SAP Cloud for Planning: Initial impressions

20 May 2015

Jack Clark

Jack Clark

Consultant

Following the announcement of SAP Cloud for Planning (C4P), I was keen to see whether the product would start a revolution in planning. It was great to see SAP develop it from the ground up, so I’m sure there are a number of you who are interested to see how they’ve gone about it.

I recently got my hands on the solution and was able to experience first-hand how it can benefit a company’s planning processes. Here are my initial impressions.

Look and feel

The SAP Cloud for Planning user interface is impressive. Anything developed on SAP’s HANA Cloud Platform has attractive aesthetics. It’s clearly something SAP has invested a great deal in and it has paid off with a pretty seamless move from planning to collaboration and analytics.

The ability to create a chart in one click, and add this to a personalised dashboard in another, is a very welcome addition to any planning tool, whilst all the time aiding collaborating with colleagues.
 

SAP Cloud for Planning speeds up forecasting

The tool allows data to be stored at a different level of granularity for each category. This means users can plan at the level of granularity they want to across each category and not just at the lowest level of granularity. This enables users to enter forecasts quicker and more easily. In addition, Time and Categories are not treated as perspectives but instead are part of the overall options for the model, simplifying things.

SAP Cloud for Planning gives more flexibility to users

Users can create their own ad-hoc reports quickly with little system knowledge. They can also share them with colleagues within the system. This is because reports are created in the web environment, not in Microsoft Excel, and can be pulled together quickly utilising drag and drop functionality.

SAP Cloud for Planning empowers users to drive more accurate forecasts

Users can create a private version of the data in a report and then perform their own scenario analysis on that version and see the impact on other reports such as the Income Statement. This is possible because SAP C4P sits on the SAP HANA Cloud Platform. Users can then publish their private version for others to see before viewing a variance chart in one click using the visualisation function. The ability to do this without the need for administrators can reduce the support overhead and drive more accurate forecasting.
 

SAP Cloud for Planning encourages you to be social without having to leave your desk

There are some great collaboration features built into SAP C4P. So far, this appears to be one of the biggest changes to an on-premise solution such as SAP BPC. Using an instant messaging window akin to what we only know exists in our personal lives, users can discuss particular reports and cells, as well as create ad-hoc workflows or tasks. This is then brought to life in a calendar view, showing multiple planning processes, tasks and their workflow status.

There is a real incentive to collaborate this way which removes the need for email and makes it much easier and simpler to discuss plans at some detail. There is a definite sense of a social aspect to cloud for planning which is rather exciting and I’ll be very interested to see how valuable this proves to be in future implementations.
 

What could come next?

So, there’s some great functionality in SAP C4P and no doubt SAP is listening to customers to prioritise any additions for future releases. Some of my initial thoughts are around increased flexibility of the formula builder, allocation rules and more formatting options. However, SAP Cloud for Planning doesn’t have to be used in isolation - another benefit is simple integration with on-premise SAP BPC systems which allows data to flow both ways. This can mean quick deployment to multiple business units who are able to get the benefit from SAP HANA with little extra overhead.

Overall, I’m impressed with the first release of SAP Cloud for Planning. I think it brings some excellent benefits to many businesses from day one. I’ll be sure to keep a close eye on future releases as I’m sure SAP C4P will be attract a lot of attention from the planning world.

Bluefin and SAP S/4HANA - welcome to the one horse race