Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Customer Success – Santa Clara County SSA

The County of Santa Clara's Social Services Agency (SSA) services 15 incorporated cities in the most populous county of the San Francisco Bay area, which is home to California's Silicon Valley. The SSA uses SAP BusinessObjects as its reporting engine, and relies on it to meet regulatory requirements for it documents of record.

Santa Clara County SSA’s Challenge
In preparation for an impending migration, the SSA needed an inventory and deep knowledge of their SAP BI system, how their reports were being used, and how those reports would be impacted. While taking steps to streamline their content migration, the SSA also had concerns about maintaining their documents of record and audit readiness.

Santa Clara County SSA implemented APOS Insight and APOS Storage Center
  • Impact AnalysisThe SSA implemented APOS Insight to achieve awareness of reports, object usage and security profiles, and to understand the downstream impact of data modelling changes on reports.
  • Migration ReadinessThe SSA used APOS Insight to inventory and analyze their SAP BI system content and usage. APOS Storage Center automation enabled system right-sizing and migration streamlining.
  • Content RegulationThe SSA used APOS Storage Center to implement a content storage strategy that met their stringent regulatory requirements, safeguarded their content, and maintained audit readiness.

Thinh Hong, Information System Manager at SSA Santa Clara County:

APOS Insight's impact analysis capabilities allow us to see what effect changes to our data model will have downstream. It has allowed us to analyze SAP BusinessObjects metadata effectively. APOS Storage Center provides us with an efficient, rules-based means of cleaning up our BI environment, and the ease with which it allows us to back up and selectively restore objects has been very useful.

Monday, July 27, 2020

BI & Analytics Business Cases in the Time of COVID-19

ASUG’S Undercover CIO notes in Making the Right IT Investments in Uncertain Times that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a shift in how CIOs determine the course of IT investments, citing the ASUG Pulse Check:

47% of respondents said their organizations were not canceling any planned IT initiatives, while nearly half (45%) shared that they are postponing a few planned initiatives. The top reason respondents provided to explain these cancellations was that these initiatives were not considered “core” projects.

Uncertainty has this effect, and everyone wants to manage more efficiently and still be positioned to hit the ground running when that uncertainty is resolved, which is why streamlining is such a common theme:

...you need to look at automation, as well as doing less with physical assets and more with intelligent assets. Your business case for any project right now should be about streamlining.

In BI & Analytics, as elsewhere, streamlining means doing more with less, while ensuring your organization is ready to meet an uncertain future.

Streamlining through automation is a consistent theme throughout APOS Well Managed BI & Analytics solutions. They let you take control of your deployments, helping you to manage effectively in the present and prepare for what’s next.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Customer Success – The Carle Foundation

Based in Urbana, Ill., The Carle Foundation is a vertically integrated health system with more than 7,000 employees in its hospitals, physician group, health plan and associated healthcare businesses including the Carle Illinois College of Medicine, the world’s first engineering-based college of medicine.

Carle combines clinical care, health insurance, research and academics in a way that solves real-world problems today. Supported by a deep philanthropic spirit with an eye toward the future, they are dedicated to doing what it takes to make life better for as many as possible.

Carle’s Challenge

Carle's SAP BusinessObjects deployment contains over 3,000 reporting objects, including those for its Epic EHR reporting system. They needed to organize their content and optimize their security model. Security also dictated a change in strategy to have users view reports in SAP BusinessObjects.

Carle implemented APOS Insight to achieve:
  • Simplified Content & Security Management Carle used APOS Insight reporting as the basis for a complete content and security overhaul, greatly improving system integrity and consistency, as well as information organization and access control.
  • Ad-Hoc System Analysis APOS Insight allowed Carle to answer almost any question about the system quickly and effectively. Using Insight data, they developed Crystal Reports and Tableau dashboards to analyze system usage and maximize effectiveness.
  • Report Delivery Analysis With APOS Insight reporting, Carle was able to analyze 2,000 recurring schedules to determine who was receiving reports via e-mail allowing them to switch users quickly to viewing reports directly in SAP BusinessObjects.


Mandy Bodine, BI Director at The Carle Foundation, called APOS Insight an invaluable asset:

"What’s truly invaluable about APOS Insight is the ability to carve out very detailed information that you need, on the fly. After sculpting our BusinessObjects system using data from Insight, it is more efficient, powerful and easier to use than ever before. Within our department, we are able to improve workflows and processes in a much more controlled and streamlined way."

Hybrid Bursting - Merging SAP BI & SAC Content

APOS Publisher for Cloud provides advanced story bursting for SAP Analytics Cloud, following in the long tradition of APOS Publisher, which provides advanced bursting capabilities for SAP BusinessObjects.

