The extended family
There’s a relatively new offering that needs to be considered when deciding on the technological solution for a planning application: BPC Embedded. Some might object that this is not a completely new product and that it's just the old SAP BW integrated planning with a new suit. However, this is not completely true. Let's dig a bit deeper to understand why BPC Embedded matters and how it can be used next to its brother, BPC Classic.
For starters, here’s some terminology to orientate ourselves amongst the various options.
- BPC Classic is the product formerly known as OutlookSoft and then re-branded BPC from SAP. From version 10.1, this is now BPC Classic. It's available as Microsoft version (stand-alone) or Netweaver version (add-in for BW). The Netweaver version can work on SAP HANA or any other database supported by BW.
I remember when SAP bought OutlookSoft, BW IP was suddenly considered dead on the spot with no future (occasionally the same prediction is still made for BW). So today many people will be surprised to see this product in good shape with many live implementations and new enhancements being released.
- BW Integrated Planning comes out of the box with any BW installation and doesn't need an additional licence. It can work on HANA or any other database supported by BW.
- Planning Application Kit (PAK) is a re-build of BW IP, optimised on the HANA platform. It comes out of the box from SAP BW on HANA (no add-in required) but it does need a BPC licence. It works only on HANA.
- BPC Embedded is an extension of PAK, giving some BPC functionalities (e.g. business process flows) to PAK applications. It doesn't need any additional add-in on SAP BW but a BPC licence is needed.
- BPC for S/4 HANA (aka Integrated Business Planning for Finance) is BPC Embedded with some pre-built content. It works on the SAP S/4 HANA platform.
To each his own
The main question is, then, why are there so many products that do the 'same thing'?
The short answer is that it’s not exactly the ‘same thing’; there are different routes to delivering a planning tool.
The explanation lies in two different philosophies behind the architecture of the planning application: Data Mart planning and Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) planning.
BPC Classic follows the Data Mart planning model: the planning application is contained in a private and independent space in the data warehouse. Data needs to be loaded in the BPC objects and these are maintained independently from the EDW counterparts. The advantage is, for example, that the finance office can maintain their account structure for planning without interfering with anything from reporting. The disadvantage is an additional step of data loading. This leads to more redundancy and the need for reconciliation between reporting and planning.
BW IP follows the EDW planning model: the planning application is integrated inside the EDW, so there is no need to load data again. Planning objects are shared with reporting so a change in the account structure can affect reporting. This needs to be managed with care and planned with the IT team.
Functionality wise, both models are equal. The decision needs to be made based on the complexity of the scenario and the flexibility that’s required. It’s not always a clear cut choice so a compromise has to be made. If you are looking for the best of both worlds then you would need to consider an EDW model that can be enhanced like a Data Mart one. This is achieved using local master data, a new functionality that gives you the option to use the EDW master data and to modify/enhance them, but only for planning (with no effects to other areas).
Your technological roadmap
Such a rich offering can cause confusion initially but it also provides you with options, especially if you consider the scalability aspects.
A BW IP solution will still work in any environment (from an old BW 7.0 to the newer 7.4 on HANA). It doesn’t need to be upgraded and will probably take advantage of some new developments for PAK (functionality wise). If at some point a decision is made towards BPC Embedded, most of the BW IP application can be reused. The advantage of the HANA planning engine is significant and will open up new opportunities.
BPC Embedded is looking to be the place where the advantages of BW IP and BPC meet. Whilst it is a new product, it is built on the back of years of know-how and developments. Complementing the SAP offering for planning, it has the potential to fit well into most organisations’ technological roadmaps.