In case you hadn't heard (yeah, right) ASUG Annual Conference and SAPPHIRE NOW Orlando 2013 is May 13-16, 2013.  In an effort to help those of you interested in Enterprise Performance Management (EPM), I've compiled what I believe to be the full listing of EPM-related sessions that are happening during the week and included it below.  Now, I suppose that there could be other sessions and there could be some last-minute changes that need to be made, so as a disclaimer, you may want to use the Agenda Builder that's associated with the conference website to make sure that you have an up-to-date agenda and don't miss out on anything you really want to see.

 

As the ASUG EPM Special Interest Group Chair, I feel it's my duty to plug the pre-conference session that takes place on Monday morning, which requires an additional registration fee, but it's sure to be a fantastic session.  In addition, we have two influence sessions scheduled during the week on Wednesday and Thursday, so if you're interested in how to influence the direction of EPM and/or Business Planning and Consolidation (BPC), then you don't want to miss those.

 

I hope that everyone has a great week in Orlando and that you achieve your goals for the conference!

 

 

 

Event

Session IDTitle TimeLocation
Monday, May 13



ASUG 0006Design considerations for end-to-end financial consolidations and planning processes in SAP08:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.S331C: S. Concourse, L3





Tuesday, May 14



ASUG 2001Kiewit: Implementing SAP BPC NW Version 10 During A Large Scale Enterprise-Wide SAP Program11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.S310B: S. Concourse, L3
ASUG 3301Northern Arizona University: Getting an Advanced Degree in Budgeting11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.S331D: S. Concourse, L3
SAPPHIRE NOW 55008Apply Innovation in Enterprise Planning and Consolidation11:00 a.m. - 11:20 a.m.Analytics Demo Theater BA519
ASUG 3702Lessons learned - Enabling BW Data for Planning (BPC on HANA) at Schwans Foods12:30 p.m. - 01:30 p.m.S310C: S. Concourse, L3
ASUG 1903Using Business Intelligence and Mobility at Under Armor to improve the relationship between Finance and the Business02:00 p.m. - 03:00 p.m.S310A: S. Concourse, L3
SAPPHIRE NOW 55006Revolutionize Performance Management in Your Company02:00 p.m. - 02:20 p.m.Analytics Demo Theater BA519
SAPPHIRE NOW 55011Transform Enterprise Performance Management with New Technology02:00 p.m. - 02:45 p.m.Analytics Microforum BA521
SAPPHIRE NOW 55012Improve Business Planning and Consolidation with In-Memory Computing03:00 p.m. - 03:45 p.m.Analytics Microforum BA518
ASUG1904BPC Journey at PepsiCo: Solving Gaps Using BPC03:30 p.m. - 04:30 p.m.S310A: S. Concourse, L3
ASUG 3304How to Become the Smartest City in America - A Review of Leading Practices in the City of Boston03:30 p.m. - 04:30 p.m.S331D: S. Concourse, L3
SAPPHIRE NOW 55003Discover Best Practices for Integrated Planning and Profitability 04:00 p.m. - 04:20 p.m.Mobile and Analytics Theater
SAPPHIRE NOW 55007Accelerate and Simplify Your Accounting and Financial Close04:30 p.m. - 04:50 p.m.Analytics Demo Theater BA519





Wednesday, May 15



ASUG4205Influence Council: The Future of Enteprise Performance Management11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.S311: S. Concourse, L3
SAPPHIRE NOW 57415Increase Collaboration and Accuracy with Integrated Business Planning11:30 a.m. - 11:50 a.m.Analytics Demo Theater BA519
ASUG1906World Class Financial Reporting Leveraging Complete EPM BPC 10 NW Consolidation Package Functionality For Large Global Financial Institutions12:30 p.m. - 01:30 p.m.S310A: S. Concourse, L3
SAPPHIRE NOW 55013Improve Your Financial Close and Disclosure Processes01:00 p.m. - 01:45 p.m.Analytics Microforum BA518
SAPPHIRE NOW 57413Improve Decision Making with Enterprise Performance Management Solutions01:30 p.m. - 01:50 p.m.Analytics Demo Theater BA519
ASUG 1907Sales Forecasting at Nikon using BPC 1001:45 p.m. - 02:45 p.m.S310A: S. Concourse, L3
SAPPHIRE NOW 55005Accelerate Finance Transformation with Technology Innovations02:00 p.m. - 02:30 p.m.Mobile and Analytics Theater
SAPPHIRE NOW 87106It’s Time: Migrating Away from Hyperion Software to SAP Solutions for EPM02:30 p.m. - 02:50 p.m.Partner and SME Solutions Theater
SAPPHIRE NOW 57414Maximize Business Value with Profitability and Cost Management03:30 p.m. - 03:50 p.m.Analytics Demo Theater BA519
ASUG3409Mars' Big-Bet ROI Pay-Off Using SAP BPC for Real-Time Global Integrated Planning Told by an IT Executive04:15 p.m. - 05:15 p.m.S331C: S. Concourse, L3
SAPPHIRE NOW 55004Power Up Your Planning and Budgeting Processes with In-Memory Computing04:30 p.m. - 04:50 p.m.Mobile and Analytics Theater
SAPPHIRE NOW 55009Increase Your Success by Optimizing Cost and Profitability Analysis05:00 p.m. - 05:45 p.m.Analytics Microforum BA521





