It was announced last year that SAP Analytics Cloud will replace the major reporting tools in SAP SuccessFactors, including Online Report Designer, Ad-Hoc Reporting, YouCalc (Tiles and) Dashboards, and BIRT Templates. Since that announcement, it has been a bit quiet. A lot of existing customers I work with are thinking about waiting for the new tool while others are still investing in current tools and reports. The answer really depends on the purpose of the report. In this article, I want to introduce all SuccessFactors customers to what is likely to come in 2018, and I have good news. You will not be disappointed! SAP Analytics Cloud is easy to use, fast and brings a lot of new functionalities and options.
Don’t forget the past
Reporting in SAP SuccessFactors has a long history and, like SuccessFactors itself, was originally an assortment collection of different tools or systems. So, we do find several different reporting tools with different modules in SAP SuccessFactors suite. Don’t hesitate to familiarize yourself with the tools because they will still be valid for not defined time.
- Standard & Ad-Hoc Reporting in SAP SuccessFactors – Part 1
- (YouCalc) Dashboard Reports in SAP SuccessFactors – Part 2
- (BIRT) Report Templates in SAP SuccessFactors – Part 3
- Advanced Reporting & Online Report Designer in SAP SuccessFactors – Part 4
- Workforce Analytics Module in SAP SuccessFactors – Part 5
HOWEVER, it was announced that all of these tools except Workforce Analytics will be sunsetted (no dates announced yet) in the future. To be up to date check the road map and watch out coming announcement (e.g. SAP FKOM, SuccessConnect). It does make sense to check if SAP Analytics Cloud will be worth your early investment because you will not be able to move any kind of report from any of the tools mentioned above into SAP Analytics Cloud.
What is SAP Analytics Cloud
The “first version” of SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC) was presented at TechEd in February 2015. It was introduced as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) business intelligence (BI) platform designed by SAP. SAP Cloud Analytics was built for the cloud with the intention to provide all analytics capabilities to all users in one product.
Built natively on SAP Cloud Platform (SCP) (formerly known as SAP HANA Cloud Platform (HCP)), SAC allows data analysts and business decision makers to visualize, plan and make predictions from one secure, cloud-based environment. With all of the data sources and analytics functions in one product, SAP Analytics Cloud users are able to work more efficiently. The key functions are accessed from the same user interface that is designed for ease-of-use for business users.
SAP Analytics Cloud has a lot of history and different people have used different names for projects in the past. So here is a list of the most common ones:
- SAP Cloud for Analytics (C4A)
- Formerly known as Project Orca
- Formerly known as SAP BusinessObjects Cloud
- Evolution of SAP Cloud for Planning
- BI component, Replaces SAP Lumira Cloud
- SAP Cloud Analytics (because it just sounds better)
In Short: SAP Analytics Cloud includes four major areas within the tool: BI, Planning and Predictive. GRC (Governance, Risk, and Compliance) was originally included but it is now a separate product. I will go into details for some of them later in this article.
Note: At the moment you only can use the SAC Demo with Chrome. You will not see anything on Internet Explorer or Firefox today.
What is the SAP Digital Boardroom?
If you hear SAP Analytics Cloud, you will likely hear about SAP Digital Boardroom as well. SAP Digital Boardroom was launched as the Next Generation Solution for use in enterprise boardrooms during TechEd in February, 2015. It is an addition on top of SAP Analytics Cloud and is focused on providing live insight to the executive board on other important business drivers with the ability drill down to analyse the most granular detail as well. The key features of SAP Digital Boardroom include:
- Executive meeting support – Simplify boardroom processes and reduce preparation time
- Touchscreen support – Present in a single- or multi-screen environment, leveraging touch technology
- Value driver tree simulation – Visualize important value drivers and simulate scenarios
Note: In this article I will focus on SAC, but I also want to set up basics with a very brief introduction.
Concept and Benefits of SAP Analytics Cloud
I think one of the most important benefits is the ease of use for different data sources. Data connectors provide hybrid data access to most critical data sources, including SAP Business Warehouse (BW), SAP Analytics solutions (e.g. SAP SuccessFactors Workforce Analytics), SAP HANA, SAP S/4HANA, and non-SAP applications. It can access on-premise and cloud sources with either Live or Import Data connections.
Cloud-based authoring lets you gain business insight directly from a Web browser – eliminating the need to install new software on your desktop, which gives you instant access to new insights. Regardless of the size of your data volumes, SAP Cloud Platform is really high performance because of the in-memory computing power of SAP HANA. If you ever worked with Online Report Designer in SuccessFactors, I feel your pain for the lack of performance and usability. You won’t experience that in SAC.
SAP Analytics Cloud can really be called smart because it contains couple of intelligent actions, options and functionalities. The Smart Discovery option quickly discovers the main business drivers behind a core KPI and gives you valuable insight. There are Smart Transformations (intuitive suggestions during data preparation and automation or repetitive workflows) and Smart Groupings (automatically segments your data based on parameters that you specify), which saves you time.
