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2016 CREATED AND OWNED BY IVER VAN DE ZAND

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Statements, thoughts, impressions and insights on this website are my own and do not necessarily represent an employer I am working for or worked for in the past.

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Analytics in the Cloud

It is here to stay

A big trend we see these days is cloud based analytics tools really being mature now. Tools allowing to run your analytics fully in the Cloud. From what I see in the market and hear from customers, in that the adoption for analytics in the cloud now gets momentum. Therefor I dare to say, "analytics cloud is here to stay"

 

One of those that I like best, is SAP Analytics Cloud. The reason why is that it is the single cloud analytics product that respects the principle of the Closed Loop Portfolio. In one tool we see monitoring with BI, business planning, predictive modeling and - soon - governance & risk all combined and interacting. On top, SAP BusinessObjects Cloud offers strong collaboration and activity management.

I am already using the SAP BusinessObjects Cloud product for some time, and this page is about sharing my experience using it. Again, SAP did a very good job already sharing a lot of other best practices, so you definitely should have a look here if you're interested using the product. I can recommend you to do so. If you'd like to follow a quick start course, tick the button on the right.

I decided to have 3 sections on this page to share my experience: one on the modeling and data-preparation section, a second one on anything that is data exploitation and visualization and the third section on the Digital Boardroom.

Modeling &

Data-preparation

create and enhance models in SAP BusinessObjects Cloud. Learn about data preparation and more.

Visualization &

Data-exploration

Covering anything on data exploration and data visualization. Learn how to link graphs, make stunning dashboards or amaze with Geo-spatial

Digital Boardroom

Create your own Digital Boardroom agenda and learn how to build up your custom Digital Boardroom

Analytics Cloud

Handbook

click this link to go to the Analytics Cloud handbook which references to any technical information

SAP Analytics Cloud

HelpCenter

The Analytics Cloud help center is crucial when you want to learn about technical features and "how to's". It also has technical prerequisites for SAC.

Analytics Cloud

SCN pages

The BusinessObjects Cloud

SCN pages are here for you to ask questions, share experiences and learn from others. SCN is my number 1 resource.

 

Modeling & Data Preparation

Working with cloud analytics using SAP Analytics Cloud starts in most cases with creating a model. Models are the basis of any storyboard. Models can be either based upon online or offline connections to SAP HANA, SAP BW or online connections to a variety of Cloud-based applications amongst SuccesFactors, SalesForce, Google Docs and Concur.

While creating the model, there is a variety of enrichment and data preparation possibilities:

  • column split/merge, uppercase/lowercase etc

  • creation of custom build hierarchies

  • attribute allocation: define attribute types as Time, Dimension, Measure, Account or Organization

  • set-up advanced formula's and aggregation rules

  • replace omissions in data

  • apply a planning model or only a BI monitoring model

Very useful is the facility to verify any data-enrichment one has done while creating the model. There is full trace back and enrichments can be "undone".

Below is an example of creating a model based upon a simple source file. The video covers data-enrichment, creation of GEO and custom hierarchies and the creation of formula's and aggregation.

On the SAP Analytics Cloud product pages, one can find more tutorials.

Getting your planning, budget and forecast information in

BusinessObjects Cloud allows to create variance insights on actuals, planning and forecasts (even rolling forecasts). But how to do that? There are two ways of loading, editing and using your planning/budget and forecast data:

  1. By applying your model and load the data piece by piece

  2. By creating dedicated "versions" from within your stories

Click this button for some more advanced feautures

The preferred way is to create a planning-enabled model and separately load actuals, budgets and forecasts. It means a triple data load; each metric (actual, budget and forecast) is loaded in its allocated category. Once done this provides 100% flexibility for the end user. In below example I show you the steps. Once loaded we create a story in which we compare actuals, budgets and forecasts and also apply variance indicators. Finally the reports show simulation: by changing the budget numbers, we can show the impact on the actual to budget ratio's.