Thursday, May 16



ASUG1910Using SAP Analytics at the City of Boston to Optimize Organizational Performance11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.S310A: S. Concourse, L3
ASUG 3710SAP Consolidations and Financial Close: Products, Roadmap and Considerations in evaluating future strategy11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.S310C: S. Concourse, L3
ASUG 910Thinking About Upgrading to BPC/EPM 10? Join BarnesAndNoble.com On An Actual BPC 7.5 to BPC/EPM 10 on SAP HANA Upgrade Evaluation11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.S220E: S. Concourse, L2
SAPPHIRE NOW 55008Apply Innovation in Enterprise Planning and Consolidation11:00 a.m. - 11:20 a.m.Analytics Demo Theater BA519
SAPPHIRE NOW 55010Better Manage Key Programs, Projects, and Initiatives to Maximize Results11:00 a.m. - 11:45 a.m.Analytics Microforum BA518
ASUG 1911The Dow Chemical Company- SAP BPC Periodic Consolidation Model12:30 p.m. - 01:30 p.m.S310A: S. Concourse, L3
ASUG5102Implementation of BPC Enhances the Company’s Budgeting and Forecasting Ability12:30 p.m. - 01:30 p.m.Lake Nona - Hilton Hotel
ASUG4312Influence Council: SAP Business Planning and Consolidation01:45 p.m. - 02:45 p.m.S312: S. Concourse, L3
SAPPHIRE NOW 57413Improve Decision Making with Enterprise Performance Management Solutions02:00 p.m. - 02:20 p.m.Analytics Demo Theater BA519
ASUG1913Enhance your planning and budgeting process using SAP Profitability and Cost Management03:00 p.m. - 04:00 p.m.S310A: S. Concourse, L3
SAPPHIRE NOW 55007Accelerate and Simplify Your Accounting and Financial Close03:00 p.m. - 03:20 p.m.Analytics Demo Theater BA519
SAPPHIRE NOW 55006Revolutionize Performance Management in Your Company03:30 p.m. - 03:50 p.m.Analytics Demo Theater BA520
SAPPHIRE NOW 57414Maximize Business Value with Profitability and Cost Management04:00 p.m. - 04:20 p.m.Analytics Demo Theater BA519
SAPPHIRE NOW 57415Increase Collaboration and Accuracy with Integrated Business Planning04:30 p.m. - 04:50 p.m.Analytics Demo Theater BA520





All Week



SAPPHIRE NOW BA508Improve Your Top and Bottom Lines by Managing Financial PerformanceShow-Floor HoursSAPPHIRE NOW show floor
SAPPHIRE NOW BA509Explore Next-Generation Innovations in Enterprise Performance Management Show-Floor HoursSAPPHIRE NOW show floor
SAPPHIRE NOWBA510Simplify and Accelerate Your Financial Close and Disclosure Processes Show-Floor HoursSAPPHIRE NOW show floor
SAPPHIRE NOW BA511Transform Planning, Budgeting, and Forecasting with In-Memory ComputingShow-Floor HoursSAPPHIRE NOW show floor

It's now been over two weeks since ASUG Annual Conference and SAPPHIRENOW concluded, and I missed it for the first time since 2007.  It wasn't that my company cut the budget or it wasn't my turn in the rotation.  No, I wasn't able to attend due to the fact that I had the opportunity of a lifetime that I simply couldn't pass up: a trip to Shanghai, China to work directly with SAP's development team on testing functionality for its SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation, version for SAP NetWeaver (“BPC NW”) product.

 

SAP has shown a firm commitment to improving BPC since the day it acquired Outlooksoft back in 2007 – a mere coincidence that it's the same year my Annual Conference attendance streak began.  Since then, they have essentially created a brand new product in the NetWeaver BW based version (7.0 released in early 2009) and when they released version 7.5 in 2010, it introduced connectivity of BPC NW with BusinessObjects BI products as well as added functionality lacking in the original 7.0 BPC NW version that was included the original Microsoft version.  The latest version of BPC NW 10.0 just exited Ramp-up in late April 2012, and boasts a plethora of new features including an all new and even more user-friendly web based interface, as well as, a complete replacement of the Microsoft Office Add-in that is used for reporting and data input.  In addition, SAP has recently made BPC NW one of the first applications to be enabled on its HANA in-memory database, and just launched it at SAPPHIRENOW.

