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S/4HANA Reporting and the “Quest for the Holy Grail”​ Part 1

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Quite a few SAP customers keep asking the same questions when they move or already moved to S/4HANA: How can we ensure our operational as well as analytical reporting? Is S/4HANA Embedded Analytics enough? Do we need a BW/4HANA, SAP Analytics Cloud, Analysis for Office, or any additional DWH or BI solution? Or can we simply reuse existing SAP ERP tools like SAP Query or QuickView?

The typical answer of an SAP consultant is as always: “it depends”, but I would like to share some experiences in this context.

Operational vs. Analytical Reporting

With S/4HANA, the traditional limitations of operational reporting (OLTP – Online Transaction Processing) within the ERP system and the analytical systems (OLAP – Online Analytical Processing) like data warehouses or BI systems are dissolving and new hybrid approaches to combine both are no longer wishful thinking. However, to make use of the new possibilities and tools offered by S/4HANA, SAP customers need to be clear about the reporting requirements and their reporting strategy before starting to implement reporting solutions.

S/4HANA Reporting Overview

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A fool with a tool is still…

There is a multitude of tools that can be used with S/4HANA, but as always, there is no “one-size-fits-all” or “silver bullet” for all SAP customers in terms of reporting strategy. In contrast to all the fancy new tools presented in the SAP marketing, it is crucial to focus on a pragmatic approach with a choice of reporting tools that are suitable and “digestible” for a company. Decision factors could be the “SAP reporting legacy” of a company (e.g. experience with and usage of existing tools like SAP GUI, BO, or 3rd party tools) or enough budget and affinity for new tools like S/4 Embedded Analytics incl. Fiori or Analytics Cloud.

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Source of template: www.infograpia.com

Reporting tends to be one of the most underestimated topics when implemented S/4HANA, especially with regard to effort and budget.

Why? Even though quite a few tools like S/4 Embedded Analytics or standard CDS Views are “for free” from a pure license point of view, it still requires effort to make them fit for purpose. In addition, reporting has always an individual nature and I have not seen that a single company in many years of SAP projects that simply uses just the “standard tools” without any customising.

What does that mean in more practical terms? Of course, new tools like Embedded Analytics or Analytics Cloud offer quite a few possibilities compared to traditional tools in SAP ERP like SAP Query or Quickviewer (e.g. advanced data modelling capabilities with CDS Views or out-of-the-box analytical as well as ad-hoc reporting without an additional BW with Embedded Analytics incl. standard Fiori apps). However, as already mentioned, it requires effort to define a suitable reporting strategy incl. the appropriate set of tools and enough budget for implantation. This is why traditional tools are not dead yet and still need to be considered because they might offer a quick or even longer-term win. For instance, a simple list report with a few joins can still be a better solution than a “fancy” new Fiori dashboard that never gets deployed.

Considerations

Some general considerations based on first-hand experiences that might help you:

  1. Be clear about your report needs and prioritise: it is crucial that companies first become aware of the reporting requirements and then immediately think about prioritising them. From past projects, it became obvious that not all requirements can be implemented at once. Business and IT need to agree on what needs to be implemented and when. In this context, the selection of reporting tools is a critical to ensure a wide acceptance among users.
  2. Operational reporting first: before thinking about too much about “pretty” and “fancy” new reports and dashboards, ensure that all essential operational reports are covered before go-live. Otherwise, you will fall into the “catch-up trap” once the new S/4HANA is live, and believe me, it will be difficult to deal with all the existing and new reporting requirements and not be overwhelmed. Therefore, it is not a rare phenomenon that in this after-go-live phase the budget for reporting explodes and it is advisable to think about enough “hyper care” budget in the overall project estimation. A clearly defined selection of tools before go-live can help to control the budget.
  3. Analytical reporting not second: of course, analytical reporting is one of the great benefits with S/4HANA and should not be ignored. But keep in mind that the boundaries between operational and analytical reporting are dissolving with S/4HANA and therefore analytical reporting goes hand in hand with operational reporting. This is probably a change in the way reporting and BI solutions were implemented before in companies. Hence, it is advisable that business and IT make themselves aware of possibilities and agree on an overall reporting strategy including a clearly defined roadmap. This should also include the selection of reporting tools.

Synopsis

Long story short: there are many new reporting tools available with S/4HANA, but as never before, my strong advice is “keep it simple and pragmatic” and go with a step-by-step approach rather than try to implement everything at once. As always, it is imperative to decide on reporting requirements, strategy, and the necessary tools before go-live rather than trying to catch-up in the busiest phase after going live. Lastly, the budget should consider enough reporting effort, especially in this “hyper care” phase in order to avoid any nasty discussions with project sponsors.

*Please note that t his blog post was already shared on LinkedIn

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