What is new in SAP BusinessObjects Information Design Tool 4.2

What Is New in the SAP BusinessObjects Information Design Tool 4.2?

This is the last article of our series about new features of SAP BusinessObjects 4.2! The following new features and enhancements are available in this release of the Information Design Tool:

Sets and Set Filters

The BI Sets support is the main enhancement in SAP BI 4.2 for the information design tool.

In the new version developers can create sets which are used as pre-defined complex query filters in Web Intelligence. A set is a structure that contains multiple lists of values for key enabled dimensions in the business layer and based on a universe (UNX). The sets can contain the definition of calendars, used for temporal sets, whose content evolves in time. Developers can publish themselves sets to the CMS repository and they are available as set filters when the associated universe is used as a data source in the query panel. Sets are stored in the data warehouse along with production data, enabling fast filtering.

BI sets are useful to query data using sets logic and operators rather than SQL.

Universes

Developers can now convert a single or a group of multiple .UNV universes to .UNX universes format in a single step. Linked .UNV universes can now also be converted to .UNX universes conserving links to all core universes. Developers can also choose to include all core universes in a single universe if preferred.

Now you can use the Big Numbers feature at the .UNX Universe level and avoid enablement per report. The Big Numbers are a new High Precision property to the existing Numeric Data Type, based on an IEEE decimal floating point format standard, which enables developers to define numeric objects that are expected to be consumed with a higher precision, from 15 digits to 40 digits.

Linked universes

The Information design tool can convert linked universes created with the Universe Design Tool. The conversion dialog box has been completely modified to convert several universes at once and propose new conversion options.

Now developers can link a universe to one or more core universes in the repository. When changes are made in the core universe, they are automatically propagated to the shared components in its linked universes. Using linked universes allow developers to take advantage of components in predefined and tested universes as a starting point to quickly build new universes.

The process for creating a linked universe has changed. A developer must start with a pre-existing universe and create a linked universe from it. Once created, the developer can add tables to the new universe which reads from the original universe. Changes to the original universe are automatically reflected in the new linked universe. Both the data foundation and business layer from the original universe are available in the linked one.

SQL Enhancement

The new SQL parameter NO_NULL_YIELDS_IN_SUBQUERY has been added to the SQL Generation Parameters list. When set to YES, SQL scripts are generated ensuring fields with non NULL values are included for filters based on a subquery. The default value is NO.

Setting Summary tab preferences for data foundation views

For data foundations with multiple views, you can now choose to open a specific view in the editor instead of the default master view. This can help to save time when developers want to work on a subset of the data foundation, and do not need to display the entire content of the Master View. A new Summary tab is available that lists views with a color code that gives an indication of the loading time onto the screen. Based on this information, developers can select a view that will display more quickly rather than the master view which displays all of the available views.

Creating a business layer directly on a BEx Query

Developers can create a business layer directly on a BEx Query using BICS access and publish the business layer as a universe available to Web Intelligence. Creating a universe based on a BEx query has a major advantage over using direct access to a BEx query as developers can organize and customize the query dimensions, measures, and hierarchies in the business layer. Although developers can edit certain components of the business layer, the data foundation is built automatically on the query and is read only.

If you want to know how to create a universe, go to our blog article about it! We explain it step by step.

This article provided an overview of the features and enhancements that have been added to the SAP BusinessObjects since the previous release. It directs you to the available product documentation to get you started using the new features!

Author
Veronika Aleksandrova SAP BI Consultant
Phone: +49 (0) 7031 714 660 0
Email: info@inspiricon.de

 

New Features in WebI 4.2

New Features in SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence 4.2

This week, we continue our mini-series about BI 4.2. Today’s topic is SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence 4.2 and its new features. Let’s start!

I will now give you an overview on new functions.

SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence 4.2 includes the following next main features: Sharing of Elements, Refresh queries in parallel, Commentary, Geo Mapping and Visual Extensions, Direct Access to HANA Views and SAP HANA Online.

Sharing of Elements

Shared elements are report parts that are stored in the CMS repository, and can be reused multiple times by other users or for other documents. Developers got the option to publish the report elements to a central located platform public folder. Shared element contains all required meta data: report part, corresponding data source, data providers, variables and formatting. Now user can quickly import frequently utilized logos, charts and visualizations into their reports.

