Webinar on Demand – SAP Extended Financial Planning (xP&A) Demonstration

Comset Webinar on SAP xP&A - May 16th 2024

Comset hosted this webinar for Finance and Financial Planning Professionals, showing the latest and best features of SAP xP&A (Extended Financial Planning & Analytics). This is now available on demand if you’d like to understand more about the remarkable financial planning tools and processes that it offers.

SAP xP&A is now a valuable tool in the Business Planner’s armoury. So many improvements were made during 2023 that it leapt into the Gartner Leaders Quadrant at the start of 2024.

Comset Consultant Colin Terry shows xP&A’s key features, including a demonstration of a predictive planning scenario. You will see how it streamlines the planning process, collaborative planning, and helps you make and compare more accurate forecasting scenarios based on your critical business data.

SAP xP&A Webinar Transcript

Introduction by Phil O’Brien – Managing Director

Hello and welcome to Comset’s webinar on what’s new in SAP Analytics Cloud, Extended Planning and Analytics. My name’s Phil O’Brien and I’m joined today by Colin Terry and we’re going to show you how the latest developments in SAP Analytics Cloud can improve your enterprise planning function.

Just a couple of housekeeping points before we go through the slides, the session is being recorded and will be made available to all attendees. It’ll also be loaded up onto our website. And the second point is that we’re on a tight schedule today but if you do have any questions, please feel free to use the chat, and one of our colleagues is standing by to respond to any questions that you might raise during the session. So just To give you a little bit of background to Comset, we’ve been in business for over 40 years now. We’ve been a Microsoft partner since 1992 and have partnerships with both Oracle and SAP. Our SAP partnership commencing in 2008.

We’re a Consultancy specializing in business intelligence, planning and analytics, and we’ve been using SAP Analytics Cloud since it first was brought to the marketplace by SAP. In terms of today’s agenda I’m going to take you through a detailed look at Analytics Cloud and its applicability for planning.

Very much a business focus to the demonstration.

Webinar Introduction - Phil O'Brien

Before we actually get started, I just want to cover off a point about XP&A. XP&A is really about the extension of financial planning and analysis beyond the finance department into other areas of the organization which produce business plans.

And we’re going to demonstrate that capability in today’s session.

In terms of the product, it covers the full life cycle of analysis and planning activities. Many of you have probably use or seen planning functionality in other competitive products. What we believe differentiates SAP Analytics Cloud from other players in the marketplace is that it combines all the functionality of analytics and planning within the one solution.

We’re not going to have a chance to demonstrate it today, but it does have very good connectivity to enterprise data sources, which is essential in a enterprise planning solution. the other thing that Colin’s going to be doing during the demonstration is trying to bring out the functionality that’s available to business users within the tool, and I think it’s best leaving it to the actual demonstration so as you can see that, but it covers all the things that you’d expect in a modern planning tool. Powerful data entry facilities, spreading facilities, what-if types of simulations, predictive forecasting, workflow, task assignment, allocations. All the things that you’d expect, but we’ll bring those out during the demonstration.

So at this point, I’m going to hand over to Colin to take you through the demonstration of the product itself over to you, Colin.

Setting the scene: the Demonstration Scenario – Colin Terry – SAP Consultant

Thanks Phil.

Good morning, everybody.

So a couple of quick slides just to take you through what we’re going to be demoing. And then we’ll get straight into the product. So I’m going to be simulating a company called Best Run Bikes. We’re a bike manufacturing company. We rent and sell bikes across a whole range of bike products in a number of locations throughout the world.

We’ve just closed our Q3 results 2024 and we are therefore going to analyze these results and based on the analysis update some strategic and some detailed plans based on that. And as Phil’s just mentioned, all of this can be accomplished within one tool. We don’t need to drop out of an analysis tool to go into a planning tool and vice versa.

It’s all built into Analytics Cloud. A couple of personas I’ll be using today as part of this demo, we’re going to start off using, a guy called Travis Jefferson. He’s an executive at Best Run Bikes and he’s going to be reviewing the Q3 results that we just closed and based on those updating the strategic plan, is in addition going to initiate a workflow to get his team to update the detailed sales plan, at which point We’ll be introducing Kevin Miller, who’s the planning controller at Best Run Bikes, and he’s going to be doing the bulk of the work.

