The topic of real-time contextualized insights that support proactive decision making has risen to the top of the corporate agenda — and rightly so. Enterprises are looking for ways to digitally transform themselves with new data-driven business models, digitally enabled products and services, and omnichannel customer experiences that bridge the divide between the digital and physical worlds. This trend toward digital transformation is cementing the need for real-time embedded analytics as the rule rather than the exception. A digital business climate necessitates instant information; taking hours or days to deliver insight through a multitude of IT systems, managers, data scientists, and IT architects is no longer sufficient to keep pace with the speed a business needs to move to remain competitive in today’s digital economy.
Business decision makers understand intuitively that basing decisions on data, rather than gut feelings, is the smarter option, yet most do not have the choice. Recent research conducted by Harvard Business Review bears this out: A survey of business users revealed that while 62% of respondents said that accessing contextualized and relevant information is important, just 13% reported having that capability today. The numbers are similar when it comes to the need for real-time insights and advanced analytics, with roughly half of users (44% and 56%, respectively) rating these capabilities as very important, but only 10% and 13%, respectively, have them today1.
This divide can be attributed to a long-standing separation between transactional and analytical IT systems that have isolated the business user from contextualized insights and hampered his or her ability to turn insights into action. Consider a challenging situation familiar to most sales account executives. When completing a sales order in a transactional system, account executives often lack relevant information that could improve the sales experience and drive proactive decision making; they don’t have the data necessary to analyze and predict. Perhaps another warehouse, for example, can move the product to the customer more quickly and more cost effectively than their usual one. Or perhaps a new transaction makes the customer eligible for a promotion or discount on another product. Opportunities that arise when transactions and analytics are brought together in a single system to offer real-time contextualized insights are limited only by imagination, but technology has for the most part prevented this from becoming a reality. Traditionally, it has taken hours, days, or even weeks to return actionable information via time-consuming batch and extract, transform, and load (ETL) processes and interacting with IT to build relevant reports. But that is quickly becoming a thing of the past.
SAP S/4HANA Embedded Analytics
SAP Business Suite 4 SAP HANA (SAP S/4HANA) embedded analytics bring analytics and transactions together in a scenario that enables real-time, operational embedded analytics. This allows the aforementioned account executive to log a sales order and simultaneously have access to information for real-time decision making on the same screen. The ability to transact, analyze, and predict all in a matter of seconds provides users with unprecedented contextualized information at their fingertips. This is all made possible thanks to the SAP S/4HANA architecture and its simplified data structure.
In SAP S/4HANA, the data models are represented using core data services (CDS) views that are natively supported in both ABAP and SAP HANA. CDS generates SQL views that are executed natively in SAP HANA, pushing the aggregation and data-intensive logic directly into the SAP HANA database layer. The CDS abstraction layer not only provides a means for traditional transactional processing, but it also can be used in an analytic scenario, allowing for tighter and more seamless integration between analytics and transactions. This eliminates aggregates, totals, and other types of data redundancies that have impeded business users from capturing real-time contextualized insights. With SAP S/4HANA embedded analytics, users can now report on the latest transactional data directly in the transactional system without having to send it to an analytic solution for further processing.
SAP S/4HANA Embedded Analytics Complement Existing Offerings
It is important to note that SAP S/4HANA embedded analytics are intended to complement — not replace — any of SAP’s existing analytics offerings. A wide range of choice for customers reflects the reality that companies have different needs and priorities in the areas of operational reporting, strategic analytics, and data warehousing. Solutions such as SAP HANA Live and SAP Business Warehouse (SAP BW) have well-defined roadmaps, a clear indication of their market need and of SAP’s commitment to evolve them to help organizations in their digital transformation journeys.
The different use cases for SAP’s analytics offerings meet different customer needs (see Figure 1). For example, customers looking for real-time embedded analytics can achieve that by moving to SAP S/4HANA and leveraging the new CDS views. Existing SAP Business Suite powered by SAP HANA customers using SAP HANA Live for operational reporting can continue to do so without any change. If these customers decide to move to SAP S/4HANA, however, then they will have to either adapt their SAP HANA Live data models to operate in an SAP S/4HANA environment, or convert to the new CDS-based models in SAP S/4HANA.
Customers interested in strategic, historical, and compliance reporting should consider SAP BW powered by SAP HANA. Some customers might still be using SAP BW for operational reporting use cases, but of course this means extracting and moving data among multiple systems, which leads to outdated insights and a divide between insights and action. Now with SAP S/4HANA, operational reporting can move back into the transactional application, freeing up the SAP BW system to focus on its core use cases of strategic, historical, and compliance reporting, while at the same time bridging the gap between insights and action for business users.
The Road Ahead
With the next SAP S/4HANA update, referred to as the 1511 release, the scope and capabilities of SAP S/4HANA embedded analytics will be dramatically expanded to cover additional business functions and will be made available for both the cloud and on-premise editions of SAP S/4HANA. Future updates to the models will follow the yearly SAP S/4HANA on-premise edition update and the quarterly SAP S/4HANA cloud edition update.
The demand for real-time contextualized insights in the enterprise will continue to rise as organizations adapt to an influx of data and realize that unlocking the secrets held in data is integral to driving innovation and to undertaking a digital transformation. SAP S/4HANA embedded analytics provide contextualized insights in a simple, easy-to-use interface to support analytics as part of the day-to-day business, from simple reports to hybrid applications for operational decision making, as well as complementing strategic, standalone use cases.
To learn more about SAP S/4HANA, visit www.sap.com/s4hana.
1 “Making the Business Case for Managing Complexity,”Harvard Business Review, sponsored by SAP SE (2015; http://www.sap.com/bin/sapcom/en_us/downloadasset.2015-06-jun-03-07.making-the-business-case-for-managing-complexity-harvard-business-review-pdf.bypassReg.html). [back]