Planning on SAP is not a straightforward topic to write about. Many products, such as Integrated Planning, Business Planning and Consolidation, PAK and Cloud for Planning, have been around for years. So it’s not always clear which to choose, and IT managers may be afraid to invest (ever heard of companies still on SEM BPS?).
This post will focus on the Integrated Business Planning add-on for Simple Finance (from now on IBP): as the name may suggest, it uses a mixture of the newest technologies in the SAP area: HANA, BPC embedded/PAK and Analysis for Office.
Under the bonnet
IBP is an add-on for Simple Finance on S/4HANA. Similar to its older sibling ECC, every S/4 contains a BW instance that can be activated on request. Whilst IBP sits on top of this BW instance, it is designed in a way that no data loading is required.
The add-on consists of a series of infoproviders, input ready queries, planning functions and workbooks, based on Analysis for Office.
The data is read from the finance tables, using a HANA model. There’s no data replication for actual data and BW here acts mostly as a logical layer. That means that everything is in real-time as the system works on the same data used by the new Central Finance. You don’t need to wait for overnight data loads, or a confirmation from support: after you press ‘save’, the updated actuals will be visible in IBP.
IBP offers a replacement to the classic R/3 transactions for planning. There are several components: Cost Center Planning, Internal Order Planning, Project Planning, Profit Center Planning, P&L Planning, Market Segment Planning, Balance Sheet Planning. The data for each component is stored in the same BW cube, so there is no need to transfer data around the system (no more silos). A change in the budget of a cost centre can be picked up immediately by someone working on the cost element view, without any additional data load.
There are some planning functions available out of the box to copy from actual data in order to manage the different versions and top down disaggregation. Don’t forget you are in a native SAP HANA system, so when you input something at the top node, the disaggregation is a matter of seconds not minutes.
IBP is designed to be a sidekick of the new Universal Journal, and the communication works both ways: financial data is used for planning, and finance can then work on the approved plan.
The frontend for IBP is Analysis for Office. By default there are 14 workbooks and each module can be planned by year or by fiscal period. These workbooks are easy to customise so that each customer can add its brand identity into the planning frontend (no more aseptic light blue screens). It’s just an excel screen, so logo, corporate font and other aesthetic details can be implemented with low effort.
Also don’t forget the new functionalities that you can implement using SAP BPC embedded: you can activate a BPC model and build a business process flow. Doing so you can model your business process, assign responsibilities to the users and have the status of the planning cycle always available at a glance.
If you need more…
The product comes ready for use, just activate and start planning. However each customer may need something more, a small enhancement in the data structure or an additional planning function.
Being a product based on SAP BPC embedded, modifications are possible, as are new functions. On SCN is already available an enhancement to add comments on the analysis workbooks. By personal experience the comment functionality is something that could easily cut a deal.
Make sense of it
So, what are the benefit of this product? Is there a place for a new product in the SAP ecosystem?
- Simple: easy to install the out of the box functionalities
- Real-time: everything is in S/4, no need for another server or for data replication
- Powerful: SAP HANA native
- Flexible: easy to personalise using well known technologies (Integrated Planning).
If you are implementing S/4, and your planning process relies on information inside S/4, this product makes a lot of sense. You end up with one box for transactions, analytics and EPM, with a low implementation time (weeks not months).
Points to consider are the real time integration with the Central Finance and the common data set used in Planning: this will save you some time at month end.
IBP is a simple tool, but there’s definitely space for it out there.