Refresh Queries in parallel

The parallel data provider refresh feature now supports BEx queries, and new settings have been added in the Central Management Console and the information design tool to let you fine-tune parallel queries at a connection level. As a result, you can manage the maximum number of queries refreshed in parallel per document for OLAP, BEx or relational connections. You can also decide whether you want to enable parallel query processing during scheduling operations.

Commentary

BI Commentary is currently available for Web Intelligence application. Now, users working with Web Intelligence in reports can use BI Commentary for collaboration.

Geo Maps and Visual Extensions

Good looking and insightful dashboards can be created, using ESRI maps or google maps. Any map that has an URL can be now used to cross geospatial information and our own data. Maps in Web Intelligence are no longer reserved for the mobile application. Now developers can create or view them in Web Intelligence desktop, browser or mobile. The feature also includes a geo encoder engine. This engine allows developers to geocode any city, state, country dimension within their existing dataset.

Direct Access to SAP HANA Views

Now developers can directly access a SAP HANA information view without the need to first create a universe. In addition the can create queries on HANA views and benefit from the speed and power of HANA.

SAP HANA Online

With SAP HANA Online mode, create Web Intelligence documents with live data leveraging the power of HANA. In SAP HANA Online mode, all Web Intelligence calculations such as value aggregation and member filtering are delegated to HANA. This enables quicker interactions between Web Intelligence and HANA, providing better performance for data refresh. This feature mainly targets business analysts who need to analyze and explore huge quantities of data on HANA. They can now work with real-time data and enjoy better interactions with Web Intelligence. Report designers will also benefit from SAP HANA Online mode user experience that makes documents creation easier than before. Report designers can now bypass query panels and universes.

Please contact me for further questions, I will be happy to answer them!

Author
Veronika Aleksandrova SAP BI Consultant
Phone: +49 (0) 7031 714 660 0
Email: info@inspiricon.de
What is new in SAP BO BI 4.2

What’s New in SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.2?

Today, I would like to start a mini-series about what is new in SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.2. The first article of this series is about new features of the general platform.

SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.2 is the culmination of core stability and capability improvements spanning key new innovations, incremental product advances from BI 4.1 and improved features for upgrading all existing XI R2 and XI3 customers to this newest version of the SAP BI Suite.

With the release of SAP BusinessObjects 4.2 (SP2 – SP4), SAP has introduced a treasure trove of new enhancements. It contains a proverbial wish list of enhancements that have been desired for years.

Much to my delight, SAP Web Intelligence has received several significant enhancements. Particularly in terms of its integration with SAP HANA. However, there were also enhancements to the platform itself. Let’s take a more detailed look at the top-list of new features.

SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence Platform 4.2 includes:

Recycle Bin in CMC

When users delete an item from the BOE system, it’s now moved into the “Recycle Bin” and an administrator can recover the files. Items will be stored there only until the bin is emptied, which may have a time-limit or happen on set days – at which time the files are permanently deleted.

BI Commentary Service

A new CMC application that allows document users to collaborate, to comment on any of the data/statistics accessible in a given document.

Restful Web Services APIs for Publication

A whole raft of nifty new tools allow the management of:

  • Users and User groups;
  • Publications, files and scheduling;
  • Queries, Server and Jobs statistics;
  • Content and Application usage, and more.

BI Administrators’ Cockpit

Another new CMC application. Administrators can collect basic data about the BI environment. Developers can also obtain information about Servers, Scheduled Jobs, Applications and Content Usage.

Selectively retrieve objects from an LCMBIAR file

Now developers can selectively import objects contained in an LCMBIAR file within the promotion management web application. Selectively retrieve objects from an LCMBIAR file. This requires that the user has the introduction of ‘Edit LCMBIAR’ right. When developers selectively retrieve objects from an LCMBIAR file, a new job with the selected objects is created.

Split Installer

Using the installation command line, administrators can now prepare the system for installation without down-time. It does this by performing all of the binary caching and some of the SQL lite installation database operations before it invokes the section of the install that require down time.

Running setup.exe – cache will invoke the caching portions of the install. When ready to complete the install, running setup.exe – resume_after_cache will complete the insulation. In theory, the later portion of the installation step reduces the down-time by eliminating the dependency between the two major installation and upgrade tasks.