 

 

With all of those improvements over the past several years, my trip to Shanghai (with a colleague of mine and one of our SAP consultants working on our implementation) represented the first time that a customer has been invited to SAP Labs China to work directly with the development team.  While I'm not able to discuss the functionality that we tested in great detail as it’s not going to be delivered until the next BPC NW support pack, I can say that it's functionality that will help customers meet financial consolidations business requirements.

 

 

Based on what I’ve heard in the SAP community, I would venture to say that the majority of customers use BPC for planning and forecasting or reporting, but a minority are using BPC for their financial consolidations.  Perhaps that’s just my perception, but it seems to me that a major knock against BPC has been its inability to perform complex consolidations, and, at a minimum, this would lead large customers to shy away from it.  It’s hard for BPC to measure up against the other rock-solid SAP consolidations products SEM-BCS and BusinessObjects Financial Consolidations given that these products have been around for quite a long time and have been tested tried-and-true.  Even considering this shortcoming, SAP has worked (and continues to work) to improve the consolidations capabilities of BPC as they tout the advantages of customers having all of their planning and consolidations data residing in a single application, on top of the fact that BPC lends itself a lot more to business users being able to maintain the system that’s a critical cog in the finance processes of all organizations.

 

 

As part of the re-designed interface that SAP rolled out for version 10.0 of BPC NW, it introduced a significant number of improvements for financial consolidations such as the Consolidation Monitor, Controls Monitor, Ownership Manager and web-based Journals.  To me, these are ‘sexy’ improvements that help BPC demo very well when pitched to potential customers.  Yes, these enhancements do serve a functional purpose and do help streamline the execution of the financial consolidation process, but it’s the underlying core functionality that truly matters to me.  After all, what good do these front-end execution tools do if the system can’t perform the financial consolidations calculations and postings that a large organization needs it to?  So, while it probably doesn’t get enough hype or even show up in a demo, it’s the changes to the Business Rules in version 10.0 that now allow for more complex consolidations to be performed in BPC that stand out to me as a key improvement.

 

 

This all leads me back to my trip to Shanghai, where my colleague and I spent a little more than two weeks testing further enhancements to the Business Rules in BPC that the BPC NW development team is in process of making.  Again, these may not be ‘sexy’ changes, but they will result in our company’s ability to perform our financial consolidations process in BPC NW, and that’s what matters most to me.  While we spent a lot of time in executing more than ten testing scenarios, we had unprecedented access to the BPC NW Development manager, the BPC Product Management manager, and one of the BPC Solution Managers.  We took full advantage of this time, having many conversations about BPC capabilities—both current and planned—as well as how we intend to use this forthcoming functionality in our specific implementation.  This benefited both parties, as we provided great detail of our business requirements and SAP helped provide us with an understanding of why the system was designed in the way it was.

 

Me at SAP Labs.jpg

Photo 1: Me at SAP Labs China - proof that I was there!

 

 

As a way to conclude our time in Shanghai, I was asked to spend about two hours presenting to the entire Development and Product Management teams, during which I discussed what I felt are BPC’s strengths and opportunities for improvement, in addition to specifics around how we’re implementing BPC for our financial planning, forecasting and consolidations processes.  This was one of my personal highlights of the trip as I was told that these teams don’t get access to customers very often and they really don’t get a chance to see how the product that they’ve worked so hard to create actually gets utilized.  When I was discussing some of our implementation challenges, the teams provided me with some alternative approaches for designing our solution.  Where best to get feedback on how to use the product than those who helped to build it?!  I think there is a golden opportunity here for other customers to share with these teams how they’ve implemented BPC, as they could lead to similar feedback as well as give these teams ideas on how to further improve BPC.  One way to do this is to participate in the SAP Customer Broadcast Series.

 

 

It’d be a farce for me to imply that all we did while we were in China was work, so I’ll include a link to some of the pictures I took while sight-seeing during the evenings and on weekends.  Our SAP counterparts were very gracious hosts and provided us with great insight into what to see and experience while we were visiting.  They also played the role of interpreter many times and definitely were spot-on when it came to where and what to eat—the food was tremendous!  A very big ‘thank you’ to those who helped us out while we were there!

 

 

Dinner with SAP Teams.JPG

Photo 2: Dinner one evening with members of the SAP Development and Product Management teams.

 

In summary, we had a fantastic experience both inside and outside of work and learned quite a lot in such a relatively short period of time.  I would advise anyone to jump at the chance to make a similar trip if you’re ever offered!

My last week can be summed up by one word: Mega.  For me and the other attendees, the BPC 10.0 Mega Elite Enablement meant a week jammed-packed with Mega education, Mega networking and Mega long days.  The Enterprise Performance Management Customer Solution Adoption team (“CSA” – the former Regional Implementation Group or RIG) has hosted BPC Elite training for SAP implementation partners and internal consultants on several occasions, but this was the first time that such a training was opened up to customers like me, and the CSA team set out to make it even bigger and better.  I took the title of this blog from Jens Koerner’s opening keynote, and abiding by the unwritten SCN rule of using the word ‘smorgasbord’ no more than once per year, I waited until November 22, 2011 to publish this blog (read my November 19, 2010 blog titled The specified item was not found.).

