Let’s Jump in the SAC But Keep One Foot Out of the Covers

Let’s Jump in the SAC But Keep One Foot Out of the Covers

Let’s Jump in the SAC But Keep One Foot Out of the Covers 1024 512 SpinifexIT

Stephen Gallo shares his thoughts about the benefits of using SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC) and how it can unleash the power of your data through its sophisticated reporting capabilities

SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC) Status

SAP has done it again.  It’s made us all rethink what we are currently doing as we wait patiently until they have a fully integrated product.  I’m of course talking about SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC) which is part of their Unified Reporting strategy that will allow customers to combine data from all SAP systems including Success Factors.  I’ve written at my website recently about reporting in 2018 and this is kind of a follow-up to it.  I’ll start with the cynical approach to this with the “it’s about time” dig, but in truth, I’ve been doing HCM reporting with SAP tools for over 10 years.  It’s hard.  For SAP to finally take on this initiative with its daunting requirements I’m sure took years of planning and I’d probably shed a few tears of dread if I were sitting in their conference rooms designing how this is all going to work.  I say years of planning, because none of this works without HANA.  When they decided to build HANA, I have to imagine this was one of the use cases for building it.

What I’m finding in the market though is a polarizing effect everytime SAP announces something with the roadmap in its infancy.  To SAP’s credit, I’ve seen more innovation in this product since it launched than many of their prior endeavors. They are constantly trying to make it better, or in their case, the best – and it will get there.  The effect that it has on customers, however, is the old wait and see mentality. “Should we purchase now, no wait, on the roadmap 6 months from now is the feature we might need.  Let’s wait until they launch it and then see how the feedback is on it”.  Wash rinse and repeat.  What I’m going to try to implore upon you is not to wait – start piloting the application as it does have its merits.  

Let’s start this journey by talking about what SAP currently offers.  I won’t go in deep into the current Success Factors reporting, others have already done so.  In fact, read this article by our friends at iXerv.  It covers pretty much what you get with Success Factors.  You can also read mine if you want a shorter version .

If we look back at the ECC side of the house we still have our good old Ad-hoc Query, SQ01 – Abap Query for HR, and then point solution tools to get data out of your module of choice, Wage Type Reporter (Payroll), PT_QTA10 (Absence quotas) etc…etc.  Again, there are novels of information on these.

These tools provide you the data to do your own analysis.  You can download whatever you like, shove it in a warehouse, excel, access, your choice, and created your own analytics.  The problem of course is every time you want to produce an up to date version, your downloading the data all over again. Not super-efficient.

Let’s All Get in the SAC Together

When I look at a reporting maturity model, I see the SAC as the highest level of reporting.  If you go from reactive reporting, to proactive reporting, to metrics, to planning and finally to predictive analytics, SAC is at the top of the game.  SAC is going to bring us out of the Excel analytics that every HR department is doing on a monthly/quarterly/annual basis. It’s providing on-demand analytics that allow you to monitor your key business metrics to see if your business is performing to the levels that you desire.  SAP has other analytics products out there: BI, Lumira, but what I can see the benefit of SAC is this: It’s going to link up to your systems with ease.  Figure 1 shows all the systems SAC can speak to currently.  

Figure 1

To clarify on the slide, live data lives in the source system.  SAC reads it on the fly to get your data. Imported data will be brought out of your system into the cloud.  Currently, one of the pros of using Imported data is, it’s easier to create your own datasets of data mashed up against other imported data.  Apparently, there are still some limitations of mashing up live data with imported data, but SAP has said it is resolving that soon.

Now we must understand the types of questions planning and predictive analytics helps us solve to understand what value SAC brings to our organization.  I’ll use some examples that were shown at SAPPHIRE.

  • Are we attracting hires by Ethnicity? (Recruiting)
  • Are we hiring a diverse workforce? (Onboarding)
  • Are we promoting across Ethnicities? (Employee Central/ECC)

SAP Sapphire Demonstration

Figure 2

With these metrics, as Chief of Diversity, I can get instant insight as to how my plans are performing, which areas of the company need my involvement, and get an overall health of workforce sliced by any dimension I see fit.  SAC can also, based on prior data, predict where your trends for these metrics will go in the future. So right now, it might look like region X is not performing, but looking at a predictive trend line into the future (not shown in the image) we can see that they are on the upside, hence I should focus my time on regions where my metrics are trending downward.  This is invaluable information for leaders and managers but also invaluable to analysts.  Analysts spend countless hours putting these types of charts and predictions together, only to have to do them all over again next month.  With SAC you have the build it once, use forever type deployment.

