What is the future of Business Intelligence in the SAP ERP technology roadmap?

In this article, we discuss the future of Business Intelligence (BI) in the context of your company moving from SAP ECC to S/4HANA. Now is the perfect time to thoroughly review your Business Intelligence strategy & Business Intelligence Roadmap, and better align to your business needs.

What is Business Intelligence?

Business Intelligence is an umbrella term that can be defined as a collective of visualisation tools and powerful data warehouse frameworks, with standard data models to assist with real-time operational analytics and enable transactional decision support.

There has been an ‘explosion’ of new business intelligence tools available, whether they be from SAP or other companies focused on BI. Whilst additional BI platforms, tools and resources are welcome, deciding which ones align best with your business and its strategy can cause complications.

The quantity and sources of data are growing significantly, with no sign of slowing down. The demands of business users are increasing in complexity, and urgency to be able to do self-service data analysis.

Our Business Intelligence Recommendations

A good place to start is with the end goal.  Ask yourself what outcomes you are looking to achieve, and what data is required to provide this insight?

Once this is established, consider how the information should be represented and the balance between self-service analysis and structured visualisations. What is the best way to consume the information, and what follow-on questions are likely to arise?

Once you are clear on where you are going, it is easier to advise how to get there.

Birchman provides a free assessment of your current BI strategy and approach, highlighting your current strengths and weaknesses and making tailored recommendations. Please contact us to ask for an assessment.

BI is becoming an even more important strategic priority. In the context of the SAP technology roadmap, investment can move away from operational ‘rear mirror’ reporting, to greater value-add holistic and predictive analytics and insights.

At a high level, we recommend:

    • Defining the outcomes are you looking to achieve.
    • Determining a BI Roadmap and assigning the relevant roles across business operations and structure.
    • Simplifying operational reporting and concentrating on important performance metrics.
    • Designing an embedded data warehouse framework.
    • Utilising business content.

Key Questions to ask

When discussing BI, we are typically presented with two questions:

‘We have invested heavily in BW and Business Objects, why and how do we simplify operational reporting?’

One key improvement with moving to S/4HANA is operational analytics. The technology now supports the in-memory analysis of ERP data ‘on the fly’. This has resulted in useful embedded analytics, including dashboards, to help improve efficiencies across business operations and the supply chain.

In the past companies spent considerable time and money on operational level reporting that was not possible without Business Warehouse systems. With advancements in big data and artificial intelligence, there is an opportunity to simplify BI and focus on greater value-added reports.

Using BI Software, BW can focus on more complex, cross-functional tasks by combining data from multi-source systems, KPIs, and historical or trends reporting requirements.

If you are undertaking a pure brownfield conversion, adapting what you already have may work for you.

However, most companies want to utilise new functionality, and in doing so it makes more sense to simplify your operational reporting. The reason is the ongoing cost of not addressing it soon enough.

We aim to support you to free up the time spent in building operational reports using the traditional BW approach and focus more on increasing the business

    • Using the embedded analytics
    • Leveraging the SAP Core Data Services (CDS views)
    • Utilising tools such as SAP Analytics Cloud and Analysis for Office

‘BW/4HANA vs an alternative data lake?’

    • There are a few thoughts to consider when weighing up the best solution for your organisation: BW/4HANA comes with Business Content which delivers standard data models that provide the foundation for designing, modelling, and building your EDW (define). The cost of purchasing and implementing BW/4HANA is higher than other Data Lakes, however, the cost is often offset in the medium to long-term with business content and tools available.
    • A data lake is often very quick and cheap to set up; however, it costs more to maintain in the medium to long term.
    • What are all the sources of data,  how structured is it, and is the purpose of storing data defined? Data lakes are good for storing large amounts of unstructured or raw data where there is not much data management involved, like a data warehouse.
    • BW/4HANA or data lake scenario often depends on the nature of your organisation, and the type of data you need to deal with. If the data is more raw and unstructured,  the data lake is better suited for any machine learning or research, whereas for more Analytical insights you would need a business warehouse system.