SAP Blog

Manufacturing Client Story: Global Distributor Transforms Analytics Program Driving SAP S/4HANA Adoption

Growth is good. But too much of a good thing can present challenges to any well-established business. In this case, a global distributor of original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts, had seen a double-digit compound annual growth rate over the last decade and had outgrown its legacy ERP system.

The company’s analytics team was regarded as subject matter experts in writing queries and pulling data and relied heavily on Excel and Access, the latter being the company’s data warehouse. An in-house-built self-service solution was in place but adoption was slow. Yet the senior director of data and analytics knew there was significant potential to scale this team’s capabilities well beyond report generation.

Bumps in the road

The client was weeks away from go-live and was working on integrating data into their legacy analytic environment.  Assessing their position, they realized that DataSphere and SAP Analytics Cloud, with the integrated Analysis for Office, could provide new analytical capabilities to the program and de-risk their go-live. There were serious concerns with creating seamless reporting and effectively distributing those reports. Out-of-the-box (OOTB) reporting was only solving some business-critical reporting needs. A replacement for data querying had not been identified and there was a steep learning curve being created for the business, impacting operations.

The company had outlined its analytics transformation journey, including strategies to shift the business from report generators to strategic partners, but that goal was in jeopardy.

Taking charge

The client already had a relationship with Protiviti as we were assisting with an SAP financial advisory project, so this project expanded that partnership to maximize the company’s investment in SAP solutions. The team was faced with a formidable task to blend historical and future-state SAP data and do it within a tightly defined timeframe.

The company’s senior director outlined the challenges the team was facing leading up to go-live:

  • Translation between S4/HANA to Qlik with new language, metric definitions, business process logic and adopting new processes into analytics for uninterrupted trends.​
  • Business logic was very different between SAP and the old ERP system. ​
  • Steep learning curve adapting to achieving analysis goals with new dataflow from DataSphere to Qlik, the preferred frontend self-service tool​.
  • Prioritization and scope of reporting work as go-live approached was constantly changing. ​
  • Differing opinions on critical report needs for go-live.

After an initial discovery phase, a series of objectives were outlined that needed to be accomplished. Our SAP subject matter experts partnered with the analytics team to sort out the challenges and agreed on priorities:

  • Report automation​
  • Report evaluation and decommission​
  • Prioritization of business-critical reports for go-live​
  • Business reporting continuity​
  • Aligning legacy data with new ERP data​
  • Data engineering/ETL within the existing self-service system

While they focused on the identified priorities, we simultaneously defined a new self-service data management architecture, security and ‘gold path’ methodology. A gold path is a repeatable, documented and agreed-upon approach to accomplish common data and analytic tasks which helps the client better understand how to best handle development activities and scale a program. In this case, the gold path helped the client define how business users would augment the population of SAP data with bring-your-own-data and self-service modeling. The typical benefits of defining ‘gold path’ design approaches are:

  • Scale to new or additional developers with consistency in end code product.
  • Higher-quality code.
  • Tighter estimation of backlog and future development efforts.
  • Improved data quality and data management controls leveraging reusable data models.
  • Clearly articulated analytic capabilities and future system roadmap.
  • New types of analytic self-service such as end-user dashboard authoring and storytelling, citizen developer modeling, bring-your-own-data capabilities.

Challenging the status quo

Through perseverance, challenging the status quo, embracing the unknown and an eagerness to learn, the analytics team significantly matured their capabilities and elevated the client’s business intelligence and analytics capabilities.​ Their accomplishments were impressive and had a significant impact on the business itself:

  • Decommissioned hundreds of redundant reports​ by consolidating report usage; rationalized all remaining reports, creating single analytics to replace dozens.
  • Improved reporting continuity for internal and external stakeholders through data engineering and transformation of ERP systems​.
  • Automated repeatable data movement removing manual data processes and freeing users’ time.
  • Transformed the reporting team from report writers to strategic advisors and analysis partners for the business​.
  • Renewed team skills, enabling a shift to proactive analysis and forward-looking insights, in turn driving more actionable business decision-making.

Our experts supported the team throughout the SAP S/4HANA go-live using SAP Datasphere to facilitate self-service analytics and delivered the following:

  • Developed 20+ new full-featured dashboards with reusable supporting models and automated data pipelines across multiple lines of business​ within a three-month window.
  • Automated 350+ existing reports, defined the logic for 500+ fields across 50+ tables as data were integrated.
  • Led rapid client team training and enablement​.
  • Addressed a broad range of concerns and business domains regarding the go-live: from sales and distribution fill rate reporting to purchasing variances and CapEx management​.
  • Identified use cases for the BTP platform to enable automation and scalability; identified and architected solutions for a future prioritized roadmap.

And we helped position the analytics team for future success by launching a best practices-based training program for developers, power users and business users.

What’s next?

Following the project’s completion, in which we provided a new data platform, helped the client move the reporting team’s maturity level, rationalized existing reports for more manageable development and helped secure the team a seat at the business’s executive table, all while delivering more effective reporting with fewer staff, the client’s analytics team is reenergized and looking confidently to the future, focusing on expanding the foundation now in place. They are introducing storytelling using tools that scale and are looking to incorporate industry-leading best practices around predictive analytics and other enhancements. Implementing artificial intelligence tools, cutting-edge business intelligence and data analytics solutions is also on the roadmap.

To learn more about our SAP consulting services, contact us.

Eric Wojcik

Business Platform Transformation