So, what began as the functional Cloud for Planning and morphed into the somewhat wider Cloud for Analytics has undergone another rebrand: SAP BusinessObjects Cloud. This new, more grandiose moniker, perhaps reflects the broadened horizons of SAP’s flagship software-as-a-service offering in the BI space. This name channels the historic reputation of the BusinessObjects brand and its well-known and well-loved capabilities at an enterprise level. But what’s in a name? How will it help your teams plan more efficiently?
From its initial release with the aforementioned planning focus, SAP BusinessObjects Cloud (SBOC) has expanded to match SAP’s initial aim of providing a single, simplified platform for analytics, planning, predictive and governance across the enterprise. What we find in summer 2016 is an offering coming towards maturity and finding itself able to enter the conversation when a business decides that its platforms – plural, for the standard in on-premise is still for the aforementioned business functions to be performed on individual platforms to the greater degree – require renewal.
A Simplified Platform
As has been mentioned, the majority of on premise solutions currently deployed will require multiple platforms – or at least multiple programmes – to perform planning and analytics on the same data. This comes with a built-in time lag between plan and analysis, as well as overheads associated with the skills and maintenance to keep the show on the road. SBOC does away with these entirely.
From the ground up, simplification is the watchword. In offering Planning and Analytics in the same platform – indeed on the same screen at the same time with a well-designed set of planning models and story outputs – insight can be gained instantly and the requisite decisions taken with little to no lag.
SBOC removes Microsoft Excel from the planning equation. This will terrify and delight in equal measure, but this disruptive decision from SAP ties in closely with the idea of a simplified, single platform.
Enhanced, expedited analysis in SBOC’s modern, clean user interface can instantly cross-pollinate improved planning within the same environment, itself driving better analysis in a virtuous cycle.
There are multiple ways in which SBOC makes it simple to collaborate across users and departments to speed up and clean up the planning process. At a simple level, users can discuss plans, models, visualisations and data within SBOC in its ‘Discussions’ window, with the aim that the time-consuming back and forth of email is eliminated. Similarly, the risky business of offline data transfer can be mitigated with online data entry, review, approval and publication in a built-in process setup. From dedicated planners sitting in departmental silos, a well-designed SBOC planning process and user base can turn every user into a planner, democratising and improving the accuracy of data within the organisation.
Connectivity and Technology
Moving entirely to the cloud is obviously a huge step to take for an enterprise of any size, but SBOC can make the transition simpler with its growing connectivity library. From traditional flatfile load to live connections to SAP HANA, there are dozens of ways of getting data into SBOC for analysis. In planning, mutual connectivity with SAP’s on-premise planning flagship – SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation (BPC) – is possible, allowing existing BPC models to be imported into SBOC, edited and planned upon, with data fed back into the BPC system. Moving to an SBOC front-end with its platform benefits does not entail an immediate switch from BPC, with which many organisations will be comfortable in their planning function. Many of the core planning features – allocations, for instance – are included in SBOC at date of publication, but with simplification being the key, it must be said that for complex planning scenarios then SAP BPC still retains the edge in terms of customisability and flexibility through script.
SBOC is growing all the time with new connectivity options and promised features. SAP estimates that 80% of the time planning is spent preparing data and this is its next target. In the planning space, SAP’s key message is that data preparation will be simplified by utilising automation, machine learning and templates to speed up the process of getting the business’ planning model in place.
Predictive is also an area in which to expect improvement, both within SBOC itself, as its predictive functions are enhanced, and in collaboration with SAP Predictive Analytics, with the ability to connect the two systems and import predictive models into SBOC. From a planning point of view, what better way is there to come up with the perfect plan than to let your predictive model do the donkeywork? Soon, they could be one and the same environment for truly quick planning.
As has been mentioned, SBOC can open up analytics, planning and predictive to a large user group with very little difficulty. There is nothing to deploy, and user security is self-contained within SBOC. SAP foresee a future in which the processes supported by SBOC are done in one place – online – by the people within the business whose input and insight are most relevant.