Mega Education

Going in, I had high expectations for the educational content for the week, and after successfully making it through (yes, I consider that an accomplishment), I can honestly say that I was overwhelmed with the quantity, depth and quality of the materials and hands-on interactions with the systems.  Over the course of the week, we interacted with SAP BPC 10.0 NW, the underlying SAP BW 7.3 system it was installed upon, SAP BusinessObjects Intercompany, and SAP Disclosure Management.  Those who chose the functional track on Thursday also got to play with BusinessObjects Webi and Dashboards.

While I won’t go into details of each day of the agenda, I will confess that my favorite day of the week was Tuesday – a day that truly appealed to both sides of my uber geek personality (I’m a CPA that has migrated his way into the IT department).  The day began with the masterful David Dixon deftly explaining the concepts of financial consolidations to a room full mostly of non-accountants before eloquently enlightening the audience on how to configure the BPC Business Rules to properly generate consolidated results in the system.

 

David Dixon presenting at BPC Mega Elite
David Dixon on-stage at BPC Mega Elite, held in Newtown Square, PA November 14-18, 2011. 
Photo courtesy: Jens Koerner.

 

After David wrapped up the lecture portion of the day, we then spent most of the rest of the day building out an end-to-end scenario of a month-end consolidation process including entering an ownership structure into the new BPC Ownership Manager, configuring consolidation and intercompany eliminations Business Rules and setting up Controls in BPC.  We then executed the simulated month-end close process, utilizing many of the new features that are available in BPC 10.0 by:

1)     loading data into the Intercompany application and reconciling intercompany Sales and COGS at the invoice level,

2)     loading financial data into BPC through a Data Manager package in the Excel add-in,

3)     executing the Controls in the Controls Monitor to ensure that our financial data was valid,

4)     executed currency translation and consolidation functions in the Consolidation Monitor,

5)     analyzed the consolidated results using the EPM Add-in to ensure that our configuration of the Business Rules was valid,

6)     created an extract of BPC data for the purposes of loading to Disclosure Management,

7)     embedded a footnote table (based on an EPM Add-In report) into a simulated 10-Q document in the Disclosure Management tool.  The report can be refreshed from Disclosure Management so that any changes to the underlying data in BPC come directly into the 10-Q.

After all of that, we even got a chance to follow through the scenario with a subsequent consolidation in the next period by configuring Balance Carryforward, and executing a change in ownership of existing entities as well as acquisition of a new one.  Just for this day alone, the hands-on exercises covered 269 pages.  Sound like a lot for one day?  Well, it was…

With the exception of David Dixon, the presentations were delivered by the CSA team, led by Jens Koerner who acted as host/emcee/presenter/facilitator throughout the five days on-site.  It doesn’t take long to realize that the CSA team really, really knows their stuff and it was very evident that they spent a LOT of time preparing the conference materials and hands-on exercises.  The hands-on exercises were written with precision and included meaningful explanations of not only what you needed to do, but why you were doing what you were doing.  It’s the latter that made this training so valuable – understanding why is what really allows you to go back to your project and apply what was learned to your situation.  The CSA team was extremely attentive to those who may have gone astray during the exercises (most of the time because the user—including yours truly—didn’t thoroughly follow the directions) and they even went above and beyond by answering client/company specific questions that were not related to the exercises.  The training ran like a well-oiled machine–there were virtually no hiccups–and it seemed as though it had been delivered many times before.  I really can’t extend enough compliments to those that made this event happen.

Mega Networking

Not only did the training include the BPC brain trust that is the CSA, but it also included customers, partners and consultants who have a very firm grasp of the product and have been involved in implementations for many years.  There were also several members of the BPC Development team who made their way from China to be in attendance, as well as, a few members of the SAP Support staff who are the first line of defense for BPC-related Service Marketplace messages.  There were two separate evening events held in order to network with these like-minded people, and I was able to take advantage of this time to understand their experiences in hopes that I can leverage these relationships as part of my current and future projects. 

The main lecture hall at the BPC Mega Elite training.
We nearly filled one of the largest (if not the largest) rooms in an SAP office in the US. 
Photo courtesy: Jens Koerner.

 

Mega Long Days

Each day began promptly at 8am and concluded at 6pm (at least one day was even later), with only a few short breaks and 1 hour for lunch.  This made for long, brain-draining days because there was so much content to consume, but as someone driven to learn as much about BPC as possible, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Fun facts

130 – number of attendees admitted to the training
240 – number of registrants for the training
180 – instances set up in the Amazon cloud – enough for each attendee to have their own instance for the week
$1 – the approximate cost per hour for each instance that was used
$1,950 – registration fee for the event, a little more than half that of a typical SAP Education course
25 – number of customers in attendance
38 – number of partners in attendance
12 – number of countries represented by attendees
1,329 – number of pages of hands-on exercises included in the materials
784 – number of pages of presentations included in the materials
1 – number of iPads that each attendee was given to use for the week, rather than printing out course materials
$25 – amount saved by not having to check a bag just to bring back the materials, if they’d have been printed


Conclusion

It was a fantastic week of BPC training and I hope that the CSA team continues to deliver this type of event.  It wasn’t for the faint of heart or for someone new to BPC, so I’d still encourage those of you new to the tool to attend SAP Education courses before attending a future BPC Mega Elite session. 