He’ll be making use of something called predictive scenarios to automate machine learning and predictive to forecast forward five quarters at a very detailed product, company, customer level. And then we’re going to be manually adjusting the resultant sales plan to simulate sales promotions.

We’ll then close the loop, make a few comments, and then Travis can then be reviewing that plan and accepting it or rejecting it.

Demonstration of SAP xP&A – Colin Terry

With that being introduced, let’s get straight into the demo. So let me just flick across to my screen. So here we are in Analytics Cloud and we’ve logged in as Travis Jefferson.

And here you can see it is default home page. He’s got a number of links to take him to Analytics Cloud stories that he uses often in his daily work. We also have on our right hand side an RSS widget so that he can keep up to date with what’s happening in the industry.

SAP Planning Dashboard

And all these widgets are built into Analytics Cloud. So let’s get straight in and review results. So I click up here on my review results hyperlink that takes me to a new story.

And here you can see we’ve been taken to a dashboard that’s giving us our actuals to budget or to plan KPIs all in one screen.

So for instance, we can see on the left hand side over here, We have three KPIs. They’re giving us our Q3 actual results to plan. So you can see that our gross margin is above plan as is operating margin.

Our operating expenses, however, are slightly over, and you can see that by the color coding on the KPIs. likewise underneath those first three KPIs, we have the same KPIs, but this time for the year to date. And you can see those figures tie into the tables we have on our right hand side.

Going to the tables, our first table here is showing us our operating income statement. and we can see we’ve got 2024, Q1, Q2, and I’ve recently closed Q3, so our year to date so far. and then we also have an operating income in a sort of nested number of lines there.

 This is an interactive table, so it’s not static data. If I wanted to, I could, for instance, click on net revenue. And break out that figure into its underlying component parts. Likewise, I could do the same thing up here with our Q1 Q2 to show the underlying monthly data. I can also right click on a figure I’m interested in and bring up the context menu and select smart insights.

And what will happen at that point in time is Analytics Cloud will analyze that number and show me the underlying contributors which go to make up that figure. So for instance, I can see here. A very top one that our e-bike two product is our top performing product contributor. If I click on the icon there, I can open that up and it shows me a little graph showing how eBike 2 performed to the other models .

And again, this is all dynamic. It’s all calculated as I click. Likewise, if I wanted to, I could go and see the company. The USA is the best performing company, and I can see how it’s performing in relation to the other entities we have in our company here. I can even click on gross margin to get an analysis of how that figure’s made up.

So we can see that gross margin is the sum of two sub accounts, the sum of net revenue and cost of goods sold. And that’s all completely built in. I could clicked on net revenue, got the same analysis automatically generated. Let me close that. To the right of that first table, we’ve got the operating income again.

This time we’re actually just looking at Q3 actuals against our current plan. And we’ve got a little inline graph giving me a pictorial representation of the variance between the two figures . So again, net revenue, we can see where 0. 3 millions USD, over plan.

Again, I can click on any of these and expand our total personal expenses to get a more detailed view of that, underlying component parts. Moving down to the bottom left, we have a line chart showing our two revenue streams that we currently use in Best Run Bikes.

And I can click on sales revenue to highlight that. I can even zoom in or go in to a more detailed monthly level by selecting the slider here and then I can scroll through the individual months to see how we were performing month on month.

Another typical view we’ll have here is a donut chart. So Best Run Bikes is our best performing as we saw in the smart insights and we have here a tree map that’s giving us our operating expenses by cost centre. On any of these visuals I can bring up a little menu. Make those full screen to get a bigger view. So here we have a operating expenses by cost center and this is at a regional level.

 I can again, interact with this visual go down a level to show cost centers at a divisional level. I can draw back up. And I can even drill through into an individual cost center. For instance, China here we can see is our cost center with largest operating expense. I can click on that, drill down, and get more detail on the underlying cost centers that go to make up the Chinese company.

