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May 29, 2024

How to Create a SAP Analytics Cloud Dashboard

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Creating a dashboard in SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC) offers users the ability to seamlessly integrate various data sources, empowering them to obtain a unified view of their business activities. SAC provides a rich set of tools and functionalities that enable the creation of interactive, customisable dashboards. These dashboards allow any level of business professional—from analysts to executives—to create meaningful insights through data visualisation, which supports informed decision-making processes.

The process of dashboard creation in SAC involves defining the data model, choosing the right visualisation components, and customising the layout to meet the specific needs of the user or organisation. Being a cloud-based solution, SAC ensures that users have a real-time experience, with their data being constantly updated. This is instrumental in maintaining the accuracy and relevance of the information presented on the dashboard.

Additionally, within the SAP Analytics Cloud environment, dashboard creators can benefit from the array of analytical capabilities, such as business intelligence, augmented analytics, and predictive analytics. This rich environment not only facilitates the visualisation of data but also enhances the overall analytical experience, enabling users to delve beyond traditional reporting to extract predictive insights and patterns within their data.

SAP Analytics Cloud Platform

The SAP Analytics Cloud is a powerful business intelligence tool that offers comprehensive planning and analytical capabilities. It is essential to familiarise yourself with its various features, such as the ability to integrate with SAP S/4HANA and other data sources, to leverage its full potential in dashboard design. Best practices suggest that designers take advantage of the resources and training provided by SAP to understand the user experience and functionalities of the platform.

Identifying Your Data Sources

A dashboard is only as good as the data it displays. It is crucial to identify and connect to the relevant data sources. SAP Analytics Cloud seamlessly integrates with a variety of systems, including SAP S/4HANA Cloud data as well as other on-premise and cloud databases.

The following list details typical data sources to consider:

  • SAP S/4HANA: Real-time operational data for transactional analysis
  • External Databases: For external benchmarks or complementary data sets
  • Spreadsheets: Often used for ad hoc data analysis and planning

Ensuring that all necessary data connections are secure and efficient is a vital step in the preparation process.

Establishing KPIs and Measures

KPIs and measures are the backbone of any dashboard, directly informing the user experience by highlighting the metrics that matter most to business performance. Careful planning is required to select KPIs that align with business objectives, and measures that offer meaningful insights into these KPIs.

Here are a few considerations when establishing your KPIs and measures:

  • Alignment with strategic objectives for financial planning and analysis
  • Relevance to the user’s role and decision-making needs
  • Clarity and simplicity to facilitate understanding at a glance

Designers should work closely with stakeholders to determine the most relevant KPIs, ensuring the dashboard serves its intended purpose effectively.

Creating the Dashboard Canvas & Layout

Choosing the Right Canvas Type

The decision of whether to use a canvas layout or a responsive layout is pivotal. A canvas layout is suited for scenarios where precision and a custom, pixel-perfect design are paramount. This layout is static, where the designer controls the exact placement of elements like tiles, charts, and others, ensuring that what they see is what the end user gets, regardless of device resolution. Conversely, responsive pages are designed to adapt fluidly across various devices. They are ideal when one intends to create responsive mobile dashboards that maintain readability and functionality regardless of screen size.

  • Canvas Layout: For controlled, pixel-perfect presentations.
  • Responsive Layout: For adaptability across a multitude of devices.

Configuring Pages and Tiles

Upon selecting the dashboard layout type, the next step is configuring the pages and tiles. In a canvas layout, you must configure each tile with precision, as scrolling will be implemented if the content overflows the viewer’s screen resolution. Within the SAP Fiori launchpad, story creators can manage these aspects with tools provided by the SAP Analytics Cloud.

  • Tiles: These are the individual components that display the data. Each tile’s size and position must be defined manually when using a canvas layout. In a responsive layout, tiles automatically adjust to the screen size.
  • Pages: These are like canvases themselves, where multiple tiles come together to form the dashboard. Page configuration can include defining the number of tiles, their arrangement, and interactions between them.

Effective dashboard configuration ensures that each element is optimised for both the data it presents and the platform it is viewed on.