Getting back to the three capabilities of SAC (business intelligence, predictive and planning) the tool really understands how to analyse patterns and offer various options for predictive analytics (e.g., three possible outcomes for best, normal, and worst-case scenarios) and simplifies planning by enabling you to explore possible outcomes to each scenario. All data is available to change and amend in real time to allow you to observe changes and possibilities.
Functionality of SAP Analytics Cloud
There is so much to talk about! I simply can’t provide a full list of functionalities, but I can help you to get a rough understanding of what the tool can do and also point you to some more sources where you can read more about SAP Analytics Cloud.
In general, the site SAP Analytics Cloud – Resources gives you all that you need. The Help Library and Blog helped me out a lot and will provide you with tons of documentation, tips and tricks, video tutorials and much more. Here are some of the most important highlights:
- Creating a New Story (similar to dashboards with different tiles)
- Explore Your Data (Model your data, amend data or simply run smart discovery)
- Canvas or Grid Tables
- 20 Different kind of Charts (Grouped by types of analysis)
- Analysing Geographical Data and creating Geo Maps
- Drilldown and Filter (Story tab wide or per tile)
- Various Aggregations, Custom Formulas, calculations and IF-ELSE conditions
- Tons of functions (full list here)
- Version Management
- Predictive time series forecasting
- Possibilities for linking Dimensions, Tiles, Stories, Pages, and so on
- Export (CSV) and save story as PDF
- Endless styling and formatting options for each object, tile and story
- Collaborations options with commenting, sharing, discussions, events, workflows and calendar
- Pre-Defined Content for different industries and Lines of Business (e.g. HR with EC Data)
I prepared a little demo with an imported Ad-Hoc Report from SAP SuccessFactors. The purpose of my exercise was to rebuild some dashboards I had previously built with YouCalc Dashboards. I tried couple of charts and formatting options. Surprisingly, it was really easy and fast to build. Here’s my video:
You can find more demo material in the SAP Analytics Cloud Training Section below.
SAP Analytics Cloud Integration of 3rd Party Data Sources
I focus on SAP SuccessFactors in this article. So, if you want to try out SAP Analytics Cloud, there is a easy How-To-Do-Guide for Creating an Import Data Connection to SAP SuccessFactors.
For importing data from SAP SuccessFactors, you must have SuccessFactors set up and you must register your OAuth Client Application and API Endpoint URLs to enable the connection for HCM Suite OData API. But again, everything is described in detail in the PDF (linked above).
If you want to create more data connections or play around with live data connections, you still have some more options:
Import Data Connections
- SAP BPC MS
- SAP BPC NW
- SAP SuccessFactors
- Google Drive
- Google BigQuery
- File Server
- SAP ERP
- SAP Universe
- SAP BW
Live Data Connections
- SAP Universe
- SAP BW
- SAP HANA
SAP Analytics Cloud Embedded in SAP SuccessFactors
This may be one of the most exciting sections – How SAP Analytics Cloud will look when embedded in SAP SuccessFactors. Starting from the access, how will users access reports and will it cost something extra? Go here to see how to connect SAP Analytics Cloud with SuccessFactors via OData and to try it yourself.
Again, SAC is not yet fully integrated with SAP SuccessFactors. There will be a closed Beta in Q2 2018. The first launch – I guess an open Beta – will be published around Q4 2018. Note: Dates may change depending on SAP Development.
My guess is that there will be a UI link like Reporting or Analytics (similar to ORD integration) for users who are allowed to build reports or dashboards in SAC. Some users may be just allowed to consume reports via the Report Center. That is the only usage of Report Center I can imagine in the future. Why? Well, SAP Analytics Cloud will replace Ad-Hoc Reporting, ORD, BIRT and YouCalc Dashboards. That is everything you consume in the Report Center, right? So, what happened with the recent innovation from 2017, when these tools don’t exist anymore?
Reply by SAP: The intention is that this will be available via the Report Center, providing option to create/edit report using new capabilities. All reporting will be streamlined via the Report Center. Report Center will be the entry point and central UI and will be leveraged to seamlessly (hopefully) transition from old capabilities to the new without drawing attention to specific reporting tools – essentially consider SAC technology as an upgrade to the existing tools.
Obviously, you will control everything in SAC via SF RBP. That hopefully includes the collaboration tools. I don’t think that collaboration function in SAC will be used in SuccessFactors as well (commenting reports, create events, discussions, etc.). At least not with the first releases and enhancements.
SAP Analytics Cloud focuses on using stories. I also spent some time to model the data I exported from SuccessFactors. I do miss an easy list reporting option like Ad-Hoc Reporting in SuccessFactors. Reporting Product Team spent a lot of time to harmonise data sources (including LMS). For SAC, I hope that it will be easy to pull data from each module together to create reports similar to Ad-Hoc Reporting, but with more functionality (custom calculation, formulas, conditions and formatting) available.
SAP Analytics Cloud can deal with analytics and predictive analytics as well. For me, it is a do-it-yourself Workforce Analytics. A lot of customers are not ready for WFA yet. I do think that SAC is a good start, but also a small competitor. You also can pull WFA metrics data in SAC. It will be interesting to see how both tools evolve over time.
