Business Intelligence Summit: The power of data

Getting to know the diverse world of Business Intelligence in a compact form – this is how the BI Summit 2020 of IBsolution can be aptly summarized. Unfortunately, the Corona pandemic did not allow the participants to meet in person. But even in virtual form the event offered BI interested people a great opportunity to learn everything about the future SAP strategy in the area of Business Intelligence. They were also given valuable insights into the successful implementation of BI projects in order to derive insights for the challenges in their own company. During the Business Speed Coachings, like-minded people were able to exchange ideas intensively under the guidance of BI experts. In the panel discussion, Helge Sanden, Editor-in-Chief of the IT online magazine, Lothar Henkes, Vice President Product Management SAP EDW at SAP Germany, and Loren Heilig, Managing Director of IBsolution, discussed current trends and future perspectives for reporting, analytics and planning

Give Data Purpose – with data on the intelligent enterprise

Ramin Mirza, Head of Platform & Technologies at SAP Germany, impressively demonstrated the potential of consistent and comprehensive data analysis in his keynote speech #GiveDataPurpose. He explained that currently only 0.5% of the data produced is actually used. In order for companies to extract business-relevant information from their data, they need a holistic data strategy that takes into account not only technological aspects, but also the process and business level.

With the concept of the Intelligent Enterprise, SAP wants to accompany its customers on their way to becoming data-driven companies. The SAP portfolio offers the possibility of evaluating experience data in addition to operational data. After all, the experiences of customers and employees play an increasingly important role in business success. At the heart of this intelligent enterprise is the Business Technology Platform with its four core areas of analytics, intelligent technologies, database & data management, and application development & integration.

Practical experience

The presentations and interviews of the virtual BI Summit 2020 gave the participants ideas on how to succeed on the path to a data-driven company. For example, the fashion company s.Oliver and Optima packaging group, a medium-sized company for packaging machines, reported on their respective migrations to SAP BW/4HANA. Both companies had chosen IBsolution as project partner.

s.Oliver chose the In-place Conversion as migration scenario. Among other things, this was the obvious choice, as around 75% of the objects were already BW/4HANA-compliant. With the help of the migration tools provided by SAP, the project expenditure could be calculated very precisely. In addition, the decision to keep the scopes small by migrating model by model proved to be advantageous when implementing the system change.

The initial situation at Optima was different: There, the classic BW architecture with SAP BW 7.0 had gradually reached its limits, so the desire for faster, more flexible provision of the relevant information grew. A HANA infrastructure was not yet available in the company. Consequently, greenfield implementation crystallized as a suitable path to SAP BW/4HANA. One of the advantages of this migration scenario was that the existing BW system initially continued to run in parallel. The available business content also spoke in favor of the greenfield approach, because the required content could be set up quickly.

Uniform reporting with the SAP Analytics Cloud

The Refratechnik Group, a manufacturer of refractory materials, also provided insights into its latest BI project at the BI Summit 2020: the introduction of the SAP Analytics Cloud with a live mobile connection to SAP BW/4HANA. The aim was to establish a uniform group reporting system and to strengthen the self-service approach. In addition, predictive analyses were to help derive future events and trends and set up plan data models.

In view of the requirements for the future solution, the modern reporting and modeling approaches spoke in favor of the SAP Analytics Cloud. At the same time, Refratechnik also introduced the in-memory database technology in the company with SAP BW/4HANA. Here, Refratechnik relies on predefined key figures and up to 70 dimensions per data model. In other words: The specifications for reports and analyses are almost fully exploited. Only live connections to the SAP Analytics Cloud are realized, data replication only takes place for planning models. The SAC is now used throughout the group.

Know-how on selected SAP solutions

In addition to project reports, the BI Summit 2020 also offered participants the opportunity to gain know-how on current business intelligence products and functionalities from SAP. The SAP Data Warehouse Cloud offers a platform for creating data models and integrating data and was developed specifically for the cloud. The scalable solution integrates data from on-premise and cloud systems. This data can either be replicated and persisted or accessed live from the data source.

SAP S/4HANA offers the functionality to map operative reporting via CDS views directly in the ERP system. The participants learned in which use cases embedded analytics can be used to supplement reporting in the business warehouse. The functionality and the available tools were also explained in detail. A live demo illustrated how embedded analytics can be used.

Outlook: The path to the data-driven enterprise

In the concluding panel discussion, Helge Sanden, Lothar Henkes and Loren Heilig discussed the question of what role data plays in the business processes of companies and concluded that all companies face the same challenge: To be successful in the future, they must become data-driven companies.

SAP provides the necessary tools for this and leaves it up to the companies whether the data is consolidated on-premise or in the cloud. In principle, there are suitable solutions for both strategies: Those who want to run their data warehousing on-premise or in a private cloud can choose between SAP BW/4HANA and SAP SQL Data Warehousing. Conversely, the SAP Data Warehouse Cloud is SAP’s strategic offering when it comes to offering data warehousing in the public cloud. It is also possible to combine the cloud and on-premise approach in a hybrid scenario. In this context, Lothar Henkes expressly emphasized that the SAP Data Warehouse Cloud is not intended to replace on-premise solutions in the medium to long term.

Which variant a company ultimately chooses is therefore not dependent on the availability of suitable solutions, but rather on the individual prerequisites that the company has with regard to its IT infrastructure. It is important to keep an eye on a specific trend: As Loren Heilig described, the volume of data outside of the classic ERP system is growing rapidly and companies are keen to integrate data from external sources, for example from sales and marketing. In such a scenario, he said, it is certainly advantageous to choose a public-cloud approach for reporting. Conclusion: Companies must develop a holistic data warehouse strategy in order to get the most out of their data and thus secure competitive advantages.