Both APOS Publisher and APOS Publisher for Cloud fulfill all of the core needs for BI & Analytics Publishing:
  • Filtered, individualized report content
  • Merged report content
  • Targeted delivery of content
  • Secure delivery of content
  • Automated, data driven process
  • Conditional Bursting

In addition, you can use these solutions together to enable Hybrid bursting.
In a recent webinar, we showed how this works.

As many of our clients are moving toward a hybrid BI landscape, demand is growing for the ability to combine the burst data from both SAP BusinessObjects and SAC into one output for bursting recipients.

In this image, we see the SAP BusinessObjects report content on the left, and the SAP Analytics story on the right:

Hybrid bursting can take, for example, a Web Intelligence report from your SAP BusinessObjects deployment, combine it with a story from your SAP Analytics Cloud deployment, and consolidate them in a single PDF document.

By using the consolidation capabilities of APOS Publisher, we are able to specify that either PDF or XLS documents should be added to the consolidated report package, either at the beginning or at the end.

Questions? You can make a Solution Inquiry on the APOS website, or call your APOS Account Manager.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

ASUGForward – W.R. Grace – SAP Analytics Cloud & Google BigQuery

Congratulations to ASUG on their very successful ASUGForward virtual event in late June. This virtual event was scheduled in response to the global lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and while it was not business as usual, I’m sure this gathering in cyberspace was just what the doctor ordered for many of us. So, a big thankyou to ASUG!

During that event, an APOS customer, W.R. Grace, gave a presentation on how they made their financial reporting more user friendly, scalable and powerful using SAP Analytics Cloud and Google BigQuery.

Grace implemented SAP Analytics Cloud about a year and a half ago. Their challenge, as outlined by Sebastian Rogge (Sr. Data Analyst), was to move to a broader finance data set, provide self-service analytics capabilities, and reduce or eliminate many of the manual processes in their workflow.

They found that they were essentially creating a 1:1 story to data model relationship with a great deal of overlap. They and APOS partner Analysis Prime undertook to build a FICO-based data structure for use with the SAP Analytics Cloud solution. The new SAP Analytics Cloud Finance data foundation was designed to increase productivity, automation and data integrity, while mitigating risks and enhancing decision-making capabilities. The data foundation needed to be comprehensive, flexible, and consistent.

Google BigQuery figured heavily in their data foundation, providing a resilient, strong, Cloud-based data warehouse, with data blending capabilities and speed.

While the majority of their reporting requirements were fulfilled by replicating their BW data in Google BigQuery, they had a number of use cases that required immediate, high-volume, live data access. Sunil Kumar (SAP Enterprise Architect) described how Grace used the APOS Live Data Gateway solution to give SAP Analytics Cloud live access to Google BigQuery data. In one use case, APOS Live Data Gateway provided live and immediate access to millions of records for real-time analysis.

Sunil said they have been using APOS Live Data Gateway successfullyl for over a year, that all Grace business users appreciate the live functionality provided by it, and that the APOS team has also been very supportive in helping them reach and maintain their technical objectives.

You can view this and other ASUGForward presentations here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

How APOS UMMA and the APOS Live Data Gateway Translate SAP BI Modelling for SAP Analytics Cloud

I wrote earlier about how APOS UMMA translates your Web Intelligence SQL statements to SAP HANA data modelling logic. Now let's look at how APOS UMMA and APOS Live Data Gateway work together to translate your Universes and Web Intelligence SQL statements to the APOS Live Data Gateway's Unified Semantic Layer for use in SAP Analytics Cloud and other SAP applications.

The specific focus of this discussion is non-SAP, relational data sources, and how you can use APOS UMMA and APOS Live Data Gateway together to make a wide variety of such  data sources available to Hybrid BI data connectivity scenarios with SAP Analytics Cloud and other SAP applications.

Live Data Gateway expands live data connectivity from SAC to a wide range of relational, OLAP, Hadoop and Cloud data sources.

For example:

Note that APOS Live Data Gateway can connect to nearly all data sources supporting JDBC connectivity.

You can see a list of data sources currently supported by APOS Live Data Gateway here.

APOS Live Data Gateway's Unified Semantic Layer contains the data modelling logic needed to allow applications such as SAP Analytics Cloud to consume the data from those data sources.

The APOS Live Data Gateway Unified Semantic Layer highlighted in the image above consists of APOS Views, which:
  • Define which data fields are exposed
  • Define Measures and Dimensions
  • Manage table links and joins
  • Set meaningful field names
  • Define and secure who can access specific data

Using APOS UMMA and APOS Live Data Gateway together extends the data modelling translation capabilities of APOS UMMA  

Working with APOS Live Data Gateway, APOS UMMA can:
  • Automate, the translation of modelling through wizard-driven process
  • Capture the data connections and data modelling logic from SAP BI that connect to relational data sources, and replicate the data modelling logic into APOS Views
  • Speed adoption of SAP Analytics Cloud by leveraging SAP BI logic investment
  • Enable adoption of universal semantic layer for long-term data modelling
  • Speed movement into Hybrid BI by leveraging SAP BI logic investment
APOS Live Data Gateway also allows you to create Freehand SQL Views, which empower analyst self-service, allowing you to create inner / outer joins, alias tables, calculated dimensions etc. OLAP Views are also available.

