Companies have huge financial and knowledge base investments in their existing ERP, CRM and reporting systems. New technologies are constantly being introduced to better use these BI investments and the valuable data stored in them. With a consolidated and real-time view of their business, companies can gain valuable insights and spot trends.
But while these new tools often sound great and solve real business problems, it is not always practical or financially responsible to adopt them. Companies often struggle to determine whether to buy into the promises of new technology or work with the capabilities of existing in-house technology. This situation is often present with companies invested in complex ERP systems such as SAP.
SAP ERP is an integral part of the enterprise but extracting user-friendly data from it can be difficult. As a result, companies are turning to SAP HANA – which provides flexibility and performance when querying large amounts of data – and SAP HANA Live views (over 2000 business-friendly views of often cryptic data). However, SAP HANA Live views are not easily accessible in all reporting and analytic toolsets (e.g. Cognos). So, the dilemma arises: is it better to introduce a new product that easily integrates with SAP HANA or would it be easier and more cost-effective to continue with existing technology and integrate that with SAP HANA?
One of our customers, a manufacturing company that was fully invested in SAP and Cognos, was facing this very predicament. In the end, the company chose not to go with new tools, concluding it required a significant investment of time, money and resources. Instead, with our help the company determined it could extend its Cognos environment to work seamlessly with SAP HANA.
Below is a snapshot of our evaluation process and findings.
Company information: Manufacturing company needed to access massive amounts of data from multiple ERPs housed in a SQL Server data warehouse and SAP HANA. Sales and financial data from a SQL Server data warehouse was fed into a Cognos Framework Manager model. The company preferred to leverage their existing infrastructure in Cognos to access SAP HANA to provide continuity and the robust metadata management it was used to.
Current environment: Data is extracted nightly from SAP ERP and combined with file uploads in SAP format from other ERP sources and put into a SQL Server database. Historical data, summary data and outside data sources are also loaded into the SQL Server data warehouse. Cognos Transformer Cubes, Report Studio Reports and Workspace dashboards are the existing reporting tools. The current environment also uses SAP HANA infrastructure for performance. Before this project, the company did not roll out access to SAP HANA Live views.
Problems to address: Can SAP HANA Live data be used without sacrificing multi-year investments in Cognos? The company did not want to support multiple reporting platforms.
- Invest in a tool that supports SAP HANA Live data natively such as Tableau, Microsoft BI or SAP BusinessObjects and replace Cognos.
- Publish SAP HANA Live data via Cognos even though it is not supported by IBM. Publishing of the Live views could be accomplished via a JDBC connection.
The company chose to use its existing investments in Cognos and enhance it with new SAP HANA Live data. To accomplish this, we built a Cognos Framework Manager (FM) model using the SAP HANA Live views as the data source. The views reside on the SAP servers and Cognos is used to pull the data from the views. Each view contains both dimension and measure attributes. Using this FM model, reports were published using the Cognos platform. This allowed existing users to access to the SAP Hana Live view data from their familiar Cognos environment.
- Adding additional SAP HANA Live views for other subject areas such as inventory.
- Create dashboards/reports that combine SAP HANA data and sales and financial data from the data warehouse. Although SAP HANA provides good performance and the views to readily access SAP Live data, there are cases where the data requires transforming and is not available directly from SAP HANA Live views. This data will continue to be stored in the data warehouse and added to when necessary.