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Ever since the first list reports were created in its ERP solution, SAP’s focus has been on helping its users make effective business decisions. Today’s digitized economy makes markets hyper efficient, reduces capital, increases transparency, and drives business at an unprecedented pace. Strategies, plans, and their execution are more deeply intertwined than ever before, business models are agile and susceptible to rapid disruption, data proliferates, and organizations decentralize.

At the same time, software is undergoing a major transformation in the age of digitalization with increased computational capacity and new ways to source more data that fuels machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI). These changes have led SAP to completely rethink analytics for the digital age.

New Era, New Analytics

Until now, analytics has been used by IT specialists and data analysts to create data visualizations that support the decision-making process. While today's notion of self-service means that these tools are more widely used by a greater number of roles in the enterprise, in most cases, they still require users to first learn the tools, understand the data models, and manage the content.

Going forward, AI technologies have the potential to make reports of this kind a thing of the past, used for regulatory reports only. Standard decisions will be made by the analytics platform, and every business user will have access to information at any time without having to first learn the tools or data models. They will be able to perform complex analytical tasks with the assistance of the analytics service itself, with algorithms, machine learning, and new natural language processing-based voice interfaces augmenting and enhancing human work.

The aim is to make data—be it structured or unstructured, in the cloud, or on-premise—an accessible asset that enables all users to make confident decisions.

The key to this lies in the concept of convergence—at the level of the analytics tools, the semantics for data, the roles of the people who use it, and how it is accessed. It’s about the key words “one simple cloud” and delivering business intelligence (BI), planning, and predictive in one cloud platform with one common and simple user experience.

We’ve created a series of blogs to look at what this means in detail and the role a converged analytics platform plays in delivering the intelligent enterprise. Here in part one, we will explore the new possibilities that have opened up as a result of converged analytics domains.

One Analytics Experience from Every Domain

Democratization and visualization made it possible to decentralize decision-making. But companies are now finding that access and simplicity are not enough to support mission-critical business processes. They need to be able to analyze the past while planning and predicting the future, moment by moment in the present.

By unifying the core domains of BI, planning, and predictive analytics, we can deliver new capabilities such as simulation in BI, storytelling in planning, predicted forecasts in planning, or automated discovery in BI. Predictive and planning capabilities enable BI to shift from visualizing data to actually working with information by doing ad-hoc simulations, testing hypotheses, and planning for the future.

At SAP, we developed SAP Analytics Cloud to offer a single solution for business intelligence and collaborative business planning, enhanced with the power of predictive analytics and machine learning technology. It brings together BI, planning, and predictive analytics in one built-for-the-cloud solution.

This allows companies like Pratt Industries and L3 Technologies, Inc. to standardize on a single decision-making platform providing one source of truth. At the same time, by catering to the specific needs of the individual users, it provides a powerful service for every role. And since it was built to take advantage of the power of SAP HANA, it delivers all the value of SAP’s in-memory database without the operational or capital expense.

The foundation for this is a new data engine that combines OLAP, planning, and predictive functionality in one common runtime on one common metamodel. What does this mean in practice? Fewer tools to get the job done, less administration, and no integration required, all resulting in more value for end users as they leverage the capabilities across—and not within—silos.

We are constantly releasing new features that continue to strengthen SAP Analytics Cloud’s position as THE single decision-making platform that brings together all of these domains in one simple cloud (see, for example, this recent blog by Matthias Kraemer on what’s new in the area of financial planning).

In the next blog post, I’ll look at some of the new and upcoming features we have brought to the solution and explore how they ensure that SAP Analytics Cloud offers one analytics experience for all of its users, regardless of role.

In the meantime, let me know your thoughts in the comments section below, find out more at the SAP Analytics Cloud website, and follow me and the team at @gerritkazmaier and @SAPAnalytics.

This blog is the first in a three-part series, “Better Together: The Power of a Converged Analytics Platform.”  Read them all: