In working to meet the analytics needs of SAP Business One (SAP B1) customers, NewIntelligence discovered some common pains these businesses were experiencing. The framework provided by SAP B1 (SQL Server version of SAP B1 8.8 and above) is typically unable to provide user-friendly reporting. As a result, users spend a significant amount of time creating reports in Microsoft Access and Excel. Subsequently, management of these companies has difficulty making proactive decisions due to limited insight into crucial information and a reactionary approach to reporting. Furthermore, we noticed several common data issues and limitations caused by SAP B1’s inefficient reporting and dashboarding capabilities. SAP B1 does not include user-friendly calculations and naming conventions that are self-explanatory. Plus, it does not have the ability to easily report on customized fields.
Based on these client experiences, NewIntelligence launched its SAP B1 QuickStart solution in 2017. This solution was created in collaboration with IBM to specifically address the business pains of SAP B1 clients at an affordable price point.
NewIntelligence has evolved it’s SAP B1 QuickStart to now be able to offer 3 versions of the solution, with the intent of providing their customers with an analytics road map that will lead them on a journey to a reporting and dashboarding environment that follows best practices. This can eventually lead to Budgeting, Forecasting and Planning.
To get an SAP B1 client started, NewIntelligence provides a database-only version of its QuickStart solution, which allows them to leverage their existing investment in their reporting and dashboarding technology already in place. The database version of the QuickStart allows SAP B1 customers that are already happy with their existing reporting technology (for example: Crystal Reports, Tableau, Power BI, Qlik, Cognos Analytics) to advance their reporting capabilities in many more areas than they may have developed internally today. These customers are often having to create complicated views against SAP B1, which require complex calculations and join relationships, inside their reporting tool of choice. Our solution provides a best practices alternative – an optimized reporting database that simplifies the underlying complexity of SAP B1’s database, which minimizes the amount of work needed to create quick and efficient reports and dashboards.
More specifically, our solution drastically reduces the number of SAP B1 tables required to generate reports by consolidating certain key tables to provide a ‘datamart’ that is optimized for reporting and dashboarding. SAP B1 tables out of the box are designed to handle transaction processing to run the day-to-day business operations and are not designed specifically for reporting and dashboarding. Our QuickStart minimizes the number of tables needed to interact with when creating reports and provides the most common calculations, filters and formulas required to make the reporting process a simple drag and drop process. Furthermore, we select only key fields necessary in the tables so that not every field is exposed in the reporting database. Our solution easily addresses user-defined fields created by customers to enhance the reporting database in a simple fashion. An example would be the invoice detail table, which contains hundreds of fields, however not all fields are important to report on. To avoid overwhelming business users, we select the most popular fields from a best-practices perspective. If certain key fields used by a given customer are not addressed in our QuickStart, these can be added easily by the customer on their own without third party intervention or at the time of implementation. We also resolve cryptic field naming conventions that SAP has built into SAP B1 by including more meaningful field names in the database to help users understand what is there. In the example of the invoice database, a file named ‘INVNO’ would be changed to ‘Invoice No’., ‘CNO’ would be changed to ‘Customer number’. Proper naming conventions make it easier for customers to work with fields and tables in the database when creating reports and dashboards.
Extracting data directly from the existing SAP B1 operational database could be a quicker alternative, however, the time spent creating multiple reports with customized filters, joins and calculations often results in disparate data. Our solution ensures that all numbers balance, providing one version of truth.
If a customer wants to build and develop a reporting database with the 9 modules we provided today on their own, an investment of 6-12 months of time would be required, whereas NewIntelligence’s solution can provide this within a couple of weeks.
This version of the solution provides best practices leveraging IBM technology when it comes to SAP B1 report and dashboard creation. It provides a pre-built model that leverages a reporting database that has been prepared to allow business users to create ad hoc reports on their own without IT intervention.
This pre-built model uses business technology that is organized in a way that it is easy for users to understand how to create business reports and derive insights quickly and efficiently, as well as have the confidence of knowing that all information being reported balances. Our solution provides a database containing all requisite fields to be reported on, and it is a simple drag & drop onto a canvas for the user to view the information that they want. Reports can be scheduled and sent via .pdf, or users can leverage the Excel-interface to create reports; both options deriving the information from a controlled environment that provides one version of truth. When team members go into meetings with their reports, everyone can be assured that they are working off the same data foundation.
IBM Cognos Analytics is a business-driven analytics solution that provides a user-friendly interface and a self-service environment for reporting and dashboarding.
This version of NewIntelligence’s SAP B1 QuickStart is the next step in the analytics journey, as it provides insight into your data that you might not necessarily know you should be looking at. This version, which uses IBM Watson Analytics, gives the user the ability to ask natural language business questions, thereby getting insights and visualizations in return, based on what they are asking. Some examples of questions that can be asked include:
- What is driving my business?
- What are my best performing products?
- Who are my top sales representatives?
- Who are my worse performing customers?
This solution can not only show you visualizations based on your questions asked but can provide additional insight around these questions. These insights provided could be drivers, or other aspects of your business that you may not realize are drivers, such as price, territory, representatives or group of customers, which are different from reporting & dashboarding in a controlled environment showing only specific selected fields. These visualizations provide you with a starting point that you can evolve with.
In summary, the database-only version of our solution provides a foundation with a reduced amount of table complexity, including key fields that are commonly used for reporting & dashboarding. This simplified environment allows you to update your data daily, more frequently or on an on-demand basis.
The reporting and dashboarding version is business user-friendly, easy to use, and complete regarding the types of reports & dashboards that you want to create.
The insights and visualizations version provides you with additional understanding based on the questions you ask, as the system shares with you the insights it can find within your data and the information you have supplied it.
The QuickStart solutions we offer are turn-key, as we empower customers to take full ownership of the solution by training them to be able to customize it on their own without third party involvement.
Our SAP B1 QuickStart initially covered 3 subject areas and now covers 9. As new modules become available, we automatically make them available to our QuickStart solution customers as part of their yearly maintenance package. If certain subject areas that you want to work with are not covered, we will gladly collaborate to help create these additional modules.
All versions of our QuickStart work with the SQL version of SAP B1 v8.8 and higher and does not require HANA or an upgrade to the latest version of SAP B1. This solution is an on-premise solution.