Once I’m happy with that, I can reset the view and go back to our dashboard. Now the Analytics Cloud stories are made up of multiple sheets very much like an Excel spreadsheet and I can navigate those sheets either using a drop down up here so I can see the different tabs or this control here. So let’s go to the next tab for a slightly different view.

This time on a different view of operating income. This view we’ve got actuals here. We have our budget this time here rather than plan and we have a column here that is our actuals restated at the exchange rate used to set the budget. This means that we can identify quite quickly whether the variance we’re seeing between actual and budget is down to exchange rates or whether it’s actually down to operational parameters. And again, on the table here to the right, same sort of view, but this time, rather than having the operating income statement, we’ve got operating income split out by the individual company entities.

This third view of our operating income is showing us three slices of versions of the data. So here we have our actuals, Q1, Q2, Q3, 2024. We also have our current plan, Q4 and then in the middle here we have what’s called an actualized plan, which is a combination of our closed actuals.

So you can see the Q1 and Q2 columns here are the same as our actual figures that have been closed, but our Q3 actualized plan is a copy of the current plan that we have for Q3. Now that we’ve closed Q3 actuals, what I want to do is update this actualized plan to reflect those figures.

What I can do very easily is go down to my operating income figure here, the 4. 3 million, right click and copy. If I go across to my Q3 actualized plan, I can right click on that, do paste, and what will happen is that figure will be disaggregated downwards. So you can see in the yellow highlighted cells what’s been changed.

 So we can see that we pushed down the 4. 3 operating income through to the individual line items there. And it now reflects our Q3 actual figures. but it has also updated my total for the year. Now I want to still stick to the figure we had for our current plan 2024, which in this case is 10. 9 million. So what I’m going to do is, update the total this time round, but because I’ve got actuals that I don’t want to change. I can click operating income here, these cells for Q1, Q2, Q3 and lock them. This means that any change I make to the overall total will be pushed down into Q4. So if I take my 10. 9 million, copy it, I go over here to my total to 2024 actualized plan, paste, and you’ll see that, this time round, we’ve got no change in Q1 to Q3. All the changes have taken place in the Q4 and we can see over here we’ve now got our variances to current plan to actualized plan and how we’re performing

When I’m happy with those changes I can publish the data, which will take my local changes and publish them up to the master version. So that everybody else, when they look at their stories, will get those same figures.

Having updated that operating plan, I also want to update some strategic plans. So let me go back to my main story, click on strategic plan.

And we’ll go to another story or another view of the data. Slightly different again this time.  

So here we have our operating margin and operating margin is a calculation of operating income as a percentage of net revenue.

We’re showing current plan 2024 and 2025.

We’re also then showing a strategic plan for the next three years after that. So strategic plan 2026 through to 2028. And then on the right hand side over here, we have a number of graphics showing those figures in more detail.

So for instance, here, we’ve got a compound growth rate of 2.78 percent between 24 and 25 and then likewise two and a half percent for 2026 to 2028.

Taking a look at the figures in the table I can see that my operating margin forecast for 2025 is currently sitting at 9. 2 percent but he’s then dropping down in the strategic plan. So lower than that. So I’d like to update my strategic plan to reflect the 9. 2 percent going forward. I’d like to fix it at that, so I can do that very easily again by copying and pasting.

But what I want to do in this case is keep my personal expenses as they are. So I can highlight and lock those cells and I can do the same thing again. I don’t want to change the cost of goods so I can lock the cell. Now remember, the operating margin actually was the result of the calculation.

It’s a calculation of operating income as a percentage of net revenue. But that doesn’t stop me putting a target into these cells down here. And SAC or SAC Analytics Cloud, pushing down the figures to the underlying component parts of the calculation. So let me click in 9. 2%.

I’m going to copy that

and paste.

And you can see that what’s actually changed here, personal expenses and cost of goods have stayed the same, but our operating expenses or other operating expenses has been modified to reach this target of 9. 2 percent that we wanted . And that’s again, affected our operating income up here.

