Why do we need data warehouse and BI applications? We already have analyses!

In discussions with our customers, we are often asked what the added value of a data warehouse with BI applications is. For one thing, there are already numerous analysis options in the SAP® ERP and, in addition, these are presentably combined in Excel in a way that meets the management requirements. So, let’s take a look at this question together. When does the LAV with downstream Excel analyses reach its limits and the use of a BW system come into its own?

It’s all a question of perspective

At this stage, let us pre-empt one point: effective real-estate controlling does not necessarily require the use of a data warehouse. In this issue, we will simultaneously talk about the reporting options in rent management with conventional ERP tools. And quite right, too! After all, such analyses impress with their streamlined implementation. Every customer has compiled various lists or analyses that largely meet the reporting requirements by providing the necessary data. Filtering and aggregating data, showing and hiding various items of information – this can all be done using standard SAP® tools.

The flip side is only obvious when we look at the details. Subsequent updates are extremely time-consuming and require data to be coordinated and harmonised. This procedure is prone to errors that can only be corrected following extensive analysis of the results. These could be different key dates of the lists used, lists could be accidentally mixed up, totals may no longer be correct because the row number changes during aggregations. Different Excel models are based on lists that were generated differently, and various other challenges mean this type of reporting is not particularly simple. Figures that have already been reported can also change, as postings for time periods in the past are also made in the ERP system. This results in employees spending a great deal of valuable time on collecting and preparing data instead of performing their actual tasks. It also means that queries from the management can only be answered after a delay. In the worst case, the company will manage various isolated solutions that cannot meet the requirements for consistent, cross-department and flexible information acquisition in the long run.

For these reasons, we recommend that you address the decision regarding how long a reporting system and controlling based on an ERP system will meet your needs at an early stage.

More than just reporting

If we also consider that the requirements in organisations and operations quickly become increasingly complex, central and consolidated BI applications with or without a data warehouse (depending on the specific reporting requirements) remain the best solution approach for an information system that covers the entire organisation. In this scenario, the data warehouse is a company-wide data basis that provides data that is relevant for decision-making from various sources in consolidated form. You can work with huge volumes of data here, for example:

  • SAP® data from various modules or
  • from various SAP® systems,
  • data from other software providers’ applications,
  • unstructured data and
  • geodata

In the data warehouse, you generate a standardised, binding data basis, archive past data and can call this up with current data (in SAP BW/4HANA® with live data) for immediate analysis and fast decision-making. Under S/4HANA®, S/4HANA® Analytics is available to you for operational reporting based directly on the data from S/4HANA® systems.

Your data is ultimately called up via virtual data models (queries, views, etc.) that were developed in accordance with your needs. You can then have this data displayed in the BusinessObjects Analysis for Excel or other user interfaces, such as Lumira or Crystal Reports. Thanks to standardised and central data acquisition and preparation, you gain time for your employees to perform their actual tasks.

Figure 1: Overview of an IT structure of a data warehouse and Business Intelligence solution with SAP®.

A key benefit of a data warehouse compared with direct data call-up using the ERP or from the underlying source system is the historisation of data. Data can be saved in the data warehouse with reference to a key date, enriched with version information, and also fully automatically at fixed times. This of course allows you to restore past data inventories that no longer exist in this form in the ERP system. For example, report data that was created a year ago remains available to the user and makes chronological comparisons possible.

An interim conclusion could therefore be: for pure analysis of the transaction data, your ERP system reliably brings you to your destination. However, in direct comparison to a data warehouse, it may be possible to make the route more secure, faster, more convenient and more sustainable.

Welcome to the top of the class

Something we have not mentioned at all yet is the integrated planning options. Historisation, simulation and planning of data are top of the class in controlling and definitely require the use of analytical tools. With SAP BW Integrated Planning (SAP BW-IP) for the SAP Business Warehouse and SAP Business Planning & Consolidation (SAP BPC), SAP provides a convenient infrastructure for realising and operating planning scenarios. With planning functions, planning data can be divided, updated or generated elsewhere in the system. Planning data can be recorded with the familiar analysis tools used in reporting and saved in the SAP Business Warehouse. Planning data and actual data can be combined and analysed together. In forecast calculations, future depreciation and rental income forecasts can be derived for capitalisable construction measures and other investments. Combined with other planning data and existing financing flows, this results in the forecast calculation for business planning.

A wide range of solutions

Over the past few years, PROMOS has developed various reports and applications for different customers in the areas of inventory, renting, operation costs, finances, controlling and construction, and so has built up extensive expertise in designing such solutions. To give you an impression of the many options available to you with SAP® BW, we will present a selection here:

  • Various key performance indicators from different topic areas are summarised and presented in condensed form in the quarterly report. They are key performance indicators regarding inventory changes, rental topics, occupancy or reasons for vacancies, receivables and liabilities, terminations, etc. In a similar way to a KPI dashboard, the management is informed at a glance about the company’s situation and can also compare different company units or time periods with one another.
  • With the performance analysis, we have developed a tool for customers with which they can use a value driver tree to analyse the effects of investments, changes in floor space, rental adjustments or other changes to a property or in the inventory. It is also possible to compare different properties with one another. You can very easily recognise where fine tuning can have a positive impact on the success of your real estate.
  • An investment calculation for the next 10, 15 or 20 years forecasts the development of individual properties or even the company in a complete financial plan. Each individual property is divided into building components and their duration of use and replacement costs are used to derive the required investment over time. This underlying data can also be used to determine the fair values of the individual properties for insurance purposes based on the German ordinance on the valuation of property/real estate (ImmoWertV).
  • You can use the rental income forecasts to simulate the development of your rental income and, for example, compare it with market rents. This is extremely helpful when it comes to deciding on necessary rental adjustments. The forecast is made based on parametrised planning values and can be traced up to the level of an individual rental contract. Influencing factors such as the rent index, loss of rental income, fluctuation, costs for modernisation or a change of tenant can be taken into account.
  • Cost centre planning, property planning and investment planning are probably the most well-known planning topics. Combining and dovetailing all these planning topics results in business planning. Planning values can be recorded for different structural elements, such as cost centres, profit centres, accounting entities and WBS elements, depending on the planning topic and level of detail. Using an integrated solution not only provides planning security, but also significantly relieves the workload for operational management and creates freedom for strategic decisions.

The PROMOS solutions from the Business Intelligence area reduce the effort required for creating reports and make access to the reporting system and analytical applications easier for many different user groups in your company. The employees are also able to concentrate on their core tasks. And they do not involve many days spent preparing and checking the plausibility of data, but in deriving specific actions from the knowledge gained and using these findings to manage your real estate.

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