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sap analyticsSAP analytics has made an old myth come true at long last. When computers were first invented, people erroneously ascribed great wisdom to them. You can see this in old movies, where the computer knows all, perhaps being even able to see the future, e.g. in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” where the computer knows the location of the last Golden Ticket. That’s called predictive analytics, which is now coming of age. In 1971, when the movie was made, computers were immensely dumb, in today’s terms.

This didn’t deter the tech industry from using phrases like “smart machines” or “electronic brains” to market their wares. Until recently, though, computers were not the brains of any outfit. They were great at storing and processing data. Thinking and making predictions about the future? Not so much. This has all changed now with the advent of data analytics and Business Intelligence (BI).

Seeing into the Future

The highest performers in the digital economy can transform their businesses into an “intelligent enterprise” by using BI and analytics to gain insights into future events. Some view AI capabilities like predictive analytics as a luxury, a “nice to have,” rather than recognizing it as a major cost saver and enabler of strategic insights. Enterprises running SAP can achieve this potential with SAP Predictive Analytics. It uses data modeling within SAP S/4HANA applications to use analysis of past events to predict the future.

Using big data, such as customer data or machine learning data, this product suite allows SAP teams to gather demographics, transactions, manufacturing records and service calls among massive datasets. SAP Predictive Analytics is especially useful in protecting the customer experience because it can anticipate behaviours across disparate data sets, such as customer calls in call centers, as well as social network analyses of customer behaviour.

For example, imaging that you want to optimize your mobile advertising spend. Instead of just buying mobile ads by demographic, you could use predictive analytics to get a sense of when customers were truly in market for your product. You might analyze past purchase behaviour and notice that a certain kind of customer purchases your product when he is within a measurable geographic range from certain stores. Armed with this insight, you can start to test a predictive hypothesis about the effectiveness of mobile ads served when the device user is in a defined location.

Predictive analytics can also help with equipment maintenance. By doing analytics on vast volumes of data on engine repairs, for instance, you could start to get good at predicting when various engine parts will break. You could use this knowledge to establish maintenance schedules that avoid breakdowns. In this way, and many others, BI and predictive analytics help an organisation make profitable decisions.

Making SAP Analytics Work: Cloud-Based Collaboration

Predictive analytics works only partly due to the technology. It’s a people-driven process. Using in-memory technology from SAP HANA in a hybrid cloud deployment, teams can plan using better, data-driven decisions. With SAP Analytics Suite in the cloud and linked to on-premises SAP instances, it’s possible to bring all relevant stakeholders into the analytics workflow. It allows users to access data inside business functions and mine data to obtain better insight into HR, ERP, Marketing, and Finance—virtually anywhere in the enterprise. Business users collaborate on a single platform in the Analytics Cloud. This eliminates separate reporting tools and empowers business leaders to run scenarios using real-time data to ensure resource and financial controls before taking any action.

In many cases, all businesses need is the ready-to-use applications available in the SAP Analytics Cloud platform. These connect all the way from “the shop floor to the top floor” to ensure executive leadership has real-time visibility into business performance from first customer touchpoint to invoice. Ongoing analytics programmes can also safeguard the customer relationship to ensure higher retention.

The SAP Predictive Analytics Portfolio

What do you need when you are trying to provide BI solutions using SAP? That depends on your current on-premise solutions, e.g. SAP Business Warehouse (BW) or SAP Business Objects. It will also depend on whether or not you’re already using SAP Analytics Cloud for SAP HANA. The SAP analytics portfolio will soon run exclusively on the SAP Analytics Cloud. Business intelligence can be mined from this platform without moving data into the cloud, even on-premises data in Business Objects.

Many customers use BW on-premises in conjunction with SAP HANA Live to gain analytics power from both historical and transactional data. Some are still using SAP Lumira, which was launched as SAP Visual Intelligence in 2012. SAP Lumira was absorbed into SAP Analytics Cloud; however, some continue to run a version of SAP Lumira using on premise technology.

Like Lumira, other Analytics Cloud solutions deploy analytics and BI programmes that are integrated with the Microsoft Office suite. This makes sense because well-integrated data visualisation and analytics among several technology ecosystems are crucial to ensuring the most BI benefit. For example, planning and analysis shared between business functions helps leaders make better decisions based on profitability modeling and optimization applications in SAP Lumira.

We are also seeing innovative applications of predictive analytics with clients who use SAP Business Planning and Consolidation (SAP BPC) or SAP Enterprise Planning (EPM). BPC integrates predictive analytics capabilities with organisational planning, budgeting, forecasting and financial consolidation. The combination of analytics with these features enables business leaders to make plans and adjust forecasts based on data insights. Similarly, EPM leverages predictive analytics to align plans across the organisation.

Implementing SAP Analytics

At Symmetry, we enable advanced SAP analytics and BI on our SAP hosting platforms. Our service portfolio includes expert application management across all deployment environments: on premise, hosted, and private, public and hybrid cloud. We have experience in true hybrid cloud, which involves connecting S/4HANA in our cloud to SAP Analytics Cloud. For BW customers who are connected to SAP BW, SAP HANA or SAP Universes data sources, we align the technological and infrastructure needs for different SAP Analytics BI tools to their overarching business strategy. We can also serve as a remote IT management resource to ensure your BI is on the road to success.

To learn more, download our white papers Migrate SAP to the Public Cloud and Building a Bridge to the Cloud: A How-To Guide.

Steve Lofthouse, Solutions Architect

Steve Lofthouse is a Solutions Architect on Symmetry’s EMEA team bringing 14 years of SAP cloud and managed service experience. He’s dealt with solutions coming from multiple perspectives in his experience including but not limited to: pre-sales, technical consultant, support and end user. With this experience, Steve is able to deliver all required components needed for almost any situation with a sound understanding, resulting in effective managed cloud environments for various enterprise solutions.