CATEGORY: BI Tools
REVIEWER: Scott Devitt, software component manager for Sempra Energy.
BACKGROUND: Sempra Energy Information Solutions is a California corporation and wholly owned subsidiary of Sempra Energy. Sempra Energy, a Fortune 500 company with over 9 million customers worldwide, is the parent of San Diego Gas & Electric Company and Southern California Gas Company. Sempra Energy has 12,000 employees and generated approximately $7 billion in revenue and $400 million in net income last year. Its two largest utilities have more than 6 million customers in southern California. Sempra has invested substantial resources and research in developing best-in-class utility business processes in support of these businesses. Sempra also has a continuous improvement program to ensure the quality and effectiveness of its processes in satisfying customer needs.
PLATFORMS: We use a Sun Microsystems platform and a UNIX operating system.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Sempra Energy end users could not access information in a cost effective manner. Sempra Energy had a strict policy of not allowing the creation of custom objects in SAP R/3, which included custom reports. Our initial cost benefit study of SAP Business Information Warehouse (SAP BW) indicated the equivalent of 10 SAP R/3 custom reports to one SAP BW InfoCube. In some cases, we found the equivalency was as great as 26 custom reports to one SAP BW InfoCube. SAP BW allowed Sempra Energy to reduce the creation of custom reports. SAP BW also solved the problem of joining data from legacy systems to SAP R/3 data for reporting.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: SAP BW has evolved significantly since October 1998 (version 1.2A). Last year, SAP released SAP BW 2.0B. This new version included an operational data store (ODS), Web front-end and integration with SAP R/3. We have found the Web front-end to be beneficial. Also, the integration between BW and SAP R/3 allows end users to jump to SAP R/3 to review detail data. In the future, we plan to more fully utilize the ODS.
STRENGTHS: SAP BW is an integrated solution incorporating all layers of data warehouse architecture: source system connection and mapping, ETL application, persistent staging layer, robust ODS and data marts. It has robust security and version control and seamless integration with SAP R/3. It also delivers business content that transforms data into business information and incorporates both OLAP and relational query capability into one tool.
WEAKNESSES: Not all standard delivered content is adequate to meet business needs. Also, custom content does not offer delta extract and load capability.
SELECTION CRITERIA: The major advantage of SAP BW is the integration with SAP R/3. SAP BW recognizes the business logic within SAP R/3. Therefore, meaningful extraction is guaranteed. Drill-down, drill-across and drill-through functionality are also strengths of this product.
DELIVERABLES: SAP BW is a complete data warehouse suite. It produces the business intelligent extract logic from the R/3 operational modules (in our case CCS, FI and FERC) and the extraction infrastructure to transport data packets from one or many R/3 systems to the data warehouse. It also produces customizable transformation and load logic, an ODS against which users configure joins and queries, and OLAP cubes for data marts with user-configured queries.
VENDOR SUPPORT: As a very early implementer of SAP BW, Sempra did experience problems with the product. SAP acknowledged our concerns and sent several consultants at no charge for several months to ensure our successful implementation. As a post-implementation service, SAP offers a Go-Live check and validates the production configuration. Additionally, support of SAP BW is managed efficiently by a robust, 24x7 call center. SAP has been exemplary in providing a forum for user input into SAP BW functionality enhancements and incorporating those requirements into the product within an aggressive time frame. The American SAP User's Group presented a white paper to SAP in Spring 1999 with the requirements for an ODS. In the summer of 2000, SAP implemented 98 percent of the group's ODS requirements in SAP BW 2.0B.
DOCUMENTATION: In the early days, SAP BW documentation was scarce. However, SAP has invested significantly in creating documentation. SAP has numerous white papers to address implementation issues. Additionally, SAP has published documents such as "Reporting Made Easy" to allow end users to run the product.
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