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Adding and Customising Widgets

When creating a dashboard in SAP Analytics Cloud, the utilisation of widgets is paramount. Widgets act as the building blocks, allowing for an interactive and informative display of data. SAP S/4HANA Embedded Analytics simplifies the integration and visualisation process within custom-designed dashboards.

Working with Standard Widgets

Standard widgets, including tables, charts, and R visualisations, provide fundamental ways to present data in SAP Analytics Cloud. Users can drag and drop these pre-built objects onto the dashboard using the Analytics Designer. For a table widget, one typically selects columns, assigns measures and dimensions, and applies formatting. A chart widget might require setting a chart type, choosing data series, and customising axes.

  • Tables: Set properties such as column visibility, sorting order, and drill-down capabilities.
  • Charts: Choose from types like bar, line, or pie chart; define the data source and visual aspects.

Designers can enhance widgets further with filtering options, allowing users to interact with the dashboard and refine the data they view.

Implementing Custom Widgets

For more specialised requirements, SAP Analytics Cloud permits the addition of custom widgets. These widgets can be built using the SDK provided by SAP, enabling partners and customers to integrate unique functionalities or visual elements.

  1. Develop: Create a custom widget using the SDK, which might integrate third-party libraries like Apache ECharts for advanced data visualisation.
  2. Bind Data: Custom widgets often need a data binding mechanism to connect with the data models in SAP Analytics Cloud.
  3. Implement: Once designed, these widgets can be added to analytic applications alongside standard widgets, enriching the dashboard’s capability.

It’s imperative developers adhere to the SAP development guidelines for custom widgets to ensure compatibility and security within the SAP Analytics Cloud environment.

Enhancing Data Visualisation

To effectively communicate insights within a SAP Analytics Cloud dashboard, you must carefully enhance data visualisation through the selection of appropriate visualisation options, the incorporation of interactive elements, and the application of targeted filters and controls.

Choosing Visualisation Options

When crafting a dashboard, it is crucial to select the right visualisation options that best represent the underlying data. For instance, a stacked bar chart may be ideal for showing the distribution of data across different categories, revealing patterns that might be lost in other chart forms. Decisions on visualisation should always aim to simplify the complexity of data while maintaining the integrity and accuracy of the information presented.

Incorporating Interactive Elements

Interactive dashboards elevate user engagement and comprehension. Drilldowns enable users to navigate through layers of data, gaining a more granular understanding of the metrics. The inclusion of input controls and story filters allows users to customise their view, focusing on the data that matters most to them. These interactive elements transform static content into a dynamic exploration tool, facilitating a deeper analysis.

Applying Filters and Controls

Utilising filters and controls helps to streamline the data shown on a dashboard, making it more relevant to the user’s needs. Dimension filters can be applied to segment the data by specific categories, such as time period or region. Meanwhile, measure input controls provide the ability to alter the displayed numeric ranges. The strategic use of these tools refines the dashboard experience, ensuring that users are only presented with the most pertinent information.

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Integrating data from multiple sources into your dashboard

SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC) can connect to a variety of data sources to bring data into its analytics environment. Some of the main data sources supported by SAC include:

SAP Data Sources: SAC integrates seamlessly with various SAP applications and platforms, such as SAP HANA, SAP BW/4HANA, SAP S/4HANA, SAP ERP, and SAP BusinessObjects Universe.

Non-SAP Data Sources: SAC also supports connectivity to non-SAP data sources, including relational databases such as Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, IBM Db2, and PostgreSQL.

Cloud Data Sources: SAC can connect to cloud-based data sources like Google BigQuery, Amazon Redshift, Microsoft Azure SQL Data Warehouse, and Snowflake.

Files: SAC allows users to upload and analyze data from files in various formats, such as Microsoft Excel, CSV (Comma-Separated Values), and TXT (Text) files.

Live Data Connections: SAC offers live connectivity to on-premises and cloud-based data sources using connectors like OData services, JDBC, and ODBC.

SAP Analytics Cloud Data Model: SAC provides a built-in data modeling environment where users can create and manage data models directly within the application.

