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SAP Embedded Analytics – The SAP BW killer?

Cuong Tran
25 Oct 2022

In this blog, we compare SAP Embedded Analytics with SAP BW, and discuss their impact to traditional business warehouses.

With the advent of SAP Embedded Analytics in 2017, speculation was rife that SAP Business Warehouse’s (BW’s) days were numbered. Why is there so much talk about the end of SAP BW while customers are still upgrading, and SAP are evolving the technology?

When I first heard about SAP S/4 Embedded Analytics (EA), I thought they were talking about embedded reports, like the ones you embed in a document such as PowerPoint. Instead, I found out that SAP Embedded Analytics are reports that can be embedded into the SAP transactions and SAP processes to enable better and quicker decision making. 

Traditionally, SAP users would run a report and when finding an issue, they would run an SAP transaction in a different screen to analyse it, whereas SAP Embedded Analytics is seamlessly woven into the SAP transactions and processes. 

Take for example the sales management dashboard below. 

Source: Capgemini

By double clicking on the incomplete sales document tile, the user will be taken to the list of incomplete sales documents that they can drill further into and correct.

Source: Capgemini

Modelling

SAP BW modelling has been simplified and optimised for HANA since SAP 7.5 powered by SAP HANA. 

Source: SAP

SAP BW models are built with InfoObjects, which are the building blocks to build advanced DSOs, and transformations are used to change the data into business logic. Composite providers are used for reporting and analytics.

SAP Embedded Analytics reports are built on Virtual Data Models based on SAP’s CDS (Core Data Service) views. The models are built and joined using SQL, and no actual data is materialised. Adding new fields or tables is straightforward and cannot corrupt the underlying data.

Reporting

SAP BW uses tools such as SAP Business Objects or SAP Analytics Cloud for reporting.

Source: SAP

SAP Embedded Analytics reports are Fiori based to give a more modern, user friendly and consistent look and feel to ERP based reporting, and each type has a different use case.

Multi-dimensional reports

Multi-dimensional reports are tabular in nature and allow the user to pivot on each field.  This type of report is used to analyse data and search for trends.

Source: Capgemini

Smart business KPIs

Smart business KPIs are a standalone SAP Fiori app that displays a key performance indicator (KPI) that is pertinent to the company.

Source: SAP

Analytic list pages

Analytic list pages are types of reports where reporting and transactional data sit side by side, and the reports are used to highlight exceptions where a user needs to act.

Source: Capgemini

Overview pages

Overview pages are a type of lightweight dashboard that shows statuses of different SAP processes for an organisation. It is a starting point where a user can analyse the health of a business and drill into the details to see the underlying data that makes up the dashboard.

Source: Capgemini

Analysis path framework

This is a framework for creating interactive, chart-oriented analytical drilldown app. Analysis path framework is a type of guided reporting where the user is restricted to a set of graphs to analyse the data.

Source: Capgemini

CDS views can also be exposed to SAP Analytics Cloud for more comprehensive visualisation and intelligent insights such as predictive analytics and its smart features (Smart Insight, Smart Discovery, time series forecasting, etc.)

Development

SAP BW provides out of the box business content for most of the functional areas in SAP ERP, however adding or changing the logic of a field can be involved. 

SAP provides a plethora of out of box embedded reports that can be activated and switched on in a matter of minutes. The list is available at SAP’s Fiori app library:

https://fioriappslibrary.hana.ondemand.com/sap/fix/externalViewer/

SAP releases new reports every quarter, and this should reduce the need to develop custom embedded reports.  However, if changes are required to standard SAP models or reports, it can be done in one of two ways: In-App Extension or CDS View Extension.

In-App Extension is SAP’s latest innovation that allows developers to make changes to SAP standard development, which includes Fiori reporting Apps with low impact to the existing SAP Fiori App.  In-app extensions are used where there is requirement to add additional fields or parameters to an existing Fiori reporting App. 

CDS View Extensions are used to extend a CDS view with data that isn’t currently available in the model. This type of technique can only be used with standard SAP CDS views with ‘released’ status.

In Summary

SAP Embedded Analytics has several advantages over SAP BW: the data is in real time and there is no latency in running the reports. SAP Embedded Analytics has a richer visualisation, development efforts are lower, and it is continually updated with new reports. The use case for SAP Embedded Analytics is it provides real time operational and management reporting on SAP ERP.

SAP BW / DWC’s (or any data warehouse, lakehouse, etc.) strengths are its ETL capabilities, where it’s able to extract, transform, load and process large volumes of data from many applications and data sources. It’s not constrained with reporting on just SAP ERP data and, more importantly, doesn’t impact the SAP systems resources.

The business case for SAP BW is it can be used to join and report on disparate data from many applications, apply complex logic to transform the data or do snapshots of data. For example, sales data joined with customer sentiment data from Twitter or Facebook can help to understand how well a product has been received. Embedded Analytics is a great addition to the reporting suite from SAP, but it is important to understand it will not provide the full gamut of reporting and analytics capabilities that a data driven organisation will require.