SAP BW4HANA Review

Good capabilities, direct approach, and the right reporting tool for SAP companies


What is most valuable?

Its direct approach is the most valuable. You get more real time and capabilities than BW. 

What needs improvement?

They have taken out a few BW functionalities when they redesigned this. The way of multi-dimensional thinking and star schema got a little bit lost. It may be because of the cost, but certain functionalities that were previously implemented from the BW side should come back again in the whole product. It is a young product. It is version 2.0. In time, I'm pretty sure they will come back again because otherwise, it limits the potential of the product, and I have to do a lot of modeling towards that direction. For me, the analytics focus is too much. It is not cube-oriented in that way, so its functionality is limited. It is not really technically limited in the back end; it is more limited in the front end. It has a data-mining mindset for SQL developers. The navigational attributes should be easy.

It needs to be built in models. I see the data mark cube or understanding that the composite provider needs to be models in a cube coming back. The multi-dimensional star schema approach and the reporting need to be done as well as possible to leverage the star scheme below. This is definitely not understood by many consultants and even composite providers for star schema. They always think in terms of flat tables, which is limiting. You need to build the right dimensions, objects, and so on. If you can build this in BW4HANA, then you have this understanding that BW4HANA is not forcing you in this direction, but it should force you a bit better in this direction. Maybe a few elements which were in use in BW should come back again. It would help the community to determine the direction to build on the cube. You can have maybe 50 elements, and then you can expand it to what you need by leveraging navigation. So far, this functionality is a little bit limited in the tool, and it is not thought through, but I think it will come. They should also be adding more capabilities for the transformation between different objects. In BW, this is currently limited, especially towards composite providers.

It is a bit complex basically in the building. You have to have a lot of knowledge as well as know how to do it better because it is a bit different from BW. There is not too much expertise currently in the consulting markets. Many are trying to build something, but it may be based on their knowledge of what they have from the BW and HANA side. You have to find the right mix from both of them at this time. We also have HANA Native. These are our two different sync sources basically, and we have approaches to connect nicely, but it is hard to manage your team because a lot of coaching is required.

For how long have I used the solution?

SAP BW4HANA is a relatively new product from the SAP side, but we have been running almost a two years project now and moving from BW to BW4HANA. So, it is a completely new build of the entire environment. We just completed that in November last year.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We have used BW and HANA Native. BW4HANA is definitely much better than BW. It is also much better than HANA Native.

How was the initial setup?

It depends on your experience, the approach, and so on. I took over the project when it was already started. It had been running for two or three months. I would have approached it differently if I was there during the kickoff. It is challenging when you are too much focused on old products, and you don't have a good model in place or a good understanding of the business model. For me, it was not so difficult. I did it a lot in my former positions and during many years of experience in multidimensional data modeling, but for most of my colleagues and my team members, it was quite challenging because they had more experience in reporting subs, SQL subs, and so on and not so much experience in data modelings and so on. 

In general, you need to acquire experience in this. There are not so many in the market. I also had a bad experience with consulting companies. I had to correct them and technically detail the process for how to do this.

It is simply the mindset. When we approach it with the mindset of how it was done in BW or HANA, you get a process that is not really efficient. When object-oriented approaches are not taken into consideration, everything gets built a hundred times, and instead of being more object-oriented, it gets quite complex. It always requires good modeling and an understanding of the business requirements, which can be quite challenging.

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

We started as early birds from the SAP side. We got this entire suite for free. I cannot really talk about the price because we didn't have to pay anything.

What other advice do I have?

It makes sense for all enterprise companies that currently have BW in place to move over because BW4HANA has more reasonable performance, and it helps you in getting reporting. An enterprise can manage the reporting on this one product. In my previous company, I had to do and review reporting for end-users at the aggregated management level, not only at the transactional level. 

I would rate this solution an eight out of ten. It is definitely an eight for reporting low and high at the management level as compared to others, but it is also dependent on the design. I had to provide and I still need to provide a lot of things knowing how my former colleagues have approached those things. From my point of view, it is never always the product, it is the experience we have in the design and context. BW4HANA is definitely much better than BW. It is also much better than HANA Native. It is definitely the right tool in terms of reporting and security on top of the SAP companies. Most of the companies are SAP companies. If you need an additional reporting tool on top, this is a solution.

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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