With the launch of SAP S/4HANA Releases 1608/1610 and following releases the use-cases for analytics have changes dramatically. The used technology has shifted and the positioning with other specialized analytical solutions had to be adapted. What happened?
Analytics finally returned into the core with SAP S/4HANA
In SAP S/4HANA the split of reporting and transactions has been closed and new hybrid, built-in applications became possible. For example transactions for purchasing now give contextualized real-time information to make the best supplier decision. Not enough, recently these use-cases were enhanced with predictive and machine learning capabilities, providing intelligent decision support. Higher transparency, accuracy and predictability allow decision making at higher efficiency and quality.
Moreover, with the availablity of personalized Key Performance Indicator (KPI) information already on the SAP Fiori Launchpad, the individual user gets latest information about the business and the details behind this in configurable and personalizable drill downs or preconfigured applications. SAP Fiori Smart Templates like the Overview Pages come with preselected dashboard-style information to round up the view of the Business User and the areas she or he can influence this. Color-coded KPI tiles point on those areas which require immediate action, leading to drill-downs into the KPI details and eventually to either classic or hybrid transactions to execute the necessary changes. The latter can make use of so-called SAP Fiori Analytical List Pages which combine KPIs, related reporting data to pick and choose the data set a transaction should be processed with AND to the transaction step itself. This includes simulations of data and function executions to post the data.
Picture 1: Three simple steps from KPI to active transactional processing.
Picture 2: Example for a new standard hybrid transaction: SAP Fiori Analytical List Page “Event-Based Revenue Recognition”.
The Purpose of Enterprise Data Warehousing and SAP BW/4HANA in particular
So the provocative question is: What is the purpose of SAP Business Warehouse (SAP BW), SAP’s latest innovation platform SAP Business Warehouse for SAP HANA (SAP BW/4HANA) or Data Warehousing in general? Is it still necessary? In my last blog I have been proposing that The end of SAP Business Warehouse in the context of SAP S/4HANA is not in sight! This statement does not change. Data Warehousing and Embedded Analytics are serving very different use-cases. And the fact that SAP BW/4HANA is SAP’s standard solution for Enterprise Data Warehousing in the context of (SAP’s next generation ERP) SAP S/4HANA has not changed.
At the end of the 1990’s, SAP BW was used as a reporting engine for all matters including the operational reporting piece. With the power of SAP HANA as a database and the usage of ABAP-based Core Data Services technology the positioning has changed and an integration is very well possible, too (see also Ulrich Christ’s blog on ABAP CDS in SAP BW, or Matthias Kretschmer’s blog Unified Solution – SAP S/4HANA Embedded Analytics & SAP Business Warehouse powered by SAP HANA!).
Just for completion: SAP’s SQL-based SAP HANA Datawarehouse solution completes the picture, being a very useful extension of the existing SAP BW/4HANA EDW use-case.
With the introduction of SAP BW/4HANA, SAP strengthens this message, introducing a new solution, highly optimized for SAP HANA, open to any data source, serving as the new standard for EDW and as a great Big Data hub. So the portfolio is rounded up with SAP HANA being the common platform, SAP S/4HANA serving embedded analytics and SAP BW/4HANA serving as the Platform and application for Strategic Analytics. Overarched by SAP Analytics Solutions which serve as the perfect fit for (not only) visualizing all data sources providing strong Business Intelligence capabilities.
The use-cases of SAP S/4HANA
The central use-case is the combination of Analytics and Transactions in the environment of one SAP S/4HANA system. The data is operational, the availability real-time. The virtual character of the data model allows lightweight modeling with immediate reflection of structural changes due to the lack of persisted data. The models are extensible and easy reusable in different scenarios and allow the interoperability with transactional developments.
So it becomes possible to answer questions like:
“How to get the very latest contextual information while I am in my transaction?”
“Which transactions and areas should I prioritize?”
“I need the latest data structure changes reflected without a lengthy re-load of all data after a re-modeling!”
The use-cases of SAP BW/4HANA
As an Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) SAP BW/4HANA consolidates data across the entire enterprise using a standardized data model to support decision making. By defining common semantics all data values get harmonized and the result is a ‘single version of truth’.
To provide this, a single, comprehensive source of current and historical information needs to be established which implicates a redundant (aggregated and harmonized) persistence of data.
