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Product and Topic Expert
Product and Topic Expert

As I mentioned in one of my older blogs I want to answer some of the burning questions related to SAP Digital Boardroom and Cloud for Analytics.

1) Pace of Innovation is #1 driver for Cloud for Analytics & Digital Boardroom

One of the most critical activities for companies is to leverage innovation as fast and easy as possible. During the older days, especially on the Analytics side, it was not always easy to use innovation extremely fast and really to get a benefit / a return on invest out of it. In most of the cases you had to wait for a new release / major release and then you had an entire upgrade project to execute, before you could leverage new analytics capabilities.

Now especially 2 points which are hinder factors for an upgrade were

a) the majority of the systems were/are on premise systems and downtime of a system during an upgrade was normal and

b) typically there was/is a huge administration process necessary before you could leverage either new technology or new features and capabilities.

Now with having more and more cloud systems available you can leverage this innovation much faster and with less effort then you know from the past. Your cloud & software provider typically have changed their policy how fast they make their innovation available, compared to the older processes very often the provides does this on a monthly basis. With the newest technology you can easy deploy new features and capabilities which helps a  lot that the users can immediately use cutting edge capability very fast.

Of course this also has an impact on the cost side of the house. The effort to implement new features and to get benefit out of innovation is much less than in an on premise world. The provider already has tested the new capabilities and users can immediately use them / implement them also in existing scenarios. E.g.  the solution provider ships new chart types or capabilities like a decision tree/value driver tree with a new version/wave without changing rest of the existing solution. All users/consumers who are on the same system and environment can use these new features then directly either in new visualizations/stories or they also can adjust existing visualizations/stories.

At the end of the day this means that the time to market to really use a new capability is going down.

Last but not least with the innovation in the technology what we currently see, but also with the change of behavior of analytics consumers and top leaders, there is an huge interest in leveraging this technology and simplifying analytics processes (see also : Simplified Boardroom Processes). As of the technology and the capabilities you now can get information easier and much faster than in the past. You as a consumer don’t need to focus on the software providing/deployment process, you can focus on creating the meaningful visualizations, whereas the top leaders can also work much more with the analytics system as it is more intuitive than in the past and at the same time it offers much more flexibility to use it. Now even board members do have the chance to drill into the details if necessary. If we now take a look onto the Digital Boardroom solution itself, the user experience has changed dramatically. It includes touch screens and everyone can easily learn how to use the solution. However it’s still as in the old days, you just create visualizations and meaningful insights as long as the data foundation (this includes transactions but also master data) is on a high level.

2) One Analytic Solution for everything

With Cloud for Analytics and Digital Boardroom we now do offer a complete analytics solution in the Cloud. Cloud for BI, Cloud for Planning and Cloud for Predictive are the three main solutions of Cloud for Analytics, and Digital Boardroom itself is an application which sits on top of the three other solutions. All the visualizations and stories which are the basis for the digital boardroom are being prepared in Cloud for BI, Cloud for Planning and/or Cloud for Predictive. Our solutions can be deployed on a public cloud or on a private cloud, on both cases it is based on the Hana Cloud Platform. Of course the connected source systems (right now it’s HANA) can still run on premise and there are scenarios where the data stays on the legacy system as well as there are scenarios possible where you need to load data into the Cloud for Analytics Solution itself. E.g. in case you are connecting to a file system (which perhaps contains external data) then the data needs to be uploaded to Cloud for Analytics.

Another great effect is, that this solution can be accessed anywhere anytime and from anyone who has access to it. Of course everything is mobile enabled on the browser and it renders automatically. For the future it also can happen that a mobile app for tablets will be available, but this is neither available yet, nor is it part of the roadmap so far.

One of the major imperatives, as mentioned in the first part of the blog is that you’re building this solution on top of a trusted data warehouse or better to say on a single source of truth. You still can access data delivered from various systems at the same time, as per every single story you can decide where the data is coming from, however to use the environment in the decision making process you need to have some guidance on transaction data as well as on master data. Without this governance and guidance you will still fall in past behaviors where these data driven insights were not really possible. As Cloud for Analytics is the combination of Cloud for BI, Cloud for Planning and Cloud for Predictive we also do offer a chance to create a people centric design for the overall environment. As eg. the same type of charts are available in all parts of the solution the  consumer grade user experience is increasing. In all cases you have the same experience with collaboration scenarios or with creating and sending notifications to someone else.

