How to get the most of your SAP-IBP solution
SAP-IBP, thanks to its innovative design and novel way to connect and interact with users, is a real step forward for your productivity and process excellence. In this article, I am discussing how to push those promises even further by addressing customization and industrialization of layout templates.
SAP-IBP and data management: a game-changer
Last-born to the SAP SCM family, IBP is a much-discussed topic among SAP communities. IBP still being a rising solution, most of you wish to learn about it, whereas only a limited community already uses it as their company Integrated Business Planning solution. As of end 2017, about 150 large companies have adopted SAP-IBP worldwide (Colgate, Mondelez, Bacardi, ….) across all industries, representing between 2000-3000 users – while hundreds of thousands still are at the question and search stage.
This post focuses on the Excel front-end of SAP-IBP, which lets you efficiently and interactively manage data (jobs, alerts and analytics are handled with a web-browser-inspired approach instead). My purpose here is to give you a concrete glimpse beyond the significant step forward this represents for your supply chain organization productivity. When we initially started with IBP at DOWAP in 2013, I remember eagerly saying: “Great! At last, SAP made the journey to Excel!”. As I argued in a previous article, Excel was the only sensible design decision to match user requirements and expectations, providing advanced personalization features and reducing project efforts on cosmetics and local rules.
SAP-EPM Layer and Excel ADDIN provide a flexible and user-friendly entry point
Software durability is one of our major focus at DOWAP, and we have consistently observed in our projects that it is mainly influenced by 3 criteria:
- the functional and technical performance of the solution itself
- the capability of the IT organization to effectively support it
- and the user-friendliness of the solution
Miss on any of these targets and users will escape, giving in to yet another shadow IT solution.
IBP is a cloud solution to which you can connect with Excel in real time through the SAP-EPM layer (Enterprise Performance Management) and IBP Excel ADDIN. This IBP architecture is actually a little complex technically – however, it was designed to allow IBP to benefit from the SAP-EPM track record and accumulated experience.
Fig.1 – IBP-Excel connection technical layers
We found that this technical design really made IBP an easy thing for new users, and a clear winner on the usability side. Most of the times, a 30-minute training on Excel is all it takes to come onboard.
Set-up steps and work sessions
For your initial implementation and to activate IBP in Excel, you will run a specific application on the user PC or laptop that installs IBP ADDIN for Excel. This is a very simple, 5-minute job.
At each new work session, the user needs to connect to IBP directly from Excel – this is comparable to a SAPLogon – Single Sign On will help in limiting credential re-entries.
Users can then select an Excel layout template to view and edit data (for example, history data cleaning). Templates are designed by consultants and provide predefined data views, which determine the horizon, the dimensions, and the key figures to display in the view – and they really help getting people started immediately.
Once the selected data is displayed in Excel, the IBP ADDIN allows many user interactions directly from Excel, in line with the corresponding user authorizations (simulations, advanced calculations, scenario creation and sharing, display of alerts, single or mass master data maintenance, workflow tasks, etc.). Most importantly, you can save your resulting data back into the IBP database directly from Excel.
Special skills for Excel Layout Templates are still required
If users wish to customize some items to better match their requirements, like colour or formula (and this will inevitably happen), it is possible to create favorites locally. However, even though users are way freer to customize than is the case for other SAP solutions like APO, consultants will still be required for layout template settings, overcoming EPM formatting and reports complexity, as well as dealing with VBA coding.
So, if we really measured the huge step forward this represents in terms of SAP solution usability in the SCM field, we still had to come to grips with our clients’ requests for further customizations and came up with a cost-conscious and scalable solution.
Industrialize and expand your customization approach
XSBS modular and scalable suite was designed to respond specifically to SAP-Excel data exchange and brings additional capabilities to an IBP project, further unlocking the potential of the two solutions combined.
XSBS STUDIO lets you organize and distribute your IBP Layout templates in an orderly fashion. Versioning, automatic deployments, and seamless integration to IBP database will boost consultant capacity to produce powerful and effective templates for your users. Additionally, XSBS natively provides optimized real-time multi-SAP-system access, Batch input and BAPI, further extending customization capabilities, while drastically reducing development time.
Fig. 2 – XSBS Studio menu lets you customize IBP Layout templates without coding
Customization and opportunities to increase productivity
Let me illustrate how you could concretely extend IBP templates with XSBS – and this is not a limitative list:
- Excel table filtering with in memory cache to maintain performance
Fig. 3 Automatic insertion of filters in IBP template with XSBS
- Integrate search Help from SAP systems like ECC and APO from within your IBP Template
Fig. 4 – F4 key natively offers SAP search help on any field customized in the IBP template (here from APO)
- “Application” options to build layout templates as genuine applications.
Fig. 5 – IBP Template options for forecast and segmentation allow users to finetune their work
- Editable Pivot table with full local aggregation and disaggregation capability (no need to simulate, results are directly displayed after a new data entry at any level)
Fig. 6 and 7 – Automatic update of aggregated or disaggregated levels on data entry in a pivot table
- Direct navigation to IBP and any SAP system from layout template (for example to MD04, MM02 in ECC, to SDP94 in APO, in just one click).
Fig. 8 – User can navigate to any SAP transaction with a simple click
- Limitless ribbons and buttons to sort things efficiently by topic and avoid clutter
Fig. 9, 10 and 11– standard IBP ribbon from Excel ADDIN and XSBS-specific IBP planning and forecasting layout template ribbons
- Native excel events management within your IBP Layout Template, letting you trigger actions at opening, change, move, refresh, etc., in addition to IBP Hooks (a kind of user_exit in VBA)
Fig. 12 – XSBS Studio Events menu lets you integrate generic Excel events into your IBP Layout Template
- Functional task panes to separate data from additional info like option, format, graph, etc.
- Native access to XSBS library with stock cover, stock target, Safety Stock, ABC class, XYZ class, and cluster segmentation for real-time calculation and improved interactive assessment
SAP-IBP and XSBS – the definitive answer to your IBP solution implementation and durability challenge
XSBS was designed with certified SAP components to achieve fluid business tasks within any SAP framework such as APO, ECC and other components. Since the launch of IBP, our main goal was to make things happen, with IBP to become the undisputed Integrated Business Process solution that combines performance, power and user agility.
To let clients maximize their leveraging of SAP excellence on engines and architecture, XSBS brings the necessary toolbox allowing an effective industrialization of IBP Layout templates and their customization. They ensure the link to other SAP systems within your environment, and lets your IT fully and easily control the deployment of enhanced templates. All to the benefit of your users, who will enjoy the productivity gains and ensure full and long-term adoption.
Daniel Lellouche – CEO and Founder – XSBS-DowapSolutions
Share this article on LinkedIn
Follow us on LinkedIn