In a large clustered environment, this is a great addition. In all types of environments this is a great enhancement. Previously, the system down-time was subjected to the long and tedious process of caching deployment units.

New License Keys

After upgrade to 4.2 SP2, administrators will need to obtain a new license keys. The keys that once worked for 4.0 and 4.1 will not work after upgrading to 4.2 SP2. The graphical installer will also let administrator know this. Need be prepared to logon to service market place and request new keys.

In the next article, I will give you an overview on the changes of SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence 4.2 – stay tuned!

Author
Veronika Aleksandrova SAP BI Consultant
Phone: +49 (0) 7031 714 660 0
Email: info@inspiricon.de
Cognos Migration SAP BW on HANA

How to leverage a standardized SAP solution to harmonize processes across the enterprise and ensure comparability

Hey there:

Today we would like to share with you yet another successful project in our portfolio. For this project, we were tasked with migrating an existing Cognos reporting solution from SAP BW on HANA with SAP BusinessObjects as the frontend.

The customer that sought our support specializes in the manufacturing and distribution of electronic components. As part of an international group, it is one of several subsidiaries, all of which rely on different ERP and business intelligence solutions. Faced with the group’s continued growth and the ever-increasing complexity that goes along with it, the proprietary ERP solution was reaching its limits both in terms of functionality and reporting capabilities.

THE PROJECT

Working from a newly introduced and standardized SAP ERP solution with SAP BW, Inspiricon was able to replace the existing Cognos reporting solution.

There were a number of reasons that motivated this decision:

  • For one, it would have been too costly and time consuming to keep developing the reporting solutions that, for the most part, had been developed in house and customized to specific needs.
  • Also, maintenance and support had become almost unmanageable.
  • What’s more, the group was no longer able to maintain the consistency of KPI purpose and content across its different companies, resulting in the inability to compare their processes and results.
  • The sheer number of different interfaces with other systems drove costs and significantly increased the error rate. Reporting to the parent company, in particular, had become a tedious and time-consuming endeavor. Even more interfaces were needed to do so because reporting was tailored exclusively to customers based on a – custom – Cognos reporting solution that had been implemented on top of everything else.
  • Internal expertise regarding the existing solutions was limited to a small number of people inside the company. Loosing this technical knowledge due to employee turnover was an ever-present threat.

THE SOLUTION

Since another subsidiary was already using SAP products, the new ERP solution was already present on the system.

The project, however, was not just about bringing the ERP system up to speed, the group was also eager to take its BI system to the next level. And it wanted it to be a SAP solution, prompting the decision to replace the existing Cognos reporting solution with SAP Business Warehouse on HANA.

The project was launched with release SAP 7.4 on HANA. During the project, a migration to SAP 7.5 on HANA was carried out. In this case too, SAP BW was already being used by another subsidiary and was therefore readily available.

Products in the SAP BusinessObjects family were to be used for the frontend as well. These adjustments were intended to bring about following changes and benefits:

  • Standardized data models that can be leveraged by every company in the group, allowing its globally dispersed service centers to provide cost-optimized support.
  • Consistent KPIs that guarantee comparability.
  • A smooth transition for users of the Cognos solution by means of a like-to-like migration.
  • Elimination of unnecessary interfaces.
  • Improved and accelerated flow of information along the value chain.
  • Increased responsiveness for better corporate management, which also improves competitiveness.

Our solution consists of Web Intelligence reports based on SAP BW on HANA along with standardized data provisioning from the operational SAP ERP system. The following illustration outlines the project’s structure:

Illustration Project Structure

By replacing its existing ERP and BI systems, our customer was able to improve its business. Not only can users now access reports and data much faster, substantially reducing time to decision, but they can also, to a certain degree, customize their reports in the context of a self-service BI. Another big plus is a significantly improved security posture due to centrally managed access authorizations. Last but not least, we were able to reduce license costs and therefore improve cost-effectiveness for the customer.

The introduction and standardization of SAP ERP and BI solutions typically require significant investments. By having our employees from our nearshoring location in Cluj-Napoca in Romania contribute to the project, we were able to drastically cut these costs. At the peak of the project, up to 6 colleagues from Cluj-Napoca were involved in the project. We coordinated through daily briefings during which our team communicated remotely both through video and audio.

