2.2 SAP S/4HANA Embedded Analytics
In this section, we introduce you to the recent quantum leap in the SAP ERP world. We highlight significant changes that have taken place to the former SAP ECC stack and what important pillars SAP S/4HANA and SAP S/4HANA Embedded Analytics represent today. In addition, these developments have not failed to leave their mark on the design of a sustainable and modern BI architecture. A common theme throughout this book is the consideration of this impact. Looking at our reference architecture, the data generation and data digestion and storage layers encompass artifacts of SAP S/4HANA and SAP S/4HANA Embedded Analytics.
2.2.1 SAP S/4HANA
With SAP S/4HANA (data generation layer) the next generation of business suite has entered the market, bringing with it a complete redesign of its architecture and data models in order to leverage the features and capabilities of SAP HANA. With the Simple Finance enhancement in 2014, SAP presented the first step into a new era driven by the “simple” paradigm. Agility, flexibility and simplicity in business processes became the motto of SAP’s ERP applications, running and benefitting from the in-memory SAP HANA platform. The key rationale for the introduction of Simple Finance was the instant financial insights obtained without the need for duplication or aggregation of data, thereby acting as a single version of truth. However, the Simple Finance enhancement builds on the SAP ERP 6.0 stack and the launch of SAP S/4HANA resulted in a completely new codebase and data model. SAP S/4HANA demonstrates SAP’s direction toward one database, one platform, and one system. Today, SAP S/4HANA Finance is the best choice when it comes to implementing new, future-oriented finance solutions (in an SAP environment). However, not only did finance applications evolve and transform to conform to the “new world”, other lines of business (LOB) are also about to pass, or already have passed, a similar metamorphosis to a completely new setup based on SAP HANA (e.g. Logistics).
In summarizing the changes coming with SAP S/4HANA, we would like to emphasize the following elements:
- New architecture and data models: SAP S/4HANA constitutes a complete redesign towards optimized architecture and data models running on the SAP HANA database. This re-architecting focusses on leveraging in-memory capabilities through code push down, data compression, and OLAP + Online Transaction Processing (OLTP) merge. The simplified data model aims to eliminate data redundancies, to clearly segregate master and transactional data, and to accelerate processes. Aggregates and indices are concepts of the past and have been removed in order to achieve greater flexibility and data throughput by reducing the data/memory footprints in SAP HANA. From a functional perspective, project experiences from the last decades were compiled to form the blueprint of SAP S/4HANA Enterprise Management, which is today the digital core for LOB solutions such as finance, logistics, manufacturing, and supply chain.
- Renewed applications and frontend: Building on the new data structures, applications and transactions have improved through new features and self-service capabilities, better runtime, and a completely new look and feel. Additionally, the real-time capability of SAP S/4HANA offers instant insights and individual analyses. Planning, prediction, and simulations at the highest level of granularity are now possible. SAP Fiori Apps support these features and build the new state-of-the-art frontend for entering personalized work and transaction lists. Technologically, SAP Fiori is enabled by HTML5 and SAPUI5 which can also be used on various (mobile) devices. SAP S/4HANA integrates and interacts closely with SAP partner solutions such as SuccessFactors, Ariba, and Fieldglass, providing a variety of opportunities to tailor and enhance your SAP S/4HANA implementation to your specific demands.
- Cloud or on-premise: SAP S/4HANA offers not only an on-premise delivery model, but is also available in the cloud. The cloud edition might be the right choice for customers looking for a lightweight model, with the option to easily scale their solution. Customers can choose a public and a private offering, but both come with standardized packages with customization restrictions. The on-premise solution enables full customization because the entire installation runs under full-control of the owner. The on-premise deployment can be executed through a variety of hosting models including partner-managed private clouds. Nonetheless, an in-between option is to choose a hybrid model. Section 2.6 covers cloud platforms in more detail.
In Figure 2.4 we show the key lines of business and their associated partner solutions.
Figure 2.4: Overview of SAP S/4HANA lines of business
Let’s have a closer look at what has changed in the major lines of business such as finance or logistics. Each LOB comprises a set of solutions in its specific domain; for example, for SAP S/4HANA Finance, there is financial planning analysis, accounting and financial closing, treasury and financial risk management). The key modification for the aforementioned LOBs is a completely rearranged data model. While in earlier ERP versions, duplicate data sets existed, in the new SAP S/4HANA system there is only one universal table and truth. In finance, the ACDOCA and logistics MATDOC tables represent the central objects for the applications. ACDOCA, for instance, incorporates both the finance and controlling view, enabling data analyses from different angles without costly pre-calculations and combinations of dozens of tables. From a business perspective, the simplification of the data model is easily recognizable. In the logistics module, business objects are now merged and are available as one (e.g. shopping cart and purchase requisition). Additionally, business processes are streamlined and optimized (e.g. Procurement to Pay, Order to Cash). Finally, fewer user interaction steps are needed to obtain specific information or to complete a transaction, which in turn reduces reaction time and increases flexibility in your daily business.
