The business planning applications market, as part of enterprise performance management and the broader analytics category, is experiencing dramatic change primarily as a result of two opposing forces. First, economic volatility is creating the need for more dynamic planning processes to drive a more agile organization. Whether it is because of political and regulatory changes, currency fluctuations, shifts in customer demand, economic conditions, or new entrants, few companies are feeling stable. Planning teams need to consider more than ever before — not just last month’s or last year’s sales numbers, but market conditions, sentiment analysis, competitors, changing customer expectations, and the actions that connect all lines of business to ultimately drive business performance.
The second force is, of course, technology: Data is the fuel driving the new digital economy and companies can use analytics more than ever before to address this volatility by better serving the needs of customers with new experiences and offerings based on intelligent insights and actions. With in-memory computing technology such as SAP HANA and modern business applications that are powered by SAP HANA such as SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation, companies can gain instant insight into the ever-growing mass of data that enters the enterprise and act in the moment to simulate the impact of actions before they’re taken.
These forces coincide with some burgeoning trends in how companies approach their planning efforts. Companies are interested in moving from more siloed functional planning to more integrated planning across different lines of business — not just from a process standpoint, but also from a solution standpoint. This is driven by the aforementioned increasing data volumes both from internal transactional systems as well as external systems from suppliers and benchmark data. And with predictive analytics and machine learning capabilities being integrated into business planning solutions, this all coalesces in a much more rigorous view into not only what is happening today, but, more importantly, what could happen tomorrow.
Many companies, however, are still struggling with fragmented tools and a plethora of standalone spreadsheets that can’t keep up with the pace and volatility of modern business. Organizations need faster reporting and analysis, enhanced visualizations, real-time insight and response capabilities — and they want it in an easy-to-use, quick-to-deploy solution. These business requirements drove SAP to develop a solution that can meet the needs of organizations now and in the future by embedding SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation directly into SAP S/4HANA for one solution covering transactional and analytical processes.
Planning Across the Business
Companies need information in real time to respond to changes in their industry, consumer preferences, and the competitive environment. This isn’t just to provide the business with the latest and greatest technology for the sake of technology: Access to real-time information is key to staying ahead in an increasingly competitive marketplace, where it’s easier than ever for start-ups to enter and disrupt long-established enterprises by better leveraging data and analytics to develop new business models and better serve customer needs. The problem is that many companies’ existing installations of multiple planning tools and spreadsheets across the organization cannot provide the agility necessary to thrive in today’s digital economy.
Embedding SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation directly into SAP S/4HANA enables customers to have live access into source systems without replicating data or having to support more complex, costly landscapes. The planning function then becomes part of the core of the business, with live access to finance, supply chain, analytics, and all other necessary data for planning and analysis across the company.
Having this all in one system is beneficial because it requires less integration, avoids data redundancy, and limits the need for intervention from IT if something goes wrong. Users from across the business can perform analytics on an easy-to-use interface and trust that the data they are working with — which covers a wider swath of the business than ever before — is correct and in real time.
While this is a significant innovation that can provide obvious value to customers, SAP recognizes that it may not be the option for every single customer. For those that want to run planning, budgeting, and consolidations together but are not yet ready to adopt SAP S/4HANA, SAP continues to offer SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation as a standalone solution, tightly integrating the planning process across any number of ERP systems, both SAP and non-SAP.
What’s Next for Business Planning?
Business is not static, and neither is SAP’s approach to business planning: Additional advancements are coming for SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation. We are planning to deliver massive performance enhancements to manage even larger amounts of data, an enriched user interface for business users, and simplification via the next-generation data warehouse, SAP BW/4HANA. By simplifying the data model and architecture, the system is easier to maintain and you can plan much faster — it’s similar to what SAP S/4HANA did for financials. This also enables a cloud deployment option such as Amazon Web Services.
SAP plans to continue to enhance integration between SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation and SAP BusinessObjects Cloud for a seamless user experience. Companies will be able to use SAP BusinessObjects Cloud, which is an intuitive-to-use solution with a beautiful look and feel that combines planning, reporting, and predictive analysis capabilities, with SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation to easily extend the business planning processes from their corporate financial plan to the lines of business with a self-service analytics cloud option.
And SAP is planning integration between financial planning and supply chain planning, specifically in the area of sales and operations planning (S&OP). At its essence, this takes advantage of the deep and unmatched domain knowledge that SAP has in finance and supply chain management, while providing an integrated solution that is unique in the market and that will prove invaluable to SAP customers.
SAP is receiving positive feedback from customers. For example, recently one of the first SAP BusinessObjects Cloud customers stated that they were at the one-year anniversary of going live, and the entire management team was using the solution for planning, budgeting, and analysis. The solution is so intuitive that even managers who previously only used spreadsheets have embraced it and are receiving significant value from its powerful analytics capabilities. In fact, they very quickly identified some surprising costs that weren’t apparent before, and were able to improve financial results.
SAP isn’t alone in this effort: Partners are critical to customer success in business planning for two main reasons. First, in most cases, customers want to do some level of tailoring of solutions to their needs, whether in a large system implementation or transformation or for a specific point solution. Partners can help with that. Second, they provide SAP with feedback on how to enhance the solutions that are on the market or in development to supplement the conversations that SAP has with its customers.
Putting Data to Use for Integrated Planning
SAP is committed to customer success in all aspects of business, including planning, predicting, and analyzing, so customers can stay ahead of their competition and win in the dynamic digital economy. With 40 years of experience across finance, logistics, manufacturing, and other areas of business, SAP is in a unique position to deliver deep industry expertise, advanced analytics, and planning and forecasting functionality in enterprise performance management. The underlying in-memory computing capabilities of SAP HANA put all the relevant data quickly to use, and SAP’s focus on design improves user experience. SAP is not only focused on IT operations and automation, but on serving business users to solve business problems. SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation bears this out, and will continue to serve customers in their future integrated planning efforts.