SAP IBP magnified with Excel & XSBS!
Excel is not exactly new to SAP
SAP has a long-standing story with MS Excel – however, the way IBP interacts with Excel is real novelty.
Prehistory: “Do what I allow you to”
A while ago, SAP used to see Excel as an optional companion to its applications, however considering it as a form of threat to its customer base, just like mainstream IT organizations and internal IS departments would. Excel utilization was consequently very light (see ALV). Excel was not given full control, though it was a powerful companion – very frustrating for users who knew what they could achieve with Excel, and simply were not allowed.
Then BW came into place, replacing the old-fashioned LIS and COPA. In BW, SAP designed the role of Excel as a true component. It allowed a full control of SAP resources from the Excel side, through the BW Excel ADDin – the famous BEX was born. A user could however not perform all his tasks in BEX, he still had to resort to SAP GUI for many other reasons, leaving a certain “half way” taste…
Today: “Here it is”
Since 2010, competition got stiffer and pushed the reference very high, so much so that what was an order winner so far, became a simple order qualifier to the market. Today, SAP is not the only giant software company embedding Excel into its components, most of the main competitors do this as a normal way forward. It became a sort of new Normal. Check Steelwedge, Kinaxis, Dynasys and the many others to figure this out for yourself.
Let’s focus on the role of Excel in the new SAP IBP solution as a guide to this new way of doing things. Excel is no longer a companion, but rather a building block of the IBP solution. Anything the user wants to change manually must be done via the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, with no other possible alternative:
- play with figures
- maintain master data (product, customer, etc.: all master records)
- maintain combination of master data (CVC)
- define background jobs to be run on the IBP platform
- check job status
- create, activate or delete version and scenario
- design layout template
- initiate version copy
- manage alerts
- compare results
- validate decisions
- collaborative social communication (SAPJAM)
All these features are possible through the IBP Excel ADDin software component to be implemented on each user’s PC. SAP has indeed proceeded as with an assembly game to build IBP. They took the best of existing SAP components and created a new coherent ensemble. The time when SAP would have re-written everything to support a new application (see APO) is definitely over now. Re-utilization of existing and fault-proof material can never be a bad idea!
Connect Excel to SAP IBP via EPM
SAP-EPM (Enterprise Performance Management) helps connecting Excel to SAP database via RFC (Remote Function Calls), in order to swiftly create intuitive reports in Excel with many formatting capabilities and options. IBP allows data to be displayed in lists or pivot tables directly at users’ fingertips.
The IBP ADDin relies on EPM and is still a bit technical, and therefore more directed to advanced user or consultants. Nevertheless, the end-result is satisfactory, matching what an IBP user shall expect. The Excel part is intuitive enough to allow self-education from using the tool itself. Coming from SAP, this is surprising and really appreciated.
SAP self-imposed limitations
Because a software is designed to cover standard processes, there will always be many use cases that are not covered by the standard solution. There’s nothing wrong with software editors, it is just that business is not so foreseeable after all. Businesses thus require flexibility and agility that cannot be part of SAP initial delivery. SAP will absolutely keep control of all tasks and transactions, and the Excel ADDin they provide is a voluntary black box, which does not let you add new buttons or new actions.
To illustrate that, you’ll notice that the Excel ADDin is designed to operate with IBP database only – so your consultants will be able to setup templates that read data out of IBP and allow you to save results, but may end up spending many days to slightly extend your IBP templates, likely leaving you with unmaintainable templates at the end of the day.
The real plus brought to you by XSBS
XSBS solution can run with multiple SAP systems in parallel, whatever their version (HANA or Netweaver based). You can create any new ADDin of your choice, either fully new or starting with existing SAP ADDins. These ADDins (applications) may be local ones or shared and administered by IS/IT, through a versioning principle.
If IBP is definitely a sensible choice for your company, XSBS can support you fully leveraging the solution with your own IBP ADDins to close any potential gaps such as:
- editing Excel pivot table within an IBP layout, with disaggregation features
- connecting other SAP instances to synchronize with other processes in real-time
- add advanced logic (i.e. safety stock, stock cover, stock target, actuals, etc.)
- calling for external resources in SAP via BAPIs and BDCs
- saving data back to SAP
As it is often the case for cars, you may buy the best available car, and still want to change some options (wheels, painting, etc.) without renouncing your initial choice. SAP has significantly evolved in recent years to the benefit of its clients and users – let XSBS unleash the full potential of this for you!
Daniel Lellouche – CEO and Founder – XSBS-DowapSolutions
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