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SAP BPC & EPM
Thought Leadership

Commonly Asked Questions from New SAP BPC Customers

Posted by
Scott Kolka
Scott Kolka
on Fri, Mar 16, 2018 @ 11:03 AM

New SAP BPC customers often have a plethora of questions – and that’s what we’re here for! Consultants at Column5 answer a variety of questions every day, constantly taking note of which ones come up repeatedly over time.

Whether you’re considering a BPC implementation or are already using BPC, we’ve compiled a list of the most frequent questions asked by inexperienced users to help you better understand the software and its available benefits.

1.  “How long will my project take?”

Project timing is dependent on many factors, including the project’s functionality scope, its impact on change management and the organization’s size. A correlation also seems to exist between organizational size, complexity and project duration. That said, here are some general rules of thumb when it comes to timing:

  • With clearly defined and documented requirements, a properly allocated project team and active executive sponsorship, a single business process implementation should generally take around 13 weeks
    • Common business process implementations for BPC include Headcount/Employee Planning (HCM), Asset/Project Planning (CapEx), Expense Planning (OpEx), and Revenue and Margin Planning.
  • Financial Consolidation implementations typically take around four to six months for companies of medium size and complexity, and at least nine months for larger organizations
  • Existing organizational timelines impacting the availability of customer resources must also be considered:
    • Budgeting and forecasting cycles
    • Accounting close cycles
    • Blackout dates
    • Enterprise software development release cycles

Darwin EPM can reduce implementation time up to 50% or more by beginning the engagement with a working BPC module based on best practices and ready to go content, and leveraging the collective experience from delivering hundreds of BPC implementations. Utilizing prepackaged content from Darwin eliminates most of the requirements and design phase, replacing it with an agile fast start build, reducing the amount of configuration for models, logic, business rules, input schedules etc. Learn more about Darwin in this article.

2.  “What resource commitment is required for a project?”

We request the following key roles of our clients:

Executive Sponsor

  • This key link between executive management and the project team ensures the project’s strategic goals are widely communicated, resources and funding are committed, and decisions are made in a timely fashion.  The Executive Sponsor is ultimately accountable for the project, retaining ownership of the project objectives’ definition and delivery.
  • There are also functional sponsors within organizations, perhaps in the IT or finance departments, who will be the initial set of decision makers in status meetings
  • Sponsor time is required for status, steering committee meetings and escalation

Subject Matter Expert (SME)

  • SMEs represent an organization’s business process and functional requirements, while playing a critical role in user acceptance and overall project success. SMEs are well respected by peers and management, while having in-depth knowledge of the current state business process and the organization’s strategic direction. Ideally, SMEs are excellent communicators with a professional demeanor and are open to new ideas and ways of doing business.
  • SME time is heaviest during requirements review, system design, validation of build, and UAT. Usually this is a team of people and roughly

Project Manager (PM)

  • A PM identifies and manages the specific resources filling project roles, ensuring they meet assigned project tasks and deliverables while co-managing the overall scope of deliverables.
  • This role should be near full-time, unless leveraging the vendor PMO

Functional Administrator

Often a member of the Finance organization, this person is responsible for:

  • Maintaining dimensions, BPC Business Rules and Script Logic
  • Using the BPC Administration Console to administer BPC Security
  • Troubleshooting and updating of BPC for Excel input schedules and reports stored in the Company (root) folder
  • Maintaining import/export Transformation and Conversion capabilities through BPC Data Manager
  • This person generally has full access to the BPC for Excel client and BPC Administration Console, but no direct access to the underlying database

Business System Analyst (BSA)

  • BSA’s work on the implementation as liaisons between the core development team and the business stakeholders
  • Gather and document requirements
  • Present and explain system design and functionality back to business
  • Facilitate the ongoing communication between implementation team and users
  • Some BSAs will actively work with BPC on configuration (ie. Templates, data validation, etc.)
  • This role usually is full-time and the person is backfilled on their ‘day job’

