Tired of using transaction codes? There’s another way to get data from your SAP system, and that is the use of what SAP calls visualization. That term may be the most frequently heard word at the PLM 2012 conference held this week in Orlando.
SAP is applying the assets gained from last year’s purchase of Right Hemisphere to its SAP PLM capabilities. It shipped its first business suite product that includes Right Hemisphere capabilities two weeks ago.
Building a motorcycle? You can now view it in three dimensions, and delve into its inner parts by highlighting whatever you want to look at in greater detail. For example, click the mud guard and you can see not only what lies behind it, but all the analytics that went into its production, such as the materials that were used, the cost, and where they came from. One SAP speaker this week likened that process to what happens when you use a transaction code.
Thomas Ohnemus, VP of Solution Marketing for SAP PLM, SAP Manufacturing, SAP EAM, SAP AG, and Graham Conlon, Global VP of SAP PLM Solution Management, teamed up in a special session on PLM this week at the conference to explain the latest enhancements coming for SAP PLM.
Thomas said there are three trends facing companies: • The informed customer who now wants to know how a business created a product • Global development and manufacturing, which is an opportunity but also comes with time-to-market pressure • Dynamic product regulations
He said companies need to take these trends into consideration when they first begin defining a product in R&D. For example, don’t wait until the end of the product development process to integrate compliance issues. That will be too late.
The SAP PLM 7.x releases include authoring and integration enhancements as well as visualization capabilities that are intended to help companies deal with the three trends they outlined, Graham said. SAP PLM 7.02 will be in general availabity soon.
Perhaps your company has metricmania, a condition described by Mico Yuk as the need to get too many metrics into an Xcelsius dashboard. Mico, co-founder of Benchmarkers Business Intelligence and founder of EverythingXcelsius.com, wanted to be sure attendees at the SAPinsider seminar, Xcelsius Dashboards Bootcamp, did not confuse a report with a dashboard. This is apparently a common occurrence, as another speaker made the same point later. She advised attendees to ask some questions early on to be sure that the person requesting a dashboard doesn’t actually need a report.
Here are five ways she said you can identify if it is a report: Are there 3+ levels of drilldown needed? Are there no key performance indicators (KPIs) but only metrics? Does the stakeholder want to see thousands of rows of data, to use the data for analysis, or to manipulate raw data? If the answer to those questions is yes, then she said it’s definitely not a dashboard. The key, she said, is that a dashboard answers a question. She added that it is OK to put a link to a report in a dashboard.
Later the other speaker talking about the difference between a dashboard and a report recalled a client who wanted an entire financial statement displayed on the dashboard. He encouraged that client to use summaries instead. The boot camp is co-located with the Reporting & Analytics 2011, Managing Your SAP Projects 2011, and Outsourcing 2001 conferences at the Mirage in Las Vegas.
Isha Gupta, a SAP BI consultant at Accenture, shows how to combine SAP BusinessObjects applications with SAP NetWeaver BW in her article “SAP BusinessObjects: Two Tips to Improve the Look of Your Reports.” She notes that SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence allows self-service reporting. However, she advises that you need to be cautious when combining the two applications to create SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence reports to ensure you achieve the desired functionality and interactivity.
One tip shows what to do if you have a structure in a BEx query that contains many key figures, but in the SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence report you want to display only a selected few key figures from that structure. Using the example of a structure called Rolling Periods that has key figures related to various months and quarter time periods of a year, she provides the following steps to display the key figures related only to all quarters.
Step 1. Create the SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence report on top of an SAP BusinessObjects Universe built on a BEx Query. You get the structure Rolling Periods displayed as a dimension in the data panel.
Step 2. Drag the Rolling Periods into the SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence report Result Objects panel.
Step 3. Drag the Rolling Periods again to the Query Filters panel. Click In list and select Value(s) from list from the drop-down options. This creates a filter of the type List of Values.
Step 4. In the next List of Values selection screen, select the key figures that you want to display on the SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence report by moving the selected values to the right-side pane. When you click OK in the resulting screen, then your SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence report displays only the selected quarter key figures (Figure 1).
Figure 1 SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence report display
The full article includes more detail and screenprints to illustrate the steps, as well as a second tip on how to display the values selected by users for various variables.
A new look and expanded functionality for SAP ERP HCM are coming. Sanjay Poonen, president of Solutions Go-to-Market for SAP AG, summed up future changes during his keynote address at the Financials 2011, GRC 2011, HR 2011, and BI2011 SAPinsider conferences in Amsterdam.
One change: query optimization and planning are going to be in the same container. Giving a demo on an iPad (he predicts the desktop will go away in the new age of mobility), he showed what he called “a different SAP.”
For example, he demoed how you can query your data on managers for a combination of high attrition rate and low employee satisfaction, and see which ones are performing most poorly, or vice versa.
Dawn Crew, vice president HR Line of Business Solutions at SAP, expanded on the new SAP ERP HCM in a general assembly on Wednesday. Accompanied by SAP staff who were clearly excited about the changes, she said so much has happened, and quickly, since improvements were promised in Barcelona. They fall into three categories: user experience, analytics, and mobility.
New employee self service functions available in enhancement pack 5 are in use at Tyson Foods and went into general availability in May. She said manager self services are completely renovated, with a Ramp-Up planned for June. They are now working on the core HR functionality to provide enhanced collaboration opportunities and analytics that are available right on the user’s page. She expects that the changes will also allow companies to tailor their pages with their own branding.
