In the business intelligence environment, the trend is clearly toward self-service analyses that business users can perform without the help of the IT department. With the help of SAP Analysis for MS Office - the strategic SAP product from the SAP Business Objects portfolio in the Microsoft (MS) Office world - users can perform analyses directly in the popular MS Excel and PowerPoint environment. This makes it possible to flexibly and quickly gain insights into business data and make intelligent decisions without having to forego the convenience of familiar tools.
Definition: What is SAP Analysis for MS Office?
SAP Analysis for MS Office (SAP AfO for short) is an add-in for Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint that allows business users to analyze data ad-hoc in their familiar MS Office functions. SAP BW (SAP Business Warehouse) and the SAP HANA database are the main data sources used here. However, non-SAP sources can also be connected. The BI tool supports both simple data analyses and complex, sophisticated reporting and planning scenarios.
The predecessor of SAP Analysis for Microsoft Office was the so-called SAP BEx Analyzer. In comparison, Analysis for Office offers more functions and more intuitive operation. This was achieved primarily through much deeper integration with MS Excel.
Since 2017, SAP Analysis for MS Office offers two different versions.
The standard version is integrated in the SAP BO Enterprise license or in the BPM license, so SAC models can be connected. The Edition for SAP Analytics Cloud is integrated in the SAP Analytics Cloud Enterprise and also offers the possibility to report and plan directly via models from the SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC).
Since version 2.8 (SP14), data from the SAP Data Warehouse Cloud (DWC) can also be integrated directly into Excel workbooks.
Nevertheless, this version also brings certain limitations, for example, it is not possible to integrate PowerPoint, EPM Plug In, BPC Plug In or BI Platform Service.
Functions of SAP Analysis for MS Office
SAP Analysis for MS Office essentially consists of three modules:
- Analysis plug-in
- Plug-in for Enterprise Performance Management (EMP)
- Business Planning and Consolidation (BPC) Plug-in
The plug-ins are available for both Microsoft Excel and Microsoft PowerPoint. After installation, the Analysis plug-in and the EMP plug-in are available as new tabs of the two MS Office tools.
SAP Analysis for Microsoft Excel
In MS Excel, SAP Analysis for MS Office is used within workbooks. Via the following sheet types, users define which plug-in is activated:
- Enterprise Performance Management EPM
Empty sheets are always defined as "neutral". Only after users insert a data source into a neutral sheet, one of the other sheet types is assigned. Switching to a sheet with a different type activates the corresponding (other) plug-in.
SAP Analysis for Microsoft PowerPoint
In Analysis for Microsoft PowerPoint, users have the option of integrating various data sources into PowerPoint presentations using the plug-in. Afterwards, the analyses can be visually prepared in the PowerPoint environment.
The analysis plug-in in detail
The SAP Analysis for MS Office analysis plug-in supports multidimensional analysis of OLAP data sources in MS Excel, building Excel-based workbook applications and easy creation of BI-related PowerPoint presentations. The plug-in is available for the following MS Office versions:
- Office 365
- Microsoft Office 2019
- Microsoft Office 2016
- Microsoft Office 2013
- Microsoft Office 2010
In Microsoft Excel, the Analysis plug-in appears in the form of two tabs: "Analysis" and "Analysis Design". The data from the connected sources are displayed in the form of crosstabs. One workbook can contain several crosstabs with data from different systems and sources.
The design area is used to analyze the data and modify the current view. Dimensions and key figures to be displayed can be added and removed in a simple drag-and-drop manner. In order to avoid an update after every change, this can be paused. After the pause is over, all changes are immediately applied.
Using Excel features such as conditional formatting, filters, prompts, formulas, and display hierarchies, business users can further refine their analyses. Similarly, charts can be added to visualize the content. Thus, all popular Excel features are directly applicable to SAP analyses and reports.
For power users who want to realize a particularly sophisticated workbook design, the Analysis plug-in has a number of special functions ready that can be used to access data and metadata from connected BW systems. In addition, there are several API functions that can be used in conjunction with the Visual Basic editor to filter data and define values for BW variables, among other things.
Furthermore, business data can be planned using the plug-in based on current data from the connected sources. There are two options for entering the planning data:
- Manual input in connection with BW integrated planning or via the PlugIn BPM
- Determination about the planning functions and planning sequences of SAP BW Integrated Planning
The plug-in for business planning and consolidation in detail
In addition to the analysis plug-in, SAP Analysis for MS Office includes a component for "Business Planning and Consolidation" (BPC for short). The BPC plug-in brings the so-called "Business Process Flows" from the SAP Business Planning and Consolidation web client into the MS Office environment. These are clearly structured and comprehensible planning and consolidation processes that guide employees through their closing work in a targeted manner. The features are available in Excel and PowerPoint in the "Activity" area on the "Analysis" tab.
What are the benefits of SAP Analysis for MS Office?
SAP Analysis for MS Office offers a whole range of advantages. The application is very intuitive to use and enables users to perform individual analyses without the support of the IT department. Users move around in the familiar Excel environment, which is not only popular in controlling. Thus, they can continue to use the comfort of familiar tools while easily connecting and linking data from various sources. Even the analysis of large amounts of data is possible. Moreover, since the information can be updated at any time, users are always up to date.
In summary, the benefits of SAP Analysis for MS Office are as follows:
- Flexible analyses of large data volumes in self-service
- Very low training effort due to intuitive operation ("pivot-like")
- Application directly by the business department - no (or only minor) IT support required
- Easy to integrate into existing reporting and planning systems
- Save time by reusing content and automating analysis processes
- High-performance real-time data supply (based on the in-memory technology HANA)
- Extendable by planning scenarios, should they be licensed and in use (through "Embedded BPC")
- Central or local storage of Excel workbooks possible (incl. offline editing)
Overall, SAP Analysis for MS Office can be described as a small add-in with a big impact. This is because the extension brings significant added value to a company's existing planning and reporting processes. First and foremost, the broad mass of business users is enabled to perform analyses on their own. In addition to systemic requirements, all that is needed is a sound knowledge of Excel (which is usually available anyway).
Thanks to the deep Excel integration, all common features of the popular spreadsheet program can be used for analyses, reports and planning processes. For example, it is possible to create attractively formatted Excel reports including graphics. If required, the analyses can also be easily embedded in PowerPoint presentations. At the same time, the connection to the source systems is maintained continuously. The contents of the analyses are thus always up to date not only in MS Excel, but also in PowerPoint.
Incidentally, SAP Analysis for MS Office is very easy to implement. The add-in is installed locally on the users' end devices. After a short setup process, the functions are already available for use in Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint.
The most important terms related to SAP Analysis for Microsoft Office are explained here:
SAP Analysis for Microsoft Office is a business intelligence solution that enables multidimensional analysis and visualization of SAP and non-SAP data within Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint.
SAP Analysis for Microsoft Office provides a set of analysis functions for business users to link, explore and present business data. All that is required is knowledge of MS Excel and/or PowerPoint and, in the best case, knowledge of the underlying data sources.