P.S.

As an SAP BPXer, I would be remiss if I didn’t note that an ASAP Methodology Add-on has been created for BPC.  I was tickled to learn this as part of the BPC project methodology presentation that was delivered on the final day of the event.

James Link

EPM @ TechEd Las Vegas

Posted by James Link Sep 9, 2011

With the May 2011 launch of SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) 10.0 suite of products, it deservedly had quite a presence at this year’s ASUG Annual Conference and SapphireNOW.  There also will be quite a lineup of sessions devoted to EPM at next week’s SAP TechEd conference in Las Vegas.  Since I spend most of my time working in the flagship product of the EPM suite, SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation (some of you may know it as BPC or SBOP PC), I took a stroll through the sessions listing for TechEd and compiled a list of those related to BPC and EPM as a starting point for my agenda.  While Jens Koerner’s BPC 10.0 NW hands-on sessions at SAP TechEd around the world - check out the new EPM10 look and touch key features highlighted the hands-on sessions at TechEd, I thought I’d post this as a one-stop-shop of EPM content for next week (all times local to Las Vegas):

SAP TechEd Schedule 1.PNG
SAP TechEd Schedule 2.PNG

 

I can't believe that it's been nearly a year since I posted my first 'real' blog on SCN, "The specified item was not found." ...and yet, here I am joining the geeks at TechEd for the first time.  While I offered up "A Taste of What’s Coming in BPC 10.0" a few months back, I'm hoping that I can deliver at least a blog or two (as time permits) this week with some more details. 

I can't wait to get to TechEd and my expectations are high (and still rising).  I'll be in a lot of the above sessions, but obviously not all of them as there are some overlaps.  I hope I have a chance to meet some of you next week.  Take care, and safe travels.

For those of you unable to make it to TechEd next week, be sure to check out Virtual TechEd as some of the above sessions may be broadcast.

Today, the 2011 ASUG Annual Conference (and SapphireNOW) began with a series of pre-conference education sessions.  I was fortunate enough to attend the Enterprise Performance Management Version 10.0 Roadmap session led by a number of product experts within SAP’s EPM leadership team.  The goal of the session was to provide an overview of the changes that were coming in the to-be-launched-this-week EPM 10.0 as well as the vision for the suite of products beyond this pending release.

I was most interested in the SAP BusinessObjects Business Planning and Consolidation (“BPC”) portions of the session, since that’s the tool that I work with the most within the EPM product category.  In today’s session, I learned that SAP will be delivering a number of enhancements in the 10.0 release and I’ll do my best to try to outline the bigger changes below and my thoughts on those changes.

BPC Netweaver

New look and feel – One of the themes that SAP has been touting in the EPM 10.0 release is ‘Unified’, and this refers to making each of the EPM products have a similar user-friendly interface so that the user doesn’t know whether they’re in a BPC report or a Strategy Management scorecard (for example).  This new user interface seems very visually appealing based on the screenshots and demos provided.

Integrated security with Netweaver back-end – One of the complaints about BPC security in previous 7.x releases was that the security was not integrated with the underlying BW system.  SAP appears to have addressed this issue and provides a new administration area that will give system administrators a user friendly tool that acts as a front-end to PFCG or SU01 transaction code.

Enhanced hierarchy maintenance – While maintaining hierarchies were do-able by maintaining the ParentHx property in the dimension sheet, new functionality was developed that will allow for drag and drop hierarchy builds within BPC.

Enhanced script logic editor – Let’s face it, writing script logic can be less than straight-forward (and that’s putting it nicely), but with the new functionality planned for this enhancement, it will become a little easier.  With keywords and MDX statements now at a script-writer’s finger tips, searching online for the exact nomenclature will hopefully be less frequent.

No more .Net tier – As a business guy, I’m not sure that I understand exactly what this involves, but a more simplified and streamlined backend likely makes things easier.

Enhanced core consolidation functionality – New features such as Consolidation Central will give administrators a single place for configuration.  Better data validations (with thresholds that will allow consolidation process to continue or if breached, to stop) and a Consolidation Monitor (ala SEM-BCS) are added features in the upcoming release.

Ownership Manager – the Dynamic Hierarchy Editor is now called the Ownership Manager.  This web-based tool allows for auto calculation of ownership percentages based upon a user input of the Parent/Child relationships.  Based on the description, this reminds me a little of the SEM-BCS Group Shares report.