Author
Claudio Volk Member of the Management Board
Phone: +49 (0) 7031 714 660 0
Email: info@inspiricon.de
ERCO Project SAP Fiori

How to analyze and visualize information with SAP Fiori in real time

Hello everybody:

Today, we would like to share with you a project which was about introducing data processing and visualization in real time. Let’s get right into it:

Our Customer

ERCO GmbH is a leading international specialist in architectural lighting, using 100% LED technology. The family business operates globally in 55 countries worldwide with around 1.000 employees.

The Initial Situation

ERCO asked us to develop an app that would not only visualize key figures, but also give users the opportunity to comment on the figures directly. This would for example apply for variance analysis. Taking into account all this information, sales will be supported immensely.

The Challenge

ERCO wanted to optimize the process of exchanging information between the sales staff and senior management by introducing an SAP Fiori application and integrating it with an SAP BW system.

This translated into the following project requirements for us:

  • Make reports and feedback options more easily accessible for sales representatives – also via mobile access.
  • Allow reports to be created in real time.
  • Capture comments and estimates by sales reps in real time and store them in a central location.
  • Make the consolidated data available to senior management as soon as it is put in by the sales staff.

The Objective

The objective of the project was to deliver a mobile iPad app that would allow the companies approximately 250 employees in the field to always stay on top of their key sales figures. Through this, the company wanted to provide its field staff with a means to pull information on their current sales performance at any time and from anywhere.

The following graph shows you – vastly simplified – the project steps, the changes as well as advantages of the SAP Fiori application:

Process ERCO Project

By the time the project was finished, we had created and established a mobile, streamlined, and most importantly highly intuitive process that enables ERCO to monitor and modify its forecasts. Executives and sales staff alike now always have the latest data at their fingertips. This adds significant value to the data; because, after all, when it comes to business intelligence, the worth of information is determined by its timeliness.

So we were of course very happy that our customer was very satisfied after the implementation of the new SAP Fiori application. As stated Celina Berg, Project Manager, ERCO GmbH:

“Inspiricon professionally implemented the project from start to finish. Our communication was open and straightforward. There was full visibility into the project’s status at all times and all of our project objectives were achieved in time and budget. We are looking forward to continuing to work with Inspiricon in the future.”

We are excited to do future projects together!

Read the Success Story about this project on our website.

You want to learn more about SAP Fiori? Visit our blog on http://en.inspiricon.de/category/fiori/

Author
Gerald Iakobinyi-Pich Software Architect
Phone: +49 (0) 7031 714 660 0
Email: cluj@inspiricon.de

A field report on upgrading to SAP BW 7.5 or “you never quite know what to expect”

Hello everybody:

Today, I would like to share with you some of the experiences from one of our most recent customer projects. It’s always very exciting to be among the first to get to work with new releases, support packages, or tools. But it can also get a bit tricky. This report is about one of those surprises that we’ve all run into.

As part of a migration project, we were developing a large number of data models based on the “new” ADSOs (Advanced Datastore Objects) and Composite Provider objects to make them available as HANA views and leverage native HANA tools in the next step.

This article focuses on a particular problem we encountered during the upgrade from BW 7.4 to BW 7.5. The upgrade was carried out during our project.

Like I said before, our data models here were mainly based on ADSOs. These ADSOs can be modeled in a way that makes then behave like Cubes or traditional DSOs. This means they either have a dedicated key (in the case of DSOs) or all characteristics together form the key (Cubes).

Another difference between Cubes and DSOs is the way the key figure units are used:
With Cubes, the unit is part of the key figure: In transformations, they are usually processed in one rule.

cubes

cube rules

With DSOs, things are a little different. Here, the unit is treated like a separate field (and therefore in two rules in transformations).

DSO

DSO fields

In BW 7.4, all ADSOs were treated like DSOs (two rules).

Imagine our bewilderment when the transformations for all ADSOs that we had modeled like Cubes stopped working. No error messages were displayed, but rather the data was shifted between fields. After all, the target structure now had fewer fields. When we then tried to examine the transformations, we got the following error message:

transformation error

As mentioned before, the error did not occur right away and even the data transfer processes (DTPs) were running somewhat “smoothly”, that is, without any error messages. The transformations themselves were displayed as active. The error message was displayed only when a transformation was opened. If no particular logic was stored, the system even assigned the missing unit as an automatic proposal when we opened the transformation in change mode.

