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Ready-to-run Analytics – using the SAP Analytics Cloud Business Content to quick-start reporting

Chris Bradshaw
30 Jun 2020

Other blogs in this series can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 5

Starting out with SAP Analytics Cloud can feel challenging . It’s a ‘greenfield’ system, a blank slate for reporting and analytics and in many cases you’ll be coming from legacy systems providing the whole range of reporting for your team or business. Recreating that level of service is a challenge, but it also presents an opportunity. An opportunity to return to first principles – what information do your users need to be able to do their jobs, where can insight to improve your business be gained and how can this be best provided? This task can be made immeasurably simpler by using SAC’s huge range of prebuilt Business Content.

What is Business Content?

Put simply, SAC Business Content is a collection of prebuilt SAC models and reporting objects, tailored specifically to individual industries and lines-of-business, to provide best-practice reporting on in your SAC system. Those of you with an SAP data warehousing background will be aware of Business Content, as it has been used in SAP BW for many years to quickly set up ETL models and warehouses. However, until now SAP’s reporting in BusinessObjects has generally required manual build from scratch. With SAC, SAP have taken the Business Content concept and expanded it into the world of reporting and analytics.

A point to note is that licensing matters here. You need a SAC enterprise license to use SAP-provided Business Content and trial licenses will not work, so do not plan to do POCs in a trial environment. If you have a test/development tenant, all of your pre-deployment testing should be done there and objects can be transported between tenants. If you are planning to import Digital Boardroom content, you will need a Digital Boardroom license – DB objects will not be available to those without a DB license.

i Source: SAP
i Source: SAP

There are dozens of line-of-business packages, covering everything from finance processes such as Accounts Payable and Expense Management to Marketing Spend and Sales & Distribution. With LoB packages, many are designed to sit atop Business Content in SAP’s ERP systems such as S/4HANA and CRM. Industry packages cover Agriculture to Utilities, and lots integrate with planning capability in the underlying SAP systems. SAC Content also comes with sample data for each package, to enable trial runs, learning and proofs of concept in minutes. You can introduce, redesign and curate SAC reporting before deploying on live data.

So far, so positive. Do be warned, however, that planning is required to marry up warehouse and SAC content. SAP provide pretty extensive documentation on how, for instance, S/4HANA objects need to be modelled and set up to work with SAC Content, but in our investigations we have found that models and objects often require manual modification to play nicely and this will be on the basis of your individual setup.

The BW content used by some packages is also version-dependent and cannot be installed on systems such as BW/4HANA. Our recommendation is that full planning and design is carried out, using experienced ETL professionals as well as analytics developers, before going live with SAC Content packages on top of warehousing Business Content, just as you would were you placing it on top of custom content. Remove any ghosts from the machine before they start to haunt you…

How to Deploy SAC Business Content

Deployment of Business Content is done by administrators in the main SAC tenant. From the main menu, select Browse > Content Network to be presented with the Content Network Management screen, from which you can manage your own content packages, transferring between tenants, and find the Business Content section.

ii Source: Capgemini UK
ii Source: Capgemini UK

The Business Content section lists out all packages available to import. Select a package to bring up an information screen, showing the package’s content and usage, including KPIs.

iii Source: Capgemini UK
iii Source: Capgemini UK

The Import Options tab lists in detail the objects which will be created in your system and provides settings for how import is managed – whether the content overwrites objects, data and object permissions. SAP’s recommendation is to use Don’t Overwrite Objects and Data, to avoid breaking your pre-existing setup. By default, everybody will be able to view the imported objects and the importing user will have edit rights, so ensure that your objects are considered in your security model. Be careful if your system uses multiple packages, as many of the objects are re-used throughout. Objects imported can be moved through your folder structure and renamed as required to allow multiple versions of objects across packages. Again, planning is key.

iv Source: Capgemini UK
iv Source: Capgemini UK
v Source: Capgemini UK
v Source: Capgemini UK

Once you click import, an import job will start, the progress of which can be checked in the notifications area in the top right of the SAC screen. If you import multiple packages, they will be queued and created consecutively.

The packages are by default brought into the ‘SAP Content’ folder, from where it can be moved and renamed. A useful feature is the default naming of imported models, where the name of those designed for live data connections contain the string _LS_ and those for import connections are labelled _IM_.

Considerations

From here on in you’re free to use and modify the content as you need. As has been mentioned, you will need to take a spanner to the models in both SAC and your warehouse to get everything to flow correctly and there is SAP documentation that guides this, but be aware that much of this will require design by experienced data modellers and basis administrators. It isn’t, yet, a turnkey system.

That said, Business Content is a major step forward in SAP’s reporting offering, over both legacy BusinessObjects and its competitor analytics suites., particularly if you’re using an underlying SAP data warehouse. It will be especially helpful, I feel, in top-down design scenarios, where requirements are developed from the reporting needs of the business and the data models defined accordingly.

It takes a matter of minutes, so if you have access to a SAC system you can import a package for yourself a try it out. When you’ve done that, Capgemini can help you to realise its full potential in your business.