Implementing SAP IBP Analytic Stories to Improve Supply Chain

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Key Takeaways

⇨ SAP IBP Analytics Stories incorporates several features from SAP SAC (SAP Analytics Cloud) but remains exclusive to the SAP IBP (Integrated Business Planning) product.

⇨ The effectiveness and efficiency of SAP IBP Analytics Stories are significantly influenced by the configuration of the SAP IBP system. Factors such as memory allocation, data volume, and the complexity of the Planning Area play a crucial role in determining the performance of this tool.

⇨ Analytics Stories can be customized for different segments of Supply Chain implementations, providing users with the ability to navigate between pages and view various types of data such as Supply Data, Demand Data, and more complex data science analyses of supply chain processes and algorithms.

In Q4 2022 with SAP IBP 2211 release, SAP deployed a “new” Manage Analytics Stories App which provides analysis and visualization capabilities using some components of SAP Analytics Cloud, allowing users to create charts and reports complementing SAP IBP’s planning capabilities and it is new path forward for web reporting using SAP IBP, and certainly maintained in SAP IBP 2311 October 2023 and future versions. SAP IBP Analytics Stories App does not replace SAP SAC as a product. This means SAP IBP and SAP SAC remain separate products that require licensing but is free as part of the current SAP IBP Product Licensing, and is also expected to replace the previous SAP IBP Analytics functionalities such as SAP IBP Analytics Advanced App with no option of migration.

It is important to note that when SAP introduces new technology in any environment, it provides enough time (generally one to two years before this occurs) for customers to stabilize the new technology environment as the goal is to guarantee support for the old for a short time until the new technology is more adopted. In SAP Fiori-based Apps, whether in SAP Cloud systems like SAP IBP or SAP S/4 HANA on-premise, SAP may declare an App as approaching obsolescence in an OSS Release note or mark it with “Deprecated” in your system tile description following upgrades. Subsequently, in future releases, the App may either be removed or no longer receive enhancements. Regardless of the number of contacts made with your SAP Sales Representative, the urgency of OSS Notes raised, the difficult meetings and emails exchanged, or the additional training required for users to adapt to new tools, this is a reality. To understand the impact of poor software planning in an organization, refer to my article at SAP Insider. Remember, software upgrades are an integral part of SAP implementations, and they can significantly affect your end-user community if not properly planned.

Fundamentals of SAP IBP Analytics Stories

The following paragraphs will explore the latest updates and some general review of SAP IBPs functionality to help your implementation so you can plan your migration if any or start experimenting in your current project. Leveraging SAP SAC functionalities requires interfaces created between SAP IBP and SAP SAC for creating stories using SAP IBP data without delays and no real-time reporting which is an ask from many customers. For this reason, SAP IBP Analytic Stories has been introduced within the SAP IBP to allow real-time reporting with dashboarding capabilities. However, there are slight differences and which might overlook certain key figures since SAP SAC reads how the data in the database is stored, and not how it is transferred at SAP IBP Request level in your key figure calculations.

SAP IBP and SAP IBP Analytics Stories leverages the SAP SAC architecture for master data alignment as shown in Table 1. For users familiar with SAP SAC this is clear, but for traditional SAP IBP consultants and end-users, this alignment can be daunting. It is recommended to use the table for making decisions and getting familiar with the adjustments. In Table 1, the key element for SAP SAC is a model and data sources with connections, but when working within SAP IBP Analytic Stories that is already built when working with the Planning Area, and the configurations related to this object such as Dimensions, Attributes, Time Profiles, Key Figures, and Calculations.