Unfortunately, SAP had not yet provided a correction at that point, leaving us with no other option than to manually correct the errors.

Has anyone out there encountered the same problem? Has SAP delivered a solution yet?

We had to make a choice: Either switch all ADSOs to the “standard DSO” mode and hope that the automatic activation would accurately assign the transformations or modify all transformations on the test system.

Changing the ADSO mode, however, turned out to be a non-option since it would have had too big an impact on our data model. So, we just had to grit our teeth and put all our resources together in a last-ditch effort to modify the transformations. Unfortunately, we ran into more complications as the invalid rules were being deleted (and the other systems were not available at the time). But we pulled through and solved all problems, allowing us to enter the next phase of the project with acceptable delay. It did, however, take the kind of full team effort that is crucial to these types of projects and comes natural to everyone here at Inspiricon.

What we learned from this project is that new tools are not only extremely exciting but also rather error prone. That is why we always try to test the latest developments on our internal systems ahead of time (currently, our testing is centered around Predictive Analytics, Lumira 2.0, and SAP Leonardo).

But there are just some things that you can’t test and certain things like upgrades or migrations are never the same twice. We factor that into our projects by allowing for buffers and clearly communicating the risks and opportunities to our customers. Together, we will decide which strategy is best for the project at hand.

Author
Jörg Waldenmayer Team Lead Technology
Phone: +49 (0) 7031 714 660 0
Email: info@inspiricon.de
Inspiricon SAP-HANA planning application kit 1030x665

Fresh news from SAP Planning Tools

Author: Gabriela López de Haro, Senior BI Consultant

Today we would like to talk about planning. In particular we would like to focus on what what we can expect from the new HANA Planning Application Kit, what are the differences and advantages in comparison to the standard Integrated Planning.

But before we start, let´s first talk about the importance of planning:

Why planning?

Companies can benefit from improvements in the decision making process by planning. With the help of current, past data and some predictive analysis, companies can set goals for the future and predict what might happen. The comparison between actual and plan data helps to improve the process of planning.

Overview on SAP BI Planning Tools

In order to plan, it is necessary to have the ability to manually enter data in the system (input-ready query). This data entry functionality can be achieved in several different ways and with different tools, both in BI as well as in the transactional system.

What differentiates planning tools from the simple data entry functionality, is that it also offers the possibility to analyze data and generate complex planning scenarios. This can be achieved with the help of planning functions that range from the simple ones (copy, delete, repost, currency conversion) to more complex customer defined functions. Among the SAP BI Planning tools are:

Inspiricon_Evolution-of-BI-Planning

Evolution of BI Planning

Business Planning and Simulation (BPS)

Unlike Integrated Planning, it is not fully integrated into the BI system. Even though it was replaced by Integrated Planning, there are some planning functions that still run partially on BPS (i.e: Cost Center Retraction).

  • Planning levels, planning functions and sequences are created in transaction BPS0
  • Manual entries layouts, filters and variables are also created in transaction BPS0 and are not aligned with BEx queries, filters or variables.
  • The frontend is also not integrated with the BI tools. Instead, it is necessary to create a web interface in transaction BPS_WB.

BI Integrated Planning

This solution is fully integrated into the BI system. Data providers are created into the Data Warehouse Workbench, input-ready queries are created with the BEx Query Designer and all other planning specific functionalities (planning functions, planning sequences, data slices, and characteristic relationship) are defined in the Planning Modeler. It can be migrated completely to a SAP HANA Database, with the benefit of an improved read access (In-Memory).

  • Manual inputs are created directly in BEx Query Designer. Variables and filters correspond to BEx Variables and Filters.
  • Planning Functions, Sequences, Characteristic Relationships, Data Slices, etc. are created in transaction RSPLAN.
  • Migration to a SAP HANA Database can be achieved without adjustments, leading to a better response time and hence benefits on the user side. This is because data is now saved in the In-Memory Database. Nevertheless, aggregations and calculations continue to take place in the Application Layer.

SAP Planning Application Kit on HANA

It is the newest on planning. The difference with the above solution, is that the planning engine is In-Memory optimized. The application of the business logic is moved from the application layer to the In-Memory Database, reducing the data circulation between layers and leading to a significant improvement on the performance.