Web-based Journals – Journals will now be entered via a new web-based front-end, with what seemed to be a user-defined layout.  Enhanced journal reporting using a query manager will also allow users to better investigate the entries that are being posted in the system.

Future HANA Enablement – Beginning later in 2011, BPC will be enabled to run on HANA, first with replication of data using the Sybase Replication Server.  Then, in mid-2012, look for BPC to run fully on the HANA technology.

BPC Microsoft

Further demonstrating what SAP has said it would do, some of the Netweaver enhancements mentioned above will be available in the Microsoft platform, but not all.  Specific notable enhancements called out for the Microsoft platform were performance enhancements brought on by fully leveraging the 64-bit architecture and a new Advanced Variance Analysis tool that will help drive variance reporting.  The AVA will only be available in the Microsoft version of BPC, at least for the initial roll-out of 10.0

Conclusion

It was a really good Roadmap session with a lot of excellent and knowledgeable speakers.  I hate to short-change the speakers for the non-BPC EPM tools, but that’s what my personal focus is on these days.

I look forward to an exciting week at ASUG Annual Conference and SapphireNOW as there will be plenty of EPM sessions (more than any one person can actually attend by him/herself).

Don’t miss the official launch of EPM 10.0 on Tuesday, May 17 at 11:00am ET.

I’m quite certain that I missed out on some other enhancements that are coming in 10.0, especially on the Microsoft side, so please don’t think that’s all that’s coming.

 

When it comes time to lock down your budget, do you have the ability to make sure that the data doesn’t change after your company’s executives have reviewed and signed-off on the results?  Or maybe you want to allow certain users the ability to go into the system and put the finishing touches on the updated forecast, but don’t want unauthorized changes to be made?  These are scenarios well-suited for the Work Status functionality that comes delivered with SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation (“BPC”).

Background

Prior to using BPC to build our budgets and forecasts, we used SEM-BPS essentially as a repository for our budget and plan data that was really being determined using Excel models.  When it came time in the process to lock down the data, we had no real feasible way of doing this.  We developed a custom BW transaction where we could allow only certain people into BPS to make changes to the data being held in the repository, but there was nothing preventing people from changing their Excel models (other than the fact that they would no longer agree to the data in the system).  Furthermore, we were unable to limit the entities (for us, Profit Centers) that a user could change – if they were able to get into the system, they were able to change figures for any entity that they had access to.  Upon implementing BPC to replace BPS, the requirement to be able to allow only certain users in the system at certain points in the process was still relevant, but I’ll get back to that in a little bit.

Our monthly forecast process calls for users to make changes to our Working Projection category (which is also known as a version) beginning on/about the 15th of the month.  In general, users have until about the 25th of the month to make changes, at which point in time the Working Projection category is locked down and the business units are required to sign-off on their updated forecast.  With many people involved in the process—almost all of whom had duties outside the forecast process—it seemed as though most of the changes would come through on the last few days before the category was locked down.  This often frustrated our business unit leads who were responsible for reviewing the forecast reports for accuracy – with data changing up to and including the day of sign-off, their job was next to impossible. 

Making It Happen

Using BPC’s Work Status functionality, not only were we able to meet the business requirement of being able to lock down the category, we were able to better the forecast process to allow for an intermediate step of locking out everyone but the business unit leads.  In addition, we’re also now able to allow access to only certain entities so that we can maintain tighter control during times in our process when data integrity is at the utmost importance, yet a few select changes need to be made.

I’m not going to go into great detail about how to set up Work Status in BPC (there’s a good SCN Article for that), but rather just some details of how we’ve modified the system delivered setup to reap the benefits.

Out of the box, BPC comes with three Work States – Unlocked, Submitted and Approved.  The thought behind these delivered Work States are that in the Unlocked state any user with access can make changes to the data (and when I say data, I mean financial records, comments stored, journal entries, Data Manager packages and documents); while in the Submitted status, you can limit the users that have access to make changes, but in the Approved status, no user can make changes.

We didn’t particularly care for the titles of those Work States (they didn’t really make sense to our users), plus our business requirements called for an additional Work State, so we needed to make some modifications.  Making these changes is easy in BPC – simply go to the Admin Console and click on Work Status on the menu screen on the left hand side:

Admin Console Menu Path

 

On the right hand side appears the list of tasks that you can perform for the Work Status feature:

Work Status Action Pane

 

We simply added a new Work State, edited the descriptions and reordered them as necessary and our resulting Work States were set:

Work Status Table

 

For us, we needed four Work States in order to allow everyone access including our property managers (Unlocked), only allow access to our accounting staff (Analyst), only allow access to our business unit leads (SBU Admin) and to lock everyone out to keep them from making changes (Locked).

