Over the last decade, Column5 has been very involved in supporting SAP BPC Solutions, and a common theme for our customers has been the performance and stability of their system. With this in mind, we set out to address this challenge by developing the Darwin program.
Darwin has evolved (pun intended) to become a comprehensive platform of advanced features and pre-defined processes helping organizations maximize the value of SAP Analytics investments.
This blog focuses on how customers leverage Darwin’s advanced calculation capabilities to address common performance challenges specifically.
Top challenges we hear from SAP Planning and Analytics Customers
Customers commonly complain about performance issues. Our response is to first clarify that this symptom is not related to an underlying defect of the solution but more a by-product of a customer’s implementation, design of the system, and how the system is supported over time. Common performance issues:
Performance & Stability of BPC and/or SAC
- Report refreshes take too long. This is very subjective, depending on the customer and the report, but typically any report requiring more than 30 seconds to process is unacceptable.
- Execution of Business Logic (default and batch modes). Again, a very subjective measure, but most customers feel they can always benefit from improvement in this area.
- Data load times, including refresh latency. Most customers are interested in achieving as close to real-time as possible. Is your environment enabled for real-time synchronization of data and masterdata?
- Enabling high-value analytics with the alignment of assumptions across strategy, operations, finance (Customers increasingly desire the benefits of Extended Planning & Analysis (xP&A)). Does your organization have a roadmap to bring all plan assumptions online into an integrated and well-coordinated process? We can help.
More effective reporting and variance analysis alignment to underlying data:
- Are you able to drill through to transaction detail? Seamless drill down to transaction-level detail contained in source systems and/or an enterprise data warehouse such as SAP BW, BW/4HANA, etc.
- Are your Dashboards, BI, EPM interfaces all reading from the same data source in real-time? Are all decision-makers working off a “single version of the truth”?
The Darwin Program
Over the years and after delivering hundreds of successful implementations, we saw that customers were facing a lot of challenges when designing and supporting Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) solutions. Although SAP BPC is a very flexible platform, there are no production-ready applications delivered out of the box, it doesn’t come with a significant number of input templates or business rules, or navigation flows. This means that most of the solution must be created specifically for the customer, with more testing involved. We saw a lot of instances where customers would have challenges in terms of scalability and performance. It’s also safe to say that a lot of customers end up with an implementation that is dependent on whatever consultant they hired to implement.
Traditional Approach vs Darwin Approach - Build from scratch vs Pre-delivered content.
- Out-of-the-box Input Templates, Reports, Logic, and Process flows for BPC and SAC that are available as a very advanced starting point with more functionality than typical projects.
- Fully Tested & Supported, documentation included.
- Committed to support future SAP platforms and provide enhanced features.
What does Darwin look like today?
Darwin delivers a centralized environment within the SAP technology stack to enable and extend planning and analysis processes. These processes are also referred to as EPM and xP&A (Gartner defines as the convergence of financial & operational planning).
The Darwin platform supports the most advanced requirements by leveraging a sophisticated rules engine with critical interdependency built-in, enabling the update of assumptions on one side of the model to automatically flow through to the other side to see the immediate impact of those decisions. This engine is called the Darwin Calculation Engine or DarCE.
DarCE rules are scalable and well-performing, and there is an integration built-in across each of the planning environment components. This tightly integrated foundation delivers supports xP&A grade requirements across finance & operations.
What makes DarCE special?
- High Performance – Optimized rules execution using a method that far surpasses native BPC and SAC techniques.
- Business User Friendly – Easy to use web interface with intuitive navigation to maintain complex business logic.
- Enables Quick Turnaround – Dev time is drastically reduced when compared to traditional BPC & SAC with advanced logging.
- Integrated with BPC & SAC – Security, Work Status, Data Manager, and other BPC functions can interact with DarCE to provide seamless functionality for Planning and Consolidation.
