Sometimes, when an ERP such as SAP S/4HANA is available, questions may arise regarding how to obtain reports (reporting), questions such as: what reports are available in SAP S/4HANA? If I don’t find the ones I need, can we make them? How? Will we need a datawarehouse?
It is usual that, when talking about reporting or Business Intelligence or business analytics, reference is immediately made to a datawarehouse (data repository) and an SAP Business Warehouse (business data repository) system more specifically. However, it is not always necessary.
In the case of an SAP S/4HANA system, there is the option of using embedded analytics, which are a set of analytical applications (SAP Fiori Apps) that are available in the SAP S/4HANA standard and that, with simple configuration, can meet the basic reporting needs of a company.
In this article we will look at which option is the most suitable depending on the different scenarios that we may encounter.
Types of Reports
First, we need to familiarise ourselves with the types of reports that exist, depending on the kind of data there is in a company’s information systems:
- Analytical: refers to the types of reports or control panels that present numerical values, the metrics or ratios that allow the user or business analyst of a company to analyse the behaviour and the particular situation of the company, according to which they can make decisions.
- Operational/Tactical: within the data that give rise to analytical reports, we can discern those that belong to a specific area and require virtually instantaneous updating, in real time. These are increasingly required by users in business sectors.
- Strategic: this is the type of report or CM that is used in the company to monitor its status and is used for decision making by its executive. The update frequency rate may not be high (from daily to annual).
- Transactional: transactional data, refers to the data of each of the events of a company’s business processes that are saved and read in the ERP (OLTP – On Line Transactional Process – queries). If what we want is a list of the invoices from the last month, the materials sold in the last year or the list of all the customers that have purchased some of the company’s products, we will be looking at a transactional report. We can also include the master data lists in the transactional reports.
How to know when to use each type
The first question we must ask ourselves is what kind of information we want to show in our reports. Is it simply a list with, for example, the latest sales transactions? Or do we also want it to add information, e.g. so we can see the total sales per year, per month or both? If we want aggregate data and with graphs, our report will be analytical, which we will look at later. In the case of a flat list, a transactional report. This can be obtained with the corresponding Fiori application of SAP S/4HANA or with a specific development, if there is no such application in the standard SAP S/4HANA.
Let’s look at analytical reports again and ask ourselves the following question: will the information we want to show with aggregate data and possibly graphs of different types have its origin in a single ERP module or, conversely, do we want it to combine, in the same graph in the report, data from the different modules such as, for example, the production batches with the quality notices or the costs of the materials used in each discarded product? If we only need the information from one module (e.g. the financial department) in real time, the type of reports we will use is operational and we will be able to use the embedded analytics, that is, the Fiori applications of SAP S/4HANA. Otherwise, the combination of data from different company departments (SAP S/4HANA modules) in the reports will mean that we are looking at strategic reports, so we will refer to SAP Business Warehouse and a specific reporting solution such as SAP Analytics Cloud.
Embedded analytics (Fiori applications of SAP S/4HANA)
In SAP S/4HANA, embedded analytics correspond to the set of Fiori analytical applications. Embedded analytics are characterised by displaying real-time data in the operational reports, using SAP ABAP CDS technology and the advantages of SAP HANA. Within this application set, there are different types, depending on how they present the information and the user experience:
- Summary page: this is a report of reports in which all the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are seen at first glance and more detailed information can be selected and viewed by accessing each of the mosaics or tiles.
- Analytical List Page (UI5): data analytics with drilldown on transactional data. In general, these are reports with various views and information organised in different ways. They usually contain tables and graphs and the user has a certain degree of freedom when it comes to the layout of their report.
- Analysis Path Framework: With these tools you can create a guided pathway for analysis. It is strict and does not have as much flexibility as the aforementioned ones. Multiple KPIs from different data sources can be displayed.
- Design Studio: Reports made with this tool allow the user ample flexibility in what is called ad-hoc reporting, since the information can be extracted and managed as desired.
- SAP Smart Business Cockpit. Analytical application suite specific to each SAP module. In the latest version of SAP S/4HANA 1909, an analytical application is provided that replaces this suite in some cases, as is the case with SAP EWM.
We will also find tools that will allow us to go deeper with regard to where we extract the ERP data from, providing us with the option of accessing highly technical levels (access to system tables, creation of queries, CDS editing …), if necessary. The applications that can be used are:
- Query browser: Fiori application that allows you to consult system data.
- Custom Analytical Queries: application with which we can create our own data queries.
- KPI modeler: Fiori application with which we can create our own tiles, where we can view a KPI that we need.
Business Warehouse (DW from SAP)
SAP Business Warehouse (SAP BW) is the SAP datawarehouse. It allows us to store in a single repository data from various sources, both from the different SAP modules, as well as from non-ERP and SAP systems (MySQL, Oracle, OData, Excel …). In this way, the main objective of the Data Warehouse is achieved, i.e. having the information centralised, isolated and optimised for reading by means of reporting systems (SAP Analytics Cloud, SAP BPC…) for user consumption.
Using SAP BW should deliver the following:
- Data Warehouse system with optimised information structures for reporting and analysis.
- Separate Systems: the transactional system or systems (SAP S/4HANA) of the analytical system is isolated without interference in the consumption of available resources.
- OLAP (On Line Analytical Process) tools and motor.
- Automated information storage management: process chains that retrieve information from different sources, and store it in a single repository.
With these objectives in mind, SAP opted for a separate information storage solution that is capable of reporting as an autonomous business component, even providing a separate server with its own database, the latest version of which draws on HANA’s technological advantages: SAP BW/4HANA.
Now we can answer the questions we initially posed ourselves: what reports are available in the SAP S/4HANA? All the ones the standard provides us with by default through analytical Fiori applications. If I do not find the ones I need, can we make them? Yes. How? We can use configuration, editing and reporting tools, which are Fiori applications. Will we need a datawarehouse? We will need a datawarehouse (SAP BW), mainly, if what we want is to show cross information, that is, information combined in a report and coming from different modules of SAP S/4HANA.