APOS UMMA translates your Web Intelligence SQL statements into APOS Live Data Gateway Freehand SQL Views, and your Universe semantic layer into Semantic Views, while making no changes at all to the underlying relational data source, and caching no data outside that data source.

APOS Live Data Gateway greatly expands the range of data sources to which you can connect, but there is a second side to the APOS Live Data Gateway, the data consumption side, which you can see on the left side of this diagram:

APOS Live Data Gateway supports a number of different data consumption protocols, which allow your SAP solutions to consume data from a wide range of data sources via APOS Live Data Gateway. These data consumption protocols include SAP Native, OData, JDBC, and ODBC.

OData Support is particularly important, because it:
  • Enables SAC Acquire/Import connection
  • Expands import source options
  • Enables Planning & Predictive scenarios

Consuming data via APOS Live Data Gateway allows your solutions to share the same Unified Semantic Layer and connection models.

JDBC and ODBC support round out the data consumption options, opening up a vast array of data connection and consumption options for your SAP solutions, and APOS UMMA and APOS Live Data Gateway work together to allow you to leverage your SAP BusinessObjects data modelling for great speed to value in your new SAP BI & Analytics deployments.

Learn more about APOS UMMA and APOS Live Data Gateway.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Customer Success - Boston Properties - APOS Administrator & APOS Insight

For public companies, especially ones that are relatively small with limited resources, SOX compliance can be an administrative nightmare.

Boston Properties is a self-administered and self-managed real estate investment trust (REIT), and one of the largest owners, managers, and developers of office properties in the United States. As a public company, they have a responsibility under Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) to establish and maintain internal controls over financial reporting, for which their SAP BusinessObjects system was critical.


One of the internal audit requirements Boston Properties needed to address is to show evidence of all changes to an inventory of key reports. Addressed manually, this requirement would require a labor-intensive audit and re-baselining of these key reports on an annual and sometimes quarterly basis. Boston Properties has a medium-sized IT team, and the challenge of establishing and maintaining this control manually threatened to stretch their limited resources. They needed to implement more efficient report change management processes, and this need triggered a search for a solution.

Complicating this need was the continued proliferation of reports over time. With more than 1,500 reports, IT wanted to re-baseline all reports that were still being actively used and decommission those that were no longer required.

Another challenge for change management was the need to maintain interoperability with other enterprise systems, particularly their ERP system. Upgrades to the ERP system frequently require changes to report parameters. Such changes meant that all affected reports would need to be re-baselined in order to be acceptable to the independent auditors, creating a huge burden for the IT team.

Solution - APOS Administrator & APOS Insight

They began by reducing the size of the problem. They used APOS Insight to take an inventory of their reports and to determine how each report was being used, and whether it was necessary. Then they used the APOS Administrator solution to decommission approximately 500 of 1,500 report objects almost immediately, and another 400 shortly thereafter, bringing the total number of reports that they had to manage to about 600. With the size of the task thus reduced, they turned to report change management.

APOS Insight allowed Boston Properties to answer key audit questions:

  • Have any financial reports changed?
  • What changed? When were the changes made? By whom?
  • Do the changed reports still produce the same results?
  • Can you prove it?
APOS Insight thus helped them to fulfill a new requirement in 2015 from their independent auditor that had them baselining all control reports each quarter before signing off on financials. This process would have introduced a huge burden to IT. After performing their own tests, the independent audit firm was completely satisfied with the use of APOS Insight to track all changes to control reports.

Insight gives them a running history of changes, ensuring change history is up to date. They are now able to issue a weekly change report without placing a major burden on IT resources. This report plays a significant role in their quarterly controls meetings.

Benefits Realized by Boston Properties

  • SAP BI System Audit
    APOS Insight's metadata management capabilities allowed them to reduce report proliferation. APOS Administrator allowed them to rationalize their report inventory with bulk operations.
  • Historical Analysis
    APOS Insight's History Mode enabled advanced change management capabilities for their internal control reports, showing them what, who, how and when each report was accessed.
  • Audit readiness
    APOS Insight helps Boston Properties maintain audit readiness, establishing trust in their internal controls, and supporting both corporate governance and external audit requirements.


"Any company with SOX requirements or a need to track report change history should consider leveraging a tool such as APOS Insight for this purpose."
David Pigott, Boston Properties