Again, when I’m happy with that. I can publish data. To update my strategic plans, so I’ll do that the last thing I want to do as Travis is to get my team to start to make changes to the detailed sales plans that we’ve got in place. So let me flick back over here and what I’m going to do is going to make use of some workflow functionality that is built into the product so I can go down to a calendar view

and create what’s called a task

which now I’m going toassign to other users. So let me call this update detailed sales plan.

I’ll give a time to start by. So let’s give it a few minutes in the future. So 11 23, for instance, we’ll give it an end date of a week’s time. So we’ll say the 23rd of May

and I’ll do create

probably a bit too close. So let’s just give it 11, 26.

You can see

that this is already in my calendar. Put a task here for the next week and over here on the right hand side I can start assigning individuals to do this work. So if I scroll down you see there’s an assignees there. I can add assignees. Let’s search for Kevin. Let’s select him

and this composite task has a planning task and then a review task. I’m going to make myself as reviewer and I can see that the task is now split 75 percent to planning 25 percent review. I think that’s a bit high. Let’s go to 90 and 10 and when I’ve made those changes I can do update and activate. Which will activate the task and it will also put notifications and emails to those people who have been assigned to do the work.

I can also provide a bit more information around this task by opening a discussion. Again, it’s built into the product.

Let me type in and say:

“Hi Kevin. Please update plans as discussed. And then I can post that and Kevin will get an alert that there’s been a discussion initiated.”

So having done that, let’s now finish with Travis for the time being, and I’m going to log in as Kevin Miller, who’s our planning controller for Best Run Bikes.

I’ve logged into Analytics Cloud as Kevin, a slightly different screen this time for his home screen.

His one’s more focused on plan update processes. We’re updating a sales plan today, but you can see that we can model and use Analytics Cloud for rental planning, balance sheet, cashflow, travel expenses, workforce planning. So it’s a very wide and broad planning tool. It’s not just sales planning.

So let’s start off by clicking on sales to take us to the sales planning sub page and do sales by product group. Whereas before when we were looking at or analyzing the data, we had quite a high level review of the data. We’ve got a slightly different view this time around a lot more detail. So here we can see a planning sheet that we’re gonna be using. we have actual figures, for 2022 through to 2024. So you can see those figures there. We have a current plan for the same time periods, so we can see our current plan. It’s the same as our actuals for Q2, Q3, but then differing in Q3.

Likewise, our plan update, is the same as the current plan, apart from the fact that it’s now got our Q3 actuals in here as well. So what I want to do is, as you can imagine we have quite a large range of bikes. We have quite a large number of customers. So for instance, I can click here and open up our customers. We have a large number of companies as well. So if I was to try and do detailed sales planning manually, that could be quite an onerous task. Fortunately, I can make use of built in predictive functionality within Analytics Cloud to get the tool to create a complex model of sales going forward.

So I’m going to initiate that process. What I need first of all is a version of the data to work with. So I’m going to copy the actuals.

I’ll give my copy a name.

…and a category

The categories vary on what you can do in the views of the data and the default views that you get. This is planning data and we’re going to copy all our actuals into this predicted sales version and you can see what it’s done is added that predicted sales version at the bottom here and you can see it’s now got the same data as our actuals at the top.

But we haven’t actually got any figures for them going forward as their actuals. So we’re now going to jump to the predicted modeling screen. As again, this is within Analytics Cloud.

 What I’m seeing here is the results of a previous model. Now the beauty of this tool is that it’s actually a tool for business users.

You don’t need to be a data scientist to create these models. So all I need to do is click plus up here.

And fill in a few figures. So let’s give it a description.

So we’re going to plan units sold. We’re going to do it for the cruise bikes, range of bikes, and we’re going to do it for Europe rather than the whole of our company.

I need to give it a model to work with. So all of our models that we’ve been looking at are based off a model called M 150. So again, I can just search on that system finds it for me and then I can just fill in a few fields over here. So if I click on I can see what it’s after. So this is the version of the planning that contains actuals. So we’ll leave it as that.

Target is the measure or account that we want to forecast. So in this case, it’s units sold. So I can click here, get the list of measures in my model, select units sold, select the date dimension. We’ve only got one, so that’s easy enough. And this date dimension is at a month level and we want to forecast five quarters ahead.

