In 2007, OutlookSoft bought BPC and ten years later, SAP group reporting was released. Several versions of BPC have been released since its first debut in May 2017 including: Standard, Embedded, Optimized, and a Microsoft version. This article will compare the functionalities of BPC Standard (the most frequently used version) to the 2022 version of Group Reporting on-premise and will discuss some of the main aspects of the consolidation process.
- Data Collection / Data Entry
- Master Data
- Logic / Enhancements
- Ownership and Consolidation of Investments
- Process Flows
1. Data Collection / Data Entry
Group Reporting seamlessly integrates S4 accounting with standard functionality in the data monitor for importing data from S4 (ACDOCA). FIORI apps provide standard mapping tables to map GL accounts to FS (Financial Statement) items and unmapped items are indicated for pre-validation purposes. Upon loading the data, a clear overview of the number of records loaded is provided, and any load errors are clearly identified. If data is not available in an underlying S4 system, a flat file upload or journal upload must be used. Alternatively, the GRDC (group reporting data collection) license can be purchased to access additional functionality for data collection and reclassification. This is particularly useful for organizations that do not have all of their company codes running on S4 HANA operational accounting. Input schedules can be created to collect data similar to the EPM add-in for BPC. The extension ledger also offers enhanced functionality, allowing a single entity to post to multiple consolidation units and providing improved audit capabilities.
In BPC, data manager packages that point to transformation and conversion files need to be managed. Setting these up is slightly more complex compared to group reporting, as separate files/worksheets must be managed for each conversion; however, BPC does offer similar flexibility. It is possible to map one member in the source to another member in BPC, potentially using "if'' formulas.
2. Master Data
Group Reporting offers the benefit of seamlessly sourcing certain master data items directly from the S4 systems, eliminating the need for dual maintenance or replication. These master data items include Profit Center, Cost Center, GL account, WBS element, Customer, Material Number, Vendor, and their associated hierarchies.
What sets Group Reporting apart is its ability to effortlessly handle 40 or more dimensions, whereas a standard BPC Consolidation implementation typically limits dimensionality to 12. This ability to work with significantly more granular data is a major advantage, enabling management consolidation and reporting within the Group Reporting system. However, it should be noted that Group Reporting's delivered content comes with predefined FS item attributes, and the creation of new attributes is not supported, which may present limitations in complex environments.
3. Validations / Controls
The validations and controls between the two products do not differ significantly. Both offer functionality to further break down validations by movement type and/or functional area. However, BPC surpasses Group Reporting in terms of its superior functionality to build validation reports using the EPM add-in. This will be further discussed in the reporting section. Group Reporting also excels in its ability to include an unlimited number of dimensions in a validation, whereas BPC is limited to only 2 dimensions.
4. Logic / Enhancements
Group Reporting gives the option to include a BAdI (Business Add-In) as one of the process steps in the data or consolidation monitor, which is not available by default in BPC Default logic in Group Reporting is executed each time data is loaded or entered into the system providing a great deal of flexibility in terms of data reclassification and the ability to transfer net income to the balance sheet, ensuring it is always kept up to date.
5. Ownership and Consolidation of Investments
Group Reporting presents challenges when it comes to entering subsidiary ownership compared to the more straightforward process in BPC. Unlike BPC, Group Reporting lacks an ownership model and an ownership manager. Instead, a workaround is required: downloading equity and investment account data, reversing the amounts, and then re-entering the amounts with a percentage ownership against the share accounts. This represents a regression compared to the functionality offered by BPC.
Additionally, equity pickup in Group Reporting remains a manual process. After configuring the accounts, a download is required, which then needs to be transformed into a journal upload file in the parent company. In contrast, BPC enables full automation of this process.
When consolidating investments, Group Reporting offers a choice between activity-based and rule-based methods. In the activity-based approach, SAP provides pre-configured eliminations, with the requirement of tagging FS items with the correct properties. However, a limitation arises as each property can only be used for one FS item. Personally, I would always opt for the rule-based method to maintain flexibility and ensure future compatibility. The rule-based consolidation of investments in Group Reporting does not differ significantly from BPC Reporting.
Despite its name, Group Reporting does not fully live up to its reporting capabilities. The Fiori Apps, specifically Group Data Analysis with reporting rules, can be compared to the functionality of BPC web reporting. However, it falls short in terms of features such as conditional formatting, suppression, local calculations, layout customization, and retrieving cells, which are
all possible in the EPM add-in of BPC. While Group Reporting does offer the option to report through Analysis for Office, it still does not provide a similar experience to the EPM add-in. SAP's strategic reporting tool is Analytics Cloud, but this requires an additional license and data persistence in SAC as the reporting capabilities are limited with a live connection. Another alternative is using a last-mile software like disclosure management, which also requires an additional license. On this aspect, BPC clearly outperforms Group Reporting.
In the upcoming Group Reporting 2023 release (which is already available in the cloud version), a Financial Statement Reporting Booklet will be introduced, and it has already received positive feedback from customers. Reporting rules in Group Reporting allow for on-the-fly calculations involving combinations of FS Items, Subitems (transaction type or functional area), Consolidation Units, Document Type, and reversing signs. This functionality proves to be robust, except when interfacing with BW/SAC. Indirect Cash Flow and a PL (Profit and Loss) by Function can be easily created using these rules.
Security in Group Reporting is managed in the same manner as in S4 Accounting, whereas BPC requires a separate security administration. The advantage of having roles and profiles managed by the same S4 Team gives the potential for economies of scale.
8. Process Flows
Standard processes are available in both the data and consolidation monitor of Group Reporting. However, due to its primary relevance for customers with all their data in S4 accounting, the integration of Group Reporting with reclassifying data in input schedules and reviewing data in reports is not as seamless. However, BPC provides a customization function through Business Process Flows (BPF) and the ability to design a Custom Menu in Excel. This allows for a much stronger integration with the EPM add-in, offering enhanced functionality for input schedules and reports.
So why would you move from SAP BPC to Group Reporting?
Well, firstly, SAP is not giving you much choice as the support (depending on your version) will stop within the next 4 years. Secondly, Group Reporting is SAP's designated consolidation solution moving forward, specifically for customers utilizing or implementing S4 HANA operational accounting. This applies regardless of whether you opt for a cloud or on-premises deployment. It is advisable to have all your company entities running on a single S4 instance, as setting up temporary interfaces until those companies transition to S4 would be necessary otherwise. Alternatively, Central Finance could be utilized but it would require an additional license.
Companies that have most of their entities operating on S4 accounting can benefit from Group Reporting, with improved speed of data integration, granularity, and analysis compared to BPC. However, this does not mean that non-S/4 customers should disregard Group Reporting entirely. One downside is that BPC, being a more mature product, excels in certain areas, as mentioned earlier. Hopefully, SAP will continue investing in Group Reporting to enhance its functionality and make it as comprehensive as BPC while maintaining its strong data integration capabilities.
When implementing Group Reporting, it is recommended to hold requirements sessions alongside S4 Operational Accounting but initiate the implementation after S4 Operational Accounting has gone live. Since the two systems are interconnected, changes in S4 Operational Accounting could impact Group Reporting, resulting in additional effort during the implementation process.
If you are interested in seeing if SAP Group Reporting is a tool that suits your requirements, we would be happy to perform an assessment with your company.