Posts by: Xavier Hacking
One of the projects that I’m currently working on involves a very interesting setup with the brand new SAP Data Warehouse Cloud (DWC) as its datawarehousing solution. As front-end we use SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC), which is available as an embedded offering within DWC. This is actually the first DWC implementation in Europe so that’s very exciting and cool to be part of!
In the following video the project is introduced and the solution architecture is shown, plus a demo on how the data models were created in DWC. At the end of the video a demo is given of one of the dashboards that we created in SAC on top of these DWC models.
From the SAP Analytics Cloud side there are a few things that we need to take into account with this approach. The embedded SAC tenant is very much linked to its DWC counterpart. You have to work within an isolated “space” and make sure that all SAC users also are made a member of the space that you built the stories in. This is in addition to the DWC role(s) that have to be assigned to these users. Unfortunately these spaces lack any form of structure or options for management. There are no folders and the sharing settings of documents cannot be adjusted. This could maybe work with a very small user base but is something you really don’t want for a large audience. As there are no (public) folders, all objects (SAC stories, DWC views) are listed in a single list of documents.
The SAC classic setup, where a model must be built first before the data can be consumed in the SAC story, is altered in the embedded SAC version. If you want to use a DWC view in a SAC story, you need to go to the respective space in DWC and create a story from there. A pop-up will appear that lists all available DWC views; no separate model is required anymore. Via this workflow it is also possible to add additional DWC views to the same story.
A step that is left out of this workflow is the option to use a story template, which is an important asset to develop a consistent line of reporting. If you switch from the DWC side of the tenant to the SAC side, the standard option to create a story is still available, including the template selection step. However, the problem here is that there is no option to select the DWC views, as this probably requires you to be within the particular DWC space first.
Data Warehouse Cloud Live Connection
Luckily the solution for the above problems is already available in a live data connections for DWC. With this we can let DWC act as any other live data source (SAP BW, SAP HANA). The only difference is that the creation of a model is not necessary, even when the DWC live connection is used from a standalone tenant (which is actually a plus!).
So in conclusion I think it is a very good approach to offer an out of the box SAC environment within DWC. The developments and testing of DWC views and SAC stories went in extremely short cycles, which meant that we were able to make a huge progress in a very short time frame. I’m not convinced though whether the idea of using spaces is really the way to go. If the audience consists of isolated (business) teams that build their own DWC views and SAC stories it looks like a handy approach, but in a classic setup where a dedicated team creates a set of reports for a large, company wide audience better platform management options are required. Good thing is that we can achieve this with the new DWC live connection!
It’s February and as every year around this time Gartner publishes its Magic Quandrant report on Analytics and BI Platform vendors/solutions. So it is always interesting to see how SAP is doing compared to the other big names in the industry, especially Tableau (Salesforce) and PowerBI (Microsoft) as those are the parties that I hear most about in the field.
What I also find interesting (and kinda funny) is that almost all vendors seem to be happy with their place on the quadrant, regardless of their position as a leader (obviously), challenger, visionair or even niche player. Look at all these press releases!
When I compare the quadrant to last year’s version, SAP is still in the same position as a visionaire, while Tableau and MS PowerBI are clearly way ahead as industry leaders. With Sisense, Oracle and Yellowfin moving to up it is getting crowded around SAP…
So let’s first have a look at the comments on SAP and SAP Analytics Cloud. Just as the last two editions Gartner is ignoring the SAP BusinessObjects BI Platform and its capabilities, but that is nowadays nicely in line with the SAP strategy for analytics.
SAP is a Visionary in this Magic Quadrant, thanks to its improved product functionality and strong vision, but it remains of interest predominantly to the wider base of SAP enterprise application users.SAP Analytics Cloud is a cloud-native multitenant platform with a broad set of analytic capabilities. Most companies that choose SAP Analytics Cloud already use some SAP business applications.
At the end of 2019 SAP suddenly introduced a completely new addition to the SAP Analytics Cloud suite: SAP Analytics Cloud for Office. I’ve had a quick look at the beta version of this Excel add-in and it – obviously – looks a lot like our good old SAP Analysis Office. Apparently the decision was made to create a new Excel add-in from scratch specifically for SAC.
From what I’ve seen, there are at least two major differences in the foundations of this tool: First, the installation of this SAC for Office is done via the built-in MS Office store. That means that you can easily push this add-in to all Excel installations within your organization. Also think about what this means for the distribution of updates: this is not necessary anymore as the users will always run the latest version of the software from the MS Office store! Second: this add-in not only works within your ‘on-premise’ Excel installation on your Windows laptop, but also in online Office 365 plus – and I’ve waited over 10 years for this – on the Mac! Awesome!!