Now that we’d modified the available Work States to our liking, it was time to set the Work Status Settings for our BPC Applications.  The Work Status Settings tell the system that you actually want to be able to use the Work Status feature for your given BPC applications – setting up the Work State is not enough.  When configuring Work Status Settings for a given Application, you must think through the process(es) that are using that Application and at what level it makes sense to maintain the ability to lock users out.  For our processes, the combination of Category, Entity and Time was plenty enough detail to lock out users, so we set it up this way, using our Finance Application as an example:

Finance Work Status Settings

 

Why was setting it up this way enough for us?  Setting it up this way means that we can open and close any combination of Category/Entity/Time period so this means that we could lock down (or open up, depending on points in the process) the Working Projection for a single profit center (or multiple profit centers) for a certain time period.  For us, it wasn’t important to be able to lock down at the GL Account level (or any other of our Dimensions) as this would be way too much maintenance and not worth it.

Changes in Process

With BPC and the Work Status settings in place now, our monthly forecast process now goes something like this: on/about the 15th of the month the Work Status of the Working Projection category for all of our entities and all time periods is set to Unlocked so that any user with access can make changes.  On/about the 20th of the month, our business unit leads begin to change the Work Status for their business unit (entities) to SBU Admin, effectively keeping everyone else in their business unit from making changes while they begin to review their reports. In this SBU Admin Work State, the business unit leads can still make necessary changes themselves, but they have much tighter control over the data.  On/about the 25th of the month, we change the Work State to Locked so that no user can make changes and our corporate reporting staff can begin to run their consolidated forecast reports.   

Utilizing Work Status has allowed us to improve data quality (by allowing our business unit leads to review their reports earlier in the process with the confidence that no changes will be made that they haven’t made themselves).  Because the business leads previously couldn’t get static reports until BPS was locked for all users, we’ve also become more timely by cutting down on time spent after the actual deadline making changes.

So, you probably noticed that we went from Unlocked right to SBU Admin as part of our forecast process and skipped over the Analyst Work State.  That’s because we really only use the Analyst Work State for our annual budgeting process.  Our annual budgeting process requires that our property managers (those on site at our malls, office buildings, apartment complexes, etc.) start off the process by budgeting revenues and certain expenses associated with operating the properties.  The property managers have access only in the Unlocked Work State.  Once they’re done with their piece of the budget, we change the Work State to Analyst, which allows all of our accounting staff to formulate the rest of the budget for the property.  Ultimately, we use the SBU Admin and Locked state in a similar way for our budget process.

Setting Work Status

The actual task of setting Work Status is traditionally done through the BPC Web interface (you can see more details in the article I referenced above), but we’ve found that interface to not effectively support our process.  For certain entities we’re forecasting out 5 years each month and for others it’s 2 years, so maintaining Work Status becomes very cumbersome when changing only one intersection of data at a time.  For example, for our Residential business unit to move from the Unlocked Work State to SBU Admin, they have to use the web interface 5 separate times:

Category/Entity/Time
Working Projection/Residential SBU/2011.Total
Working Projection/Residential SBU/2012.Total
Working Projection/Residential SBU/2013.Total
Working Projection/Residential SBU/2014.Total
Working Projection/Residential SBU/2015.Total

Each of our business units must follow the same steps.  Only five instances are necessary when moving the entire company (All Entities) to Locked status since everyone moves to that status at one time, but if a change needs to be made to the data for a single entity, we must go through several iterations to ensure that the change can be made: first, change all five years of the All Entities dimension member (and only that member, none of its children) to SBU Admin status. Next, set Residential SBU (and only that member, none of its children) to SBU Admin status.  Lastly, set the specified entity to SBU Admin Status.  As you can see, that’s 15 executions of the web interface screen just to make a change to one entity. 

Luckily for us, we’ve got some savvy Microsoft SQL developers on our team that have built a handy web interface for us to maintain Work Status more easily.  This is possible because Work Status is really driven by entries into certain BPC tables in the backend database.

For those who are interested in an easier way to maintain Work Status, check out a blog by James Lim on maintaining Work Status through the use of Data Manager Packages How to create custom SSIS package for unlocking workstatus of selected base member without unlocking other workstatus of memebrs in SAP BPC (Microsoft Platform).  Our custom built web interface was developed before James’ blog was available, but our developers tell me that our interface is essentially doing the same things in the backend as what’s going on in the packages James describes how to build.

Reporting on Work Status

There are a couple different ways that Work Status can be reported.  I personally prefer the EVLCK function that’s available in BPC’s Excel client.  The EVLCK function allows a user to display the Work State for a given intersection of Work State Dimensions.  For example, in a single cell in Excel, we would type =EVLCK(“Finance”,0,”Residential”,”2010.Total,”Working Projection”) and Excel displays the current Work State for the intersection of Residential/2010.Total/Working Projection.  The first two qualifiers refer to the Application (“Finance”) and the Parameter (0=Status, 1=User who changed the Work State and 2=Time when the Work State was changed).

