The topic of S/4 and Embedded Analytics is currently giving rise to controversial discussions. What is the added-value of the integrated reporting possibilities in S/4? What does the standard offer and how can additional requirements be met? And what demarcation lines separate this integrated+ solution from SAP BW?
Viewing the matter soberly, in the first instance S/4 Hana Embedded Analytics is integrated analysis-functions based on real-time data that is generated in the S/4 Hana system as a result of operational business processes.
The key task of Embedded Analytics is that of providing the application-user with the information that is significant for his respective operational activity, not only in real time but also integrated into that person’s individual work-flow. This is intended to make that user able to reach better and faster decisions.
What to keep in Mind?
This depends on which Embedded Analytics functions are to be used. In principle, use of SAP S/4 Hana is all that is necessary to introduce Embedded Analytics to a company. It is supplied with the S/4-Hana suite and can thus be used immediately.
Embedded Analytics includes standard analyses and standard functions thought out in advance by SAP, as well as the opportunity to extend the spectrum of functions by means of solutions adapted to the customer.
Yet to have the possibility to access all Embedded Analytics functionalities and to make the most of them, the Fiori launchpad needs to be configured. This is an easy-overview, intuitive web user interface in a tile design, one on which application-users can structure the applications that they need in their everyday work.
(…) from this web user interface, access can be gained to transactions, BW reports and Embedded Analytics applications (…)
Accordingly, from this web user interface, access can be gained to transactions, BW reports and Embedded Analytics applications, for instance, without the users themselves being able to see in which system they are moving.
To be able to understand how Embedded Analytics functions, one should take a look at the data model in S/4 Hana that forms the basis for it. Additionally to the physical tables in which the business data is stored on a continuous basis, there is a multi-layer virtual data model (VDM).
This is formed through so-called Abap Core Data Service (CDS) Views; it enables the data model to be adapted to certain business scenarios (e.g. by means of establishing the relationships between various physical tables or CDS Views).
CDS Views also makes services and protocols available automatically; through these, it is possible (among other things) to consume the data directly in various applications. However, for a user to produce their own CDS Views, they should have experience in programming and in how to handle data-modelling; this is because CDS Views are produced through Abap coding in Eclipse.
As already referred to, there is a variety of possibilities for using this data model. They range from so-called ‘KPIs’, via multi-dimensional reports and the use of design studio templates made ready in advance, right through to analytical Fiori apps or the integration of BO tools.
(…) there is a variety of possibilities for using this data model.
The result is the possibility to decide, depending on the application case and the target group, which tool is the most purposeful without having to make changes to the data model.
Visualising KPIs through Analytics
KPIs appear as a depiction of a certain key figure relevant for the company, shown in the form of a tile. Yet this key figure can be visualised in various ways.
Thus, using a tile in the Fiori launchpad, it is possible to depict a simple number, the relationship to the target value, or also a trend observed over a time period. Colouring the tile in can denote whether a key figure is in the critical, neutral or ideal area, and thus whether any activities are necessary.
This tile serves as a link-up to an extended drill-down of the key figure. Here more detailed information on the key figure can then be presented as a table or a graphic. In this drill-down, the application-user in turn can slightly change the analysis or directly switch to taking operational measures.
(…) the application-user in turn can slightly change the analysis or directly switch to taking operational measures.
Use of KPIs makes it possible to compile a Smart Business Cockpit, making the current status in the company visible at a glance. This can help the application-users of an operational department (“What must I do?”) and also the management level (“What is the company’s current status?”) to reach decisions and then to execute those decisions directly.
The boundary between data analysis and operational activity is a fluid one, because of the direct navigation into transactional applications. Here S/4 already offers a repertoire of KPIs for standard processes that can be used directly (e.g. Smart Business Cockpit in the Purchasing activity area – see Illustration).
Beyond this, the KPI modeller offers the opportunity to draft one’s own KPIs and thus to adapt them to the corresponding needs (…)
Beyond this, the KPI modeller offers the opportunity to draft one’s own KPIs and thus to adapt them to the corresponding needs, both of the corporate environment and of the target group.
As a result, the application-users themselves obtain already-processed information, so that applications of this kind are suitable for a large spectrum of tasks and do not require a more in-depth understanding of the analysis.
