With so many regular releases, it’s no wonder that SAP BusinessObjects Cloud (SBOC) is starting to have some gravitas in the world of Enterprise Performance Management (EPM). Atila Lee looks at its growing strengths.
SAP Business Objects Cloud (SBOC), or Cloud 4 Analytics or Cloud 4 Planning, as it has previously been known, has been doing the rounds for a couple of years now. However, it has been struggling to make a real impact, despite significant investment from SAP. The main issue with SAP’s Cloud Based EPM tool, is that it has suffered from an identity crisis, trying to find a standout role amongst more mature EPM products, such as SAP Business Planning and Consolidation (BPC) and more traditional dashboarding tools such as Design Studio, Lumira etc.
Recent evolutions and a growing product maturity seem to have given SBOC the opportunity to finally triumph as a leading EPM tool in several key business areas:
- Genuine user empowerment, whilst maintaining group integrity;
- Data protection for safe ‘what-if’ analysis;
- Process enhancement.
SBOC also provides impressive, out of the box reporting and dashboarding.
Teams with a heavy reliance on Excel tend to have issues with version control, not to mention data gathering. For these guys, the process of exploring an idea and developing it visually with relevant numbers is perceived as being heavily time intensive. Conversely, teams who are heavily dependent on reporting solutions can struggle to get a handle on the functionality, or are restricted by stringent processes and slow change times.
This is where SBOC comes into its own: providing the flexibility required by specific parts of the business, whilst maintaining the key benefits of having a database centred tool. Perhaps most interestingly for those with an existing SAP BPC or Business Warehousing (BW) group reporting tool, SBOC provides specific business units with the ability to manipulate data, without risking the core integrity of their group submissions.
In terms of functionality, SBOC comes equipped with a wide range of different templates which tap directly into the database. The easy-to-use design interface empowers your users to create several visualisations in a relatively short amount of time. Furthermore, these visualisations are easy to export into pdf or send to other members of the team (due to a robust, yet simple, collaboration tool).
Due to the ease with which users can explore data, your teams will be able to visually communicate multiple scenarios, despite any time constraints. Aside from being straightforward to create, the graphs are simple to customize with minimal training.
Clients who use SBOC, often already have their teams working on Business Planning and Consolidation (BPC), which would lead them to ask questions as to whether the same level of training and configuration is required. SBOC provides users with a large, yet clearly defined set of functionalities. However, you cannot change the function of these “buttons”, meaning configuration is kept to a minimum, which in turn requires less training than BPC.
Safe ‘what-if’ analysis
The next area SBOC offers an advantage is the safe and rapid ability to continuously re-plan your data. To understand this, we must look at the way in which SBOC stores data. As a user, you might be used to the constant fear that with one misstep your numbers could be ruined, making it essential to constantly takes copies thus creating a version control nightmare. This worry is even present on BPC systems; all it takes is one rogue data manager package to be run for your data to be mangled. With SBOC, each user is automatically put into a sandbox and numbers only become available to others when you actively publish them. This allows your team the freedom to explore and experiment with “what-if” scenarios, both numerically and graphically. Moreover, only published data will be exported back to your source systems, providing an extra layer of protection whilst allowing you to quickly reload your data in the case of any mistakes.
Enhancing your process
SBOC’s ability to plug in, and complement your existing SAP infrastructure means it is well suited as a tool to enhance your existing processes, rather than replace them. It is designed to integrate with several SAP products, via the relevant connector. For example, if you would like to connect SBOC to BPC NW, then you must install the SAP HANA Cloud Connector. This integration will allow you to import data and entire models from other SAP systems and includes the rather quirky addition of utilising google drive as the source for flat files.
All of this comes in a simple and aesthetically pleasing web based User Interface, allowing for use wherever and whenever users have an internet connection. Particularly interesting for some in the Performance Management community, SBOC is entirely web based and fully integrated with mobile, greatly improving the accessibility of data compared to other tools, such as BPC. Furthermore, due to the constantly evolving state of this application there is a huge amount of investment from SAP, with numerous enhancements being rolled out on a regular basis, despite the present maturity and stability of the product.
It is evident that SBOC will provide a host of benefits when considered as an enhancement for both your teams and your processes, whilst protecting the integrity of your data. With such abundant functionality I’m excited to see what’s next in store for this quickly maturing product....over to you SAP.