  • BW-IP needs no changes work in HANA, however, in order to benefit from the improved performance in the calculation engine, planning functions must be migrated.
  • The execution of the calculations in-memory can be enabled with the activation of the Planning Application Kit. SAP notes1637199 explains the procedure for the activation.
  • Most planning function types are already available in the Planning Application Kit (Copy, Delete, Revaluate, etc.).
  • Still, not all planning functions can be executed In-Memory, in particular planning functions based on ABAP exit. In order to be able to execute those functions In-Memory, it is necessary to write an SQL-Script.
  • In order to generate a planning function type based in SQL-Script you will need to create a function type based on an ABAP Class. The SQL-Script will be called from the Execute Method.
Comparison old/new

Comparison old/new

In summary, with the new HANA Planning KIT we can expect to maintain the same planning functionalities that were available in the Standard IP, but with improved performance due to an In-Memory Database.

Read more about planning and SAP HANA in our blog.

To finalize, we would like to mention that in today’s post we have not mentioned BPC. We will keep this subject for a future post.

 

Inspiricon SAP BW Upgrade 7.4

Being successful with Inspiricon Best Practices: Upgrade SAP BW 7.3 to 7.4 at a global pharma group

Today, we present you an upgrade project of Inspiricon. It was a SAP BW Upgrade from 7.3 to 7.4, realized in the years 2015 – 2016.

Our clients‘ requirements were the following:

  • Release change to SAP BW
  • Increase of system stability
  • Integration of HANA-optimized data models

Please find a summary of our approach here: http://inspiricon.de/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Inspiricon_Upgrade-SAP-BW-7.4.pdf

Our initial position

Before the upgrade, our client had the release SAP BW 7.3 with different service packages. The upgrade to version 7.4 was necessary in order to

  • enhance system performance
  • develop mobile reportings and applications with Fiori
  • keep SAP systems up to date (bringing in the latest SAP information)

The challenge for Inspiricon

Due to the fact that our client is working globally, our project team was confronted with a heterogeneous IT landscape. The existing reporting is also used worldwide. As a consequence, the BI system creates the possibility to work with the data globally on group level in order to ensure a uniform reporting system.

The following challenges had to be solved from the Inspiricon team in this project:

  • Connected systems and related dependencies had to be taken into account
  • The existing landscape is very complex
  • Many projects were ongoing during the release change, all simultaneously on the system that was to upgrade. Organizationally spoken, information exchange between different projects had to be coordinated promptly in all time zones.
  • No interruption of ongoing operations (“silent upgrade”)
  • Test management: ongoing coverage of all existing system functionalities

The project team comprised up to 20 persons, of which two were Nearshoring resources (BI-IT). The Inspiricon Nearshoring-team contributed the onsite-team not only with its long-time experience and quality standards but also with a significant cost benefit. Read more on Nearshoring here.

 

Inspiricon Project Approach

Inspiricon Project Approach

 

Successful project closing

Go-Live was at the end of May 2016, followed by an intensive Hyper Care Phase for 3 weeks. During this time, our Inspiricon team supported the client until the system was running as performant and stable as it was required.

Due to the release change, our client is now able to use the latest HANA objects entirely and to benefit from their performance advantage. Customer requirements were fully met – subsequent projects are already assigned.

Inspiricon Best Practices

We can learn a lot from successful projects. That is why we developed best practices for future projects from this upgrade project. They include the following and can be transferred to other projects:

  1. Upgrade process (Approach, Upgrade Project Timeline)
  2. Upgrade of technical plan (Pre-upgrade, Upgrade and post-upgrade checklists)
  3. Resource Matrix (Project Organigram, Roles and Responsibilities, Communication Matrix)
  4. Challenges and recommendations

Additional to this blog post, we recommend you to read our Best Practice “Inspiricon Best Practices in use” (only available in German).

You are interested in SAP BW? Read more on https://en.inspiricon.de/sap-bw-bo/. You are also welcome to contact us directly – your contact person for SAP BW is Michael Schmer.

 

Author
Istvan Boda SAP BI Consultant
Phone: +49 (0) 7031 714 660 0
Email: cluj@inspiricon.de
Inspiricon strategische operative Vertriebsplanung

How to design and implement operative and strategic sales planning

Hello everybody,

in the last two articles on planning, we discussed theoretical basics. Today, we are going to analyze a specific example. We will show you how to design and implement operative and strategic sales planning by the example of one of our clients who is working in the area of engineering and construction.

