This is the first in a series of posts delving into the world of analytics in the cloud, namely SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC). From its history, to its capabilities, including predictive and planning, we’re going to take you on a 360 degree tour of SAC to help you understand how it can add value to your teams today.
But before I start...
Let’s deal with the elephant in the room. Yes, SAP did rename the solution during SAPPHIRE NOW 2017. And yes, this isn’t the first time that it has been renamed. Originally called ‘SAP Cloud for Planning’ (the name illustrates the fact that at inception it only had planning capabilities), it was renamed ‘SAP Cloud for Analytics’ , and then it then became known as ‘SAP BusinessObjects Cloud’. This rename was an interesting one.
I have been working with the BusinessObjects solution set since about 2000 and naturally have a massive invested interest in the product line. Adding the strong and dominant BusinessObjects brand to a BI tool made perfect sense to me; it helped highlight that it was part of the overall BI capabilities offered by SAP.
What no one saw coming was the name change that happened in May 2017. I have not seen an official reason why the change occurred but rumour has it that the BusinessObjects name was muddying the waters. Customers now expected to get the on-premise BusinessObjects Enterprise solution in the cloud. This is not the case. SAP Analytics Cloud, as it is now known, is separate from the traditional on-premise solution.
So where does SAP Analytics Cloud fit into my business intelligence world?
The phrase “cloud first” is already beginning to sound a little like a worn record, such is the drive within the IT industry to push ‘punters’ to the cloud, and like many others, SAP’s foot is firmly pressed to the floor when it comes to accelerating towards cloud based solutions.
You may be reading this and thinking one of the following: 1. I have made an investment in a robust and mature on-premise BusinessObjects solution why would I consider SAC, or 2. Excel spreadsheets are working just fine for my team, why change?
The terms ‘self-service’ and ‘agility’ are the buzz words (and demands) of the business users. They want simple, quick and easy access to information that allows them to make swift, well informed decisions, coupled with the ability to share the insights they’ve identified with both internal and external stakeholders. Business end-users often feel that this ‘utopia’ is constrained by IT. The truth of the matter is that we must find a balance between empowering the business and not letting anarchy reign.
Technology is only part of the answer to this problem as it relies on a cultural change and a different working relationship between the business and IT. That conversation is for another time.
As technology goes, a Software as a Service (SaaS) based offerings provide the building blocks to deliver end users what they’re screaming out for – to get their hands on the data, now, this minute. The capabilities within the SAC offering support this demand.
SAC is a fantastic tool to deploy to teams and departments to give them the freedom to access the information they require, when they require it. The fact that it can pull data from multiple external sources, including your on-premise BusinessObjects solution, means they can have a consolidated and ‘real’ view of their world.
Consider your marketing team who are desperate to understand the success of a marketing campaign. They need to understand the impact such as social mentions or click analysis, but also want to combine this with relevant sales information to see the impact on the pipeline. A user can quickly add the Excel and visualise these numbers but then combine this with other data in order to tell a more complete story. This can be shared and discussed and then made available to the senior marketing executives through their mobile device.
From an end users perspective, it is very quick and easy to start using, as simple as dragging an Excel spreadsheet onto the browser window and deciding whether you feel lucky!
If it’s that great why isn’t everyone using it?
I wonder if there’s a reticence amongst businesses to put corporate BI data into the cloud, with worries around security. However, I bet that most people who are reading this use some kind of cloud service, knowingly or unknowingly. Whether it be Apple iCloud or Drop Box, or any one of the multitude of offerings out there. We trust them enough with our personnel data, and a lot of organisations trust them with some aspects of their corporate data through solutions like SuccessFactors or SalesForce.
There have been a number of previous cloud based analytics solutions. One thing that has seen a huge amount of change over the past few years is the shift in focus; not only on improving the User Interface (UI) but also the User Experience (UX). The UI is the look and feel of the screens and buttons, whereas the UX is how it works in co-ordination with other aspects to ensure that it is intuitive and the end user’s journey is as clear as possible. A great example of user experience within SAC is the combination of BI, Planning and Predictive capabilities all within the one tool. A user can now undertake a planning activity that includes some predictive modelling that can then be visualised all in one place.
So what now?
Is SAP Analytics Cloud just another name change or is it truly a solution worthy of consideration? The answer: it’s both. Yes, it changed its name (again) but you should focus on the potential this has to offer your end-users. Whether you are an existing Business Objects user or not, you should at least be considering SAC.
Now is the time to start building it into your roadmap. SAC can provide you with some quick wins, delivering what the business is wanting; rapidly and without huge amounts of resources being taken up in its maintenance. Want to understand more? Request a free half day workshop to gain a deeper insight into your organisation’s BI journey.