With the rise of the S4/HANA platform there is an increased emphasis on aligning the enterprise applications sitting on top of the platform to leverage the power of HANAs in memory processing. The layers of complexity, once essential to manage the limitations of databases reliant on physical memory are being swept away by HANA. The relationships between transactional data and financial (and planning) applications are growing more linear as the technical burden of large queries become less of a concern.
There are many factors to consider when deciding between a standard or embedded version of BPC.
Below is an overview of some of the benefits and challenges of deciding to roll out BPC Embedded on an S4/HANA platform, to assist in asking: which solution best suits my business?
Closer relationship between transactional data and the planning facility
As it is possible to have the Actuals component of Embedded rely directly on the actuals in BW sitting directly in the HANA platform, there is a reduced overhead in copying actual data into BPC as it is accessed via a DSO. The old adage “One version of the truth rings true here. One hopes this will cut down on the amount of time taken consolidating the Balance Sheet balance across from a central system to BPC and less time mapping accounts across from one hierarchy to another. It is worth noting that this is possible in standard BPC but requires the additional step of copying data from an ADSO into the BPC cube via a package transfer.
Keeping up with SAP
Moving onto the SAP HANA platform long-term will keep in line with the development of SAP’s suite of products. More and more SAP are pushing to centralise all business software onto the HANA platform and beginning to plan in end-of-life support for applications that don’t fit within that vision. Staying on track with SAP now will prevent special request support for outdated applications and leave the risk of long-term non-compliance with industry standards. With GDPR looming it is especially important for companies to focus on ensuring their entire ecosystem of its applications is supported, secure and de-risked. Although classic BPC is still a fully supported option on the SAP-HANA platform, the likelihood is there will be a greater emphasis of products that align more closely with centralised data sources.
Synergy with the SAP HANA Platform
Any company already making an investment in SAP S4/HANA should at least look at the advantages and possible synergies of leveraging that investment and using an integrated planning solution. Not only will it maintain a centralised source of actual data (reducing the risk of multiple versions of the truth) but it may be a more efficient use of funds over the life of the application. It is worth doing an analysis of the long-term cost of all the planning solutions available within the SAP portfolio, to make sure your company is getting the best value for the functionality and longevity you are paying for.
Ability to access BPF’s from within the Analysis for Office interface.
Previously not a possible feature in the EPM Add-In. The lack of this functionality previously meant requiring any end user who had a specific role within the planning function to have access to the Web Console to access instances and initiate their involvement in a BPF.
Ability to disaggregate
One of the classic BPC pitfalls is the inability to simply input data at a parent level without a workaround (normally Dummy accounts sitting inside the hierarchies used to facilitate logic/VBA to push data down). This additional configuration becomes obsolete with BPC Embedded, where users can push data down across a number of child nodes from a parent node for any Key Figures they give permission to. This feature brings BPC in line with BI-IP in regards to top-down distribution functionality.
Embedded planning has incorporated FOX (Formula Extension) Script that is a significantly simpler mechanism than ABAP to achieve calculations within BPC. Fox can be used when pre-defined calculations in BPC do not cover the requested functionality. FOX can be used for simple and complex calculations alike, and according to SAP*, “requires no programming”. This may be a little misleading, FOX still requires basic statements, the core benefit is simplicity of use, ease to pick up and a significant reduction in the amount of code needed to achieve the same results. This is very powerful, but requires a specific skill set, and potentially more support from IT to assist in changes for finance departments.
Gone are the days of manually linking data tables in the EPM Add-In to charts via offset formulas, and having to manually adjust ranges. With Analysis for Office charts are dynamically created based on the crosstab in view. This allows for dynamic expansion of the hierarchy without breaking your visualisation, and it can still be formatted in the same way as any other excel chart.
More reliant on IT support
The ongoing trend for the past ten years or so, has been taking ownership of enterprise software applications out of IT and into Finance departments. With the rise of S4/HANA a number of features and customisation options have been “further down” in the reporting stack. As such changes to dimensionality, property values and queries are less accessible via the admin console. This may require the financial planning facility of a business to either bring in/develop specialised skills or rely more heavily on their IT department, requiring effective communication between the two parties.
Changing technical skill sets
BPC Embedded requires a heavier investment in the development in BW and also in the design of BEx queries, off which reports and inputs are now based. This shift in development means design, creation and maintenance of the system will now occur at a lower level and the reporting should flow out of this. The design of BEx queries is handled in the Query Designer application that sits on top of ECLIPSE and can be downloaded with a host of other SAP development tool.
The fallacy of automation comes into play here, whilst the system itself may be handling more complex tasks and requires less human input overall, when required the input must be more informed in able to adequately address changes, issues and long-term maintenance.
Learning Curve for Finance Users
The Analysis for Office learning curve is greater than that of the EPM Add-In, especially for Finance users who are generally more accustomed to the ‘excel’ way of thinking present in the design philosophies of the older Add-In. The classic EPM Add-In tended to lean on Excel functionality, however Analysis for Office is much more in line with the SAP way of thinking in regards to local content and formatting. Report design initially feels less flexible and the formatting is more rigidly aligned to artefacts such as hierarchy levels, than the highly detailed options available via formatting sheets.
SAP Business Objects Analysis for Office
Flexible Planning with SAP BPC 11.0 and Analysis for Office
*e-book BPC450_EN_Col10v page 269 (Via SAP Learning Hub)