In this article, I describe characteristics and boundary conditions of SAP S/4HANA embedded analytics and decision criteria when to use it, but also when not to use it and instead using SAP Business Technology Platform (SAP BTP) or other adequate non-SAP solutions for data warehouse & analytic purposes.
Business operations users, business users responsible for the business processes or BI analysts require (real-time) analytics and reporting capabilities for data originating from SAP S/4HANA. The data / information needs to be provided depending on the use case in various formats such as SAP Fiori applications, SAP Analytics Cloud dashboards and applications or via APIs for self-service BI.
SAP provides the following strategic solutions:
SAP S/4HANA embedded analytics
SAP Business Technology Platform (for analytics&data warehouse purposes)
Characterization of the Solution Options
SAP S/4HANA embedded analytics
SAP S/4HANA embedded analytics is an integrated analytics solution, which comes out-of-the box with SAP S/4HANA (on-premise, private or public Cloud) without additional license or subscription costs.
It is based on core data services (CDS) as part of the SAP S/4HANA data model. From a business user perspective, these core data services can be consumed via (predefined) SAP Fiori applications, via SAP Analytics Cloud (live or import connection) and via OData services or analytical queries for various kind of SAP or Non-SAP consumption tools . With the latest SAP S/4HANA release more than 1000 predefined analytical SAP Fiori Applications are delivered with SAP S/4HANA out of the box. SAP S/4HANA Embedded Analytics provides by nature real-time access to the operational data in SAP S/4HANA and can be flexibly extended based on specific customer needs.
In case SAP S/4HANA embedded analytics is not capable to fulfill the analytic requirements (more details are provided in next two chapters), SAP Business Technology platform (BTP) can be used for handling these scenarios. SAP Data Warehouse Cloud (software as a service) and SAP BW/4HANA (on-premise or private cloud) as part of SAP BTP are the two strategic directions from SAP for enterprise data warehousing. Alternatively or additionally SAP HANA Cloud (including native storage extension and data lake) as Database as a Service solution serves nicely to build up or extend your self-defined and self-modeled data warehouse solution. All three components are capable of extracting or federating data from SAP ECC or SAP S/4HANA systems, as well as from other SAP or non-SAP data sources and building the foundation of an enterprise-wide single point of truth for various data needs, such as analytics, planning or other data mesh or data fabrique purposes. As mentioned before they are well integrated with each other and thus provide the opportunity to take the best out of the different component for building up a hybrid data and analytics platform
Operational systems like SAP S/4HANA or SAP SuccessFactors provide preconfigured extractor frameworks for replication or data loading into SAP Data Warehouse solutions. Using SAP BW/4HANA or SAP HANA Cloud is typically an IT-driven modeling approach whereas SAP Data Warehouse Cloud is also very strong for a self-service, business-driven modeling approach.
For the large community of SAP BW customers it possible to run a hybrid set up with a tight integration of SAP Data Warehouse Cloud with SAP BW as a temporary set up but also for long term purpose if desired (see picture below).
Criteria to determine the most suitable target solution
These are the questions / criteria which are maintained in the Evaluation Excel that is referred to in the next section: here
SAP S/4HANA Embedded Analytics
Do you need integration of reporting into transactional applications? (Process Integration)
The real-time data from the SAP S/4HANA database is required without any delay for e.g. for applications where data is updated and in parallel the results need to be reported instantaneously. This is a typical operational reporting requirement and the usage of SAP S/4HANA embedded analytics. SAP delivers already several pre-defined SAP Fiori applications for such inside-to-action scenarios, which can be found in the SAP Fiori Apps Reference Library
Do you need real-time data for your analytics?
SAP BW/4HANA, SAP Data Warehouse Cloud or SAP HANA Cloud provide federation approaches, which means that data can be virtually accessed in the source system. However the more elegant way is leveraging the virtual data model (CDS Views) and the embedded analytics framework within SAP S/4HANA with real-time access by design.
Do you need consolidation of data from multiple sources? (Cross-system Analytics)
Loading data from multiple source systems usually yields high data volumes and requires (complex) consolidation logic that contributes to workload. This is a typical SAP BTP / Data Warehouse use case.
Do you often need to take data “snapshots” to freeze data views? (time slices, day-end results)
Snapshots can be realized best in data warehouses by using data models with operational datastores. In SAP S/4HANA embedded analytics it is not possible to capture data snapshots, because especially master data objects in SAP S/4HANA do not track the history.
Do you need time-dependent master data? (Historization)
In SAP S/4HANA master data typically does not have time stamp information in their data objects and thus versioning or tracking the change history is not provided. As SAP S/4HANA Embedded Analytics is building on the same data model and therefore analysis of historical master data views in many cases is not possible. SAP Data Warehouse Cloud or SAP BW/4HANA as solutions within SAP BTP provide time-dependency features for master data to track the change history and ultimately provide key-day based data access.
Do you perform long term trend analysis? (Data Retention)
Long term data analysis requires long retention periods that are usually beyond the standard retention times for the transactional data in an SAP S/4HANA system. SAP BTP allows to keep historical data cost-efficiently for a long period of time, utilizing features like data-tiering, aggregation or nearline storage.
Do you need to clean up, harmonize, transform, or enhance the data before reporting?
Harmonization and transformation are classical data warehouse tasks requiring the creation of staging layers
Do you work with complex hierarchies?
SAP S/4HANA Embedded Analytics provides standard hierarchies, e.g., for cost center reporting. However enhanced features and custom-built hierarchies e.g., with time-dependencies are typical data warehouse specific use cases.
Do you need to integrate data from 3rd -party solutions?
The persistence of data from 3rd party solutions requires the definition of a data model outside of SAP S/4HANA and can be efficiently achived with SAP BTP, which comes along with a big variety of data source adapters. SAP BTP provides capabilities for virtual access to data from various 3rd party sources.
Are you using inventory management scenarios?
SAP BTP, in particular SAP DWC or SAP BW, provide comprehensive functionalities to analyze inventory management scenarios. However basic inventory management reporting can be also done directly in SAP S/4HANA embedded analytics.
You have received an overview about SAP analyics solutions for operational SAP S/4HANA data. First choice should be SAP S/4HANA embedded analytics specifically for light-weight real-time data models. Alternatively SAP Business Technology Platform (incl. SAP Data Warehouse Cloud, SAP HANA Cloud, SAP BW/4HANA) is the place for complex, heavy weight data modeling for (near) real-time data and analytics requirements, but also traditionally data warehouse scenarios.