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Business analytics has made major advances over the past few years, as improved processing power and software innovation have coincided with an explosion of new data from mobile devices, IoT sensors, cloud-connected trading partners and other sources. SAP ECC users who have decided to stay on the software can still take advantage of analytics' capabilities.
Analytics can benefit organizations in a variety of ways. Advanced analytics are helping companies fine-tune their supply chains by quantifying vendor performance, identifying aging inventory and optimizing delivery routes. Manufacturing managers are gaining visibility into overall equipment effectiveness through dashboards. Product managers are gaining a better understanding of consumer sentiment and buying behavior, potentially discovering new business opportunities in the process.
However, organizational leaders may struggle with knowing where to begin. Here are the steps company leaders should take to create an analytics strategy while staying on SAP ECC.
1. Define business objectives
Leaders should begin with the big picture, establishing a vision for the preferred result for analytics. This vision will change over the course of time, but it will serve as a guide for many of the shorter-term decisions along the way.
Who are the company's business users, and what is most important to them? Which systems contain the most valuable data, apart from the ERP system? What insights can the company draw from that information? Should the organization focus on supply chain efficiency, customer insights, manufacturing operations or marketing effectiveness? Are there one or two company areas where analytics might make a particularly strong impact?
The answers to those questions can help leaders define some specific use cases for an ECC analytics strategy.
2. Determine a data management strategy
Carrying out an analytics strategy will require bringing data together from different sources, harmonizing the data and organizing it. SAP ECC is a complex product, and if a company is running multiple instances, leaders need a strategy for aggregating all the SAP data. An organization operating non-SAP software systems or intending to incorporate external data sources will need to decide how to bring the data together for easy analysis.
Approaches to this challenge include data warehouses, cloud-based data lakes and data federation software. The right approach for a particular company depends on the nature of the data for analysis, where it resides and turnaround time. Each option includes its own requirements for integration, data governance and compliance.
3. Choose analytics tools
SAP provides a range of reporting and analytics tools. Primary among these are the Business Warehouse (BW) and the SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC), which users often combine. BW is a data warehouse that offers relational data storage and OLAP cubes for multidimensional analysis. SAP built and optimized BW for the company's ERP software, but BW also works well with non-SAP data. It includes its own collection of reporting and analytics tools.
SAC provides a set of analytics tools for developing reports, executive dashboards, visualizations and predictive analytics. SAC is a SaaS product, and it runs on SAP's HANA database and was designed with S/4HANA in mind. However, SAC is an option for ECC users as well.
Non-SAP alternatives include Tableau, SAS, Power BI and Domo.
4. Build upon successes
Company leaders should begin by focusing on one or two specific use cases. If successful, these use cases can demonstrate proof of value to the executive sponsors who allocate company resources.
By establishing clear and specific objectives aimed at improving business results, leaders will more likely receive permission to take the ECC analytics strategy to the next level.