SAP Analytics Cloud

The end-to-end
Laszlo Szücs
Senior Consultant

ONE solution for business

SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC) was developed from scratch in 2015. The developers focused on a pure cloud solution for end users, to which SAP, non-SAP as well as on-premise data sources could be linked.

Users are to receive a product with which they can set up and operate their reporting, analysis and planning solutions, to a large extent autonomously and without extensive training. It is therefore possible to use SAC without any programming know-how as well as without SAP source systems.

As even a highly experienced business analyst can only answer a limited number of questions, AI and Machine Learning are deployed as well. These are the so-called “Augmented Analytics” features, which provide the business analyst with valuable insights into the data with great speed and ease.

Predictive functionalities are available as well, both to the business and to the data scientist and for use in the standard reporting.

The standard function scope is very powerful in itself. New releases are provided on a quarterly basis. And if the provided features & functions don’t cover a company’s specific requirements, individual enhancements can be added using the Analytic Application Designer – for instance to provide a special dropdown box or a workflow taking the user directly from SAC into SAP S/4HANA. Simple scripting offers a wide range of possibilities.

During this process, the custom enhancements are incorporated directly into SAP Analytics Cloud – there is no need for additional on-premise installation. This means that the WYSIWYG promise still stands. Just one click takes you from designer mode to view mode, thus saving a great deal of time in agile development.

Modelling, analysing, planning and collaborating on one platform

SAP Analytics Cloud uses the SAP HANA platform directly and represents its own BI platform. This means that SAP now has an end-to-end BI offering on a single technological platform. Modelling, analysis, planning, augmented analytics, predictive, collaboration, etc. all run on this platform.

Customers are no longer forced to use different technologies and platforms. Even for Excel-like analysis and planning applications, Microsoft tools are no longer required as SAP has “simply” programmed the necessary tools itself. 

No need any more for the “tool zoo” that is otherwise so common in the BI world. All components are made available in the same technology and can be accessed via the browser, and from mobile devices too.

Architecture

The SAC platform is ideally suited for making available all the components for an advanced analytics solution. SAP Analytics Cloud is built natively on SAP HANA and uses the SAP HANA Cloud Platform (HCP) with its data storage, the cloud connectors and the associated operating functions. The solution benefits from the entire “HANA-as-a-Platform”: the geospatial functions, for example, that are incorporated in HANA are available in the SAP Analytics Cloud as well.

With dashboards and agile visualisation, SAP Analytics Cloud itself offers sophisticated frontend features ranging from self-service analyses to dashboarding to storytelling. And standard component “Planning & Allocation” helps to overcome the unspeakable disconnect between planning and reporting. Component “Data Wrangling” facilitates genuine data exploration by allowing even users who aren’t IT experts to combine business data with data from other sources. The data can come from the SAP HANA Cloud Platform as well as on-premise sources or other data sources, making use of the import or live-connection interface accordingly.

Functionalities – a selection

To provide you with an initial overview, here are some backend-heavy and frontend-heavy features.

Visualisation

Where visualisation is concerned, SAP Analytics Cloud is very powerful – be it ad-hoc visualisation in the course of the analysis or “Stories” prepared for management. Besides the typical chart types, geo-visualisation and implementation of the Hichert/SUCCESS (IBCS) notation in charts and tables are available as well. The platform offers various chart types and tables with the appropriate formatting options as well as R-visualisation capability.

Retrieval of SAP data

Retrieving SAP data could not be simpler. You just select the relevant SAP system (HANA, S/4 HANA, BW, BW4/HANA, Data Warehouse Cloud, etc.) as well as the appropriate view or query – and you are ready to create a Story with extensive analyses. You also have the choice between “Live Data Connection” and “Import Data Connection”. With the live connection, your data will always remain behind your corporate firewall, however and from wherever you access them. The dashboards of the CubeServ Procurement Cockpit for SAC will give you a quick overview of highly aggregated data with live connection.

Retrieval of non-SAP and local data

Accessing non-SAP data sources as well as uploading Excel files is very straightforward. Once again, live connections are available, depending on the data source (e.g. to Teradata). 

When working with an uploaded Excel, you can even do without creating a model and start directly on the data analysis via the data browser and use the augmented analytics features.

Blending

And then the inevitable happens: you have hardly started creating your analysis when you realise that you need further data. That is where blending comes in. Simply select the data source from within the analysis, perform the mapping – and the data will immediately be linked and available.

Planning

SAC offers a comprehensive functionality for the mapping of planning, forecast and rolling forecast. Either as a stand-alone solution or as a hybrid, for instance with SAP BPC. 

In combination with augmented analytics, this allows scenario-based forecasts to be mapped, which involves creating a basis using Smart Predict and Smart Discovery and then using business drivers derived from that basis in the value driver tree.

Further informationen: SAP Analytics Cloud for planning 

SAP recognized as a Magic Quadrant Visionary

On October 6, 2020 Gartner released their 2020 Magic Quadrant for Cloud Financial Planning and Analysis Solutions.
Gartner outlined that the 2020 MQ covered solutions which support the office of finance’s efforts to manage financial planning, budgeting, modeling and performance reporting.

Gartner’s evaluation in the Cloud FP&A report was based on SAP’s ability to execute and completeness of vision. SAP was named a Visionary.

More information

Augmented Analytics

Analysing data is one thing, obtaining genuine insights into the data quite another. Of course this is already possible today to a certain extent: breaking large masses of data down into manageable volumes, analysing them, finding correlations, etc. 

However, the issue with this approach is that the member of staff performing the analysis will probably only find problems in areas in which they have the greatest expertise and that they tend to use their favourite familiar tool (frequently Excel). That is not necessarily a bad thing – but a business can’t afford to employ any number of experts to cover all competences. This is where augmented analytics comes to the fore.

Gartner’s definition of augmented analytics:
«Augmented analytics is the use of enabling technologies such as machine learning and AI to assist with data preparation, insight generation and insight explanation to augment how people explore and analyze data in analytics and BI platforms.»
Source: Gartner

SAP Analytics Cloud offers the following augmented analytics functionalities:

  • Smart Predict, accessible Artificial Intelligence, no need to be a Data Scientist
  • Search to Insight: Faster Answers, Derived Naturally
  • Smart Insights: Explain Anything with a Single Click
  • Smart Discovery: Jumpstart Data Exploration with Automated Story Creation

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Our Recommendation

Cloud or not cloud – that is not the question here!

The SAP offering is exclusively “Software-as-a-Service”. This offering should be given consideration that is fact-based rather than emotionally driven. Aren’t you already using numerous cloud-based services? And are the email and other functions that you use on your tablets, smartphones and laptops for business data as well not actually much less secure than a cloud-based analytics application? 

Consequently, the question “cloud or not cloud” is no longer applicable, at least under this aspect. The important criteria for the decision-making are to do with TCO, service level, usability, functionality, etc.!

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Roland J. Merz

Passionate about Business Intelligence, Finance and Controlling processes. Senior Executive with over 30 years experience in Asia and DACH Region whereof over 20 years experience in the Business Intelligence area. My goals working with you: To inspire and thrill people - To focus - To create growth for both my clients and my firm.