In many companies, data is encountered in a range of systems such as different ERP applications and databases. Further data is stored in files and documents and is often obtained from e-business systems and the Internet. To integrate this data, set it in the required context and analyze it, SAP has developed the mySAP Business Intelligence solution.
Data from different source systems is integrated in the SAP Business Information Warehouse (SAP BW). Here it is stored consistently in various data containers (known as InfoProviders) so as to allow flexible analysis of the various business management processes based on data derived from all the systems deployed in the company.
The data saved in SAP BW is analyzed and the results presented on the Web or in MS Excel using the Business Explorer (BEx) reporting tools found in the SAP BI Suite. The reports created with BEx can be integrated with ease into the SAP Enterprise Portal (EP) via iViews.
The BEx Query Designer – a flexible and intelligent analysis tool
The BEx-Query Designer is used to prepare analysis – known as queries – of all data stored in the SAP BW. The Query Designer can be invoked via the Web or from MS Excel or can be installed as a desktop application. After the Query Designer has been started, the Open dialog allows a fast access to the InfoProviders in the SAP BW and the queries already present.
The key figures and characteristics (of one or more InfoProviders) required in a report are assembled using Drag & Drop. The integrated formula editor supports extensive functions for calculations based on existing key figures. These calculations can be performed down to the level of the individual cells in the report.
Further examples for the numerous analytical functions of the BEx-Query Designer:
- Conditions: For example, only the top 10 customers by revenue or all customers with revenues of between Euro 100,000 and 500,000 are shown in a report.
- Exceptions: It is possible to create thresholds for key figures and characteristics or combinations of these, above or below which the results are saved with a warning color. Follow-up actions, e.g. notification of the person responsible via an alert monitor or e-mail, can be defined in the SAP BW’s Reporting Agent.
- Variables: When executing the query, variables can be used to define certain values (for characteristics, formulas, texts or hierarchies) which are taken into account when setting out the report.
- Key figures that have been calculated or restricted to certain values and combinations of key figures and characteristics (known as “structures”) can be saved and re-used in other queries.
BEx Web Application Designer – interactive analyses on the Web
The analyses performed with the BEx Query Designer are made available via the Web using the BEx Web Application Designer. The information is presented in the form of different Web Items – in addition to tables and various types of interactive graphics (e.g. bar charts, pie charts, ring and radar charts), information is also presented in the form of maps, tickers, navigation menus and selection boxes. Documents, texts or pictures can also be added to a Web application.
Various Web Items can be combined in a Web application and, where appropriate, controlled via eventing so as to provide a simple means of creating information cockpits. It is possible with each Item to define the extent to which navigation is to be permitted in order to provide users with tailor-made information. These can be invoked in each Web browser via a URL or integrated into a portal via an iView.
The BEx Analyzer – comprehensive analyses in Excel
For users wanting to perform analyses in MS Excel, the analyses defined with the BEx Query Designer can be made available via the BEx Analyzer. The Excel Add-In used for this is installed on the client. The query data is presented in an Excel workbook and can be further processed with Excel functions if required. Here, too, various presentation formats are available – tables, various types of graphics and maps.
Formatted reporting with BEx
In the Business Explorer Crystal Reports/Crystal Enterprise SAP Edition is made available in order that formatted reports with pixel-precise layouts can be provided on the basis of BEx queries, and that BEx query data can be prepared as legal form-based reports. The expert tool developed by Crystal Decisions and integrated along with the SAP development into the SAP BW can also be used to optimize reports for printing.
Optimum access to reports via the Enterprise Portal
The SAP Enterprise Portal enables users personalized access to all required systems used by the company. It is also possible to integrate unstructured information in the form of documents or via Web sites which users access via iViews.
BEx Web Applications too can be integrated directly in iViews with ease via the BEx Web Application Designer. Two options are available:
- After a Web application is created, this is saved directly as an iView and assigned to a role. Following comparison with the relevant portal roles, the portal user can view the report via the portal.
- The Web application is saved as an iView file and stored on a server. This can now be uploaded into the portal.
The unification in the portal can be used to analyze the data of the BEx Web applications directly in relation to the data from other systems and also to analyze this data in conjunction with the integrated unstructured information. This enables the users to make reliable decisions in a business management context and with the benefit of extensive information at their disposal.
User groups of SAP BW Reporting
It is particularly important when providing information to satisfy the needs of the different users in a company. Information consumers make up the largest user group – accounting for around 70 per cent – and require clearly structured information tailored to their particular area of work, this frequently being made available to them in the form of static reports.
Members of management and knowledge workers make up a second user group, comprising around 20 per cent of all users. The members of this group want context-based personalized information that they can analyze via a convenient user interface. They require predefined analysis paths and, where appropriate, options for detailed analysis of aggregated data. The sales manager, for example, may need the global revenue data for his company displayed on a map. To depict the results in individual countries, he can then simply click on the map to see the required data. At individual country level he can get information on customers in the country using a table that is also displayed.
A further group (around 10 per cent) is made up of report authors and analysts (e.g. from Controlling or Human Resources Management), who require comprehensive analysis functions and possibilities for ad-hoc data analysis and want to work with powerful, user-friendly analysis tools. The SAP BI Suite provides optimized tools and reports for all user groups. The role and authorization concept of the SAP BW ensures that every member of staff only receives the information that is relevant to him/her.
Fast provision of information through SAP BW Business Content
The scope of delivery of mySAP BI includes Business Content. This contains reports and analysis scenarios for all business management processes (e.g. Financial Accounting/Controlling, Human Resources Management, SCM or CRM) and sector-specific scenarios (e.g. for Automotive, Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals, Utilities or Retail). The needs of numerous different users in different companies can be satisfied using the reports and scenarios supplied with Business Content. Business Content can be activated and deployed either in full or in part. Customized changes or extensions are possible.
One example taken from Business Content with BI 3.2 Content Add-on is the way in which SAP BW data can be depicted in the form of a balance sheet or profit and loss statement. If this scenario is used, the InfoProviders used for the balance sheet or profit and loss statement must be activated and filled with data. Business Content includes the appropriate extractors for this purpose. To be able to view data from the Data Provider in the form of a balance sheet or profit and loss statement, the corresponding report must also be activated and assigned to the required SAP BW users. These can now access the balance sheet via their role menu which contains all the reports they require to perform their tasks, and can view the data in this form. The balance sheet can be called up both in the BEx Analyzer and on the Web. In addition to Business Content, the balance sheet is supplied as a formatted report. The balance sheet can also be displayed in the portal through its inclusion in an iView.