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Having had chance to use, explore and run a customer workshop on Cloud for Analytics over the last month or so, I wanted to share some of my views around the positioning of the product.

 

A business focused BI Platform

With posting a number of blogs on some of the key capabilities of the solution which can be found here, the ease, speed and flexibility with which I was able to setup and execute these elements gives the solution a complete business led focus.

 

There’s the core of the solution around a unified product for data wrangling (preparation), visualisation and planning (and eventually predictive) all in a single place which gives it the feel of a complete platform rather than a tool – which it definitely cannot be compared to. I include Lumira in this ‘tool’ bracket, as well as the likes of Tableau – these are data exploration tools not business led BI platforms. The data preparation piece is vital – Gartner are saying that self-service data preparation the next big disruption in the BI world.

 

All of the above mentioned features can be owned, performed and managed by the business with little intervention and need for IT involvement. They’ll potentially be some involvement from IT in the setup of connections to core enterprise systems to feed data into C4A (such as to BW, BPC and BI Platform UNXs) but that’s a one off activity.

 

Some of the more detailed elements like data security, data auditing and planning workflow (to name a small few of all of the features) can also very easily be setup and managed by business users. These elements again mean that C4A is enterprise ready whilst maintaining the business focus via the ease and speed.

 

 

A brilliant fit for the agile BI platform as part of bi-modal BI

The concept of business users having and owning their own BI platform (not tool) independent of IT allows the concept of ‘two speed’ BI to exist. Whilst C4A is business led, it’s not designed to replace enterprise or corporate BI Platforms. You need both (see Figure 1). A corporate BI platform allows enterprise wide analytics on core data sets and mission critical reporting, focused on delivering information governance for the relevant processes (finance, HR etc. where the numbers are the numbers and can’t interpreted in different ways).

 

 

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Fig 1 – Bi-Modal BI

 

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Fig 2 – C4A as a Line of Business BI solution

 

 

Corporate BI platforms however don’t allow businesses (IT or line of business users) to be agile (at least not easily). This is why we need a more agile BI platform to not only reuse existing corporate BI platform data feeds but to also allow uploading of additional data feeds, not in the corporate BI systems, quickly and easily before delivering engaging data visualisations.

 

If IT don’t give business users a BI platform (data preparation + visualisation + planning) to be agile in and allow them an air of control then business users will just go and do something on their own anyway (deliver requirements in Excel/Access as many have always done, or they’ll go and buy off the shelf desktop data discovery tools).

 

Cloud for Analytics play perfectly as the agile BI platform and allows business users to have the level of self-service flexibility they need whilst satisfying IT from a sustainability, unification and integration perspectives.

 

This is exactly how SAP positions Cloud for Analytics (see Figure 2) alongside its on premise corporate BI platform offering (mainly BI suite in the diagram above, but I include BW in this bracket). C4A plays a vital part in the future SAP analytics platform (see Figure 3).

 

 

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Fig 3 – Next generation SAP analytics platform

 

 

If you would like to read more on Bi-Modal BI as a concept, please see this e-book that I wrote or of course, please feel free to get ion touch.

 

 

 

All in the cloud: networking the data together

And finally, we have all of the above mentioned product unification, capability and functionality all accessible in the cloud. This is obviously critical for the business led approach, making it easy for users to access the platform where ever they are, all added to the fact that it is quick to innovate without the need for hardware installation and ongoing maintenance.

 

All business led BI data is in one place, making it easier to share and manage (removing physical server separation which may have occurred in the past and removal of risk around storage of local Excel/Access files on users’ machines. Users can easily share their data models and stories, becoming custodians of their domain’s data and sharing content out with other business areas.

 

 

 

Summary

I’ve been massively impressed by the completeness of the product at its current stage of the journey. There’s been a steady stream of continual improvement in the product, delivered without disruption through the cloud.

 

Added to some of the capabilities already mentioned in this post, there’s also the new generation UI and collaborative features of the product. This is the product which completes SAP’s analytics portfolio (the missing part in that cloud based agile BI platform space) and there’s no doubt it adds value to business through that ability for business users to self-deliver their ever changing and increasing demand for information to support decision making.

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6 Comments

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  1. Ingo Hilgefort

    Hello Matt,

    I must say I am “surprised” about the term “massively impressed by the completeness when the product is at this point not even covering basic requirements such as

    – the ability to handle multiple currencies or units

    – the ability to configure units / currencies in the actual models

    – scaling of numbers for visualizations

    (just to mention a few)

    regards

    Ingo Hilgefort, Visual BI

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    1. Matt Potts Post author

      Hello Ingo,

      That’s my view at this stage of the product life-cycle (i.e. version 1.0) and is based on the overall solution (BI and Planning capabilities as a whole) rather than detailed specifics on just the BI part.

      I’d say that this view is born out of working with early versions of previous analytics products and also having had an opportunity to see, in detail, some of the other non-SAP cloud BI platforms in the market.

      Agree that those requirements that you have listed do need to be made available in the future.

      Regards,

      Matt

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      1. Darius Knott

        Hi Matt,

        Great post! I agree with both you and Ingo in your opinions about Cloud Analytics. Matt hits it on the head when talking about a business user led experience, in my time with the tool it was apparent to me it was built with the end user in mind. I agree with Ingo in that key functions are needed and there are bugs to be fixed, I am sure those will be resolved and added in later released. I’m looking forward to seeing the evolution of this product.

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      1. Ingo Hilgefort

        Hello John,

        I guess we coming from different backgrounds. I am coming from BW / HANA background and when I am referring to being able to handle Units / Currencies in the model – that means that I have data that has all kind of transactions with all kind of Currencies / Units in the actual transactional data.

        Lets take a real life example and lets say we go into a shop in Las Vegas. Some people pay in USD, some in CAD, some pay with credit card in USD right there, some pay with credit card in CAD right there, some pay in EUR, …. and so on.

        So when I refer to handling Unit and Currencies in the model, that means that the model is capable of handling actually mixed data and right now you have to actually assign a currency to a model and there is no option in the model to for example have one column representing the measure and a second column that contains the Unit / currency information for each row.

        So – the modeling part in Cloud for Analytics is not able to handle those situations as it forces the user to choose a single currency for the model.

        Yes – the user can configure scaling in the model – correct, but first of all it only allows to configure a preset list of scaling factors as your screenshot shows and when you read my blog you will notice that I am referring to the actual visualization. There might be a situation where for a specific visualization the user wants to scale the numbers on the axis – the business user – and not the person creating the model.

        Scaling the values on the axis is a very typical workflow and any of the BI tools can do it – C4A does not have that functionality.

        Sure the business user could now go ahead and go back to the person creating the model and ask for a scaling configuration, but what if for another visualization I want another scaling ?

        Perhaps in one story I want to scale to millions and in another I want to scale the same measure to thousands – that is not possible right now in C4A.

        regards

        Ingo Hilgefort, Visual BI

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