Tuesday Jan 17, 2012

Questions to ask SAP about BPC and their EPM Strategy

Over the past few months, my colleague Rich Clayton and I have been visiting customers evaluating Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) solutions, and in a number of cases it’s become evident that sales teams from SAP often misrepresent the complexity of deployment and administrative requirements of Oracle’s EPM solutions.  We have even seen evidence that most of SAP’s claims about Oracle’s EPM solutions are based on older releases of the products – dating back to 2007 or earlier.  On the flip side, they often overstate the simplicity of deploying and administering their own EPM applications, which were acquired from a number of different companies.  They also often compare and position SAP BPC (the former OutlookSoft product) to a broader suite of Oracle applications. 


Just the Facts


The truth is that Oracle offers the most comprehensive and integrated EPM suite in the industry, the Hyperion EPM Suite, which has been adopted by over 7,500 organizations globally.  It’s an integrated suite of best of breed modules designed to address specific EPM requirements with high performance and scalability.  Each of these can be deployed individually and deliver great customer value, but they also work better together as they share a common user workspace, reporting tools, MS Office interface as well as common administration, security, data integration tools, and dimension management.  The suite was well-integrated before Oracle acquired Hyperion and it’s become even more integrated in the four years since the Oracle acquisition.  Most of our customers have deployed two or more applications from the suite to address specific requirements and typically see a high return from their investment.


In contrast, SAP’s EPM suite resulted from the acquisitions of a number of different companies such as Pilot Software, OutlookSoft, Business Objects (which acquired Cartesis, SRC, and Armstrong Laing), Sybase and Cundus.  The SAP BPC Solution, based on the OutlookSoft product, is often positioned as an “all in one” product that can address a broad set of EPM requirements from strategic planning, to financial planning and budgeting, financial consolidation & reporting, enterprise dimension management as well as management reporting.  But SAP BPC is more of a “none in all” and doesn’t have the depth of functionality customers typically need in all of these areas and other modules will often be required to fully address customer requirements. 


So to help organizations fully evaluate SAP BPC, here is a set of questions to ask SAP sales teams about the product:


Questions to Ask SAP:


How many applications or instances of BPC will be required to support different requirements such as strategic planning, financial budgeting & planning, financial consolidation, management reporting?


How are different instances of SAP BPC administered, centrally or distributed?  How can we synchronize data and meta data across multiple instances?


How many users can be supported on a single instance of SAP BPC?  How many servers will be needed to fully support our application and user requirements?


What's your plan for industry or function specific planning applications?  Are these built on the same platform as SAP BPC and integrated with it?


How do you manage strategic financial modeling requirements with multiple embedded or layered "what-if" scenarios?


Which version of BPC does SAP consider strategic?  MS SQL Server / Netweaver / HANA?  A combination?


Which version of BPC is SAP demonstrating and why?  


Ask SAP to demonstrate all the methods for creating complex calculations? Excel formulas, Visual Basic Macros, BOBJ Business Rules Management and MDX Functions.


Did you / do you have to rewrite the BPC application to leverage HANA?  Is that work complete?  Has it been tested?  Deployed?  In production anywhere?  How many users?  How many countries?


How is SAP BPC integrated with SAP and non-SAP ERP applications?  Is this an IT-driven process or user-driven?  Does it support drill-through to transactional details?


How many clients with large-scale requirements have deployed BPC for their entire, enterprise-wide financial planning process?  In CPG, Retail?   On which platform?


What role does a web based user interface (UI) have in your development plans?  Is this getting as much emphasis as the Excel interface?


Is there any pre-built integration between BPC and Business Objects BI?  Is there common security?  Are there any pre-defined Universes?


How much work does it take to use Business Objects BI on top of BPC?  Any restrictions or caveats?  Does that depend on the architecture we choose to deploy?


Where does the calculation logic live in BPC?  In the worksheet?  In SQL Server/NW/HANA?  How does that scale?  Do you have any benchmarks? 


When will BPC and other applications be available on HANA?  How will we be able to migrate existing applications to HANA?  How is/will write-back be handled in HANA?


I hope this set of questions is helpful to customers considering Oracle’s EPM solutions vs. SAP BPC and the rest of their EPM suite.  Let me know if you have any comments or additional questions to add to the list.  Thanks!

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