A simple, but good question would be: Will SAP Analytics Cloud cost extra? On one hand, I would say no, because one day it will replace all SuccessFactors reporting tools. Why ask for an extra fee when reporting is part of the foundation/platform? On the other hand, SAP asks for a flat fee if you want to use BIRT templates in Ad-Hoc Reporting in the past. Also, SAC is a SaaS Tool, which will can sold without SuccessFactors.
Reply by SAP: There is no additional license cost for customers for SAC technology embedded in SuccessFactors and acting on data in SuccessFactors. Customers will require license for SAC when they want to pull in data from sources other than SuccessFactors, or use for planning, and in this capacity SAC will be positioned as add-on to extend SuccessFactors for enterprise BI, beyond HR use cases. Digital Boardroom is not included in the free version as well.
Very good news for SAP Analytics Cloud Fans. There is already a lot of good training material out there. Most of it is from SAP. Of course, you can learn everything by yourself. I do think that SAC is very intuitive, but some of the options and functions are worth learning and get to know with added explanation. Below, I list two different options and sources you can use for learning all the capabilities of SAC.
Learning by doing with YouTube
SAP provides two series with SAP Analytics Cloud Tutorials in a Playlist. After requesting a SAC Demo, you can immediately start to play with test data and most of the functionalities. The tutorials are a perfect to approach to the tool for learning how to build reports and dashboards. I’m happy to embed some of the tutorials:
Two more SAC Tutorials (similar but different videos) are:
There is also a Demo about Predictive Analytics in SAP Analytics Cloud out from Logan (Product Coach for SAC), which is definitely worth a look. If you don’t have enough yet, don’t hesitate to watch the latest Roadmap Screencast (Q3 2017) for SAP Analytics Cloud and SAP Digital Boardroom.
Insider Tip: There is a hidden SAP Analytics Cloud Playlist with tons of extra, but more detailed, information about each functionality. I really love that one, because you can specifically search for your topic of interest. Some of the videos are also linked in the help forum.
Learning with SAP Learning Hub
I was surprised that SAP Learning Hub already offers some courses on SAP Analytics Cloud. But it makes sense because, as described above, it is also a SaaS tool for non-SuccessFactors customers who want to use it. It will also come handy for every SuccessFactors customer because it will be easier to get to know and learn about the tool in 2018.
Following is a list of courses and offers you can find in the Learning Hub:
- Introduction To SAP Analytics Cloud (Handbooks SAC01_EN_Col15 – 12h – 427 Pages)
- Learn where SAP Analytics Cloud fits in SAP’s Analytics Road Map
- Learn advanced Story boarding in SAP Analytics Cloud
- Learn the basics of planning in SAP Analytics Cloud
- Learn the planning features of SAP Analytics Cloud
- Learn the predictive features of SAP Analytics Cloud
- Learn Administration tasks of SAP Analytics Cloud
- openSAP – Implementation of SAP BusinessObjects Cloud (COURSE openSAP_boc1_EN_10 – 8h)
- SAP Cloud for Predictive Analytics 1.0: Learning Map for Consultants (PROGRAM EKT_CLOUDPREDANA10CONS – 5h)
Conclusion and my Opinion of SAP Analytics Cloud
I didn’t review all of its features yet, but so far SAP Analytics Cloud is a very attractive tool and fulfills expectations on consistency, ease of use and in-memory performance. If customers are ready to leave legacy dashboards and on-premise reports behind, SAC is a good cloud solution where you can start with clean sheets. This approach also makes sense if you’re taking a day-forward approach, whereby new dashboards, reports and analytic uses center around new cloud-based apps and any kind of data sources from anywhere.
From what I’ve seen, the new platform delivers a clean design with lots of data visualization elements. Due to the in-memory performance on the SAP Cloud Platform, SAP Analytics Cloud is really fast in terms of speed and performance. It will be embedded in SAP SuccessFactors and it will be the upgrade to all existing all existing reporting tools in SAP SuccessFactors (ORD, BIRT, YouCalc Dashboards, AD-Hoc Reporting) and is the go forward solution for reporting.
Compared to all existing reporting tools in SuccessFactors, it would outperform each tool in nearly all aspects. That’s why I am also very optimistic that customers will be finally happy about the reporting / analytics tool SAP provides. With couple of extra years using the old tools for a conservative approach, I also envision a lot of new customers will finally start to approach reporting and analytics because performance, usability and functionality finally fit almost all requirements. Everything above is probably a case for WFA.
I am happy to hear, that SAC will not require additional license cost if customers work with SuccessFactors Data. For some customers it is an interesting option to ask for license cost if they want to pull data from other sources than SAC.
SAP Analytics Cloud answers complicated questions in just a few clicks and can blend data from different sources, create compelling data visualizations, run ad hoc reporting, and more. The existing learning material base is already great and I personally can’t wait to work with the first customers to show them how easy it is to use, to build complex reports, and see how great dashboards look and how quickly you will be able to build things.
Chris Wilpert is an SAP SuccessFactors consultant at iXerv. Chris is SAP SuccessFactors-certified in Employee Central, Recruiting Management and Workforce Analytics and holds a Master’s degree from Technische Fachhochschule Wildau.