Report Developer

  • Responsible for report testing and development
  • Integrates into the overall project development team, supported by project managers and the solution architect
  • Typically comes from the finance team with Excel expertise

Data Integration Resource / Logic programmer

  • Helps with extraction, transformation and data-loading from source systems into BPC
  • Abap development
  • Participation for data integration is heavy during early development, then remediation support

Technical Administrator

  • Often a member of the Information Systems organization, this person is responsible for:
  • Maintaining application/server availability and backup processes
  • Monitoring system resources
  • Troubleshooting security environment challenges related to firewalls and server access
  • Management of database access rights
  • Keeping up-to-date on patches and service packs for BPC and the underlying technical environment
  • Generally, this person has full access to the underlying database and limited (if any) access to the BPC for Excel client and/or the BPC Administration Console front end

3.   “How much does it cost to implement SAP BPC?”

  • This answer varies tremendously. Implementations can range from less than one hundred thousand dollars over the course of several months to multi-year, multimillion-dollar projects
  • A key consideration in this process is the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), or what it will cost to maintain the solution, in addition to the implementation expense. If you are considering a cloud-based deployment rather than an on-premise one, it’s best to compare the cost of a three-year subscription (most common licensing model for cloud solutions) with the TCO of an on-premise implementation and perpetual license
  • Darwin EPM enables us to significantly lower TCO by providing a solution that provides controlled implementation costs, better alignment to requirements and ease of maintenance and future functional upgrades

4.  “Can we lower cost and design time with more of our team involvement?”

  • The short answer is yes, involving the internal team can lower the overall implementation cost and design time however the following should be considered:
    • Typically, customers cannot fully commit the originally intended resources
    • Committed resources often lack training and experience, requiring them to overcome extensive learning curves to add value during a compressed timeline
  • Our target customer to consultant radio is 2:1, making it difficult for a customer to allocate even more of their resources to a project without a large-scale effort pulling folks completely out of their typical roles and allocated solely to the project team. If this level of commitment is met, then customer can certainly offset implementation costs

5.  “What kind of training is required to operate SAP BPC?”

There are a series of courses combined with “on the job” training we recommend during each implementation process, to be defined in a training plan developed by each project management team. These include:

  • Introductory (or Ramp-Up) Training
    • For all team members
    • A short course that introduces team members to BPC concepts
  • Reporting Training
    • For team members who will work directly with consultants throughout the project
    • Can be customized based upon actual solution
  • Administrative Training
    • For team members who will work directly with consultants throughout the project
    • Introduces key topics around dimension management, security, data integration, etc.
  • Custom Training
    • For all end-users
    • Customized to fit needs of the specific solution
    • Should be taken prior to system deployment

We also recommend the functional administrator offer periodic classes covering report writing and administration throughout the process of working with BPC.

Column5’s industry-leading EPM Academy offers a full training suite with over two dozen classes, as well as custom training tailored to include recorded content for new users to view after the system’s go-live. The EPM Academy also offers customizable, engaging and interactive eLearning courses to lower the overall cost of training initiatives, without sacrificing quality and overall effectiveness.

6.  “How does BPC security work?”

IT generally poses this question as they work to better understand the administration of SAP BPC security, as well as general compliance. BPC allows functional administrators to design and assign role-based security to users, only requiring users from Active Directory or BW be provisioned for BPC. If corporate policy requires, security administration can also be restricted to IT alone. You can learn more about general security (including how-to guides) here, on SAP’s website.

The five main SAP BPC security aspects are as follows:

  1. Task Profiles
    • Control the functions available to BPC users
      • Example: Admins may allow or restrict an individual user access to the Data Manager functionality
  2. Data Access Profiles
    • Controls what data a user can read and/or write to
      • Example: Admins may assign users specific cost centers to edit, while giving them read-only access to other cost centers
  3. Model Access
    • Most BPC implementations are comprised of interconnected models designed around various business processes
    • Administrators may restrict or grant specific model access
      • Example: Admins may specifically restrict someone from viewing the Financial Consolidations model, while allowing them access to plan for Revenue
  4. Security Roles
    • Can be granted to an individual or a team (as a set of individuals)
  5. Multiple Access Roles
    • Allows the layering of security access based on user roles
    • If a user holds two roles with overlapping access, the user will have access based on their least restrictive role

7. “Can you load data into SAP BPC from flat files or non-SAP sources?”

