SAP Business Planning and Consolidation (BPC) 10.1 entered ramp-up in December 2013. There’s a lot of interest in this new version and many clients on the verge of an implementation are wondering whether they ought to wait for the new version or not.
Bluefin Solutions has been selected as a ramp-up partner and I’m excitedly waiting for my new server so I can install the software and have a proper play around with it with the rest of the team. Once that happens, we’ll post regular blogs on the experience and update this FAQ document.
In the meantime, here is some information pulled together from a number of experts from both within Bluefin and externally. Please feel free to comment, disagree, question etc.
Is SAP BPC 10.1 available in both NetWeaver and Microsoft flavours?
At the time of writing this post (January 2014), SAP BPC 10.1 was only available in the NetWeaver flavour. However, SAP announced in January 2015 that there will be a Microsoft version. This is currently in ramp-up (beta) and I don’t have any information on when it will become generally available. The rest of this FAQ will concentrate only on the NetWeaver version of the tool. I’ll write a separate one on the Microsoft version shortly.
What are the pre-requisites (on the server side) for installing SAP BPC 10.1?
You’ll need SAP NetWeaver BW 7.4 SP05 as a basis for the software install as well as SAP UI5 1.16. Any databases supported by BW are supported – i.e. some traditional databases and SAP HANA.
How about the client tier of SAP BPC 10.1? Are there any changes here?
The existing SAP EPM 10.0 add-in is still used with the new SAP BPC 10.1 back-end, although you need to be on at least SP16. Windows XP through to Windows 8 are supported, with MS Office 2003, 2007, 2010 and 2013 all supported.
So what’s new in SAP BPC 10.1?
There are two main changes that have been introduced:
- The web front end is now deployed using SAP UI5 technology
- The “Unified Planning Model” has been introduced.
I’ll address these two separately below.
What is the SAP UI5 front end?
Previously, in SAP BPC 10.0, the web front end of BPC was deployed using a technology called Adobe Flex. This required all users to have the Adobe Flash Player installed on their PCs and meant that the web front end would not work on Apple iPads as Flash is not supported on them.
SAP has re-written the front end using the new SAP user experience technology, UI5. This is an HTML5 toolkit that has no software pre-requisites, and works on the iPad.
Does that mean you need a Gateway server?
No – the Gateway server is not required to support the SAP UI5 front end.
What are the benefits of the new SAP UI5 front end?
- iPad users can now access the web functionality of SAP BPC, including reporting and simple user entry
- Overall better support for mobile and touchscreen devices
- Standardised look and feel with other SAP web applications, like Fiori
- Simpler technical architecture.
What is the Unified Planning Model?
The “unified” relates to the unification of SAP’s two planning technologies – SAP BPC and IP (or, more specifically the PAK) – and this version is the first step in that journey.
You said “more specifically, the PAK” – what do you mean?
Ok, a bit of history. In the beginning there was SAP BW for reporting. Then SAP developed BPS (Business Planning and Simulation) which sat atop SAP BW and supported “planning” – i.e. write-back of data to BW cubes using a mixture of planning layouts and planning functions (e.g. currency conversion, copy data, calculations). With the arrival of SAP BW 7.0, BPS was replaced by BW-IP, Integrated Planning, which was an improvement on the BPS functionality. With the arrival of SAP HANA and SAP BW on HANA, SAP HANA-ised a lot of the IP functionality and called the resulting product the PAK, Planning Application Kit.
So does this mean that SAP BW on HANA is a pre-requisite of the Unified Planning Model?
Yes. The Unified Planning Model only works on SAP BW on HANA.
Do I have to use the Unified Planning Model/ SAP HANA?
No – you can keep your existing SAP BPC 10 models and use them in SAP BPC 10.1 on a regular database. SAP is calling this “Classic BPC”.
So does SAP HANA not “help” with Classic BPC?