The announcements were met with a reaction that mirrored the excitement of the SAP staff. One attendee said, “I am delighted,” adding “It’s about time.” An independent HR consultant said it is going to be a year of great change for SAP ERP HCM, an area that has been relatively the same for quite a while.
• SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence 4.0 is now able to leverage a direct data connection based on the BI Consumer Services (BICS) Interface without the mandatory step to create a Universe. • SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence 4.0 delivers more hierarchical capabilities for end users. These new hierarchical capabilities include a hierarchical member selector, hierarchical prompting, hierarchical charting, and hierarchical navigation in the reports. • SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence 4.0 also interoperability with the other products as part of the SAP BusinessObjects BI platform. SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence is able to act as a “target” when navigating from SAP BusinessObjects Explorer to an SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence report. SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence is able to open so-called Analysis Views created by SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for Microsoft Office and SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, OLAP edition.
Witold Drozdzynski desribes how to populate existing Excel documents with fresh data from SAP NetWeaver BW in his BI Expert article “How to Update Existing Excel Documents with SAP NetWeaver BW Report Data.” His method uses multi-dimensional expressions (MDX), Apache POI library, SAP Java Connector (SAP JCo), and ABAP. The use of MDX allows you to reuse InfoCubes and queries in the SAP NetWeaver BW system.
Tip! To ensure the application was running properly, he used the free Apache log4j logging library. The system automatically records all problems with writing the data to destination Excel documents into the log file. The information in the log file helps you identify problems and the time at which the problem occurred.
BI Expert author Gaurav Sukhija recently consulted for a Fortune 100 technology company to help it decide which archiving method would best suit its needs. He says the client had multiple SAP R/3 environments that were being retired and was moving to an SAP ERP Central Component (SAP ECC) environment. As part of the initiative, the client wanted to archive existing data from the R/3 environments.
In his BI Expertarticle“Use the Information Life Cycle to Determine Your Archiving Strategy” Gaurav takes you through the analysis required to choose that right archiving method. He writes that the tried and tested SAP Archive Development Kit (ADK) may be the most appropriate method for storing data that is infrequently required. The newer method of Near-Line Storage (NLS) is often best suited for relatively new data. The hybrid approach of ADK with NLS can prove to be the best bet when there is a need for diverse storage and retrieval capabilities. You make the choice, he notes, based on these factors:
1. The extent of the need for online retrieval
2. The duration (how old the data is) and the size of the historical data
3. The extent of response time during retrieval for historical reporting/analysis
4. User comfort, cost, and readiness for change
As for his technology client, it chose ADK for archiving and is now implementing it. Gaurav, who is a senior SAP BW/BI consultant with Infosys Technologies Limited, has been consulting in the SAP Business Intelligence and data warehousing domain for Fortune 100 clients for close to seven years. He started his career during the SAP BW 3.x days and has over the years worked on several BW, BI, and BusinessObjects assignments. These include life cycle implementation projects, development, upgrade and support projects. He has worked in several capacities in leadership, data modeling and techno-functional roles with focus on the high tech manufacturing sector. He has also served as a trainer on SAP NetWeaver BW within Infosys. His areas of expertise include data modeling, data warehousing, and enterprise reporting. In his spare time, he enjoys going on hiking trips with his wife and indulging in tennis and swimming. He also enjoys different cuisines and likes experimenting with food.
Brian Houston of K2 Professionals looks over a book at the SAP PRESS booth at the recent SAPinsider Logistics and Supply Chain Management 2011 conference in Orlando. Brian spoke at the conference on the difference between SAP ERP and SAP Advanced Planning & Optimization. A key point he presented is that traditional SAP ERP has more limited planning capabilities than SAP APO. He said people attending his session were interested in resource requirements for implementing SAP APO as well as in optimization. By the way, the book he was looking at was Sales and Inventory Planning with SAP APO. The conference will be repeated in Paris April 13-15, 2011.
Glenn Abel, president of Covington Creative, has been busy lately. Not only did he have a booth and speak at the SAPinsider CRM 2011 conference in Orlando – he also wrote on article for CRM Expert. The article, “Decrease Interruptions in Process Time with CEBP Configuration for Business Roles,” explains how to route a call to another call center agent if one has stepped out for a moment. Glenn says he has seen interest in communication-enabled business processes in SAP CRM double in the last year. He attributes it to recent or pending upgrades to SAP CRM 7.0 and recent or pending end-of-leases for legacy communications technologies.
Seeking input from your team on the progress on a project? Here is one takeaway on the process from Doug Whittle of Whittle Consulting Group.
It’s best to have the whole team participate in setting up ground rules for feedback on the progress of a project. That creates ownership among team members. They then will be amenable to policing discussions themselves.
However, a project director should make sure that a couple of guidelines are included. Among the “must” ground rules is the no whining rule. And no war stories either, please. They can derail the feedback process. Instead, the discussion should focus on topics that carry the project forward in a positive way. For example, you can ask questions such as what contributed to the success to date and what you could have done to prevent anything that went wrong. A helpful question is “If you had it to do all over, what would you differently?”
He was speaking at a session at the SAPinsider conference in Orlando on a strategy for quicker ROI on an SAP investment.