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How to set up SAP Analytics Cloud in a day

Chris Bradshaw
11 May 2020

Other blogs in this series can be found here: Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

Not long ago, any blog about cloud computing would begin with a joke about those white things in the sky. It was always “the next big thing,” opaque, waiting to be demystified. Today, cloud is at the vanguard of a revolution in how the world’s businesses are managed, part of a transformation into ‘Web 3.0’, where Big Data and Artificial Intelligence allow insight as never before. SAP’s Analytics offerings are no exception and their vision for the 2020s is completely cloud-first.

SAP Analytics Cloud forms the core of SAP’s BI strategy and the key feature is simplicity. In one portal, businesses can run their entire analytics suite from operational reporting Stories up to C-Suite strategic dashboarding in the Digital Boardroom, as well as end-to-end planning and forecasting and inbuilt AI to bring hidden data insights to light.

Licensing is tiered based on functionality requirements, from analytics-only to planning-enabled and up to the ‘everything’ of analytics, planning and Digital Boardroom reporting.

Getting started

So, you have signed up for SAC by going to and logged into your system for the first time. Where do you start? In most cases you will be paying for your system on a users-per-month basis, so you need some users. The SAC user-management system is a straightforward spreadsheet-like input, where administrators can add users manually, via copy-paste or by importing a spreadsheet. Teams can be created to group users into Line-of-Business or departmental groups – providing access restrictions – and users can be assigned specific Roles, such as Planning Administrator and BI Viewer, to restrict what users can do in the system. Both Teams and Roles are fully customisable. Users are based on their email addresses and once created, they are sent a welcome email and invited to create a password. Your users can be quickly unleashed into SAC.

Setting up users

Source: Capgemini UK
Source: Capgemini UK

Once you have users, you’ll need content and SAC comes with a vast library of importable Business Content created by SAP and certified partners. Business Content contains a huge variety of prebuilt LoB and industry-specific reporting, tailored to connect to SAP datasources, to quick-start reporting. This is all comprehensively documented, so you can finesse your data to match the best-practice reporting provided in SAC.

Connecting to data

But how will you get data into SAC? There are dozens of compatible datasources – SAP and non-SAP – and more are added with every release. For most, you can choose whether you want to import the data into SAC or connect directly to your databases. Connections to on-premise systems rely upon SAP’s Cloud Platform ‘Cloud Connector’, which is downloadable middleware, installed on a server to provide connectivity between SAC and the on-premise datasource. Cloud Connector requires an SAP Cloud Platform license, so be sure to factor this into any costing. Additionally, acquiring data from an SAP system, such as BW/4HANA or S/4HANA, requires installation of the SAC Agent on a server.

Of course, many businesses do not want – or are unable – to replicate their data to the cloud. In SAC, you can set up a live connection to your on-premise datasource where no data at all is transferred – no data leaves the on-premise network. Metadata – filter information, column names etc. – are passed to the system to tell your data warehouse what data to return, but all processing and output is done in the user’s browser. For live connections there are fewer moving parts in terms of middleware installation, but elements such as security certificate and data access configuration must be performed on the data warehouse by your administrators before SAC can access them.

Modelling data

Once connected, create a Model to manage your data. Models enable you to cleanse and enhance your data before using it to report, for instance by adding a hierarchy or defining a date field. By default, your first model will be an Analytic model, where data can be analysed and reported upon. For systems with a Planning license, you can create a Planning model, upon which your users can plan and forecast in their Stories and Applications, before writing back to your database. Users can set up value-driver trees and allocation rules to aid planning.

Source: Capgemini UK
Source: Capgemini UK

You can also import data into a Dataset, which form the foundation of SAC’s ‘Smart Predict’ functionality. Smart Predict is an inbuilt machine-learning and predictive system, which sifts through your Dataset to provide either regression, classification or time-series forecasts. It’s a powerful piece of functionality and worth exploring on Day 1 to see exactly what you’re missing in your data.

Using data

Finally, visualise your data. The two main outputs are Stories, which are operationally focussed and designed for self-service analysis by your broad user base, and Analytic Applications, which are pixel-perfect, dashboard-style reports, built and curated by your power users. These are analogous to WebI and Lumira Designer. The Digital Boardroom, which requires a specific license, is a cockpit report providing strategy-level information aimed at senior management, showing significant insights provided by SAC’s machine learning and broader direction-of-travel and financial health reporting.

Source: Capgemini UK
Source: Capgemini UK

The Future

SAP Analytics Cloud is the future of SAP’s analytics, but right now many customers will be using BusinessObjects BI4.x. SAP are soon to release the next version – BI4.3 – and again their focus is the cloud, with a hybrid model of BO and SAC being SAP’s vision in the short-to-medium-term. BI4.3 will integrate with SAC to allow datasource sharing – including universes and WebI reports as datasources – and there are plans to create a simple migration pathway from BO to SAC. Investment in cutting-edge SAP analytics will not be wasted.