So we want to forecast 15 months. We’re going to train, i. e. Build a model using all the observations we’ve currently got, all our actuals. I’m just going to click that as well. So that’s basically saying if I get a negative forecast value, convert it to zero because negatives don’t make sense in a sales planning environment.

And then finally, I select what I want to predict what dimensionality I want. So I want to predict products by customer by company. So I will get a different model or a different prediction for every combination of product, customer and company. Now that could take a while, so I’m going to place a few restrictions on that data for the time being.

So products, we just wanted to plan our cruise bikes. So let me select the leaf members of our product dimension there. And likewise, rather than doing the whole company, we’re going to just predict for Best run bike s Europe. So having made that, I can save.

And then I just need to press the train and forecast button, at which point Analytics Cloud will start training that model. Now that could take a few minutes. So in the best manner of Blue Peter, here’s one I prepared earlier so we can see the results of the modeling and what I can do quickly is save those results to my version.

I’m doing that now. Just takes a few seconds to work. So we get that going in the background. But what you can see with this prediction is that I’ve got a number of different predictive models for every combination of product. So in this case model 3 direct on line. Then companies. So in this case we have 24 different models were generated. And I could see the results or the accuracy of each of those models in this bar chart here, the map is the mean average, percentage error. So in effect, what it does is it looks at the actuals that were given to train the model and then the forecast historical figures and compares the two.

And the lower the map the better the prediction or the model is. You’re never gonna get zero and you don’t want zero. ’cause that one never forecast it particularly well. If I click on any of these entities here, I can get a breakdown of how that prediction was built.

 So I can see here a chart of the actuals and then the forecast. I can see the differences in the actuals and the forecasts. There are some outliers that are identified and then over here on the right I can see our prediction and the upper and lower confidence intervals I can even click on an explanation and it would tell me how it’s built that model or that prediction.

In this case, most of it came down from trending of data, but there were some seasonal cycles in this case, a yearly cycle that also made an effect, and that’s how the model was built up. So having saved those, let’s have a look at what the figures look like.

So let me go back to my sales plan update.

So here’s my predicted sales line. And now if I refresh the data here, you can see the predicted figures have been written into my predicted sales forecast. So we can see that we’ve now got our five quarters forecast. And I can see that it’s actually not just the top level, but it’s by particular customers.

I can then tweak that if I wanted to, but if I’m happy with that, I can now write my workings into the plan update version and publish that data.

So we’ve now automated the planning going forward for the next 5 quarters and you can see there that our plan update is now different to our current plan.

So let’s manually go in and tweak that plan . So let me close that one down and go over here to this sheet.

So here you can see a typical planning sheet. I’ve got units sold. An average sale price. And a calculated gross sales. In this case, we’re looking at mountain bikes. We’ve got a current plan and we’ve got a plan update for the next five quarters going forward.

Now I want to tweak my plan because I know that we’ve got some sales promotions going on in mountain bikes and I can do that very easily using the planning functionality built into this. So for instance, I might know that we’re expecting a 15 percent increase in units sold for Q2 2025.

So I can go up to this cell here and I can type plus 15%. Hit enter and we can see in yellow what’s changed. So that total figure has been increased by 15 percent and then driven down using the proportions of the current units sold to then update the individual range of mountain bike models below that.

It’s also done it because we did it at Q2 level.

You push that down to the individual months as well and you can see recalculated as soon as I did that. If I had a lot of changes to make, I can turn off that automatic calculation and go into a mass data entry mode, and then I can make numerous changes quickly without having to wait for it to recalculate.

So, for instance, in Q3, we might want to reduce our sales price by, 10 percent for Model 1. You can see it’s changed it and highlighted if it hasn’t updated the total. Model 4 could be 5 percent decrease in sales price. And that could result in 20 percent increase in Model 1 sales. Maybe a 10 percent in Model 4.

And it might also depreciate some Model 2 sales. So I might want to restrict that, say, or reduce that by, say, 150 units. So rather than using percentage, I can type in values directly. So if I do plus minus 150. That will reduce those overall figures sold, for Model 2 by 150. When I’m happy I’ve made all the changes I want, I can go over here to process data and all those changes are taken into effect in one go and updated appropriately.