For your journey to SAP S/4HANA, SAP has introduced SAP Activate, which represents an innovation adaption framework. SAP Activate provides methodology and tools to support your deployment plan, and offers a non-disruptive migration path. Throughout the entire product lifecycle, SAP Activate can expedite your implementation.
SAP S/4HANA—further information
In addition to the actual SAP website, there are many locations where you can obtain insights into SAP S/4. However, we recommend using the official community website for questions and discussions:
From our point of view, SAP S/4HANA offers great opportunities to accelerate and streamline both your SAP ERP landscape and the supported business processes. However, please keep in mind that SAP S/4HANA is only a young product and there is still not much experience in big migrations (they are ongoing). Moreover, you should be prepared to re-think fundamentals in comparing business processes (e.g., thoughts on cost-based versus account-based Cost and Profit Analysis (COPA)). Looking at the technology and our core topic of SAP HANA BI architectures, of particular importance are: changes in the source adapters for data extraction (e.g. adaption of standard extractors to new SAP S/4HANA structures, switch to CDS views), the right architectural spot for preparing reporting and analytics, the utilization of the embedded SAP BW, and the interplay between the SAP HANA platforms (or is just one common SAP HANA platform the right solution?). These topics will accompany us throughout this book.
2.2.2 SAP S/4HANA Embedded Analytics
While introducing SAP S/4HANA, we mentioned the merge of OLTP and OLAP utilizing the features of SAP HANA. This leads to the good old question of the separation of transactional and analytical reporting (and the assignment to a layer in our reference architecture). Interestingly, we are faced with this question in almost every SAP HANA project when it comes to any kind of reporting. SAP offers a solution for operational reporting and has introduced SAP S/4HANA Embedded Analytics. This component contains analytics features integrated into the SAP S/4HANA suite. It enables business users to execute real-time reports and analyses based on live transactional data. Furthermore, these analytical features are part of the SAP S/4HANA distribution, and are directly useable. SAP S/4HANA Embedded Analytics comes with pre-defined, out-of-the-box views of the transactional data. Virtual Data Model (VDM) is the new key word for business users to gain desired insights and information within the transactional SAP S/4HANA system. These default solutions are enriched by ready-to-deploy best practice solution packages. Formerly known as Rapid Deployment Solution (RDS), SAP renamed its portfolio of analytical content to SAP Best Practices for analytics with SAP S/4HANA. Additionally, there are guidelines available on how best to integrate SAP S/4HANA Embedded Analytics with existing or traditional platforms, for reporting and analytics (e.g. SAP Business Objects, SAP BW, SAP HANA Cloud Platform). In addition to the SAP guidelines, we tackle these architectural challenges in subsequent chapters of this book.
SAP S/4HANA Embedded Analytics—further information
A comprehensive guide and explanation of SAP S/4HANA Embedded Analytics is provided at:
Furthermore, we recommend identifying best practice solutions for your specific scenario by visiting the following SAP website:
https://rapid.sap.com/bp/BP_S4H_ANA (authorization required).
At this point, in addressing the initial question of distinguishing operational and analytical reporting, we characterize only the SAP S/4HANA Embedded Analytics component itself. Discussions and recommendations of any combination, interplay, or integration with other tools and technologies offering analytical features are covered in Chapter 3. From our experience, SAP S/4HANA Embedded Analytics is positioned as a built-in component of SAP S/4HANA for running reports and analyses on operational data (also in real-time). It offers a lightweight modeling and data model consumption featuring CDS view technology (for further information on CDS views, see Section 2.1.5). The out -of-the-box CDS views can be enhanced via individual programming and reused in various scenarios. As a starting point, the predefined VDMs cover the most relevant use cases to bring SAP S/4HANA Embedded Analytics into action (e.g. via factsheets and search functionality).
In relation to this book’s key question, we consider SAP S/4HANA Embedded Analytics to be an important part of the holistic discussion of a modern, performant, and sustainable reporting solution and handle it as part of the data digestion and storage layer.
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