Analytics forms the basis of understanding what our data is trying to tell us. For users of SAP from the 90s, The go-to system for storing all data and doing operations on it was SAP Business Warehouse (BW). SAP BW offered an entirely new way for business operators to think about data storage and processing. However, SAP BW lacked in some regards. It was extensible, so whatever it didn’t have, companies could source from outside or write their own reporting methods to be used in-house.
Many businesses turned to develop their own “reading” and “writing” systems for data, tied into an integrated report system that allowed for the insights the industry needed to know what its next move was. Businesses developed systems to move the burden of analysis to OLAP from OLTP systems and added redundancy through pre-calculation of data to improve how reliably and efficiently systems responded to demands.
Moving Past the Early Beginnings
Today’s SAP S/4 HANA is a different beast altogether from the early days of SAP BW. One of the most touted benefits it offers to users is the inclusion of embedded analytics. As the name tells us, embedded analytics is built into the core of SAP S/4 HANA and is meant to offer a solution for rapid processing of large amounts of enterprise-level data. Already, the idea of embedded analytics looks far less clunky than the old concept of shunting analytical processes using SAP BW data into another linked program developed for that purpose. Results are likely to be delivered a lot faster because the analytics engine exists alongside the data storage system.
Just like the old BW reports system, the most common report options come standard with SAP S/4 HANA’s embedded analytics system. Additionally, there is no need to write entire programs to take data from the order and process it externally, since S/4 HANA is extensible through ABAP. While embedded analytics does serve as the system for operational reporting, the question as to whether SAP BW is dead is still an unresolved one.
Why Does a Business Still need SAP BW?
In a nutshell, SAP BW offers some of the same overlapping competencies that S/4 HANA does, but HANA does so far more efficiently than SAP BW can do. The critical thing to remember is that while S/4 HANA’s embedded analytics offers some of the same stuff that SAP BW used to have, it doesn’t cover all the bases. The only way that S/4 HANA would completely replace an SAP BW system is if the BW system only utilizes ERP data and exists solely to generate operational reports. This is especially useful in an ecommerce environment where security is a concern.
There are several reasons why an old SAP BW system may still be relevant in this day and age. S/4 HANA only deals with SAP data, while SAP BW offers a method to deal with non-SAP or unstructured data sets. SAP BW also enables businesses to do ad-hoc reporting, something that S/4 HANA doesn’t extend to its users. While these are just some of the cases that an SAP BW system might still be relevant, businesses that have employed SAP BW since its inception will have a better idea of how their BW systems are still necessary for their company’s smooth operation.
Obsolescence is not Death
While some IT gurus may disagree, if a piece of software is obsolete, it’s not yet dead. There will be no more updates coming for SAP BW, nor will SAP support it in the future. But it still holds relevance in several situations and edge cases. The utilization of an SAP BW install to fill a need that SAP S/4 HANA doesn’t address is still valid. While embedded analytics does form a pretty fantastic innovation in and of itself, it doesn’t completely replace the old SAP BW systems, nor was it designed to do so. These software systems were built to address different problems, and while there is an area of overlap, it isn’t significant enough to completely kill the older system.