Analytics in SAP S/4HANA explained

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Written by Erik Leemans in Cloud , Analytics


Traditionally there has always been a strict separation between analytics and transactional work. Partly this was due to technical separation of live business data and analytical data which needed to go through an ETL process and stored in a Data warehouse system, to consume it on a reasonable speed. As a result of this separation, the availability of analyses on live data for the business user was very limited. This means that the regular user will make decisions based on partial or outdated information.

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With S/4HANA there is the possibility to integrate analytics and real-time operational reporting into the transactional context of the user.

SAP HANA’s architecture is optimized for both fast queries and high-speed transactions for either OLAP or OLTP applications. SAP HANA organizes data in columns and stores data in memory, which speeds up data access. The columnar structure gives faster access, because most queries only address certain sets of columns. It will target only those columns for loading and not a huge set of data just for specific answers. Furthermore, S/4HANA uses the Fiori UI designed to take advantage of HANA’s speed and design.

Analytics in S/4HANA gives the powerful benefit of performing real-time analytics and complex reports such as predictive modeling and flexible queries on the fly. This means that your company can make data-driven decisions faster, reacting to sudden market changes based on actual customer data.


Embedded Analytics

One of the most important part of S/4hana analytics is Embedded analytics. S/4HANA embedded analytics means direct and real-time analysis in S/4HANA using Fiori applications. To overcome the traditional separation of analytical tools and reports S/4 enhances transactional work with the use of analytics. Ideally, the user should be able to access the information needed to make a decision in the same place as where this user actually executes the action. S/4hana integrates analytics and Real-time Operational Reporting into the transactional context of the user.

The best use cases for embedded analytics

  • Operational analytics
  • Tactical analytics
  • Smaller clients can use Embedded for most of their analytics needs
  • Real time simulations: mixed analytical and non-analytical cases
  • Good for month end close activities, forecasting current month, etc.

Beyond embedded

With the launch of the SAP S/4HANA and following, the use-cases for analytics have changed dramatically. This also make the question arise: When to use embedded and when to use BW?Data Warehousing and Embedded Analytics are serving very different use-cases. Comparing S4/HANA and BW/4HANA will outline those differences.

SAP S/4 HANA is not an Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW)

SAP S/4HANA is the next generation intelligent ERP – sized, tuned and maintained for optimal performance as transactional system. For analytics in S/4 HANA the central use-case is the combination of analytical and transactional elements of a process in the transactional system. The data is operational, the availability real-time. The virtual character of the data model allows lightweight modeling with immediate reflection of structural changes due to the lack of persisted data. The models are extensible and easy reusable in different scenarios and allow the interoperability with pure transactional developments. So it becomes possible to answer questions like:

  • “How to get the very latest contextual information I need to complete my transaction?”
  • “Which transactions and areas should I prioritize and why?”


BW/4HANA is the recommended solution for Enterprise Data Warehousing in the context of SAP S/4HANA. BW/4HANA gives the best integration capabilities because the systems share a common architecture and terminology (e.g. analytical engine, currencies, user maintenance, ABAP, transports, governance,…). Being an EDW, SAP BW/4HANA consolidates data across the entire enterprise using a standardized but fully extensible data models, to support decision making. By defining common semantics, all data values get harmonized. To provide this, a single, comprehensive source of current and historical information needs to be established which implicates a redundant (aggregated and harmonized) persistence of data.

BW/4HANA is suited to store bigger data volumes and this is an important consideration as data older than 2 years is deleted from S/4HANA.


What about Embedded BW in SAP S/4HANA?

Since the release of SAP NetWeaver 7.0, SAP ERP systems automatically include SAP BW. The SAP BW technology that exists inside such an ERP system is called ‘Embedded BW’. This embedded functionality is used to support certain business processes in the SAP Business Suite and in SAP S/4HANA, e.g. integrated financial planning processes in SAP S/4HANA (aka. BPC Optimized). Embedded BW is not recommended for building an Enterprise Data Warehouse. It is common best practice to keep the amount of data persisted in the Embedded BW not to exceed 20% of the overall data volume of the system. But in selected small use-cases, the functionality of the “Embedded BW” can help to extend the range of SAP S/4HANA embedded analytics.

SAP Analytics Cloud

SAP Analytics Cloud can complement Analytics in both S/4HANA and BW/4HANA and make the BI Architecture complete. The use case of SAC is completely different as SAC is a cloud-based analytics tool to analyze data and meant for data visualization and presentation. Data can be imported or connected live, modeled, and converted into charts, graphs, tables, and other data visualizations. SAP Analytics Cloud can pull in data from a variety of SAP and non-SAP data sources, giving you a much richer overview of your business.

SAP Analytics Cloud offers robust modeling capabilities that are compatible with SAP S/4HANA, they can share the same data source CDS views.

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Positioning SAP BW/4HANA and SAP S/4HANA; Karsten Ruf, Jürgen Butsmann, SAP SE; April 24, 2019

Key conclusions

In conclusion, because S/4 HANA is optimized for fast queries and high-speed transactions for OLAP and OLTP processes, it gives the possibility to integrate analytics into the transactional context of the user. Real-time analytics and complex reports such as predictive modeling and flexible queries can be performed on the fly. Especially strong is the embedded part of S/4HANA Analytics. This delivers direct and real-time analysis using Fiori applications, enhancing the transactional work with the use of analytics.

Even though S/4HANA is very powerful, it is not replacing the EDW systems like BW/4HANA, which are still needed ETL processes and storage of larger data volumes.

SAP Analytics Cloud can complement Analytics for both S/4HANA and BW/4HANA, making the architecture complete. SAC is a cloud-based analytics tool to analyze data and meant for data visualization and presentation.

If you would like to know more about S/4HANA or Analytics in S/4HANA, please do not hesitate to contact us.

About the author

Photo of Erik Leemans
Erik Leemans

Erik Leemans is a Senior BI & Innovation consultant at Expertum. Erik has more than 6 years of experience in SAP consulting. Erik specializes in designing and realizing a technical solution by combining his functional SAP knowledge with his technical background.

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