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Getting information out of SAP without long lead-times, a dream or reality?

Posted on: 19-11-2018 13:54:29625

Content Provider Every Angle

To take proper and swift decisions, managers need to have up to date information from their information systems. That’s a certitude of all times. These days they depend on digital information systems, like ERP systems. As these systems are not well-known for their ‘data visualization power’, many companies use more sophisticated slicing and dicing graphical Business Intelligence (BI) systems to get their insights.

Investigating the lead-time needed to get a new report or to change an existing report or cube shows that ‘getting BI done’ is not an easy task. These lead-times may take many weeks, but why?

The why of long lead-times

Data cleansing
The first step is getting the right information. Information consists out of prepared and processed clean data, which is logically combined with process knowledge. To prepare and process the data the following steps need to be taken: cleansing the data (erroneous data leads to erroneous information, followed by erroneous decisions), structuring the data in a database or object model, enriching the data with logic and process knowledge. These steps are necessary to get the information ready for further analysis by the users.

Data modelling
The next step is modelling the data to hide its complexity, and to make it understandable, interpretable and ready to use for non-IT experts. For business users this process looks like: ‘I fire an information request to get a specific set of information to IT, then I wait quite a while, and then I get a report or a cube with the answer’. Often followed by ‘mmm… that’s not exactly what I asked for, I change the specification, wait again and get an answer sometime later’ (maybe followed by an iteration of mmm’s).

Recognizable? Well for Gartner it is, they made the statement that 80% of an analysis process is spent on preparing the data. If that is so, then only 20% is used to analyze the problem and find a solution. So, as an analyst, you’re preparing the data from Monday to Thursday, and on Friday you’re doing the work you’re paid for. Recognizable again? Wouldn’t it be great if this process could be speeded up to a matter of hours? A couple of issues are standing in the way to achieve that.

A hard problem to crack

One can see often that there is a lack of business process understanding and an insufficient comprehension of the underlying data and its structure. SAP has a complex set of data tables, with an elaborate set of fields, as have all ERP systems covering a complex organization in a complex environment. This makes it very hard for business users without the needed IT knowledge to get their data.

Getting the proper information calls for cooperation with other departments to get their information (they know the logic of their part), and cooperation with the IT department to get the data in the proper format for usage in a BI environment. This creates dependency from the subject-matter experts from business and IT. Dependency that often leads to prolongation of the lead-time to get the information.

Sounds and looks like a hard problem to crack, isn’t it?

Speeding up the process with SAP Content Provider

And yet we have alleviated the problem with our ‘SAP Content Provider’ functionality in Every Angle. Being active in the SAP ecosystem for more than 20 years, Every Angle delivers an SAP add-on system that delivers ‘True Business User Self-Service’ to users in execution and on management level.

This type of Business User Self-Service allows users to get an answer on more than 90% of their business questions, within three minutes, without the help of IT. Our designers and consultants (having a broad background in operations management) spent more than a hundred man-years to understand the complexity of the SAP data model and the essence of the way SAP covers the various business processes and scenarios. That built-in combined knowledge has helped many users for many years to get the proper insights to improve operations. Information that was already presented in graphs, pivot tables and lists.

This technology actually brings the lead-time for the data preparation (cfr the Gartner quote) back to minutes or hours. This information was already available in Excel format and CSV format, and is now also available via the OData interface, which makes it convenient for IT experts to integrate the information in their BI systems.

From business question to answer based on SAP content in minutes to hours, plus from answer to BI system in minutes to hours. Interesting enough to check it out?

Read more

Jacques Adriaansen 
Business Improvement Thought Leader

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