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I wrote a blog series about the Analysis Path Framework (APF). Please note that this document from SAP is located in Business Intelligence space on SCN. And in fact APF is a tool for exploratory data analysis. tammy.powlas3 asked on Twitter about use cases of APF and I decided that an answer to this question deserves an own entry. So I decided to publish a little “FAQ” about how APF is related to tools like SAP Lumira.

Why did you post your blogs in the Fiori subspace of SCN and not the BI space?

I made the experience that most people in the BI area don’t understand APF. They have their own specialized tools and they are happy with them. So there is no need for them to look at APF. And in fact APF and products like Lumira are completely different.

What are the differences between s solution like SAP Lumira and APF?

Lumira is a server-side solution with many features. It is a self-service BI connected to SAP data sources. People in special departments can use it to analyze data, identify trends and can create extraordinary graphical representation. In fact the graphical features are more powerful compared to APF. And since Lumira is a server side solution is much easier to import data into it from Sybase IQ, Excel and so on. Both solution are integrated into Fiori Launchpad and so you can also define Lumira stories and make them visible there. You can also define KPI tiles using Lumira.

So Lumira is much more powerful than APF?

Yes and no. As I said before Lumira is a server side solution and APF is a UI5 based charting library, so both are difficult to compare. So I would use both but for different use cases.

Can you tell a typical use case for APF?

APF is connected to SAP Smart Business. If you don’t know what this is you should see the following promotion video from SAP:

APF is strong in the area of operational decision making. Let me give you one example: Cindy is a manager of a team that works on automated processes like checking of insurance claims. One morning she’s informed that many members of the team got the flu and the workload is too high. She needs quick information about workload, compliance of payment, urgent actions items, inspection depth of business rule systems in automated processes and so on. On her Fiori Launchpad she sees that an operational performance indicator is in danger, so she needs APF to find out how to deal with this problem and to jump right into other Fiori apps to execute decisions like redistribution of workitems or changing inspection depths in rule systems and so on.

This scenario has some differences to "traditional" analytics:

  • It is very simple – no need to integrate non SAP data sources, data cleansening, data mining… The focus is on drill down and filtering in real time.
  • Insight to Action is crucial – you should be able to jump directly into SAP Business workflow to rearrange workitems or jump into BRFplus to change some thresholds in a business rule system.

So APF is only a tool for operational analytics?

Not only. It fits perfectly into SAP strategy:

  • The future of UI is Fiori and APF already is part of SAP Fiori Guidelines.
  • I believe most coming apps will have built-in analytical features combined with insight to action features. Therefore you need a much tighter integration compared to Lumira stories or Lumira defined KPIs. But this doesn’t mean that APF will replace tools Lumira.
  • SAP spends lots of effort to expose all data of SAP Business Suite and (embedded) BW as OData using VDM, BW Easy Query and CDS. With APF you can connect those OData sources and visualize them. It is SAP’s most sophisticated charting framework.

I hope and believe that SAP will continue its strategy and will bring APF into every coming UI. It is a swiss army knife which we can use to build fantastic Fiori Apps with outstanding features.

On the other hand APF isn’t restricted to operational reporting. It is a SAPUI5 library and so you can also use it to integrate BW on HANA data sources and to build your own SAPUI5 UIs even in the area of "traditional" analytic scenarios if you like.

If APF is so cool – why SAP doesn’t promote it and makes it more visible?

I have my own theory. At first it seems to me that many people from "traditional" analytics still understand the concept. But I think they will if they ask themselves following questions: What tools do I need to configure / develop Fiori apps with built-in analytical features.

The second reason is that SAP’s promotion is driven by sales people. Those people don’t have any technical background and only want to sell their products. Unfortunately they can’t sell APF since it is already sold with SAP Business Suite on HANA. So if I ask them they will tell me that it is great stuff and then quickly suggest to talk about Lumira for example since they can sell it to me.

But of course this doesn’t mean that we should pay for APF. At the moment it is integrated into SAP Smart Business Cockpits and it is also a tool, customers use to create their own analytical Fiori apps with outstanding features.  I see it as infrastructure for creation of state-of-the-art Fiori apps.

So will people from “traditional analytics” will come in contact with APF?

This is difficult to answer. With SAP HANA more and more people will start to implement operational analytics together with new approaches for decision making. So “traditional” analytics will move from own departments into operational departments of an enterprise. I hope people from operations will learn how analytics can improve processes and people from analytics will understand business processes better. Then and only then we can decide which tools are the best to create outstanding business solutions.

I can imagine Fiori Launchpads where SAP Lumira stories and Fiori Apps using APF are living side-by-side. I think in the future we have to learn how to combine both approaches.

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