I had been wondering for a while how SAP would react to the increasing success of SaaS planning and forecasting tools such as Anaplan. These seem to increasingly threaten SAP’s stranglehold on the EPM market and the highly successful SAP Business Planning and Consolidation (BPC) tool. Would SAP buy Anaplan?
I had my question answered this week when SAP announced SAP Cloud for Planning, a SaaS planning offering based on the SAP HANA 2.0 Cloud Platform.
I am more than a little excited about this and what it might mean. I have seen strong competition from Anaplan recently in situations where customers want to stand up a planning environment quickly and with as little capital outlay as possible, so this new product from SAP could be the perfect answer to that.
I am encouraged by the fact that SAP has elected to develop this tool itself rather than buy out a SaaS planning tool from a competitive vendor. This means that a number of important boxes will be ticked immediately:
- The tool will run on SAP HANA and hopefully make full use of HANA’s ability to perform complex calculations over large volumes of data very quickly. This is essential in some planning scenarios, certainly when customers are looking to perform scenario analysis on large datasets. This immediately enables SAP Cloud for Planning to steal a march on SaaS competitors running on traditional relationdatabase management systems
- The tool will be able to integrate easily with other SAP products, most importantly SAP ERP and SAP BW. We’ve seen SAP customers struggle to implement non-SAP planning technologies because of the difficulty of integration. This is made even harder when the non-SAP technology is a SaaS tool.
How much do we know about the tool?
There’s little detail on the new tool available at the moment although a short marketing video on YouTube gives some tantalising views of what it looks like. This is what we can glean about SAP Cloud for Planning from the video:
- It is predominantly web based, and appears to be based on SAP’s Fiori user interface
- Dashboards feature strongly
- There’s an emphasis on the collaborative and social aspects of planning, with a social media look and feel to part of the tool.
So SAP, here’s my wish-list for the tool
If these aspects can all be built in to the tool roadmap, then you genuinely have something that will be able to dominate the EPM market for some time to come:
- Excel front-end. Will the new tool be entirely web-based or will there be provision to use an Excel-based tool like the EPM Add-In to connect the planning model in the cloud? Finance users love Excel
- Integration. Will it be easy to integrate with on premise SAP ECC or SAP BW systems? If SAP ECC, will there be some way of making use of the standard business content data extractors?
- Financial intelligence. Will the tool have the richness of financial intelligence that BPC does. For example, will it provide currency exchange, be able to support balance sheet and cash flow planning, and provide financial consolidation functionality?
- Planning Data Modelling. Will the tool support the flexible development of planning models, including some scripting ability to perform calculations?
- Pre-built scenarios. Will the tool have pre-built scenarios that can be used and adapted by customers to rival those offered by Anaplan like Anaplan for Sales and Anaplan for Finance?
- Workflow. As well as the collaboration features shown in the promotional video, will the tool support the sort of workflow scenarios usually seen in planning processes?
- Reporting. Will the tool ultimately integrate with other SAP reporting tools such as Lumira and the BusinessObjects BI toolset?
In conclusion, I’m excited about this new SAP planning tool and its impact on the EPM market. As ever, success will be dependent on the details of what SAP Cloud for Planning has to offer and its ability to compete not only with other SaaS planning offerings, but established on-premise players too.