SAP moves analytics solutions to the cloud

SAP Cloud for Analytics brings together the ability to evaluate, anticipate and plan in one product. So whether you’re a business analyst that has to do data discovery and visualization; a business operations individual who has to do reporting and planning; an FP&A pro who needs to do planning, profitability modeling, and forecasting; a data scientist that has to build predictive models for the previously mentioned to take advantage of; or a manager consuming key metrics and performance indications in a file or dashboard, there’s now one interface to do it with the ability to team up with your colleague’s in context.

To date these capabilities have been provided in a siloed product approach– you can buy this planning tool here but it doesn’t do data discovery; you can buy this BI tool there if you wish to do in depth analysis but it does not do planning; and you can buy this predictive analytics product if you desire to do predictive modeling. All separate products- all different product categories. But here’s the kicker, and here’s why SAP designed SAP Cloud for Analytics– Finance professionals, business experts, board members– anyone who is included with choice making, requires a mix of these abilities to do their jobs.

SAP Cloud for Planning ends up being SAP Cloud for Analytics

SAP Cloud for Analytics was substantiated of SAP Cloud for Planning,built for SaaS application targeted at Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) professionals. SAP Cloud for Analytics is the new name for SAP Cloud for Planning providing the additional abilities of data discovery and visualization, and predictive analytics. When SAP developed SAP Cloud for Planning, they reconsidered how an FP&An individual would want to use a planning application and where existing cloud offerings from planning and Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) suppliers were missing out on the mark. That’s the advantage of being a late entrant to a space– you get to see where others are not solving present problems and give market an innovative solution that does. What they noticed were 3 crucial things:

  • existing cloud options just addressed part of the problem requiring individuals to stitch together multiple items to do their jobs
  • most current cloud offerings were based on old technologies and paradigms (some well over 10 years old) with performance constraints that limited what concerns might be asked
  • many current cloud EPM offerings were simply too tough to use restricting adoption


A complete solution

From a Finance point of view, FP&A’s task includes, “working as the analytical engine of the company to offer understandings and support optimal decision making”. This includes planning/modeling, budgeting, forecasting, and difference analysis, “to provide accurate and timely suggestions” (that’s where predictive analytics and in-memory computing come into play). To this day, no product supplies these capabilities in one user interface, so most fund teams are using a mishmash of tools to attempt and do this or worse, just using standalone spreadsheets. It’s been essentially difficult to pry Excel out of the hands of Finance since they like the formula driven modeling capabilities and flexibility which they aren’t getting in current tools.

With SAP Cloud for Planning they tactically decided to embed analytics into the planning user interface so that FP&A wouldn’t have to integrate multiple items and flip between products/screens to do their jobs of supporting ideal decision making. They also made the modeling environment formula driven vs the conventional OLAP approach. Structure this on the SAP HANA Cloud Platform eliminated performance obstacles from the formula. This allowed us to provide Finance the advantages of Excel without the drawback of using Excel spreadsheets.

However the strategy was never ever to stop at simply planning and analysis for Finance. They understood that the same issue for Finance was being experienced in lines of business– artificial disconnect in between planning and analysis, disconnected business planning processes, and challenging to use tools again cultivating the use of Excel. In truth, some of our first chances for SAP Cloud for Planning were not for financial planning requirements however in lines of business for sales planning and headcount planning.

EPM is more of a process than a product classification

At the very same time that they developed SAP Cloud for Planning, they started to question the separation in between the product categories of Business Intelligence (BI), EPM, and predictive analytics. Do these truly need to be different products/categories? I’ve invested the last 12 years in the analytics space (5 years in BI and the last 7 years in EPM) so I’ve seen the market from both the EPM and BI viewpoint. The real difference in between BI and EPM is the audience not the technology. In the past, BI was usually offered to IT/developers to create reports consumed by others, and EPM to Finance as “applications” for monitoring KPIs, financial planning, and consolidations/disclosure.

But these “stereotypes” of BI and EPM are currently being challenged. Self-service agile data discovery and visualization has changed IT driven “production reporting” as the primary kind of BI. Business operations analysts also do planning. Financing groups build credit reports in addition to planning and forecasting designs. In fact, I ‘d argue that EPM is more a process than a software category– the process of handling business performance using BI tools, methodologies (ex. well balanced scorecard), and procedures (ex. annual budgeting). Only one of these components is pure technology– BI tools. Methods and processes are best practices that make their method into technology as content (formulas, logic, files, KPIs, and so on) and that’s what gets provided through “EPM applications”. In other words, EPM to date has actually had to do with selling analytic applications with prebuilt content to Finance and very much fund only.

Cloud for Analytics requirements of the organization

Driving much better choice making and business performance needs cross-organizational participation and EPM application adoption has actually never ever broken out of Finance. Lots of experts are recognizing this and reassessing how they define EPM. For instance, Gartner is splitting their Corporate Performance Management (CPM) classification into “Strategic CPM” and “Finance CPM”– the previous more oriented towards business planning and analysis and the latter at purely Finance functions (consolidations, close, and disclosure mgmt.). In, “the Breakup of the CPM Suite [1], Gartner states, “Management reporting has progressed past traditional responsibility reporting. Organizations are expecting more robust visualizations and an integrated performance viewpoint from their applications, bringing together KPIs/metrics, outcomes and projections for functional areas connected to financial reporting (the other side of IFP) into consistent playbooks and performance reports. For numerous organizations, these abilities are a combination of disclosure management, BI and traditional CPM capabilities, yet extended beyond standard accounting walls.”.

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