SAP Analytics Cloud
I recently got quite some questions about the new Application Design feature in SAP Analytics Cloud, especially its position in relation to SAP Lumira Designer (Design Studio). I understand that all this may raise some questions with SAP BI customers that haven’t hopped on the SAC train yet or are just starting with their orientation on cloud solutions. So let’s bring some clarity here by starting from the beginning.
Application Design is part of the SAP Analytics Cloud platform and gives you the possibility to offer centrally governed analytical applications, created by professional application designers. These applications range from simple dashboards with just a few charts or tables to complex applications with custom layouts and interactivity options created with scripts.
With the option to use custom scripts the applications go a big step further than the SAP Analytics Cloud stories. That’s also why the stories are positioned to be (also) created by business users, while the applications are solely built by application designers. Eventually, the idea is to be able to integrate and combine features coming from the whole SAC platform in applications. For example, an application could visualize a live data source (BI), run a predictive scenario and offer planning capabilities to update data based on this.SAP Analytics Cloud, SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio, SAP Lumira
Gartner just published its legendary Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms for 2019. It is always interesting to see how the SAP BI offering compares to its competitors. In previous years I’ve been critical on this report, as most of the SAP tools were completely ignored (SAP BusinessObjects BI Platform, Lumira, etc.) and SAP Analytics Cloud was really just getting started. In the 2019 edition the BOBJ stuff is still out, but that is something I can live with as SAP clearly changed its strategy to cloud.
So let’s have a look at the chart. SAP is seen as a visionaire, but with a low ability to execute. The big competitors Microsoft (PowerBI) and Tableau seem to be far ahead, both in vision and execution. The details on SAP are basically a repeat of my good, bad and the ugly write up on SAP Analytics Cloud in 2018. Some quotes from the report:
SAP is a Visionary, its position in the Magic Quadrant being influenced by product limitations and relative weakness in terms of sales and marketing strategy. SAP still does not have the broad market momentum of the Leaders in this market. Its decision to focus on one product is beginning to improve its competitiveness, however. Reference customers for SAP Analytics Cloud report a much improved view of SAP’s viability as a vendor of modern analytics and BI.
SAP Analytics Cloud’s integrated functionality for planning, analytical and predictive capabilities in a unified, single platform is a differentiator. SAP is one of only two vendors in the Magic Quadrant with such an offering.
I can only agree with this. The focus should not be on purely closing the functionality gap with the quadrant leaders, but on offering a more integrated, broader solution.SAP Analytics Cloud
No, but that’s okay.
Somewhere this quarter we can expect the new Application Design option in SAP Analytics Cloud, which enables us to do the things that we know from SAP Lumira Designer like scripting and setting up more complex custom interactions. I think we should really see this as a sort of preview release to get familiar with the tool and definitely not as a full featured solution that is capable of everything that Lumira Designer already can do. This is also in line with the expectations that were set by the SAP engineers at the announcement in mid-2018, who communicated that it would probably take around two years to catch up with Lumira Designer.
So for me there are a couple of must-haves before this tool is ready for serious usage scenarios. First, without container component the Application Design option will never work for apps that go further than simple one-page demo scenarios. We need options to group widgets that belong to each other so that we can create multiple pages and setup scripts on the whole group at once. Without this it will be a nightmare to build multi layer applications as you’d need scripts to hide/show each widget individually. In addition to this, global scripts are also a must to be able to reuse scripts within the application. Performance is always an issue when applications get more complex. Therefor, we need (scripting) options to tweak the way that data sources are loaded: loading order, background loading, parallel loading, lazy loading etc.
Just a few more days and the year is almost over again, which makes this a perfect time to have a look at what happened in the past 12 months in the world of SAP Analytics Cloud. With all the updates the tool got in 2018 (22 waves!), you’d almost forget that it is just 10 months ago that SAC was pushed forward as the future of BI for SAP. But the question is of course: can it already deliver on this promise? And is it really enterprise ready? So let’s have a look at the state of SAP Analytics Cloud anno 2018. I grouped my observations in a good, bad and ugly manner.
Let’s start with some important signs in addition to the famous strategy blog of February 2018. SAP Analytics Cloud will be turned into the single BI solution for all tooling within SAP. So not only as the front-end solution on top of a SAP BW or HANA system, but it will replace the built-in BI solutions that come with the several cloud solutions SAP has acquired/developed over the years. Think of SuccessFactors, Concur, Fieldglass, Cloud for Customer. This will bring in millions of potential new users. For project Blueberry, which is a future SAP BW4/HANA cloud based offering, SAC will be the BI front-end. For the on-premise tools the future looks pretty sad. They probably will be supported for another decade, but all new innovations will be done in SAC.
I also see that SAC is slowly transitioning from a BI/planning tool into a broad platform that goes further than what the SAP BusinessObjects BI Platform ever delivered. Initially it only hosted the models and stories for reporting and planning, then the boardrooms and predictive scenarios were added as separate objects, and next year we will see applications, Roambi templates and Analysis Office workbooks appearing.
The Analysis Office workbooks are an interesting topic in itself and I regard this as a must have for 2019 to completely get SAC to a full “enterprise ready platform” level. Currently, Analysis Office workbooks can only consume acquired data models in SAC. To make this really work we need support for live BW/HANA models, and the option to store these workbooks on the SAC platform from within the Analysis Office software. This is all on the roadmap for 2019.
In 2018 a lot of generic SAC features were released, for example story bookmarks, offline/live data blending and proper platform usage statistics. Also many more specific features were delivered, for example on BW live connectivity where SAC is now very close to supporting the full spectrum of BEx features. This year brought the universal display hierarchy, support for two BEx structures and support for BEx conditions.
To finish the Good section, SAP is doing a lot to support organizations to manage this new normal of cloud. It will offer so-called test tenants that run a preview of the upcoming wave. This allows customers to check out new features so they are prepared for the actual release.