Source: SAP.com for SAP IBP 2311 Jan 2024

Table 1— Terminology for SAP IBP Analytic Stories

Table 1 also shows SAP SAC terminology of Measure, which for SAP IBP is Key Figures that store the quantities and currency, and calculations. However, SAP IBP Analytic Stories will display the data as it is stored in the database. If transformations are needed, they will need to be recreated to match the reports or adjust them with the Designer tool with either Builder or Styling options. Dimension in SAP SAC architecture maps to Attributes, Time Periods, Versions, and Scenarios for SAP IBP Analytic Stories, since these are the building blocks of the SAP IBP Planning Area and thus see it as the cube or model for design with characteristics and key figures. Finally, Member in SAP IBP Analytics Stories is the equivalent of an Attribute value within the SAP IBP master data like specific customer number, specific plant number or code, August 2024 in the Time Period, Baseline Version, or Plan Scenario that exists in the Attribute, Time Period, Versions, and Scenarios.

After understanding the master data terminology for SAP IBP Analytic Stories, users can use a Story to create sophisticated  and user-friendly web-based reports for their Supply, Demand, Inventory, and analyze sophisticated Forecasting Models per product family using Donuts and Bar/Column charts to evaluate trends, forecast accuracy, and more.

Key Functionality

This section is for managers and end-users interested in knowing what they can do with SAP IBP Analytic Stories. First, for implementations that currently export data from SAP IBP into SAP SAC to create similar dashboards using SAP IBP Analytic Stories can simplify or reduce the number of processes and complexity since transfer SAP IBP data into SAP SAC is no longer required. From a financial perspective, the only need of SAP IBP is to support the Revenue Planning process since SAP IBP generally is only  the source of final Quantity values  only that is exported into other systems for Pricing, Taxation, Expense calculations, COGS, COGSM and other planning. It is worth noting that SAP IBP Stories and SAP SAC exist in two different environments and thus the functionality is similar but not quite the same, and SAP IBP Analytic Stories leverages SAP SAC technology to generate the planning Model.

Dashboarding

Figure 1 and Figure 2 provide a clear overview of SAP IBP Analytic Stories capabilities from a dashboarding and web-reporting point of view. Notice that the environment is more user-friendly than older SAP IBP Analytics Apps and provides greater flexibility to display more objects in the screen.

  Source: SAP.com

Figure 1— Dashboarding with SAP IBP Analytic Stories

Source: SAP.com

Figure 2— Charts, KPIs, Alerts and Tasks with SAP IBP Analytic Stories

Calculation Editor

Another feature for SAP IBP environment is the Calculation Editor, which is the same tool for SAP SAC adapted to SAP IBP data for the Planning Area. The Calculation Editor in Figure 3 shows the environment which provides a new way in SAP IBP to create the calculated Key Figures (Measures). The most important part is that these Key Figures are “virtual” for the Planning Area, and do not need Model activation and taking the system offline which is an extremely disrupting activity for business users.

Figure 3— Using the Calculation Editor to create new Calculated Key Figures (Calculated Measures)

A similar feature to the SAP SAC functionality is the combination of Ctrl + Space Bar when creating Calculated Measures (shown in Figure 4). This functionality brings all the available Measures in the Model and displays some formula functions such as ABS (Absolute value), IF, LOG, and others. It is easier to use the formulas on the right-hand side (shown in Figure 3) once the Key Figure needed from the Planning Area to be included in the formula is identified.

Figure 4— Using Ctrl + Space to display all Measures in your Planning Area

Other tricks to create formulas faster when working with the Calculation Editor are described below:

  • [ – Returns all relevant measures:
  • # – Returns all calculations (that is, measures created using the Calculation Editor and not available in the Planning Area).
  • @ – Returns input controls. (Only single value numeric input controls are returned.)

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Technical Overview of SAP IBP Analytics Stories

SAP IBP Analytics Stories is a new App as shown in Figure 5, and it is displayed depending on the security roles like any other SAP Fiori tile. It is important to clarify that the old SAP IBP Analytics tools and tiles are fully functional as of Q1 2024 for SAP IBP 2311 release when this article was written, however SAP already provided the guidance that SAP IBP Analytics Stories will replace SAP IBP Analytics Apps. As shown in Figure 5, it is a separate App.


Figure 5— SAP IBP Analytics Stories vs SAP IBP Analytics Advanced

The moment you access Manage Analytics Stories App, users will be prompted with screen shown in Figure 6, which is the name of the web environment that holds objects like charts, tables, text, and displays.