3) 360° View in Real-time

The digital boardroom contains 3 screens called: Overview Screen, Main & Exploration Screen and the Context Screen. On all the three screens you typically have different KPI’s visualized and they either are directly connected to each other and allow you to see an aggregated view as well as a detailed view, or the KPI’s are giving you a wider context that you can understand a business situation much better than without having those KPI’s.

All in all it is the major intent of the digital boardroom to give you a 360° view of your enterprise in real-time. High level and also detail level information is available to (executive) Management members at all times (24/7). Capabilities of Cloud for Analytics and Digital Boardroom allows you to drill down directly into the details, and in case something is changing on the line items you would see the impact on the aggregated view again in real-time. Furthermore you can use “What-If-Scenarios, Planning Scenarios and Value Driver Trees (including option to do simulations)”  in the digital boardroom which allows you to have a fact based decision making process already during a meeting. It gives you the chance to align executive decisions on one single source of truth across business units based intuitive visualizations for which in the past you had to ask somebody else who than in the most cases had to create a new report which took a while. With the available technology and the modern user interfaces everybody has the ability to visualize insights in-context of a certain business situation. From every single chart or story you can jump into the details, or you can see what happens if you change one of the measures/KPI’s in a specific way.

With all these features and capabilities, but also because of the fact that it is a Cloud solution (where the data can still sit in your own datacenters) which is being administrated by the cloud provider you have a chance to follow a lean and  agile adoption of new business models and capabilities, sort of an “Apple” experience. In less than a minute you have consumed all (real time/updated) information you want/need for your Corporate / Business Intelligence environment.

4) Simplified Boardroom Processes

Our newest Analytics solution helps to transform the boardroom experience dramatically. It’s the first time in the analytics world that there is a solution available which can be used from everyone quite easy and which allows you to get an immediate insight into the situation of the enterprise.

Today unfortunately the majority of the board meetings don’t offer a system based decision making process even that the majority of the companies do have invested a lot of money into BI environments. But because of the architecture of the older BI/Analytics environment as well as because of the older technology being used for those systems in many cases these systems couldn’t be used in boar meetings. The result out of this is that you still see a lot of manual processes and a lot of work for business analysts coming out of board meetings.

As all the visualizations and stories are built on top of an enterprise BI or can reuse existing S/4 HANA insight it helps to reduce preparation time & effort for a board meeting. Also it helps to change board-level conversations as it removes duplication of effort and confusions around producing and presenting Management Reporting on same topics/KPI’s by different Lines of Business. Furthermore and this seems to be the greatest benefit is the situation that it especially gives an opportunity to get insights in real-time and even if there is a new question being discussed during a board meeting you immediately can start to do analysis on real data, system based and not like in the past when the most of the board reports where inserted into power-points slides without having a chance to dig into the real details directly. Very often a number of people had an action item after a board meeting to create a new report or explain a certain situation as it was not presented already in existing board reports. Therefore it had to be prepared for the next meeting and no immediate decision could be made during the board meeting. Now with the new solution we do offer capabilities which helps to answers adhoc questions on the fly, we can analyze root-causes and much more important there are simulation scenarios possible which allows to understand the impact of decisions directly and related to business scenarios.

5) Cost Flexibility & Total Cost of Ownership

As the name Cloud for Analytics and Digital Boardroom already indicates both solutions are pure cloud solutions.

From a cost perspective this does mean that you can shift costs from fixed towards variable category and especially a subscription based pricing. E.g. based on the consumption in Cloud for Analytics (disc space, users) and the number of stories your using in digital boardroom the price varies, which also means that you're paying just for the real usage.

The software solutions are being delivered as software as a service and especially for Cloud for Analytics you don’t need to invest into Hardware and Administration. It’s a bit different for the 3-screen environment which you need to acquire from your normal hardware partner. In general this helps you to optimize your costs by eliminating capital expenses and minimized operational expenses. Once your are already running an enterprise BI on SAP technology or you have implemented S/4 HANA it would also allows you to save your invests as we offer a pretty high percentage of reuse options.