 

Data Visualization with Cloud Analytics

Visualizations typically come together in a so-called story. Stories can have multiple - linked or disconnected - visualizations. Each visualization is based upon a model. As such it is possible to visualize on one page insights from different models. These models can be linked if they allow to do so from a data-perspective. If models are linked, filters apply to both models. If models are not linked, visualizations with different data insights can live together on one or more pages.

For the very basics of creating visualizations, I refer to the SAP product tutorial pages or to the SAP BusinessObjects Cloud Youtube channel: over here we look at slightly more advanced elements of visualizations to start with

  • drill-down while respecting aggregations

  • working with linked-analysis

  • creating GEO layers

  • working with variances

  • creating reference lines

Below tutorial shows some best practices covering all of the above topics.

On the SAP BusinessObjects Cloud product pages, one can find more tutorials or go here for a quick "getting started" course.

Input Controls, calculated measures and formula's

Input controls allow for interactivity and quick and easy navigation to your end user. In SAP BusinessObjects Cloud it is possible to have input controls on:

  • Dimensions and attributes: all kinds of properties here for single or multi-select. For multi-select one has also the possibility to show or hide the underlying hierarchies

  • Measures: my favorite; the input control can also be on a measure or calculated (!) measure. I use it primarily on KPI tiles. The user can toggle between the measures you provide in the input control and it saves space on your dashboard

Reuse calculated measures

 

Calculated measures can not be missed in any insight or visualization. One can easily create them using the formula editor allowing for quite advanced metrics. What I like is that a calculated measure can be reused as a "source" for another calculated measure. This combination van be very powerful? Have a look at the demo video on the right.

Applying conditional formatting

Emphasizing on messaging and insights can be done in various ways amongst conditional formatting. A downtrending KPI gets more "weight and attention" when colored RED for example. Conditional formatting is defined in BusinessObjects Cloud by defining a conditional formatting definition logic. Once defined, the logic can be applied to the metric. More than one logic can be defined, so depending on the situation, you activate the logic to your needs. I set up various logics upfront, you a kind of library builds up that you use to your needs.

Automated story generator

In SAP BusinessObjects Cloud we have the facility to let the system automatically create a dashboard for you. Why, would you think? Well, sometimes this is very useful when you quickly want to analyze a new data source. With just three clicks you choose your model or your new data source, and the story is build for you combining charts, planning grids and graphs automatically. A few more clicks let you customize your pre-built story into a professional dashboard.

Cross-chart filtering

Everybody loves the cross-chart filtering facility we know from DesignStudio. Did you know it is also available in SAP BusinessObjects Cloud? The video here shows how to do it: the connection between various graphs is driven by the Linked Analysis option. One can choose which of the graphs in your story are affected or even the whole story (including subpages). One step further is the Data Point - option. If you apply this option, the applicable attribute-value(s) filters all of the dependent graphs immediately. This is very useful and for me one of the key visualization options that make me love BusinessObjects Cloud 

Cloud analytics has the definite future and I am so pleased that the current state of cloud analytics applications is ready for that future. On this page I share some of my personal experiences, tutorials and best practices using cloud analytics.

a passionate story on

 SAP Analytics Cloud

 

Using the Decision-Tree and Predictive Forecasting

SAP BusinessObjects evolves at lighting speed making it today the absolute number one cloud analytics tool in the market. Why? Because it can do things that were not done before. Applying the closed loop portfolio for example by bringing business intelligence (monitoring) together with business planning and predictive analytics. 

Below video shows two features that apply to this:

  1. Decision-Tree algorithm

  2. Predictive forecasting

The decision-tree applies a predictive model on your data that shows the correlation of your data's attributes towards the measures. In other words; imagine you want to understand which of your attributes is the strongest influencer on you revenue? Is it the region where your products are sold? Is it the weather, or is it for example the product-category? In the video below I use repair cost as metric to finally discover to an unexpected equipment category is the main influencer. The outcome of the model is in various ways: correlation information, various graphs and charts that can be re-used in your dashboard. 

