SAP reporting and analysis

SAP Reporting and Analysis Made Simple

Several years ago, SAP launched a marketing campaign built around the theme of “Run Simple”. To some, it may have seemed like an odd choice of words. SAP, after all, is enormously complex. Many of the largest companies in the world use SAP to operate multiple legal entities spread across the globe. SAP software is used for financials, manufacturing, inventory planning, human resources, travel and expense, and virtually every other category you can imagine. How do you run simple with all of that?

To those of us who are close to the SAP ecosystem, however, “Run Simple” made a lot of sense as an aspirational statement. The world is a very complex place. Running a business is complicated. To the extent that we can bring order to that and encapsulate some of the complexity, we can make people’s jobs easier, increase their effectiveness, and improve their lives.

The key here is that “run simple” is an aspirational statement. SAP knows it hasn’t achieved it, but it’s a point on the compass that drives SAP’s product and company strategy. Ask anyone who works closely with SAP; there are still plenty of pain points, to be sure.
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FICO Reporting in SAP

One of those pain points has to do with financial and cost center reporting. Whether you’re running SAP S/4HANA or ECC, the complexity of the underlying table structures in the Finance and Controlling module (also known as “FICO”) makes it exceedingly difficult to extract data and manipulate it in a meaningful way.

SAP’s existing reporting library includes many financial (FI) and controlling (CO) reports. This makes sense; financial reports are externally focused and must conform to specific accounting standards, whereas controlling reports are intended for an internal audience to inform managerial decisions.

The problem is that in many cases, no single report in SAP really gives you all of the information you’re seeking. The underlying table structures are complicated, with multiple parent/child relationships. Much of the data resides across multiple SAP modules, so to see all of the information you want in one place, you must pull data from several sources.

In practical terms, that means that IT specialists will be required whenever a report needs to be designed or even when an existing report needs to be modified. Dependencies cause delays, and in a world where agility is the new mandate, delays can be especially costly.

Making Reporting and Analysis Easy

It’s an indisputable fact that finance and accounting professionals prefer to do much of their work in Microsoft Excel. It’s flexible, powerful, and virtually everyone knows how to use it. An advanced Excel user can perform some very sophisticated analysis with little or no dependency on the IT department.

There is a weak link in the chain between SAP and Excel, however. The complexity of the data structures, combined with the fact that much of the data is spread across multiple SAP modules, makes it extraordinarily difficult to get the right data out of SAP in the first place.

The process of moving large amounts of data out of SAP and into Excel is cumbersome and time-consuming. Perhaps even more importantly, it lacks a real-time perspective. In other words, data that is exported from SAP (or anywhere else) and subsequently imported or pasted into Excel is static information that is often out of date by the time analysis has been completed.

Real-time links to the underlying data, directly accessible within Excel, make analysis and reporting vastly easier and more accurate. GL Wand from insightsoftware does all of that and more, while fully leveraging your existing SAP security model.

Remember what we said before about “running simple”? The underlying complexity of SAP’s FICO module is still there, but with Wands, we deal with that complexity behind the scenes. As an end-user, you simply access new SAP-related functions within Excel. There’s no IT expert required.

Because the links are real-time, the process of updating your spreadsheet-based reporting and analysis is nearly instantaneous. That’s running simple.

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“What’s The Detail Behind This Number?”

Anyone who has ever delivered a report to management understands this scenario: you invest hours in creating a detailed analysis, you formatted it beautifully, and when it’s finally ready you send it on to your manager. He or she notices some numbers that seem to fall outside normal parameters and comes back with questions… “Can you give me the detail behind this expense number for the last quarter?”

Drill-down capabilities make that easy. With Wands, the process of getting to that detailed information is simple, because the drill-down is accessible right there in Excel over your live SAP data.

Seamless Transition to the Cloud

If you are running SAP, then you are almost certainly aware of the company’s roadmap and its intention to eventually move customers from ECC to S/4HANA. The latter product is now five years old and well established in the market. Nevertheless, the vast majority of existing SAP customers, and even many new customers, are still running ECC and plan to do so for some time to come.

SAP’s efforts to sunset ECC and transition all of their customers to S/4HANA have received quite a lot of attention, especially as pushback from customers prompted them to extend support for ECC for a few more years.

The majority of customers are putting off the migration to S/4HANA until later, as it inevitably requires a significant investment in time and money to make that transition. For customers running Wands or other products from insightsoftware, there is good news: all of the Excel-based reports that you built for your SAP ECC system will continue to work when you migrate to S/4HANA. No modifications will be required.

Regardless of which product you are running, insightsoftware can make that “run simple” philosophy a reality for your finance and accounting team. Why not request a free demo today to unlock the power of your data?

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