Some figures to begin with: Our client is a company with approx. 7.500 employees in more than 130 countries worldwide and an annual turnover of 600 mio EUR.

The planning process until now

There was no standardized planning process but a “historical grown solution” with different processes and planning tools. There existed no synchronized planning process. To get the overall image, many excel sheets were manually used in order to consolidate the different planning processes. This applied both for strategic planning with a timescale of 5 years and for the monthly rolling sales forecast with a timescale of the coming 12 months.

Of course, there were consequences:

  • Planning inaccuracies were huge between what was planned and what actually happened.
  • Sales employees were not measured by the quality of their estimated planning.
  • This resulted in a manually very elaborate, error-prone planning process.
  • Based on imprecise planning numbers, production decisions were made.
  • Because of inaccuracies, the produced products could not be sold as planned.
  • This resulted in increased storage cost as well as high capital lockup.

Thus, a standardized planning process should be set up.

 There were several project steps – step 1

In step 1, strategic sales planning was addressed. This was called Mid Term Sales Planning (MTP-SP). It encompasses a timescale of 5 years.

After having drafted the functional and IT concept, the technical implementation could start. This took about half a year. In this context, the planning process for the strategic sales planning was standardized company-wide.

Now, each year between July and August the MTP-SP for the next 5 years takes place: All sales employees, market and account managers plan their sales numbers for the next 5 years. Sales volume and selling price are planned on main product group level per client, country and sales employee.
During the first planning year, all numbers have to be registered to the exact month. For the remaining 4 planning years, the registration is made yearly. That way, an overall view of sales planning for the next 5 years is gained after several planning iterations.

By means of a saved matrix, product information are derived from budget figures. As not all products are produced at all locations. Based on this planning, statements concerning capacity and decisions on capacity shifts, shortages or expansions can be made.

The implementation happened by means of SAP Business Warehouse and its planning solution BI-IP (BI-Integrated Planning). Implementation of step 1 took 6 months.

Step 2 – Conception and implementation of rolling sales forecast planning

The methodical approach was done analogous to step 1. The exact technical requirements were structured, standardized and written down in a technical concept.

The rolling sales forecast takes place monthly. The next 12 months are being looked at in detail. All sales employees are planning the planned sales volume exclusively worldwide. In contrast to step 1, this planning takes place a level lower, on product group level. All remaining planning characteristics are analogous to step 1. Based on these information, exact needs for sales perspectives can be derived. Taking into account current stocks, precise production numbers can be derived which are also important for draft and detail planning for the production. These numbers also play a role for other planning areas such as personnel, finance and profit and loss account.

By means of specific planning functions, which were implemented during the project, all users are supported at best through the system. For example, the figures in period 1 are updated automatically in period 2. This way, sales accountants only have to record changes in the following period. That was especially user-friendly and saved a lot of time for sales personnel as they only had to focus on changes to the previous month.

Step 1 and step 2 work together

Step 1 and step 2 were integrated as follows: data from MTP-SP were “passed on” to rolling sales forecast. Other planning functions facilitate the work for users. Some examples:

  • Entered annual figures can be broken down on months. Like this, monthly figures can be corrected after e.g. seasonal influences and then again aggregated on annual figures.
  • Sales budget figures which were planned on main product level can be broken down on product group level based on the last 24 months.
  • Distribution and sales vary a lot during the year in different regions. By means of global and local allocation formula, it can be dealt individually with different regions.
  • Different validity checks were integrated. Their goal is to improve automatically data quality. For example: it is checked if the entered forecast is as big or bigger as the order backlog in the system. If this is not the case, a warning will be sent.

In our next articles on planning, we will show and discuss some of these useful planning functions in detail.

After both steps were implemented and productive, one year of experience-gathering followed. Followed by an optimization phase in which experiences, suggestions and wishes from users were taken into account.

All project goals were reached:

  • The different planning elements interlock – this leads to an improved planning accuracy.
  • The whole planning process is structured. There is a planning calendar, too.
  • The manual effort to edit and verify the planning numbers could be reduced radically.
  • Effort reductions in the areas of data collection, data processing and data plausibility can now be used for more analytical work and thus for better information.
  • Both data quality and planning accuracy could be improved significantly. As a consequence, stock was reduced considerably and capital lockup diminished.

