Financial planning : SAP Analytics Cloud to replace SAP Business Planning & Consolidation ?
The main priority of SAP’s development team is the enhancement of their products in the cloud. However, new versions of on-premise solutions are still being released. SAP Business Planning & Consolidation (BPC) has been the top-notch product in the area of financial planning since the acquisition of Outlooksoft. Last year, SAP has released version 11.1 which runs on BW/4HANA 2.0. However, the degree of innovation available in the latest version of SAP BPC, is not in line with the progress made in previous versions. The main innovations are present SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC) for planning. In the scenario that customers require an on-premise planning solution due to regulations, policy or complex requirements, SAP can offer these customers a hybrid solution where SAC serves as a front-end on top of your BPC backbone.
Still it makes sense to make a comparison between the SAP BPC product and SAC for planning. SAC being an innovative product, It is within expectations that the maturity of SAC planning is not up to date yet with business functionality in SAP BPC. The first and most important point of comparison is the architecture of both products, which should mainly influence your decision to go for cloud only, hybrid or on-premise only.
For starters, SAP BPC comes in two very different product variants : standard and embedded. The following blogs explains different options in the BPC configuration very clearly : https://blogs.sap.com/2019/10/25/financial-planning-options-in-s4hana/. As BPC standard is a powerful business tool, with strong integration into Excel, it is however not very suitable for handling very large datasets, performing top-down planning (e.g. Sales & Cost planning drilling to material level). BPC embedded together with BPC optimised for S/4HANA( which is another variant , where data is written directly into the ACDOCP table ) excels in these type of planning, and is strongly integrated with SAP data models. This is because this product evolved from SAP’s proprietary solution, BI – Integrated Planning. It was later rebranded to BPC embedded and has inherited some functionalities in the web client from BPC standard. However, it misses the flexibility of BPC standard and therefore is a more IT-driven tool.
Therefore in order to address different planning scenarios, one would need to implement both variants of SAP BPC, resulting in two completely different applications, requiring high training and maintenance costs. Also, SAP BPC requires quite some specialized skillset to create nice input screens or reports on top of the data, and different business intelligence tools to develop nice-looking dashboards. Once you want to roll out your planning applications to a large user community, you will need to roll out a citrix installation on top of that, since the main front end of SAP BPC resides in Excel.
Architectural elegance is the area where SAP Analytics Cloud excels over all the BPC variants, and beats BPC in every aspect. Functionalities which are now spread over the different products variants of SAP BPC, are now being unified in one cloud product and on top of that offers ease-of-use, a fully integrated an very strong reporting and dashboarding toolset. It also integrates with other datasources like SuccesFactors, Salesforce, SAP IBP, … As this is a fully cloud web-based application, rolling out to a large user community comes with no extra infrastructure costs. There is no doubt that from an architectural point-of-view, SAC should be on the roadmap as a planning & analytics solution. A very important question is how to time your migration project, which will rely on the current features available in SAC. You can be sure that the most important parts of your requirements will be addressed by SAC in the future; but to make an assessment for a potential implementation today, it very interesting to look in detail at the differences between BPC and SAC :
Dimensions and models
|BPC offers the possibilty of creating your own models or re-using an infoprovider from BW.||A model in SAC can be build by importing a file, connecting to models in other SAP systems or by manually building dimensions and models.|
|Time dimension is available in BPC standard or in BW for BPC embedded.||A date type or time dimension is automatically added to your models and has in-built functionality (e.g. fiscal time).|
|The version or category type dimension needs to be setup manually. No built-in functionality for creation of versions, except some properties related to currency conversion.||The version type dimension has some built-in functionality (private and public versions, creation of versions while planning and publication function)|
|Extended currency conversion business rules, including datasource, flow and account dimensions in rules. Currency is a seperate dimension.||Standard currency conversion is limited to simulations only , currency is not a dimension. Conversion is executed on the fly. Possible to extend conversion by introducing currency dimension and creating a custom rates model.|
|Intercompany elimination rules||Elimination not available as business rule, but function is available in advanced formulas|
|Extended set of consolidation business rules.||Consolidation should be performed in S/4 Group Reporting|
|Account based calculations, business rule to calculate cash flow from balance sheet movements.||Cash Flow calculation can be setup with advanced formulas|
|Planning allocations, setup in the logic script module||Allocation rules can be configured without scripting|
|Disaggregation automatically performed in BPC embedded. In BPC standard more complex with manual setup using script logic module.||Disaggregation automatically performed|
|BPC optimized for S/4HANA comes with planning content.||Financial planning and analysis content available connecting live to S/4HANA|
Scripting and formulas
|Logic script module available in BPC standard, and FOX formula scripting in BPC embedded.||Data actions are available which has similar functionality as the script logic module in BPC standard.|
|In BPC standard, MDX formulas can be used to perform on the fly calculations in reports. BPC embedded uses the formula engine of Bex queries.||Formulas con be configured on model level and during report building.|
|Further customisation of calculations is possible using Badis, programming in ABAP or HANA SQL.||Further customization using programming languages is not available in SAC. However, when using the Hybrid approach with BPC embedded, a user can launch a BPC planning sequence to trigger Badis developed on-premise|
Data entry and user experience
|The main user interface is embedded into Excel. This provides flexibility in the development of input schedules and reports, but comes with stability issues and limitations in building graphical user interfaces.||As this is a cloud solution, the user interface is web based. Input screens are embedded into SAC stories, which offers on top of tables and grids, a large set of graphical analytics. The user experience is excellent.|
