SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC) is a one-stop solution from SAP for a wide range of enterprise needs such as visualization, reporting, predictive, and planning. Planning is an integral part of this platform and makes SAC stand out from the rest of the visualization tools. In this blog, we will discuss whether SAC can be used as a mainstream enterprise planning tool in addition to its visualization capabilities and replace existing market veterans like SAP BPC.
We have discussed some of SAC’s key planning features such as data entry, allocation, master data maintenance, data locking, version management, forecasting, and collaboration in the overview blog. This blog will cover most of these aspects from a sales planning use case perspective.
Creating a baseline forecast
Any planning activity, be it short-term or long-term, starts with creating a baseline forecast. The baseline forecast is usually made using the historical actuals to forecast the demand for a future period. The accuracy of the estimates depends on the quality and quantity of historical data.
SAC has forecasting options right at the click of your mouse button. It allows you to forecast data based on three algorithms, namely Linear Regression, Triple Exponential Smoothing, and an in-built SAP proprietary algorithm-based automatic forecasting. Additionally, the Smart Predict capability in SAC trains and tests the historical data and predicts the future values, again, at the click of a button. It also creates an excellent visualization for you, all by itself, giving valuable insights into the data.
In any planning scenario, there might be multiple parties involved. For instance, sales representatives in sales planning could do the ground-level planning, which will then be consolidated at the sales manager’s and the sales director’s level. It becomes crucial that you have the ability to restrict the access to the sales representatives and managers to plan for their respective entities only.
In the above example, you could see each Sales_Region being assigned to specific users. The users will see and plan only for the regions assigned and maintain the data access rights.
Version management is a key aspect of any planning activity. You should have the ability to create multiple versions, maintain private versions, publish as public versions, and assign versions for people to plan. For instance, your planning team can create and assign multiple private versions to sales managers and sales directors in the sales planning scenario and later consolidate the versions and publish them as public versions. You can also lock the data in a particular version so that others will not have the option to edit the data. SAC as a tool provides all these options in a very intuitive way.
Delegating versions and collaborating
Once the versions are created, the next step would be assigning the versions to the respective person who will do the planning and then track it to completion. This is where the Input Task feature of SAC comes in handy. Using the Input Task feature, you can not only assign a version to a user but also set up due dates and reminders. Once assigned, this will trigger an email notification as well as a notification in SAC.
The planners can then use inbuilt features such as Data Allocations, Data Action Triggers to make their planning task easier. Once planned and submitted, it will come to the approval queue of the person who initiated the input task.
Reviewing the forecast
Once the planning is complete, you can develop visualization review forecasts in comparison with multiple versions in real-time. This will enable you to visualize the data and consolidate the versions before publishing the final version.
What is also possible is to compare the actuals against your forecast to determine the accuracy of your forecast.
Writing back data to the source systems
Since SAC is predominantly a visualization tool, with limited modeling capabilities, it needs a backend system to store data. In such a case, writing back data to the source system becomes a crucial part of the entire planning exercise. SAC has native write-back capabilities to S4HANA, SAP BPC, OData Services (used to export to BW and BW/4HANA), and IBP. In other words, SAC has most of the SAP backend systems covered. Additionally, the tool also offers the capability to export to CSV, which can be used to load into any of the source systems.
As you see in this blog, SAC, over the years, has not only matured into a great visualization tool, but it is also an excellent end-to-end enterprise planning and consolidation tool. With all the available capabilities, SAC is indeed ready as an enterprise planning tool!
For more details on planning, visit our SAP Analytics Cloud planning section here.