SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC) – Why you should consider Analytics Applications for your SAC Planning Solution
Author: Edward Wilson, Finance/EPM Consultant, NTT DATA Business Solutions UK.
If you are in the process of planning a SAC business-planning project, have you considered the benefits of exploring Analytics Applications as well as using standard stories and functions?
Depending on your business planning process, Analytics Applications could be a better fit for your organisation than using standard stories. The best time to discover and compare the different benefits of a standard or more customised development is in a prototyping phase prior to a detailed product plan. It can be very valuable to identify the key problems your organisation are trying to address and over a day or two of workshops to define requirements. From there simple side-by-side prototypes using both the standard functionality and analytics application can be used to define which approach better meets the business need.
Analytics applications may take slightly more time to develop initially. However if the Analytics Application addresses more complex requirements, that cannot be easily serviced in standard stories then the useful life of application and user experience will be greatly improved.
This article aims to summarise the functions Analytics Designer offers beyond standard stories in SAP Analytics Cloud.
Single State Planning Applications
Though standard stories have the ability to show data and visualisations across multiple pages, there are some limitations in place. Page filters that affect all tabs may not be suitable when developers want to show additional KPI’s or statistics that are not stored against the standard hierarchy structure defined in the underlying model. This can lead to data “disappearing” unexpectedly or having to replicate filters across several tabs, leading to a less than optimal experience for users. Analytics Applications allow much greater control over how filter values affect every element on screen. Analytics Applications allow for the control of individual elements to be hidden or shown by code. It also allows developers to programmatically change dimensions or filters on a single table, meaning reduced need to store multiple tables in one story, leading to greater performance.
Additional objects such as panels, tab strips, page book and flow panels allow for different views of content to be available for users, without navigating back and forth throughout SAC’s file system.
End Users entire interaction with the planning process can be boiled down to a single point of entry. This provides users with a one-stop shop to enter, adjust, review and analyse their business plans. Data from multiple models or data sources can be displayed side-by-side allowing for planning and analytics data to be visible in the same location.
Elements can be configured to dynamically resize based on page size, or hidden entirely when viewed on smaller devices such as tablets and phones. This allows a single application to be maintained, while simultaneously meeting the needs of users with different devices or viewing preferences.
Greater Customisation than Standard SAC Stories
Each object has a number of events that these functions can be bound to i.e. the canvas can be configured to populate dropdown selections onInitialization () as the application loads. These dropdowns could also be filtered in the code, removing members from the available list that are not relevant for the view.
Store and manage code and variables in Script Variables and Script Object folders, allowing for code to be maintained in a single location and references using Object Oriented Programming processes.
As well as the standard formatting menus for each object, SAP have introduced CSS editing into Analytics Applications. This allows a unified theme to be applied across the application. Multiple CSS classes can be defined as either global or specific to individual widgets.
Planning specific functions are regularly added to and updated in the Analytics Application API. These allow for:
- Transactional data to be calculated and written back into the underlying model
- Planning specific properties to be accessed and used in calculations
- Create controls and dropdowns with fixed values when creating master data on the fly within the solution. Master data creation is possible in standard stories on planning models, however at the time of writing the entry ID, descriptions and properties are free text fields with no way for developers to control master data quality
- Automatically Publish, Copy and Manage planning versions
Tailored to your organisations unique needs
For unique visualisations that are not available out of the box it is possible to have a custom widget built for you. You can find out more about custom widgets here.
It is also possible to make use of R when displaying data in a specific format, or combining multiple disparate data sources together, (R is a popular programming language widely used for data and statistical analysis). Developers can either use the standard R deployment that SAP provide (which contains a long list of regularly used R packages) or connect their own R server with their own packages.
Regularly Expanded and Improved API
The functions available to developers in the application are constantly being updated and expanded. You can find the 2020.14 API reference here:
If you are interested in seeing how Analytics Applications could enhance your organisations planning process, or want to discuss anything covered in this blog feel free to reach out to us here