|In order to build forecast input schedules, specialized BPC knowledge is required.||A built-in functionality exists to build forecast input tables.|
|Execution of business functions is integrated in the Excel add-in by means of datamanager packages (standard) or planning sequences (embedded).||Execution of business functions is integrated in stories by executing data actions or allocations, or on-the-fly currency conversion simulation.|
|Roles in BPC standard are not present, data access and task profiles are assigned directly to teams . BPC embedded uses SAP standard’s security concepts||Security concepts are more extensive compared to BPC standard. Roles can be created which can combine tasks and data privacy, similar to SAP standard roles. Roles can be assigned to teams.|
|No self-service exists in BPC standard, except if setup is done entirely in the SAP backend.||A self-service service exists by which users can request roles.|
|Audit can be activated for administration activities and data changes||Audit data is logged when data is published from a private version.|
Process Flows, Data Validation & Locking
|Business process flows are available for BPC standard and embedded, to configure the steps required to complete a planning process.||Processes and tasks can be configured from the calendar.|
|Step dependencies can be configured.||Similar functionalities as BPC, but dependencies between task is on the roadmap.|
|Data validation can be setup in the SAP back-end. Property-enabled validation needs to be programmed in a badi. Embbeded BPC works with characteristic relationships.||Cross-dimensional validation rules are on the roadmap|
|Data locking is available through the concept of workstatus. Dimensions for locking can be configured||Data locking concepts are similar to BPC’s workstatus mechanism.|
|Collaboration is not present in BPC||SAC integrates an online collaboration tool.|
|SAP BPC is tightly integrated with SAP BW. BPC embedded is fully integrated with BW, whereas BPC standard has a seperate namespace. Standard packages exists to import transactional and masterdata.||SAC allows to connect to a wide range of datasources, including (live and import) S/4HANA , HANA db, BW, BPC, Universes; (import only) SAP ECC, Succesfactors, Google Drive, SAP IBP, Salesforce, ….|
|Exporting data to SAP BW is to be developed manually.||SAC can write (write back) directly into SAP BPC embedded models.|
|Sap BPC optimised for S/4HANA (embedded version) allows to directly update the ACDOCA table.||Data can be exported into SAP BPC models, SAP S/4HANA and SAP IBP.|
|Analytical applicatons allow to call functions from S/4HANA directly through odata services.|
It is very clear that SAP is putting hard effort in developing decent functionality in SAP Analytics Cloud, addressing all strong functionalities from SAP BPC, while improving the user experience. The business functionality is not up to date with BPC since SAC is not a financial consolidation tool. A consolidation engine is available in S/4HANA group reporting and SAC can be used to report your consolidated figures. SAP provides content for SAC to allows customers to perform real-time analytics on financial consolidation data. Management consolidation however can be performed with SAC.
You should see SAC as a broader platform to integrate your analytics and planning strategy. It could trigger a project to deliver all necessary analytics to your planning users in one view. SAC removes all limitations of SAP BPC regarding analytics , providing users a platform to integrate business analytics into their planning process. The above comparison between BPC and SAC can assure you that the planning functionality is present in SAC, and therefore this is a great time to plan your migration journey towards SAC. The analysis of this project should be mainly focused around a feasibility study of the required business functionality to be present in your planning process. It is possible that more complex business functionality could not be performed inside SAC, which has a potential impact on your architectural setup. A strong integration with other applications like S/4HANA or BPC allows you to export data and perform functionality inside these platforms, in the case SAC is not able to deliver the functionality. This indeed renders your architecture more complex, since it is possible that you require BPC embedded to remain active in your on-premise BW.
Let’s look at some options of BPC configurations and their potential timeline to migrate towards SAC. Clients who have deployed BPC standard for consolidation, planning & budgeting, should consider a timeline where BPC standard is completely decommissioned.
|SAP BPC standard is deployed for local consolidation and controlling teams, with a relative small user base.||A small-scale deployment tells you that BPC is used mainly as a business tool. BPC standard is still supported until 2024 (depending on your version, you might consider an upgrade). You can start by positioning SAC as a tool for reporting and dashboarding on top of BPC data, by training the business users on the integration with SAP BPC. SAC is very user friendly and when user acceptance is acquired, you can plan to decommission SAP BPC once S/4HANA group reporting is live.|
|SAP BPC embedded used to support your budgeting and forecasting process.||You have the option to use SAC as the front-end of your BPC embedded application, this way you can deploy the planning screens in the web to end users. However, you should consider moving the planning data also into the cloud, as your application will become more efficient. SAC provides the functionality for full deployment into the cloud. SAP offers also the possibility to connect Analysis for Office to SAC, for end-users who love to keep working with the Excel front-end.|
|SAP BPC standard widely used in the organization , for consolidation , planning & budgeting. EPM add-in deployed with Citrix to connect large user base.||
Deploying SAC as your front-end has the big advantage of being able to decommission your Citrix servers. For BPC standard, no direct write back exists, but data can be imported into exported from SAC. Your main input processes can reside inside SAC, consolidation and calculations can be executed in BPC standard.
Once S/4HANA migration is on the table, one can plan to fully decommission SAP BPC.
source : diagram created with diagrams.net
Looking at current functionalities and the roadmap of SAP Analytics Cloud, the product is ready to meet your business requirements and provide more in terms of business analytics to your end users. The on-premise product portfolio will remain in place, and SAC can be tightly integrated with your system in order to deliver a top-notch front-end and enhanced functionalities. You shouldn’t be slowed down by a set of complex business functionalities, since your on-premise system can still handle this or in case of a full cloud strategy the Cloud ABAP platform is available for your developers.