So it becomes possible to answer questions like:
“How to get a harmonized overview of my entire business?”
“How do I compare results from different sources?”
The mixed use-case
By mixing the use cases for Embedded and Strategic Analytics, the full range of either real-time and fine granular data to high level and multiple source data can be realized. Both concepts of Enterprise Data Warehousing and real-time analytics can be merged, reports and analyses being mashed up and reported in a single report, dashboard or other type of visualization.
Picture 3: Analytics in the context of SAP S/4HANA – the complete portfolio (simplified)
Making use of the integration capabilities of SAP BW/4HANA, enabled by the virtualization functionality, real-time operational data can be directly merged and visualized using SAP BW/4HANA standard tools and functionality.
This way a combination of embedded analytics and EDW cases and data can be created by an accelerated inclusion of SAP S/4HANA data into SAP BW/4HANA.
So it becomes possible to answer questions like:
“How do I enhance the latest real-time data with the ability to store snapshots, display external hierarchies etc.?”
“How do I enhance global EDW reports with the latest data coming from my SAP S/4HANA system?”
The power of integration
By leveraging SAP BW/4HANA you can natively integrate the models and data in SAP S/4HANA embedded analytics with those of an EDW, e.g. to compare real-time actuals with historical snapshots, planning results (from SAP Business Planning and Consolidation, SAP BPC), or external data. To see how this is established, refer to the following blogs: Unified Solution, ABAP CDS in SAP BW and How-to-Guide for further details.
SAP BW/4HANA is the innovation platform for EDW, although integration is also already possible with SAP Business Warehouse powered by SAP HANA. All new enhancements regarding the integration of SAP S/4HANA and SAP BW are planned to be implemented in SAP BW/4HANA only. Possible integration enhancements currently discussed are:
- new extraction models using Core Data Services (CDS for full and delta extraction) to achieve meta data consistency (content planned to be released for SAP S/4HANA Cloud in 2018, for custom implementations for on-premise look at this HOW TO guide).
- automatic data model alignment (e.g. oODS generation) to allow semi-automated integration setup (no concrete plans yet).
What about Embedded BW in SAP S/4HANA?
Since the release of SAP NetWeaver 7.0, SAP ERP systems automatically include SAP BW. The SAP BW technology that exists inside such an ERP system is called ‘Embedded BW’. This embedded functionality is used to support certain business processes in the SAP Business Suite and in SAP S/4HANA, e.g. integrated financial planning processes in SAP S/4HANA (aka. BPC Optimized).
To be absolutely clear: the “Embedded BW” is not recommended for building an Enterprise Data Warehouse, considering multiple SAP Applications on SAP HANA in productive environments (see in the SAP Community blog and in SAP note 1661202). It is common best practice to keep the amount of data persisted in the Embedded BW not to exceed 20% of the overall data volume of the system. But in selected small use-cases, the functionality of the “Embedded BW” can help to extend the range of SAP S/4HANA embedded analytics.
The version of BW used in the embedded scenario in an SAP S/4HANA system is SAP BW 7.5 (aka. “BW on HANA”) – Although it is a different codeline than the SAP BW/4HANA (and there are currently no plans to change this approach), it receives selected features from it, in particular the pushdown of certain calculations to the SAP HANA database, thus significantly improving performance of embedded analytics.
As depicted, SAP S/4HANA has changed the paradigms of Analytics in SAP’s ERP world drastically. With the functionality of SAP S/4HANA embedded analytics, it’s virtual data models, tools to consume data and to enhance the structures, it allows to either report on operational data real-time. It is also possible to run Analytics inside of Transactions and integrate Predictive and Machine Learning capabilities.
SAP BW/4HANA is SAP‘s strategic solution for Enterprise Data Warehousing (EDW) in the context of SAP S/4HANA. With the existence of analytical functionality like SAP S/4HANA embedded analytics, this does not mean that the use case of an EDW is redundant! For those environments where only local data is needed and operational reporting is sufficient, this might be true but in any case where data from multiple sides needs to be collected, merged and harmonized, the existence of a new data persistency and functionality to facilitate this, is required.
Both solutions, SAP S/4HANA and SAP BW/4HANA complement each other and can be fully integrated, to realize a combination of embedded analytics and EDW use cases.
With best regards,
Head Analytical Solutions, Global Business Development SAP S/4HANA