Thursday, June 16, 2011

SAP raises the stakes with EPM 10

SAP is now adding new features to its (relatively) new integrated planning tool, BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation, often still called BPC. It needs to show customers that it is up to more than just integrating its portfolio and it also needs to face up to scrappy new competitors like Tagetik and De facto, planning tools with a very similar architecture.

The presentation I saw yesterday was nominally about EPM, but SAP concentrated on Planning and Consulting (BPC). It has many new features including a new workspace and Web-based data input. This is something new since the original OutlookSoft product only allowed planning in Excel. Neither Tagetik nor De Facto offer this. The product also allows reporting on non-BPC BW data and a slicker looking Excel interface with some nice new features. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get the template function working in Excel for the demo.

SAP says they will gradually move the whole thing to HANA but did not provide details. Having the database in memory is the best way to provide the performance planners demand. However, in my opinion HANA’s architecture is not very well suited for planning. Column database architecture is available in other business intelligence tools such as QlikView and Microsoft PowerPivot, but they are not suited for planning.

Planning involves adding new data to the database (as opposed to overwriting data) and the automatic data driven modelling features of this kind of database makes it impractical to offer a simple way to add data. You cannot "discover" new periods, scenarios or products in an ETL process. Multi-dimensional databases, with their predefined dimensions, are better for this kind of feature, because the idea of an “empty cell” for adding new plan data comes so naturally.

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