with Joachim Mette, Business Innovation & IT, Strategic Initiatives at SAP.
Joachim’s remit at SAP is to focus on using the SAP HANA platform, analytics software, and mobile apps to deliver benefits for the company’s accounting function. And he and his group have had considerable success.
In one project the time taken to produce forecasting reports has been reduced from six to eight hours down to minutes. In another project, the speed and accuracy of company reporting has been improved significantly by moving from reporting on currencies at an aggregated level to using live source data.
In a third project Joachim’s team provided business users with the ability to simply and easily create their own reports without assistance from IT. But, perhaps their greatest success has been improving how data is presented.
Adopting a Standard Notation
Being faced with a multitude of reports with different layouts, terminology and naming, and mixed or inconsistent notations is not unusual in the business world. The net effect makes it time-consuming and difficult to compare information between reports and, as a result, analyze it.
Imagine if sheet music or maps were produced in this way. Orchestras would be totally discordant and travelers would never get to their destination. Sheet music and maps work because there is a standard notation that everyone can read and quickly understand.
Designing for Legibility
Joachim and his team have applied the same concept to business information at SAP. Today they’re using a common reporting standard that has consistent layouts, terminology, and naming across reports, dashboards, and graphics. It also includes defined notations for abbreviations, color schemes, and layouts.
Now users can use visual standards to find the information they need quickly – for example actuals, budget, and forecast data. As a result, they can focus on what that data is telling them and the actions they need to take, rather than finding the information in the first place.
Using technologies like SAP HANA, SAP Business Warehouse, and SAP Crystal Reports software, Joachim and his team have accelerated the delivery of reports to minutes and provided self-service reporting to users. More recently they have been able to better analyze purchase orders by using SAP Lumira on top of S/4 HANA. Using information design they’re making it easier for recipients to consume the information, which leads to faster, smarter decision making.
Here are Joachim’s top tips for success:
- Talk to business users about the issues they want to solve
- Decide which information is important to have in real time
- Think carefully about how you present and visualize data to make it easy for recipients to interpret
- Pay attention to simple things, like column sequences and standard use of colors
- Let the SAP HANA platform help you use transactional data to achieve greater accuracy in financial reporting, and stop just using aggregated information.
Learn how other SAP executives are running analytics solutions to accelerate insight, anticipate tomorrow, and shape the future.