Pyramid is an official member of the SAP® PartnerEdge® open ecosystem. Pyramid 2020 is certified by SAP to interoperate with SAP BW/4HANA. Pyramid 2020 is pending certification by SAP to interoperate with SAP HANA.
The Oxford Dictionary defines collaboration as “a piece of work produced by two or more people or groups working together.” By extension, the more a framework breaks down barriers, thus enabling people to work together, the more collaborative it is.
In this blog, I will elaborate on how Pyramid leapfrogs other BI tools with its immensely powerful collaborative capabilities in sharing and reusing dashboard content items and calculations. I’ll also examine its comprehensive framework for adding commentary to analytics on various data stacks specifically on SAP HANA and BW.
In previous blogs about collaboration (“Actionable Data Insights in Minutes Not Hours” and “Amplify your feedback: Pervasive Collaboration with Pyramid”) I discussed the critical aspects of collaboration in analytics. These points apply equally to SAP systems. I may even argue they are accentuated for SAP deployments because of the challenges found in the alternative options:
So where do these pain points show up? And why are they relevant in the context of SAP BW and HANA? The following five areas explore the key elements.
Because of their architectures, most BI tools spawn multiple artifacts that are extremely cumbersome to maintain on an ongoing basis. While the urgency of delivering BI projects on time often requires multiple team workers to develop different components of the solution, the interaction between the data source, calculations, filters, reports, data models, and dashboards requires a common workspace freely accessible and updatable by all team members. This is not possible in desktop tools or other architectures that create boundaries between different artifacts.
SAP BW and HANA already offer centralization of the data models, some calculation logic, and data security. Being able to extend all those aspects to the analytics tools would be the surest way to getting a “teamwork” solution for SAP-based analytics.
Most BI tools that access data from SAP BW and HANA allow users to copy and paste content between dashboards, but in a truly collaborative environment, once content has been created and shared on many dashboards, all subsequent enhancements made to the original content should be shared with all dashboards, reports, and any downstream items. If the content is merely copied and pasted, then the same enhancements will have to be replicated in all subsequent dashboards—that’s not very compatible with our definition of collaboration.
The entire point of using engines like SAP BW or HANA is to create a central source of the truth on the data layer itself. It seems paradoxical to try and keep that aspect in check only to squander the centrality with non-reusable content. The ability to centrally access and update definitions relating to SAP-based content will greatly increase efficiency and productivity in the SAP environment.
Complex calculations defined by knowledgeable business stakeholders provide considerable benefits to the enterprise. However, when these calculations are stored locally with each report and cannot be shared and reused between projects or users (or both), this obstructs the efficient dissemination of intellectual property consistent definitions across the enterprise. Further, this requires the subsequent update of the calculation in all reports, a nightmare from both an administrative and technical perspective.
By maintaining central control of all calculations, SAP users will be able to avoid the tedious task of repeatedly updating common calculations in multiple local report definitions, while the enterprise will experience greater efficiency from shared business insights and reusable logic.
A core capability of collaborative BI is the ability to write comments on reports and data in discussion threads with other users. When employees are discussing data, it’s crucial they be capable of creating and viewing historical snapshots of the changing data, working in a platform that captures and catalogs comments, managing security, recording audio messages, and attaching related multimedia files. If a BI tool cannot perform these basic actions, collaboration is constrained. And it’s compounded further when this is paired with other challenges, like duplicate data sets or siloed calculations.
For SAP BW and HANA users, data and analytics are centralized. These same users should have matching commentary tools that can harness the power of this platform design. If these elements don’t work congruently they become roadblocks to achieving a truly collaborative solution.
Due to the pervasiveness of desktop-based BI tools, the biggest challenge to establishing enterprise-wide BI solutions is the existence of local desktop-based data marts and BI solutions, created by the BI analyst. This is an architectural flaw in all BI tools where the desktop version is the only authoring tool. This is often by design. The thought is each machine is capable of producing better graphics, processing queries more quickly, and offering more analytic features. However, the user is generally forced to engineer personal or siloed data marts just to achieve their desired analytical outcomes. As mentioned previously, this is accentuated when working with SAP BW (and HANA)—because most tools are very weak when working directly on these data sources. This challenge is further exacerbated by the additional burden of reloading operational data from SAP regularly (not to mention the loss of data governance and—importantly— security.
The need to work on SAP BW and HANA directly without any loss in functional and analytic dexterity or degradation in performance is critical. This may be the biggest and most important issue in getting collaborative analytics to work effectively with SAP.
Bill, the BI Manager for the Ultra Bicycle Company, has a deadline to prepare a national sales dashboard for Exco within 24 hours. The company runs an SAP BW system for its national network of branches. His requirement touches on the following collaboration pain points:
Here’s how Pyramid addresses these business requirements:
1 2 3 Pyramid’s server-based development allows all three components to be developed separately, and then combined seamlessly into a national dashboard. Further component updates will automatically update the national dashboard.
Pyramid’s server-based approach makes all these collaborative tasks easy. There is no need to duplicate and send definitions across the network. Pyramid’s global components methodology ensures automatic updates, system-wide.
4 After updating the formula for the Overhead metric on the specific BW InfoCube, all dashboards using the Overhead metric will be automatically updated.
The typical alternative (found in most other tools) requires changing all dashboards every time a developer decides to tweak the centralized content. As we all know, this painstaking maintenance is rarely, if ever performed. Cross-enterprise silos are reinforced, and collaboration suffers.
With Pyramid’s global calculation capability, Pete, the BI Analyst responsible for the target setting, can adjust the calculation once, and the new calculation will be applied across the SAP enterprise for all 56 profitability reports that use this common definition.
Further, the calculation definition is stored in a public folder (“Sales” below) that allows all users with appropriate READ access to use the common calculation in their reports and dashboards.
In addition, WRITE access to the “Sales” folder in the public content domain for the appropriate users enables concurrent team development of different elements of the solution (data models, reports, dashboards, filters, and calculations). This true sharing of content also eliminates scenarios where multiple developers are reproducing multiple elements that all require maintenance when anything changes—only to provide consistent formulas, definitions, naming conventions, and front-end design. The calculation definitions are all stored in the Pyramid repository, whereas the business data remains in the SAP database.
Comments and annotations within analytic reports and dashboards provide direct access to both current and historical versions of both the report and component data. New refreshes of the reports can be performed against the existing SAP BW InfoCubes.
With Pyramid, personal data marts are completely avoided. Pyramid performs direct queries against the SAP BW system, even when more complex queries are required. Pyramid’s server-based model ensures that the SAP BW system is the single source for data, thereby avoiding redundancies and the crucial audit concerns around data security where sensitive data lurks under BI users’ private data marts.
The ease of collaborating with Pyramid on SAP BW and HANA can be summarized as follows:
Pyramid solves this entire problem with a complete solution that offers real self-service working directly on SAP BW and HANA. How? By delivering best-in-class functionality and performance on SAP BW without extracting or duplicating data, Pyramid preserves the full analytic power of the SAP engines, as well as the inherent security and governance.
Please explore our Pyramid + SAP Blog Series to learn how Pyramid supports our customers on SAP. Each post contains specific examples to illustrate key functionality: