Thus far we’ve looked at how to set up your SAP Analytics Cloud system, connect to data from your warehouse and plug this into prebuilt business content. Now, we come to the SAP Analytics Cloud’s raison d’être: visualisation and analysis. SAC’s analytics capabilities cover the spectrum, from ad-hoc, self-service and drill-down, through operational reporting and up to strategic, pixel-perfect dashboarding. Every level of the business can use SAC’s reporting tools on top of models in a single cloud system, which means lower total cost of ownershipin terms of both replacing legacy on-premise system licenses and maintenance costs.
There are two core elements to provide reporting in SAC: Stories and Analytic Applications.
Stories are where the bulk of your reporting will be done, as they can be a space in which to perform ad-hoc analysis or can be set up as reporting templates for a specific purpose. In the context of SAP analytics technology, they are analogous to Web Intelligence from the BusinessObjects suite – you can do pretty much every kind of reporting with Stories, with a huge range of charts and outputs, including exporting to PDF and PowerPoint.
Stories are treated like any other object (model, dataset etc.) in SAC and are stored in the single folder structure. To get started with Stories, select Create >> Story from the left-hand menu.
To begin with, you’re presented with the multiple options through which you can start your Story development.
You can, of course, choose to start your story development with a blank canvas, and in self-service environments many of your users will be performing either ad-hoc analysis or setting up templates for themselves or their teams. To do this, select either ‘Access & Explore Data’ or set up the look and feel first by choosing one of the ‘Add a…’ buttons. We’re going to add data first, so will select the former.
When adding data to a story, you have the choice of sources: flatfile, a live datasource or retrieving data from an imported model. Once a model is selected, you are taken to the Data section of the Story, where the measures and dimensions are shown in a facet view. Here, you can perform basic, quick analysis, visualising the data in a table or chart. If you’re building a report-style story, you can then copy the visualisation set up here to the Story canvas.
To view the Story canvas, change to ‘Story’ mode using the switch in the top left of the screen. This is the core reporting section of SAC and provides tools to quickly put together a usable report layout, with page views, grid layouts and the Responsive Layout, which automatically resizes output based on the user’s screen size.
There are options to set up output and formatting to the nth degree, far too much to cover in an introductory blog, but SAC offers every option you’ve come to expect from the likes of Web Intelligence and its non-SAP competitors.
Helpfully, you don’t have to start from a blank canvas. SAC offers multiple templates to quickly create a Story, including A4 report-style output and dashboards. These are prebuilt Stories into which you only must plug your data, so are particularly useful in setting up custom templates for your own business needs without having to worry about setting up the basics from an empty screen.
You can also run Smart Discovery, which uses built-in machine learning algorithms to analyse data and build a Story for you, offering insights into key drivers and influences behind your figures and calling out areas of interest, such as outliers.
Once you have built and saved a Story, it can be saved as a template for re-use or easily shared with other users and SAC includes built-in commenting functionality. A key step forward with SAC reporting over SAP’s previous reporting tools is the automation of laborious tasks such as setting up commenting and creating mobile outputs, which SAC offers by default with the sibling SAC mobile app.
Analytic Applications are the dashboarding end of the SAC reporting spectrum. They allow the creation of pixel-perfect outputs with a huge degree of flexibility provided by scripting and events. If Stories are the Web Intelligence of SAC, then Analytic Applications provide the functionality offered by Lumira Designer in BusinessObjects.
New Analytic Applications are always started from a blank canvas – remember that Stories and Analytic Apps are available as Business Content as discussed in the previous blog – and so whilst Stories can be created quickly by most users, you will require experienced developers with scripting experience. The simplest way is likely to transition Lumira Designer developers onto your SAC team, as the script and build concepts are very similar.
Digital Boardroom (DB) is an interactive analysis tool aimed specifically at senior management and the C-suite. Its offer is providing a holistic view of a department or business, adding value to data by using SAC’s smart capabilities, allowing managers to make better decisions through actionable insights, highlighting potential problems and opportunities.
The Digital Boardroom environment is a three-screen setup, designed to be viewed and used on big screens – wall panels ideally – with touchscreen capability at the heart of the setup. It is not aimed at small screens and individual users, which provide too narrow a focus for the information that DB wants to impart. It is designed to connect in real time to the business’ underlying transactional systems such as S/4HANA and SuccessFactors – speed of insight and a 360-degree view are the main value propositions.
SAC is the technology underpinning DB and the content is made up of elements from Stories in your environment, either in a traditional agenda setup or as a curated dashboard.
x Digital Boardroom types – Source: Capgemini UK
It is important to note that the SAC license does not include DB. There is a separate Digital Boardroom sales and licensing process, and with prices starting at £3,412 per installation you have to say that it is aimed at larger businesses with the ability to leverage large data volumes from their underlying systems, such as S/4HANA.
SAC’s visualisation offerings are designed to fully replace legacy BusinessObjects systems and functionality gaps have been substantially closed in the past year. Going forward, SAP’s strategy for reporting is cloud-first, but with the launch of BusinessObjects BI4.3 in Q3 2020, it is offering a hybrid setup, whereby existing BI artefacts can be used to provide SAC with data or ported into the cloud. Existing investment is not thrown out with a move to SAC.
I do hope that you have found this introductory series on SAP Analytics Cloud useful and interesting. If you’d like to take a closer look at SAC and explore how it can be used in your business, Capgemini can help, so do connect with us for more information.
Chris Bradshaw is a senior consultant in SAP BI in the UK I&D team. A graduate of the University of Oxford, he has 10 years’ experience providing analytic insight to clients in a range of industries.