The decison-tree can not only be applied to metrics, it can also be applied to dimensions. In the same video below we use it to create a base and comparison group to use our algorithm finding out a specific manufacturer of spare parts is our main influencer for the majority of our repair costs; we might want to replace this manufacturer and buy our spare-parts somewhere else.

Predictive forecasting is possible using another predictive algorithm that is embedded in SAP BusinessObjects Cloud. Planning based models are the source of the predictive forecasting that further needs of cause a time dimension (monthly as lowest grain) and some historic data to run its triple exponential predictions. The outcome can be applied in a dedicated version of your data and drive your rolling forecast. If that's nt innovation !

Passion is waking up early on to just add that little blog extra on your website

 

SAP Analytics Cloud for Planning

The closed loop of monitoring (i.e. Business Intelligence), planning and predictive analytics combined in ONE tool is unique and not available anywhere else in the market. SAP Analytics Cloud delivers on this promise. You might think "very nice Iver, but why should I care", well .... consider the following advantages:

 

  • at any point in time, you as a user have actuals, budget and (predictive) forecast numbers available for insights. No more big projects to consolidate actuals and planning numbers in a separate data store and build separate insights on top; it all is available in SAP Analytics Cloud. If you already did set up your planning flows in SAP BPC, SAP Analytics Cloud easily interacts (bi-directional) with that.

  • since SAP Analytics Cloud allows to work with versions of data - these versions are either private or public for all users -, the user can compare versions. ... So ??? ....well, imagine you have a forecast set up and want to see what happens if you'd raise that forecast with xx%, you just make a separate version and apply the raise. SAP Analytics Cloud will distribute or spread the raise among the underlying attributes (according to the rules you can influence). Now it gets interesting: since you can compare your new version of forecast with the original version, it basically means you can do advanced simulation. There are even the Value Driver Tree and the variance reports (both: see screenshot on top) that allows you to visualize your simulation. 

  • and there is the predictive analytics capabilities. They come in to play not only if you want to predict for example your forecast, but also if you require insights of the correlations of dimensions to certain KPI's. "Explain that!" Well, if you want to know what attributes contributes the most/least to a certain KPI, SAP Analytics Cloud embedded algorithms show you so using the Smart Data Discovery functionality. Imagine a use case on Spend analyses: you might want to know what suppliers, products or materials contribute the most to maintenance costs bearing a certain period in time.

  • it's all Cloud based: no infrastructure to set-up, no big teams and big projects to initiate 360° insights projects, no nightmares about new versions and upgrade, and stunning performance because of underlying in-memory computing.

 

Cost Allocation and drivers

 

One of the key use cases for using a planning tool is of course cost allocation. Cost allocation is a process of providing relief to shared service organization's cost centers that provide a product or service. In turn, the associated expense is assigned to internal clients' cost centers that consume the products and services. For example, the CIO may provide all IT services within the company and assign the costs back to the business units that consume each offering.The core components of a cost allocation system consist of a way to track which organizations provides a product and/or service, the organizations that consume the products and/or services, and a list of portfolio offerings (e.g. service catalog). A second important component is the allocation-driver; depending on to whom you charge, you might for example  want to add an uplift  because of tax regulation rules. The driver is basically a definition/rule one applies to a (group of) allocation(s).

 

Below is video I created to show you an overview of the SAP Analytics Cloud for Planning features and capabilities. Of course, I cannot cover all of them so in this video I focused on the process of allocating costs using predefined drivers. The allocations are either '1 on 1', '1 to many' or 'many to many'. 

Distribution workflow

 

Another element of planning, forecast and budget control, is the distribution workflow of it.  If you for example did decide the forecast for next quarter needs to be raised with 4%, you might want to push this raise down to your delegates asking them to raise the volume of the product-sales-forecast so it matches your raise. This push-back or distribution follows a workflow allowing you to see whether the raise is done, to adjust of even over rules it. It also allows you to consolidate the individual raises into a new adjusted forecast. The same workflow can be done for your budgeting or planning. In below video my colleague demonstrates the working of this workflow. It's all part of SAP Analytics Cloud !