- Multi Keyfigure Functionality– DarCE calculations can be executed on BPC embedded models.
- Future Proof – DarCE can be triggered from any version of BPC, directly from BW or HANA, or from an SAC Story
- BW logic development – DarCE can replace complex BW modelling/transformations. Enabled to work on planning AND non-planning data sources.
Key Features – Enabling different SAP EPM/xP&A solutions:
DarCE provides an intuitive web interface that doesn’t require advanced technical skills. We recently enabled support for BPC Embedded/Optimized - this means DarCE now works on Multikey-figure sources.
- BPC Embedded/Optimize:
- Support for Multi-Key Figure Models – DarCE now supports BPC embedded planning capability, as well as the new Advanced modeling capabilities within SAC.
- Rapid Development: DarCE interface with logging dramatically reduces dev time compared to the traditional way of building BPC Embedded logic – Fox formula, AMDP (ABAP Managed Database Procedures), and ABAP routines are no longer required.
- High Performance: Leverages HANA’s in-memory technology to boost performance.
- BW logic
- Handles Complex BW Transformations
- Supports Planning and Non-planning Info Providers – Writeback to any BW info provider and tables.
- Reads HANA Tables – HANA tables can be used as a DataSource (for lookup) in DarCE.
- Code Push Down – Logic works on the database layer instead of the application layer; there is no data transfer to the application, ergo high performance.
- Reduced IT dependency – Allow business users to configure BW transformations rather than depend on IT.
- SAP Analytics Cloud Integrations: DarCE complements its functionalities.
- BPC/SAC Hybrid Scenario – In line with SAP’s ‘extend planning with SAC’ strategy, DarCE can be triggered from SAC to run calculations on any BPC Planning data sources and the output can be reported in SAC Applications.
- BW/SAC Hybrid Scenario – DarCE complements SAC’s models that use BW datasources, by running complex calculations and reporting the output through a live data connection to SAC.
- XP&A (Extended Planning and Analysis) – DarCE plays an important role in achieving your organization’s XP&A strategy by enabling KPIs and seamlessly integrating SAC for DNA (Dynamic Networked Analytics) from heterogeneous sources.
For Example, Operations Planning data from IBP and Financial Planning data from BPC can be merged into one data source in BW. DarCE can then apply business logic to this data source and produce Advanced Analytics which can then be consumed in SAC. This data can further be processed into SAC's core components for Augmented Analytics, Predictive Modeling, and Planning.
Customer Examples of Performance Improvement Using DarCE
- Telecommunications Company
- 7.7M record data loads with 99% timing improvement
- Reduced 80% of the calc performance time. Moved from ABAP directly into the HANA layer with DarCE.
- Shifting the ongoing maintenance and development of those calculations from outside external contractors to more business users that could leverage DarCE as their key interface.
- BPC Performance 10.1 Netweaver environment.
- Lengthy Data Loads and Logic Processing Times, particularly script logic and custom BADIS they had developed.
- DarCE benefits:
- Tech Company – Labor Planning Calculations
- Increasing in headcount and complexity.
- Darwin benefits pre-built headcount planning module that led to 80%+ improvement in data loads and calcs.
- Global Consumer Products Company
- Complex business rules and high-volume data packages
- Scalable allocations: 500M records, FX: 16M+ records
Consistent benefits were reduction in the time that it takes to process logic, same with data loads and transports - making them more efficient - synchronization of master data and leveraging pre-built content in Darwin.
Every customer is unique in terms of their requirements, so we encourage you to schedule a short session to talk about your specific challenges, whether it is with BPC (standard or embedded), SAC, or even BW.
Think you have long-running calculations? Here’s how to get some quick relief:
- Check if you have a performance problem
- Want to improve performance yourself? Download our e-Book
- We are here to help, and our assessment process is a good place to start
What are the challenges that you are having around calculations and data loads? Let’s talk about how we can potentially leverage the Darwin Calc Engine to help.