The SAC is Nice and Toasty, But Keep a Foot Out of the Covers

For the executives and managers of the world, I see SAC as a no-brainer.  Even if you sit and tell yourself “we’ve invested so much time in WorkForce Analytics, or Lumira or BI”, know that the SAC is going to have all of this available in the platform.  Some of it is already here and some of it is coming.  Always check the roadmaps at https://www.sap.com/products/roadmaps.html and watch the webinars. This is the future of SAP reporting and it’s something you should get on board with.  Coming from a guy who works for an SAP software Partner that does reporting, take this advice with more than a grain of salt.  If you’re a leader, get a subscription, grab an analyst, layout a one-month plan of analytics you want and point them in right direction.  You might be surprised with what they can accomplish in a short period of time.

However, if this is the greatest thing since sliced bread for managers, it still lacks some functionality and some of these use cases may never be included in the software or can be arduous to build.  SAP is great at always showing us it’s prize pony when it talks about innovation, but there is always the dark underbelly of HCM that only us on-the-ground analysts understand:  Data consistency and auditing.  This term is so broad in scope, I will just provide a few examples below of what I’ve come across in the past.  These are of course problems that every customer has and some a customer created for themselves, but remember customers of course buy SAP because of all the standards it provides, but you also buy it because you can customize it to your business processes.  The below examples are ECC based, however I’m sure those of you on Employee Central/ECC Hybrid can relate.

For example:

  1. Do I have Rehire Dates that are before my Hire Date on infotype 0041?

    1. Human Error

  2. We have a Z-table in ECC based on payroll area that stores my annual merit effective dates and I need to ensure that the base pay infotype was loaded correctly based on those dates.
    1. Customization problem.
  3. Who is reaching there 401K limits as I need to start their deferred comp plans?
    1. Seen everywhere in US as config is not always correct.
  4. I work in Wisconsin and I have this work schedule, so I’m only allowed to be in Payscale groups 12345 and 12346.
    1. Business rule localized to a customer process.
  5. I need to submit to a union by region all the hours and types of hours their employees worked?
    1. The dreaded union reconciliation.

The examples I listed above are actual examples of things I’ve worked on for customers recently.  Looking at the list I’m sure you can imagine some fun things you’ve had to reconcile in the past. And what do we use to get this data if you just have standard SAP tools?

SAP Ad-Hoc Query

SuccessFactors Ad-Hoc Query and ORD

SAP Wage Type Reporter

You look at some the use case examples and think, well actually most of these we could put into Payroll Control Center (PCC).  And you’re right. It all boils down to budget and priority. If I have an analyst who can put this together, why spend the time and the money to put some of this in PCC.  The answer is, you should always be improving your processes, but I digress and that’s a philosophical discussion for another day. (Also, PCC adoption is low. Another philosophical discussion.) The first four items I listed could be done in PCC, however the 5th is kind of an ad-hoc request that we are all too familiar with.  Someone, somewhere either in our company or outside our company requests a bit of data that we do not have readily available. So, we use the standard SAP tools to mash this data together and provide them there report.

As long as I’ve been doing this, there is no way around ad-hoc requests.  They will always be the fly in the ointment to any reporting strategy. This is where the SAC falls down.

When I go to customers and we define what they are looking for 20% of it is metrics, 40% is operational reporting like payroll, 20% is data consistency and the last 20% of the work is ad-hoc requests.  It’s typically 20% of what they are producing, but in some cases, it can be 40% of the effort.  Keep this in mind when you decide to move to the SAC.  

To end this post, move to the SAC.  It’s actually really neat, fairly intuitive and for things like basic Gender or Hiring metrics you can have those up and running quickly.  I built a gender dashboard in a day. Don’t think however that SAC solves all your reporting. It doesn’t. You will still need tools whether they are standard SAP delivered or 3rd party to assist with your ad-hoc questions, data remittance type reports and master data consistency audits.

Happy Reporting!

About the Author:

Stephen Gallo is an Employee Central Certified Consultant employed by SpinifexIT. Over the past 11 years, he has been an SAP customer, an SAP HCM implementation consultant and the Product Architect of North America for the SpinifexIT Suite of products.  
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