We’ve incorporated an EVLCK formula in the header section of all of our BPC Input Templates so that users know whether or not they’ll be allowed to make changes to the data before they even interact with the template.  That helps to prevent them from the frustration of making changes that they expect to save successfully, but getting rejected when they actually click the ‘Send’ button.

Using the EVLCK function, you can build a Work Status report/dashboard to display the Work State for multiple intersections at once – a snippet of ours looks like this:

Work Status Report

 

The other alternative for reporting on Work Status is through the BPC Web interface, which allows you to view activity of the Work Status tables to gain insight into which users changed the Work State, what they changed it to, and when the change was made.  This, to me, is a little less useful and the web interface is a little restrictive, but you may find a need for it in your implementation.

Conclusion

Work Status is a very useful and powerful tool when it comes to maintaining integrity of your forecast and budget data.  Yes, it can be a bit of a pain to maintain, but with some creativeness you can work around those issues and unlock just one of the many ways that BPC can help you to improve your budgeting and planning processes.


With TechEd Las Vegas going on this week, a number of IT folks are out of the office, but that doesn't mean that you can't make any necessary changes to your planning or consolidation application, that is, so long as you're using SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation ("BPC").  SAP bills BPC as "A unified planning, budgeting, and consolidation application that is designed to be owned and managed by business users" and for the most part, I've found that to hold true, especially compared to our previous planning application SEM-BPS.

As a former business guy (I'm a CPA who's somehow found a home in IT, but that's a blog post for another time) and one of the key members of our company's BPC implementation team, I find BPC to be an easy application to work with.  It helps that the primary facing tool used by the application is Microsoft Excel, something that most business users hold near and dear to their hearts.  Creating simple input templates and reports is a breeze after spending a couple hours in a training session to learn the ropes (may not be quite so brief if you want to write more complicated input templates and reports). 

If you're a business person who's squeamish about writing your own input templates or reports, BPC is delivered with some out of the box templates that can be utilized.   I've yet to extensively use these delivered schedules myself, given that my company's on a slightly older version (7.0 for Microsoft) and the schedules delivered with this version don't utilize the newer EVDRE function; however, EVDRE input templates and reports are available in version 7.5 (both Microsoft and Netweaver) and I'm sure that you would find them useful.

 

Exhibit 1 - Example of delivered input template in BPC 7.0 Version for Microsoft

 

Whether you build your own input templates and reports or you utilize the ones out-of-the-box, BPC allows you to harness the power of Excel and use it as a front-end to store your planning and consolidation data in a database.  By storing the data in a database, you no longer have to email Excel files back and forth or store them on some sort of shared drive; everyone with access to BPC can simply login and get the most current data.  I like to think that there's nothing that I can't accomplish in Excel and BPC doesn't prohibit me from doing anything that I'm used to doing in Excel.

An advantage that I've found in BPC is being able to re-use Excel files that have been used historically by our business users to generate their budgets.  We've got a couple of ‘models' that our business users have built/tweaked/improved over a number of years and they didn't really want that hard work to be lost upon moving to a new planning system.  By wrapping BPC functionality around these previously existing models, we were able to keep the functionality of the models exactly the same, but still enable them to interact with the BPC database.

When it comes to making changes to dimensions and applications in BPC (think ways you want to slide/dice or otherwise report on or input your data), the Admin Console is very intuitive and easy to understand, which also lends itself well to being maintained by a business user.  Changes to security are also made in the Admin Console, which means that you no longer have to wait for IT to grant security to new users or make changes for existing ones - which is really nice for those crunch times where a lack of access can come back to bite you.

 

Exhibit 2 - Admin Console

 

In the above screenshot, you'll notice the Action Pane on the right hand side of the screen - this is a context sensitive menu which guides both users and administrators through BPC (in both Excel and Admin Console), and is really the key piece of functionality that makes it straightforward, allowing business users to ‘own and manage' the application.  The Action Pane intuitively knows where you are in the system and provides you with a series of options, tasks or activities that are available given where you are.   

While I've been hyping the ability for business users to ‘own' the application, I don't advocate zero involvement from IT when it comes to BPC - there are certain technical aspects that definitely lend themselves to getting IT involved, such as moving data to/from BPC and other systems or writing script logic (or other logic) to help manipulate data behind the scenes, just to name a few.  But, once these back-end processes are set up by IT, the tasks themselves are able to be executed by the business user, allowing optimal control of planning and consolidation processes. 

A prime example, and one that's used in most BPC Administrator training courses, is the ability to ‘seed' a budget by copying actual balances from the current year to the budget year.  Executing what's called a Data Manager package allows this to be accomplished with ease - simply fill out the intuitive parameter selection screen and let it fly.  The data is copied into the budget year and is ready to be updated via the input templates that are available. 

 

Exhibit 3 - Copy Data Manager Package Parameter Screen

 

 

You could always elect to leave some (or all) of the administration of BPC within your IT department (like we have at my company) - just don't expect your IT folks to be available to make changes this week while they're off learning at TechEd. :)

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