In February 2015, SAP released SAP Cloud for Planning. It is a new EPM product widely advertised as the collaborative tool for Planning and not less importantly it is web-based with Spreadsheet look and feel. Initially, I was confused about where this solution is going to fit overall portfolio of SAP Products. Is this solution going to replace BPC? There are also other similar questions which directly and indirectly affect my current and future work. I am sure that I am not the only one who is confused, so I will share my thoughts on research I made.
Before I share my findings, I would like to clarify that I did not have the ability to play with the system directly or indirectly. For getting familiar with how Cloud for Planning looks and feels, check the following video:
So, Based on the video, I would say that it is nice looking application with the idea to be user-friendly and to emphasize on collaboration between the planning team and other stakeholders in the process. Without any additional information, I am sure that I am not the only one confused. The demo and most of the information so far does not explain how the current investments in BPC will be leveraged and how the system will integrate with BPC and ERP based on statements in the video.
The best resource I found is the user guide for SAP Cloud for Planning version 6 from June 2015, which I uploaded here (164 pages). I was able to get information on what this product is capable of under the shiny and fancy surface. The core questions I had was related to Integration with BPC, interaction between different models and what options we have for logic execution.
Cloud for Planning Integration with BPC and HANA
Cloud for planning is capable of importing and exporting models and data to BPC. This means that you could have a model in BPC that you can import in Cloud for Planning, perform the planning activities and then export the data back to BPC. Both importing and exporting of data can be scheduled.
There is also a possibility to import data from SAP HANA analytics model. However, I didn’t find any information about how to export/return the data to the SAP HANA directly without going through BPC with BW on HANA. It is also not clear whether or not we would be able to connect to BPC 10.1 HANA Embedded environment. This is crucial clarification as it will allow direct interaction with Simple Finance (Part of S/4 HANA) because BPC 10.1 Embedded is integrated into Simple Finance. Unfortunately, no further details are mentioned.
Another integration between Cloud for Planning and BPC are the events. Events are the equivalent of the Business Process Flows (BPFs) in BPC, although they have due dates. Something which at this point BPFs does not have. Even though I saw information on BPC 10.1 SP06 central note that due dates are introduced as new feature in both standard and embedded environments!!!
While it is mentioned that we could import BPFs in Cloud for Planning without restriction for both versions of BPC – NW or MS, it is not the same with exporting from Cloud for Plannings’ Events to BPFs in BPC. It is stated that the export format is iCalendar which could be imported to BPC version for Microsoft, and NetWeaver version is not mentioned here.
Logic Execution in Cloud for Planning
The first option for executing logic are Member Formulas based on Account Perspective only, which is equivalent to Account Dimension in BPC. Bear in mind, that in BPC it is possible to have several dimensions with MDX, but I don’t think that is a bright idea. I don’t have a lot of experience with MDX as they were not used widely in BPC NW. They are adversely impacting the performance of BPC NW. However, they are well accepted by for BPC on HANA with setting related parameters in IMG menu.
The MDX are calculated on the fly and are not stored in the DB, so don’t expect them to be exported to other systems. In addition, to Member Formulas in the Perspective, there are Grid Formulas, which are similar to the MS Excel functions. It does not come clear from the guide, but I suppose the formulas are also MDX based. And they are stored not in the Perspective/Dimension, but on the Reports’ Grid. The feature is called Advanced Formulas.
There are also three Grid Formulas specifically for variance analysis – Variance, Year to Date and Time Variance. Year to Date and Time Variance are calculating variances based on predefined periods in the Time Dimension/Perspective while the generic Variance looks like a more flexible option. It is allowing you to compare dimension members who are in the header. The example of the guide is based on a comparison between Actual and Forecast categories.
Probably the most powerful feature regarding logic execution in Cloud for Planning will be the Allocations. Unfortunately, without playing with the system it ‘s hard to make a good guess of what exactly they can do, but according to the guide you can define source, target and drivers/rules. There is also an option to create an Allocation Model, which based on the guide will help you make Structured Allocation.
In relation with Currency Conversion, when I read the guide I didn’t find an option to set different rates for different accounts similar to Rate Type property in BPC. It looks like we have to work with only one rate for a particular planning period. I don’t think this will be a huge pain to anybody, but it is worth mentioning here.
If we refer to BPC, we don’t have Logic Script, BADIs (NW) and Procedures (MS). I also have an open point here related to the imported data from Cloud for Planning to BPC. Is it going to be possible to trigger the Default Logic Script file in the Receiving Model in BPC and perform the logic execution of it on the imported data?
Interaction between the models
In BPC, we can use pull or push data between the models with the help of Logic Script Keywords *LOOKUP and *DESTINATION_APP or using BADIs and Procedures. In Cloud for Planning, there is a Model Linking in the reports which based on the user guide is similar to the Multi-Source Reporting using Axis sharing in Excel EPM Add-in. I have hopes that either Allocations could be used for these kinds of tasks, or similar functionality will be developed shortly more likely with LOOKUP capability.
Cloud for Planning is a beautiful and shiny solution with a lot of functionalities not mentioned here, but could be found in the user guide. Cloud for Planning could be even more Business Driven than BPC as there are no complexities in the maintenance of the models, reports, charts, formulas and so on.
I am still in a process of consideration where exactly it would fit in a regular Customer Landscape. Most probably it will be a nice add-on for the customers with Simple Finance and S/4 HANA based on the ability to read HANA analytical models and eventual integration with BPC Embedded.
For clients with BPC 10.x Classic, Collaboration features will undoubtedly trigger an interest, but I am not sure how favorable such a decision to implement Cloud for Planning would be. It will depend on the TCO, necessity of collaboration planning and user acceptance when they have the chance to play with the product.
For simple scenarios with one primary model, it would be a perfect solution. However, I don’t know how planning solution which has several interdependent models such as OPEX, CAPEX, HR, SALES, etc. could be implemented by only using Cloud for Planning. For such cases, Cloud for Planning could be utilized as an extension where BPC will handle the interaction between the Models and the advanced logic execution.