Multi Dimensional Reports for extended analyses based on the Web-Dynpro technology, provide the opportunity to depict a CDS View for one’s own needs, i.e. to visualise information that serves the purpose of interpreting the KPIs.
Design Studio Templates without additional Licence
The same applies to the implementation of Design Studio Templates made available for Embedded Analytics and usable without an additional licence. Accordingly the application-user can decide for himself how he wishes to analyse the key figures, and adapt the view accordingly.
He can then store these adaptations as a version and, in the case of the Design Studio Template, also as a tile in the Fiori launchpad. That way, the user getsthe opportunity here to compile his own data analyses with regard to certain cases, securing them for access at a later point in time.
However, to work using such a view, the user needs experience in working with data modelling and its visualisation. Thus these tools are primarily intended for application users who are already familiar with data analysis.
(…) tools are primarily intended for application users who are already familiar with data analysis.
Beyond this, Embedded Analytics also makes it possible to superimpose BusinessObjects (BO) onto the virtual data-model. These front-end tools, already familiar from the BW environment, offer the opportunity to visualise real-time ERP data, by using dashboards or Excel reports, in a way that is familiar from the BW environment.
These tools thereby create the precondition for giving users the suitable solution for a whole variety of application cases. Integrating these tools into S/4 Hana’s VDM runs very smoothly, because CDS Views can be used as queries in the BW environment.
The user can also impose Bex queries on the VDM and then use them as a data source for BO tools. Those familiar with the BW tools thus have no difficulty in using Embedded Analytics to implement a reporting operation. For those wishing to use these tools, however, the corresponding additional Business Objects licence is necessary.
Those familiar with the BW tools thus have no difficulty in using Embedded Analytics to implement a reporting operation
If an even more specialised solution is needed, highly-flexible web applications can also be developed on the basis of SAPUI5, consistent with Fiori stipulations. These applications can be developed so as to very precisely match a company’s and its team members’ profile of wishes and requirements; nevertheless they fit seamlessly into the overall Fiori picture.
They can also be visually presented, in an optimised way, on various end-devices (smartphones, tablets, desktops). However, those wishing to develop such a solution must have extensive knowledge of SAPUI5 and of the technologies that border onto it.
As well as the possibility of in-house developments, in the SAPUI5/Fiori app environment (as elsewhere) SAP supplies a portfolio of standard solutions.
Differences to the old BW
S/4 Hana Embedded Analytics serves the purpose of analysing in real-time the data that emerges in operational business activities.
This means that data is presented in exactly the way that corresponds to its current status, and that it is thereby subject to continuous changes.
The BW historically contextualises data over long periods, providing the possibility to show the data relating to a specific point in time in the past.
Embedded Analytics primarily serves the purpose of providing aids for making operational decisions
This means that Embedded Analytics primarily serves the purpose of providing aids for making operational decisions; by contrast, SAP BW’s strength lies in providing decision-making support at tactical and strategic level through the analysis of long-term data.
External systems can also be linked-up in a data-warehouse system such as SAP BW. It thus offers an all-embracing view of all data generated within a company, even outside the context of SAP, thereby serving as a ‘single point of truth’.
Catering to individual Requirements
In conclusion, and based on the first experience gained with the system, we can say that S/4 Hana Embedded Analytics provides important functionalities for rendering support to the operational business by means of real-time analyses.
Through this real-time support, Embedded Analytics rounds off BW’s reporting possibilities provided up until the present stage in developments. As the S/4 technology advances, there will doubtless also be improvements and innovations added to Embedded Analytics in the future.
It is also possible to adapt applications (…) to a company’s needs and to its team members, thus simplifying daily work (…)
It is also possible to adapt applications, more strongly than hitherto, to a company’s needs and to its team members, thus simplifying daily work and simplifying the process by which team members familiarise themselves with their tasks.
Having said that, the boundaries separating areas of operational work from those of analysis are becoming increasingly blurred. To gain the full potential from solutions such as S/4 Embedded Analytics, from now on it becomes more necessary than before to consider a company from the holistic view.
This demands effective interdisciplinary collaboration between various activity areas within a company.
If users are to take a holistic approach in considering business processes and the support given to them by analytical and operational applications, this approach must form the basis, at as early a stage as the planning of system processes; from the outset, this requires expertise in process optimisation, data analysis and development.