Our Inspiricon project team supported the client during the whole process – from the draft of the technical planning process, the design of the IT concept right to the whole realization with SAP BI-IP.

Questions? Suggestions? You want to discuss the topic? Contact us, we are looking forward to it.

Inspiricon Verzahnung horizontale vertikale Integration

Horizontal and vertical planning – interconnection is the key

Hi everyone,
in our last article we discussed the theory concerning enterprise planning, today we want to introduce the following topics:
a)    horizontal integration of planning
b)    vertical integration of planning

Horizontal integration

Horizontal integration of planning reflects the timescale of planning. The planning horizon determines the timescale that our planning should cover. Looking at scientific literature, planning is often classified in temporal dimensions. Usually, the following timescales are distinguished:

  • short-term planning (up to one year)
  • middle-term planning (two to five years)
  • long-term planning (more than five years)

Short-term planning is very detailed and shows specifics to a great extent. Its timescale can optionally be subdivided into quarters, months, weeks or even days. Due to its completeness, sophistication and flexibility, probability of realization of short-term planning goals are relatively high.

Middle-term planning divides the long-term plan in sub plans, whereas the level of detail gets more specific according to the subdivisions of the long-term planning. Completeness, sophistication and flexibility are lower compared to short-term planning. Middle-term planning has the equal ratio to long-term planning as short-term to middle-term planning.

Top priority of long-term planning is to ensure the long-term existence of the company. It is a global planning, highly aggregated with focus on innovation, technologies, diversification and other important topics for the continued existence of the company.

Summarizing the above, horizontal integration displays the course of time. The further you look into the future, the more you have to condense the planning elements. The shorter the viewing angle, the more granular you have to plan.

Vertical integration

Vertical integration takes into account the hierarchical relations of different plans in a company. There are plans according to various hierarchical levels in a company which have a hierarchical relation. Overarching plans represent a framework for secondary plans, within which they have to be drafted. A distinction is made between the following three levels:

  • Strategical planning
  • Tactical planning
  • Operative planning

Strategical planning aims at planning the fundamental development of the entire company for a fairly long period of time. Subject is the analysis of chances and risks as well as the development of strategies in order to perceive chances and fight risks. The timescale of planning covers five to ten years and has a high forecast risk. This is the reason for which qualitative statements dominate. You will find strategical planning only on the highest level of a company hierarchy. Its goal is to ensure existing as well as open up new success potentials. No specific action programmes are being developed but a consistent framework is set.

Tactical planning puts the framework specifications of strategic planning in concrete terms. The definition focuses on middle-term capacity planning as well as optimizing it. Staff and resources are defined. You will find tactical planning in middle management (divisional management). Its aim is to draft concrete operational goals for the whole company and its divisions. Another part is to state resources and measures for target achievement.

Operative planning stands for a short-term process planning for performance and output with given capacities. It is a detailed planning aimed at minimizing negative effects of tactical planning errors (e.g. overcapacities or capacity bottlenecks). You will find operative planning mainly on the middle and lower management levels.
When solving a complex problem concerning company planning, the concept of strategical, tactical and operative planning contributes highly to the solution. The interlocking between strategical, tactical and operative planning is also described as vertical integration.

The connection between different planning levels and timeframes is visualized in the following illustration. Horizontal and vertical integration

Horizontal and vertical integrationSource: cf. Wöhe (2008), p. 179 – Integration of planning in the organizational pyramide

The added value of planning

Different elements of horizontal and vertical integration should not be considered on a stand-alone basis. You will achieve an added value by taking into account all different elements and by interlocking them. Each element serves a purpose in the context of planning. However, most important is the consistent interlocking between them. Unfortunately, single planning elements exist as isolated solutions in many companies, without being connected. This results in disadvantages such as extra work for planning, speed loss when it comes to necessary changes of plan or missing transparency. Often, key figures are not aligned, thus cannot be matched. Ideally, key figures are derived from strategic company goals and consistently carried down to the execution level so that each employee knows how he/she is measured and what he/she can contribute to reach the goals set on the highest management level.

So far, so good. A lot to take in and digest :). Next time we will tell you how we implemented a project in strategic and operative sales planning by means of a concrete example.