Linking SAP S/4HANA Cloud

Importing data from SAP S/4HANA into SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC) is a common use case for organizations looking to leverage their SAP enterprise data for advanced analytics, reporting, and visualization. SAC offers seamless integration with SAP S/4HANA, enabling users to access and analyze data directly from their SAP ERP system.

Considering SAP BW/4HANA

For organisations that leverage SAP BW/4HANA, integration is key to taking full advantage of its advanced data warehousing capabilities. SAP BW/4HANA serves as a potent backend system that magnifies the data processing and storage potential of a dashboard. Its role is to streamline analytics processes, ensuring that large volumes of data are manageable and performance is optimised. When this is carefully aligned with the SAP Analytics Cloud, decision-makers gain access to a harmonious environment for strategic analysis.

Leveraging SAP Digital Boardroom

The SAP Digital Boardroom is an evolution in the workspace for executives, empowering them with a comprehensive view of business operations. By leveraging the Digital Boardroom within SAP Analytics Cloud dashboards, companies can format complex data into executive insights. Interactive displays and real-time analytics foster a strategic atmosphere where performance metrics are not only viewed but also interacted with, providing a digital platform to track company health and progress effectively.

Administering and Sharing Dashboards

Effective administration and sharing of SAP Analytics Cloud dashboards are pivotal for leveraging real-time analytics and driving data-driven decisions. This involves meticulous management of user access with robust security parameters as well as streamlining the procedures for distributing the dashboards.

Managing User Access and Security

SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC) dashboards operate with a keen focus on user access and security controls. As part of SAP Activate methodology’s best practices, you must delineate user roles meticulously within SAC. This ensures that sensitive data, such as finance and procurement dashboard information, is only accessible to authorised personnel, bolstering the integrity and confidentiality of the information.

  • Roles and Permissions: Clearly outline roles to control viewer, editor, and admin permissions for SAC dashboards to protect sensitive analytical stories.
  • Security Protocols: Apply SAC’s advanced security protocols, including secure login practices and data encryption, to safeguard against unauthorised access and data breaches.

Facilitating Efficient Dashboard Sharing

Sharing SAP Analytics Cloud dashboards should be an intuitive and efficient process, ensuring that all stakeholders can access the insights they need.

  • Direct Link Sharing: Utilises SAC’s native sharing features to provide direct, secure links to dashboards, employing user permissions for access control.
  • Embedded Analytics: SAC dashboards can be integrated directly into SAP S/4HANA via embedded analytics, allowing users to interact with live data and insights within the business process context.
  • Email and Scheduling: Configure SAC to email dashboards or schedule regular reports to keep all relevant team members informed of key analytics and stories.

Need a better way to create SAP Dashboards?

Creating professional SAP dashboards can be a complex task, especially for those who might not be well-versed in data analytics or the intricacies of SAP Analytics Cloud. This is where third-party tools like Zentrix can offer a simpler and more user-friendly experience. Zentrix is a tool designed to simplify the process of creating dashboards and reports that can connect to SAP data sources among others.

One of the main advantages of using Zentrix is that it leverages Power BI’s intuitive interface, which allows users to drag and drop elements to create dashboards. This ease of use can significantly reduce the learning curve and enable users to produce high-quality, professional-looking dashboards without requiring extensive training or technical expertise.

Zentrix also provides a wide range of pre-built templates and visualization options that can help users to get started quickly. These templates are designed to meet various reporting needs and can be easily customized to fit the specific requirements of an organization.

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Author

Jeff Stubbs

Jeff is the founder of Zentrix, a leading provider of Business Intelligence solutions for SAP. Known for his professionalism and reliability with over 20 years of experience, Jeff has spearheaded many transformative projects for clients, enhancing decision-making and business performance across industries. Through his blog, Jeff shares valuable insights into data analytics, systems integration, and business intelligence, offering practical advice for navigating the evolving SAP BI landscape. Follow Jeff for IT insights and updates, and discover how Zentrix is revolutionizing SAP BI solutions.