Figure 6— Creating an SAP IBP Analytic Story

The screen shown in Figure 7 is standard SAP IBP elements of the Planning Area selected as per the Data Source for the story, the Target of UOM, and Target Currency. Users can either Set the values to be defaulted or click on the check box that is prompted when the user opens the Story.

Figure 7— Set the Variables in your Planning Area

In Figure 8, the environment is quite similar for those familiar with SAP SAC, however, as the users navigate along the Designer environment, the grayed out buttons will be seen that are fully functional if you are working with SAP SAC product. However, the logic to create pages is similar to the plus icon button – users can click it and get two options: Responsive and Canvas.


Figure 8— Creating Pages

Responsive pages allow users to drag and drop and manipulate multiple objects in the same page, including changing colors with the Styling functionality of the Editor. Canvas pages are used to build story with lanes or groups of objects that can be transferred to other pages with the key feature that the content of the page will resize automatically to the adjust to the display characteristics of the device used to access it which is helpful for mobile applications.

After the page is created (shown in Figure 9), there is an icon menu on the top to add and manipulate objects, and by clicking on the Designer button, users can access the Builder and Styling content shown on the right-hand side of the Story Page. To enable this, users must be in ‘Edit’ mode to access this functionality (shown in Figure 9). Figure 9 also depicts the objects with 3 dots in on the top right corner, and allows users to access customization details regarding the object such as X and Y Axis, color customization, Chart Types, and more.

Figure 9— Reviewing the Designer environment.

To simplify and speed up Story creation, SAP IBP Analytics Stories provide pre-delivered templates that users can leverage and apply to their stories with a simple click. As shown in Figure 10 in the Format section in the Designer page, users can click on the Layouts Icon and access the multiple options on the right side of the page (shown in Figure 10).

Figure 10— Working with SAP IBP Analytic Story- Layouts

Figure 11— SAP IBP Analytics Story Layouts Applied to your Page.

The final feature that will be reviewed is the Dynamic Texts added to your story. For those familiar with SAP SAC, this feature is quite useful to provide a text that changes based on user selections and applied to text Headers or Chart Titles. The same concept exists in SAP IBP Analytics Story. To perform this process, users can add a Text object in the Insert menu bar located on the top of the screen and click on the plus icon as shown in Figure 12. After users add the text object, they can click on the three dots shown in Figure 12, and click on the Dynamic Text.

Figure 12— Creating Dynamic Text in your Story.

SAP IBP Analytics Story screen looks exactly as the SAP SAC functionality as it is SAP IBP not SAP SAC Model. In this case, users can use the text object to add a Dynamic Text that changes based on the date when the user accesses the Story page, and for this, users can access the Story Properties and click on the Current Date object shown in Figure 13.


Figure 13— Displaying the Current Date in your SAP IBP Analytic Story with Dynamic Text object.

Figure 14— Displaying the Current Date in your SAP IBP Analytic Story with Dynamic Text object.

Conclusion

The SAP IBP Analytics Stories App, while incorporating several features from the SAP SAC product, remains exclusive to the SAP IBP product. Consequently, not all functionalities of SAP SAC are present in SAP IBP Analytics Stories. However, like all SAP products, enhancements are expected over time and SAP IBP Analytics Stories roadmap is still valid on the SAP IBP 2311 release forward. The performance of SAP IBP Analytics Stories is influenced by the setup of the SAP IBP box, including memory factors, data volume, and the complexity of the Planning Area. This tool marks a notable advancement in Dashboarding and reporting for SAP IBP, offering considerable versatility. It allows for the creation of key figure calculations independent of the Planning Area, eliminating the need for Planning Area activation. Analytic Stories can be tailored for different segments of Supply Chain implementations, providing the ability to navigate between pages and view Supply Data, Demand, or more sophisticated data science analyses of supply chain processes and algorithms.

Reach out to www.arelliusenterprises.com to know more.

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