SAP Analytics Hub Review

Semantic layers help with real-time reporting, but analytics need work

What is most valuable?

I have always appreciated SAP for its data capacity. That's a basic requirement since there is always a lot of data. We could be dealing with 100 TB of data. SAP is the only tool that can survive with that volume. 

Another good thing about SAP is that it has powerful tools like the SAP Data View and HANA and BO configuration. They will always give you better results with any type of data and any amount of data within a short time.

For report scheduling, I always prefer SAP because it has the most powerful scheduling features, like sending reports to more than 1,000 customers per day. That option is not as good in Microsoft BI and in Tableau it only exists as an add-on option.

What needs improvement?

The analytics part of SAP has not been that good up until now. They're still in the infant stage and development is still going on. SAP has some cloud analytics and they're trying to configure it in Lumira, but it's not that good at this point. 

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been working with SAP for about seven years.

How are customer service and technical support?

SAP is famous for technical support. You get 24-hour support and there are different types of support offered. We experienced issues in one of our implementations and we got very good support from SAP. They worked for almost three days, around the clock with us, to resolve the issue.

How was the initial setup?

Deployment is another area that is lacking. The implementation is a bit difficult comparatively because it's a big system. SAP always prefers to have its back-end as the SAP ERP system, which is complex. But, once it's configured, it is good. 

SAP BW is also a bit complex, but once it's configured you are safe. With BusinessObjects, it is the same thing because it has more than 10 reporting tools. So deployment and training users will take time. 

But SAP introduced the SAP Lumira solution. Lumira's deployment is simple and it can communicate with Tableau and Power BI.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

In terms of pricing, SAP is good for very large companies that have a lot of data. But small companies that don't have that much data and that can't afford SAP can go with Microsoft Power BI. You can get that for about 700 Indian rupees, which is almost $10, per user. When it comes to pricing, Microsoft is the best.

If your company is dealing with terabytes of data, go with SAP and don't think about the pricing.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

SAP brought out PA, it's Predictive Analysis solution to compete with Tableau and Qlik. But since then I haven't seen much improvement in it, compared to Tableau. Tableau is the market leader and they focus on analytics; they come out with a lot of analytics solutions, such as clustering. SAP has been lagging.

But if you're talking about enterprise companies we always prefer SAP, because Tableau or Microsoft doesn't work with terabytes worth of data.

If you go with Power BI or Tableau, the data can be extracted into local tools. But with SAP Lumira, which I worked on two years ago, so it could be that it has changed since then, I found that there is no option like that, so we always have to connect it directly with the data. But SAP HANA can connect with Lumira, and that could be the best solution.

Microsoft Power BI can be easily configured with all other Microsoft products. When using Power BI, I can configure it easily with Azure Data Warehouse, with SharePoint, etc. Similarly, SAP can be integrated easily with HANA and with BW. But where SAP is lacking is that when I'm connecting my view with Azure Data Warehouse, I always have to go with the ODBC option. There is no OLE DB available in SAP.

If you're going to have different vendors, one for data warehousing and another for reporting, that's where you will find the issue, especially for SAP. SAP will charge for all the connectors and it will be expensive compared to the others. Buying a connector for Tableau is cheaper.

SAP also provides semantic layers. That is a powerful tool that I have really found to be effective, and it is something that is not available in Power BI or in Tableau. With the semantic layer, you can create a design before extracting the data. Power BI and Tableau don't have that option. They have something like it, but they are not that effective if you are going for real-time.

What other advice do I have?

My first preference is always SAP because its products are more structured. SAP has its standards, so go with SAP ERP. That way, your customer is a standard object. There's a standard keyword that SAP has, as well as the concept of dividing one object into different levels, like the key text, hierarchy, and attributes. That's a good thing about SAP. But if you're going to with any other ERP or data warehouse, these things will be lacking.

SAP will always name all objects with a unique ID. Whether it's in ERP or BW, we get a unique ID for all the objects. That unique ID will not be available in other reporting tools or other data warehouses. And that's a bad thing about SAP. 

But ultimately, it's based on the company level. I will not recommend SAP to a small company because it would have to pay a lot for SAP, and not only for the implementation but for the maintenance. I will recommend a small company go with Power BI or Tableau. Most such companies will have Microsoft products, so it's easy for them to configure, whether they have data in SharePoint or in something like Microsoft Access. And Power BI is cheap. For mid-level or large-scale companies, I always prefer SAP.

SAP will always help you to simplify your data. But if I'm connecting data with Power BI and Tableau, I always have to think about how much data I have in the back-end, because that will affect the performance of my reports.

**Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner.
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