Yes. Although the tightest level of integration and automation existing between BPC and SAP data sources such as ECC and S/4HANA, BPC features built-in Extraction, Transform, Load (ETL) functionality, enabling users to create .txt or .csv filed and load transaction data in bulk. ETL functionality also allows users to connect BPC to a database source in SQL, Oracle, BW, HANA, cloud-based systems (via APIs) or ODBC.

8. “What is the typical support model for SAP BPC - is it owned by finance or IT?”

There are three general models for supporting and managing BPC, correlating to the scope and scale of the enterprise’s BPC footprint, as well as the corporate support model for other systems.

  • Owned by Finance
    • Typically found in smaller companies or departmental implementations of BPC within larger companies
    • The functional team fully adopts the tool, achieving high value and uses the tool daily
    • Admins have full autonomy to make changes, create data and service users
    • Doesn’t scale well – if problems with stability or performance occur, IT is often unable and unwilling to allocate resources to help. In such cases, customers often opt for outsourcing the IT-centric tasks to Column5 in a Managed Services model and off prem hosting (cloud) deployment.
  • Owned by IT
    • Typically found in large enterprises
    • The system is generally more stable, integrated into a company’s infrastructure and follows stringent protocol on change management
    • Users often lack ownership, or gain less value from the tool because it was not developed to their exact requirements
    • Users may have little access to create their own reports
    • This model can still benefit form leveraging an off prem hosting (cloud) deployment, but many of the IT-centric tasks can still be owned by the customer
  • Owned by Financial Systems Team within IT (often FP&A)
    • Financial systems team works directly for the users
    • Supports user processes with IT backing and infrastructure
    • Team is responsible for ensuring that the system meets performance and stability metrics, while advocating for user needs
    • This model can still benefit form leveraging an off prem hosting (cloud) deployment, with some of the IT-centric tasks still being owned by the customer

9.“How often should we refresh data in SAP BPC?”

This answer relies on the business process SAP BPC has been implemented to accomplish. It also can vary, depending on the primary data source(s) and version of BPC being deployed. For example, some customers using SAP S/4HANA and the Universal Journal can take advantage of native, real-time integration with BPC Optimized.

In general, customers who use BPC for Consolidations may want to refresh the data frequently to better support the financial close. This means updating BPC from the ledger, running financial consolidation rules, and seeing consolidated data for reporting and subsequent journal entries. This load frequency may be scheduled every hour, but some customers schedule it as frequently as every five minutes.

Nightly updates are recommended for most Revenue and Expense planning models.

Other modules for planning, like HR or CapEx, with source systems from payroll provides and FAS, usually occur just before each forecast cycle.

10.“Does data need to be replicated in BPC?”

If you use SAP BPC Standard, on any platform, then yes, data will need to be replicated. If you use BPC Embedded or Optimized, then maybe. Embedded and Optimized are both based on key figures, so depending on the business process being modeled in BPC, actuals may be able to load directly from the source BW/4HANA or S/4HANA table instead of having to load and store data in the BPC cube. We’ll cover this topic more in a dedicated blog.

Are you new to SAP BPC? Explore EPM Academy's BPC Administration eLearning to learn how to operate your version of the software!

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Author Bio:Scott Kolka Headshot.png

Scott Kolka has over 18 years of experience selling, implementing, designing and leading Enterprise Performance Management systems across a wide array of industries. He manages the Delivery practice for the Western United States, comprising of 30+ consultants and 12-15 active engagements at any given time. He provides oversight, design expertise, hands-on consulting and customer leadership. Scott is able to provide both specific product and design expertise based on leading practices and can provide a vision for customers on planning and executing an EPM strategy.

Topics: best practices for epm, Functional, sap bpc

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