A couple of months ago I was asked to build a custom tool to monitor user activities for an SAP Business Planning & Consolidation (BPC) management planning platform which has 5,000 active users globally, of which hundreds access the system daily. Here’s why.
What do we need to measure?
A classic scenario for a BPC implementation is where an offline planning process, utilising a large excel workbook, is replaced with an integrated online tool. This brings about huge changes in the way the planners are working, changes that in some cases can be hard to adopt, so how do you measure the real benefits provided from the solution?
You can start to consider the quality of the planning done through the new system. This can be easily checked during the planning process using functionalities such as data validation and controls. Once it is completed you can do a variance analysis between your planning and your actual numbers. However this approach doesn’t verify the overall usage of the system i.e. are a 100% of its components being utilised or just a few of them? Ideally we need to know how well the solution is helping the planning teams to perform their activities.
What tools are available to monitor the utilisation of a system?
The following provides you with an overview of the different functionalities available in BPC to monitor the user activities and discusses their limitations.
1. Business Process Flow (BPF)
This provides a quick way to see if a task is open, submitted, approved, rejected or pending from another task.
This does not in essence track user activities, it simply guides the users. As a result there isn’t any information available as to exactly when the step was completed or if it was done at the correct phase of the planning process. Moreover this information is based on a button that can be accidentally pushed by the performer or reviewer, meaning there is no certainty as to when the action was actually performed.
Bottlenecks can occur. If the performers of an activity do not complete their tasks at the appropriate time (or if they did, but forgot to submit), the subsequent activities won’t be able to commence. This can lead to a loss of time and can be frustrating for others who are waiting for the completion of previous task(s). As a consequence of this the administrator may prefer to keep more tasks open simultaneously thus losing the possibility to check if they’ve been executed at the correct stage.
The monitor can be difficult to read. A typical scenario is a BPF’s activity based on big entity dimension, where each entity’s owner is asked to enter some drivers. The BPF will provide a flat list of activities for each entity, but there isn’t the ability to navigate by hierarchy or by applying filters to check the status of a single entity.
2. Data Auditing
This function tracks changes to transactional data allowing you to understand:
- When - date and time of the change
- Who - the performer of the change
- How - which workbook has been used and whether it was a user input, journal or a data manager package
- What - dimension members and value of the record that was submitted
On the surface this looks ideal to track the user input and the user activity in general but whilst it provides good raw data it can be complicated to analyse.
3. Data Manager Package Logs
This consists of the logs of every Data Manager Package execution in the system.
Similarly to the data auditing this presents data in a complex state making it tricky to understand if the package was or wasn’t executed in the phase it was supposed to run. Moreover a lot of data such as user selection and error descriptions are located inside a detailed log that can be difficult for non-technical users to read.
Is it possible to improve the standard tools?
Yes. Due to the flexibility of BPC it is possible to create a dashboard that is user friendly, flexible and easy to read. This utilises the detailed data already available in the Data Auditing and Data Manager Package Logs. If you’d like to see what benefits such a dashboard can provide you with then click here. This tool is available from the SAP partner extension program which provides many enhancements to your SAP landscape.