Real self-service BI for SAP

SAP offers two powerful data stacks in the analytics marketplace: SAP Netweaver Business Warehouse (BW) and SAP Hana.

  • BW is an enterprise business repository and provides advanced reporting capabilities. It has historically worked on external databases like SQL Server and Oracle, and is now available on SAP’s own database, Hana—which has its own analytical capabilities.
  • Hana is an in-memory, relational database that now acts as both the specific storage mechanism for SAP’s ERP (“S4Hana”) as well as a generic database system that enables data analysts to query large volumes of data in real time. The in-memory computing engine allows Hana to process data stored in RAM as opposed to reading it from a disk. Hana also has its own analytics capabilities going beyond a simple database repository paradigm.

One of the key challenges in the marketplace for SAP customers is to find a great set of tools that work directly on both SAP BW and Hana technologies with modern self-service analytic capabilities, while exposing all the enterprise, server-based functionality required for security and governance.

In short, customers simply want “real self-service BI that works directly on SAP.”

Why are SAP BW and Hana important?

BW offers native connectivity to the SAP ERP application and its data, with a lot of clever analytic functionality catering to that environment and its unique data footprint. Hana also comes with powerful analytic functionality that fully exploits the SAP ERP application.

SAP customers are eager to implement an SAP-compatible BI tool that offers significant self-service functionality alongside direct querying of the SAP BW application and SAP Hana database, while retaining all the benefits offered by SAP and Hana. Few companies want to lose this functionality when implementing a BI tool to work in concert with these engines.

Technology landscape

Given the above premise, SAP customers have some serious challenges in closing the functionality gap in analytics. They need to choose either from SAP’s own technologies, or look to third parties.

SAP’s natively integrated applications include Business Objects, Lumira, and SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC). However, each offering has functional limitations:

  • Business Objects is an old technology that completely lacks self-service capabilities and is currently in maintenance mode only.
  • Lumira, which offered self-service options, has been deprecated and is in maintenance mode only as well.
  • SAP Analytics Cloud, the new SAP BI tool, is immature and is missing a tremendous amount of functionality—with a “catch-up,” even to the current competition, several years away.

Compounding these challenges, SAC is, by definition, a cloud-only solution, while SAP’s BEx reporting tool—a key element in SAP’s analytics line-up—has also now been deprecated.

On the other hand, third-party self-service BI tools, (e.g., Qlik, Power BI, Tableau, MicroStrategy) generally lack close integration with SAP BW and Hana because their query engines are not built to support all the core functionality of SAP’s analytic engines. As such, they all tend to encourage users to export their raw data out of SAP and reimport it into their native data stacks to gain better analytical functionality.

The duplication of data runs contrary to the entire concept of using BW and Hana in the first place: it compromises data governance and security; duplicates analytic layers; decentralizes the “truth,” and ultimately deleverages the investments in BW, Hana, and even SAP ERP itself. This is a very expensive price to pay for self-service capabilities—and it’s the reason why many SAP customers have not found a reasonable solution to their problem.

Simply put, the challenge is to find a mature, fully functional self-service technology that offers “direct query” and full functionality on SAP, thereby fully leveraging SAP BW and Hana technologies without replacing them.

Pyramid on SAP

Pyramid solves this entire problem with a complete solution that offers real self-service working directly on and with both SAP BW and Hana.

In this series of blogs, I will be unpacking these critical issues when selecting a BI environment for SAP BW and Hana, and I will demonstrate how Pyramid addresses these challenges.

For both BW and Hana:

  • Direct query capabilities, obviating the need to duplicate and ingest SAP data into another BI tool’s native database environment
  • Sleek, self-service functionality with drag-and-drop capability for collaboration
  • Time intelligence
  • Context calculations
  • Full dashboarding with publishing, scheduling, and security capabilities
  • Support for multiple data connections, each with different parameterization

For BW specifically:

  • Support for ragged hierarchies, numerical formats, multiple currencies, and captions
  • Support for time-dependent hierarchies
  • Support for full logical, mathematical functions

For Hana specifically:

  • Data modeling capability that can build data models and mash-ups back into SAP Hana itself