The Search for Easily-Findable Financial Data in SAP is Over

, Created on May 23, 2022
by Dr. Jessica Helsten, PMP, PSM

Say goodbye to hunting for the right source table(s) for financial data. SAP® S/4HANA® combines financial actuals into one table for ease of access.

The path to this new reality hasn’t been an easy one. Let’s look at how we got here.

Traditional Databases

Previous versions of SAP’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system like R/3 and ECC had underlying databases optimized for OLTP (Online Transaction Processing) meaning inserts, updates, or deletions of large volumes of data across multiple tables.

R/3 and ECC sat on top of a traditional disk-based RDBMS (relational database management system) like Oracle, SQL Server, or IBM DB2.

A separate OLAP (Online Analytical Processing) tool like SAP Business Warehouse (BW) optimized the reporting and analysis process.

Challenges of this design:

  1. Extra costs from storing the same data in multiple places.
  2. Data latency from waiting for scheduled batch jobs to load data into the data warehouse.
  3. Different versions of the truth; one table or cube might have a different total than another table or cube.
  4. No single source for the dimensions you want to analyze your data.

It was hard to know what tables or cubes were the best source for financial reports.

Example: Profitability Data

At a previous employer, we needed profitability data. The SAP COPA (Profitability Analysis) cube seemed like the logical source. But not all accounts were marked as COPA-relevant. As a result, the data in the COPA cube was different from the General Ledger (GL) cube.

If we wanted to see Profit and Loss (P&L) data, we could use the Profit Center Accounting cube, but if we wanted to see profitability down to the individual customer, that data wasn’t there.

BW could combine data from different cubes into multi-cubes, but it was still hard to know what objects were common and at the same granularity in the base cubes to allow for the combination to happen and the result to make sense.

Example: Plant Profitability Report

Our IT department received a request for a plant profitability report. It combined actual, forecast, and budget revenue, cogs and gross margin, month and year beginning and ending inventory, and other data. It was impossible to achieve with a multi-cube.

As a work-around, we exported data from different cubes in BEx Analyzer and imported it into a SQL Server database. We then generated the plant profitability report from that database.

SAP Steps In

When SAP acquired Business Objects, Data Services addressed some of these challenges.

Analysts could combine data from different tables. We were able to produce the plant profitability report without human intervention. We used Data Services to extract, transform and load the data into one table and then used SAP Business Objects Web Intelligence (WebI) to render a user-friendly, formatted report.

Stale Data

This was a better process, but “stale” data was still a problem. The lack of real-time data was painful-especially during month-end close when it was vital to get the most up-to-date picture of actuals versus budget and forecast.

SAP’s latest ERP, S/4HANA, sits on top of SAP’s proprietary in-memory database SAP HANA, optimized for OLTP and OLAP.

Moving from a traditional database backend to SAP HANA can significantly reduce the data footprint by eliminating tables and replacing them with compatibility views of the same name. Programs that use those tables won’t see a difference.

Financials Data

In S/4HANA, financial actuals data resides entirely in the new Universal Journal table – ACDOCA. The ACDOCA table is the single source of truth. It combines:

  • General ledger
  • Profitability
  • Management accounting
  • Asset accounting
  • Material ledger dimensions and measures

Key Takeaway

With financial data all in one source table, analysts will enjoy consistent, real-time results without compromising the performance of the ERP system.

That’s a win-win.

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