It does – it still remains possible for SAP HANA to be the underlying database for Classic BPC in SAP BPC 10.1. This means that data reading and writing will be faster and this will help in reporting scenarios where there are large volumes of data. However, not all of the SAP BPC calculations are performed in the SAP HANA layer. For example, Logic Script is not performed by the SAP HANA engine and will not perform any quicker than on a regular database (apart from the reading and writing part).
What are the main features of the Unified Planning Model?
Clearly SAP’s intention is to use the best bits of IP / PAK and SAP BPC and combine them together.
The approach they seem to have taken is to merge the IP back-end with some of the SAP BPC front-end functionality. For example:
- The underlying SAP BW cubes are modelled like IP cubes, using BW infoobjects, rather than BPC dimensions
- Planning functions are still developed using the IP functionality
- The EPM Add-In is the front end for interacting with the unified planning model
- The BPC 10.1 web front end is the web portal for interacting with the unified planning model
- Certain BPC 10.1 features, such as BPFs, work status and data auditing are available.
What are the benefits of the Unified Planning Model?
If you’re an existing SAP BPC user upgrading from 10 to 10.1 the benefits will be:
- The same great user experience from the SAP EPM front end and BPC web portal
- Enhanced performance from IP and SAP HANA making scenario planning and real-time integrated planning slicker and enabling more granular, operational planning
- Enhanced integration with SAP BW through use of common infoobjects, thereby reducing system complexity and support/ maintenance.
Are all the SAP BPC features available in the Unified Planning Model?
No. Certainly the Unified Planning Model is not yet ready to support a consolidation scenario as business rules such as eliminations and currency conversion are not yet available. My hunch is that these will introduced over time in later releases.
When would I need the Unified Planning Model over and above Classic BPC?
I’ve been involved in the implementation of many successful Classic SAP BPC financial planning solutions with reasonably large volumes of data and real-time driver based calculations with income statement, balance sheet and cash flow integration. Performance has always been a factor that has had to be carefully managed and has sometimes driven comprise. The Unified Planning Model should remove that need to compromise and will support sophisticated and complex planning scenarios including driver based planning, real-time financial statement integration and scenario planning.
It is outside of the traditional financial planning scenario that the Unified Planning Model will really make a difference. Operational and commercial planning vary across different industries but often require greater master and transactional data volumes and a more complex planning data model and calculations. Take a CPG company with thousands of SKUs and customers that wants to plan contribution at a SKU and customer level, and who runs a raft of trade promotions across different geographies. Designing such a planning solution before SAP HANA necessitated a large degree of compromise and there was often a mismatch between what the business really needed and what the technology was able to deliver. With the Unified Planning Model, those compromises based on performance should be no more.
When would I definitely not want to use the Unified Planning Model?
As mentioned, the current version of the Unified Planning Model does not support the features you need for a statutory consolidation implementation.
In a planning scenario that does not require complex real-time calculations or large volumes of data then the benefits that the Unified Planning Model brings in terms of performance may be a nice-to-have rather than a necessity.
We are going to implement SAP BPC. Should we implement SAP BPC 10.1, the new version?
Firstly, there are a number of logistical points to consider.
- When are you looking to start the implementation?
The new version is in ramp-up and not likely to be general available until around mid 2014
- Will you be able to stand up a NetWeaver 7.4 SP05 stack to support it?
If you already use SAP BW heavily and are on an older version (7.3, 7.1, 7.0, 3.5) then consider the effort of upgrading. The alternative is to stand up a standalone BW 7.4 system but that has some obvious cons.
The next question is whether you intend to implement Classic BPC or the Unified Planning Model.
If you are going to implement Classic BPC then remember the only benefit is the new UI5 web front end. This is unlikely on its own to justify a costly upgrade or postponing a project until general availability, but will make sense if you are installing a fresh new system and are planning to start later in 2014 anyway (or if you can get on the ramp-up programme).
If it is your intention to harness the power of the Unified Planning Model, then you have no choice – only SAP BPC 10.1 currently includes the Unified Planning Model.