So check out the video where I show a very minimal demo. As this is just the very first beta, don’t expect much. For live HANA/BW connectivity you still need to use SAP Analysis Office 2.8 for example. Also, there is still no integrated SAC repository option to easily store and open your workbooks on the SAC platform. Looking at the roadmap, the focus for the first half of 2020 is on Planning.
2019 is almost over, so just like last year this is a good moment to look back at what happened in the SAP Analytics Cloud universe over the past 12 months. This year we got an astonishing 24 wave releases for the SAC tenants that are on the fast track schedule, so that should be enough to cover! Traditionally, I’ll do the grouping of the roundup in a good, bad and ugly manner.
This year’s SAP TechEd confirmed the statement from 2018 that SAP Analytics Cloud would eventually turn in to the single BI solution for all the SAP solutions. In Q4 the betas for the first batch of ‘embedded analytics’ started, featuring the new SAP Datawarehouse Cloud, SAP SuccessFactors and SAP Fieldglass.
The standalone SAC solution is turning more and more into this broad enterprise BI platform which will very soon overhaul the feature set of the on-premise SAP BusinessObjects BI Platform. Let’s go through some of the changes:
Platform administration has made some improvements, for example the simple fact that we can now finally authorize on models by storing them in folders. Sharing settings on these folders also have improved with better inheritance of sharing settings. Also, we can now take the full user administration outside of SAC by mapping accounts, teams and roles to MS Azure AD groups. With this you could setup your SAC tenant in such a way that users only need to go to the SAC URL and automatically an account is created for them and assigned to the correct teams and roles: no more manual admin activities needed in SAC! Finally, there are improvements in the Transport/LCM area, where we now can directly deploy between tenants, without export and importing files.
I went to Las Vegas SAP TechEd 2019 a couple of weeks ago, of course focussing on all the new stuff for SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC) and the brand new SAP Data Warehouse Cloud (DWC). Let’s go through some highlights.
Announced a long time ago already, but now shown for the first time: SAC as a completely integrated reporting and analysis solution with SAP cloud applications. With this it is instantly possible to use SAC on top of the data from the particular tool, with a live connectivity! For example: when using SAP Fieldglass, you can start up the built-in SAC instance and create a model on top of the Fieldglass tables to get data into a story. This new features will be part of the existing license for the cloud application, but only gives access to the BI features of SAC. In case you want to combine data from different sources or use predictive and planning features, you’ll need to switch to the “standalone” version of SAC. The goal is to have live connectors towards all the SAP cloud applications in the standalone SAC, although there were no timelines provided. The cloud offerings that will contain an embedded SAC first are SAP Fieldglass , SAP SuccessFactors and SAP Data Warehouse Cloud.
SAP Analytics Cloud Mobile
The mobile solution for SAC is still lagging far behind the web version. There still is no Android app available (promised for end of 2019), there is no proper integration with the SAP Analytics Hub (Q2 2020) and the Analytics Designer apps don’t work (Q2 2020). On short, we can expect improvements in the areas of live prompts and SSO (no more double logins). SAP has a lot of work to do to catch up, especially as the mobile team has a lot of interesting ideas for future direction: there will be more emphasis on use cases and workflows where the users use the app to answer very specific questions (eventually via speech), instead of just loading and interacting with predefined reports. The vision is that the app would learn form this behavior and offer a timeline and push messages to provide information and insights in a more pro-active way.
SAP Data Warehouse Cloud
TechEd 2019 had a lot of attention for the new DWC, as it was mentioned in almost all sessions, including the keynote. I get the enthusiasm, especially when you combine the potential of this solution with “embedded SAC”, as this could give power users a complete toolset to setup their own mini data warehouse within a governed SAC ecosystem. With its direct (live) connectors to SAP and non-SAP source, a fully web-based cloud environment which is easily maintainable and scalable, and the reporting and analysis feature set of SAC this could be a serious alternative for all those local MS Excel/Access solutions that we still see a lot. The creation of a model in DWC is pretty simple (drag & drop) and does not require SQL knowledge. So in concept it looks great, but also here a lot of work still needs to be done before they can bring this to market.
In conclusion, this was pretty interesting convention and it is absolutely clear that the position of SAC within the full SAP ecosystem is only getting stronger.