Adjusting a plan in SAP Analytics Cloud

I can also make use of what’s called a planning panel. To have a bit more control over how these figures are distributed down.

So for instance, if I go up here, highlight Q4 units sold. How to distribute value. Here’s the planning panel. I can do redistributing overall amounts.

In this case, I want to distribute say 5000 units I can either take these recommendations or highlight the cells I want to update. So model 1 through to 4. I don’t want to append the values. I want to overwrite it in this case and I can either put in values directly so I could say I wanted 1200 units in there and then it would show me what’s remaining to allocate.

Or I could do it equally, or using the current proportions that are already entered, or I could use some weightings to it. So I might say, I think 50 percent sales might go to model 1, 30 to 2, maybe 10 and 10. And I can see the values it’s going to put straight in the table.

Do apply.

And there’s our 5,000 units split that way.

I also know that we’re going to introduce a new mountain bike model for Q4. Now in most other products, I’d have to get I.T. to add that model into the database, import the data. But Analytics Cloud, I can do this myself. I can do an add member.

Let me type in the name of it. So it’s going to be mountain bike model 5. It can’t find an existing member, so it’s going to create a new one for me. Let’s give it an ID of PCM5.

Do apply,

and you can see that we’ve now got a blank line created. this is a mid range bike, so this is going to sell for around 300 euros.

So I can go over here, fill in the sales price.

Let’s do 400 units of that.

And you can see my top lines, all update appropriately. When I’m happy with that, I can publish that data. So that everybody can then see my changes

having updated my plans. I want to now let Travis know that we’ve finished our planning process. So I’m going to go over here to my. Calendar here.

I’m going to see my task…

and we click on details and I can do a few things here. So the first thing I want to do is add my working file to this task so that Travis can review it. So it was called S 150 Sales.

And having done that, I can then also now update my progress. Well, I’ve finished my tasks. I can give that 100 percent do update. So my task is finished. I can see that there’s also another task, which is the review task left to be done. But what will happen at that point is Travis would have gotten a notification to say that his work’s been finished, that I finished my work, he needs to review it.

So let me log in as Travis again, very quickly.

I get a notification up here.

If I go into that task, you can see I’m automatically presented with the sales planning sheet that Kevin has produced. There are the new figures and I can accept or reject that. Let’s accept it, and by approving it, it will notify everybody that that task is now complete, their calendar gets updated, and they get a notification.

So we’ve closed the loop, we’ve gone from analysis to planning, and then using workflow, notifying people that the task is completed. At which point, People can carry on with their work. So that’s all I wanted to show. Hopefully that’s giving you a good overview of Analytics Cloud and it’s collaborative. It’s predictive. It’s planning and it’s analysis features. I’m going to hand back to Phil so he can have a few slides just to finish.

Summary & Close by Phil O’Brien

Well, thank you Colin, for that very detailed and comprehensive demo really what I wanted to do now is to summarize what we took you through in the demonstration as you saw SAP Analytics Cloud combines enterprise planning and analytics capability within a single cloud based solution.

It very much extends the financial plan and focus into operational areas. Colin gave a good example of how it could be used in a detailed sales planning environment, but it’s equally applicable to other areas of the organization, such as operations, supply chain, workforce planning. He was also able to show you the predictive and machine learning capabilities of the tool to accelerate the analysis and planning process, not just accelerated, but automated as well. And finally, he was able to show the collaborative capabilities of the product that allow you to bring disparate groups of planners together for an enterprise planning solution.

 So at that point, just wrapping up the session. We have one call to action, obviously one of the things that we weren’t able to go into detail today was how you can link your planning into your existing enterprise applications. One of the things that we’re quite happy to do for those of you that are interested in exploring how the technology might work for your organization is to arrange a free workshop.

And you have there on the screen my email. Feel free to contact either myself or Colin, and we can set up a session. Obviously, the more information you can bring to a workshop, the more productive the session can be. So at that point, on behalf of Colin and myself, just like to thank you for your attendance and look forward to speaking with you again soon.

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