Wednesday Oct 25, 2023

Inside Insights: SAP Analytics Cloud for Planning with Nick Verhoeven

In this next series of Tech-Driven Business, Nick Verhoeven, Solution Manager for Planning & Analytics at SAP, joins Mustansir Saifuddin to discuss the power of SAP Analytics Cloud for Planning and how it integrates within the SAP landscape. Listen in as Nick dives into how planning is such a powerful addition to SAP Analytics Cloud. His main takeaway? "To do relevant planning, you want to make sure you understand your current state of the business, the latest trends, and have your analytics looking at the future using AI and predictions." 

The main purpose in Nick's role is to align the different functions within the company. Analyzing and reconciling these inputs to provide and position the best possible FP&A solution to facilitate optimal decisions through data. Customer engagements, analyst relations as well as supporting the internal controlling functions are the main drivers of the role that spark enthusiasm in Nick and steer the solution in the right direction. Nick’s discipline stemming from professional sports is his main strength, helping him drive enterprise engagements however sluggish processes might be.

Connect with Us:

Nick Verhoeven

Mustansir Saifuddin,

Innovative Solution Partners,

X: @Mmsaifuddin


or learn more about our sponsor Innovative Solution Partners to schedule a free consultation. 

Episode Transcript

[00:00:02.910] - Mustansir Saifuddin

Welcome to Tech-Driven Business brought to you by Innovative Solution Partners. In this first episode of a multipart series, Nick Verhoeven, Solution Manager for Planning and Analytics at SAP, joins me to share how planning is such a powerful addition to SAP Analytics Cloud. It's all about how it integrates with your SAP landscape and beyond.


[00:00:28.300] - Mustansir Saifuddin

So joining me today is Nick Verhoeven, who serves as a Solution Manager for Planning and Analytics at SAP. Welcome to Tech-Driven Business, Nick. How are you?


[00:00:40.090] - Nick Verhoeven

Thank you, Mustansir. I'm quite well. It's been a good Monday so far, so happy to be here.


[00:00:45.620] - Mustansir Saifuddin

Thank you. I'm glad to have you on our show. And this topic is very near and dear to me. I've been in planning and analytics for so many years, and really happy to have you as our guests and share your experiences, especially for our topic today. It's a three-part series. We are looking at kicking off this session, and we want to talk about what makes SAC planning such a powerful addition to SAP Analytics Cloud? How does that sound?


[00:01:16.710] - Nick Verhoeven

Well, I think that sounds great. I'm looking forward to it.


[00:01:20.500] - Mustansir Saifuddin

Awesome. Let's get into our topic then. I want to start with the basics. What sets apart SAP Analytics Cloud compared to other cloud-based tools in the market? There are so many tools. So I like to hear your perspective. What makes it so special?


[00:01:38.010] - Nick Verhoeven

So of course, I'm slightly biased, right? I love the product. I'm the solution manager for the product. But I do think there is something that is rather factual that really sets us apart. You ask about the market, so how do you define a market in general? And then what I'll be using is the Gartner MQs. The Gartner Magic Cloud runs Gartner is an analyst company and they make ratings of different software markets, if you will. What I think is rather defining, if you look at the way that SAP Analytics Cloud is positioned, is that we are represented in the business intelligence market, as defined by Gartner, but we are also, as the one and only vendor, also represented with the same product in the financial planning MQ. And that, I think, really sets us apart. And beyond that, if you look beyond just the solution SAP Analytics Cloud for Planning, I think the integration within an SAP landscape sets us apart. So it's the integration to our transactional systems, but also the integration to our business technology platform systems, which allows a wealth of data integrations and connections.


[00:02:54.070] - Mustansir Saifuddin

I think that is the key piece over here, right? I mean, you just hit it on the head. So it seems like when you look around, especially when you're dealing with a cloud-based solution, a lot of times you're stuck with either one or the other solution. So what I'm hearing from you is it's really about bringing two technologies together in one platform, right? Is that basically what makes you think that this is a special tool that allows customers, especially when you're looking for a unified approach of doing things? So it seems like SAC is serving up both those areas from a customer standpoint, right?


[00:03:35.790] - Nick Verhoeven

I'd say so, and think about it. When you are going to do planning, you don't start from scratch. You want insight on where you are, where you're going. And this is where analytics and planning to me and also to SAP, of course, are a natural extension of each other and not something that should have been viewed in a silo.


[00:03:54.810] - Mustansir Saifuddin

Absolutely. Now that makes a lot of sense. And so talking about from that angle, let's get into the details. When you look at from an SAP perspective, you're a little biased because you're working in that tool and you know the insights and what's really going on. When we move forward, SAP continues to enhance its analytics offerings. What do you wish customers knew about SAP that they may have overlooked? A lot of times a tool is out there, but there are certain insights that you may have that can help a customer get more out of their investment, basically.


[00:04:34.170] - Nick Verhoeven

I would say... We were discussing analytics and planning, but if I really focus on analytics, I think the main new addition, and people may have not overlooked it but haven't fully appreciated the capabilities that it brings, is what we call the unified story. This, in essence, means that we take the original object, that is the story where you could drag and drop self-service BI capabilities in there, and we combine that with the capabilities of the former artifact, which is the application designer. Here you could create very specific applications through scripting. Now, by combining these two, we allow in a single object to be present simple, low TCO way of building your analytics or planning input sheets for that matter. But the ability at any point in time extend that with scripting, if you so will. This is already quite interesting and relevant, but it's not the no point of return. At the point you've added scripting, you can close that again and give the object back to the user that might not be adapted to scripting, but the ability to maintain the object in itself, still remaining and retaining the lower TCO, but having the full flexibility to adjust the behavior of your analytical or planning object with specific scripting, I think that is unique to our platform in the way that we do it and has benefits for analytics as well as planning.


[00:06:09.730] - Mustansir Saifuddin

That is very interesting. So let me ask you a follow-up question on this. So that means that when you talk about application designer, you're talking about the ability from a programming standpoint, you can customize certain things and build an application around it. But when you bring in a user, a business user, who can leverage this object or development that is done by from the technical perspective and then bring in their data or their simple stories and have a single, unified approach of looking at information, right? I'm hearing it correctly?


[00:06:49.790] - Nick Verhoeven

I think you hear it completely correctly. Then we also productize that in a way with the recent addition of composites. Composites are reusable objects that will be released in our latest wave, and you'll see it in SAC three. But here what we have is basically script objects or regular objects that can be reused across many stories developed by a highly esteemed professional, but then can be reused across all of those stories. And then if you make an adjustment in such a composite, it will be adjusted in all of the stories, so really scaling out this combined capability across a very large user set.


[00:07:29.490] - Mustansir Saifuddin

Yeah, definitely. I think. And that brings value to the customer really many-folds, and that's what I'm hearing from you. So it's the benefit of using something that is being built and that is embedded, and then you're just extending it to a business user. So that's really awesome. Thank you for sharing that. So now let's get into our main conversation, why a customer, why any organization should consider planning capabilities of SAC? That's really the crux of why we have these two technologies put together in a single platform. So can you elaborate on that?


[00:08:10.120] - Nick Verhoeven

Yeah, definitely. So I'd say the recent world of turbulent change, and I say recent, but this is of all times, that things are changing around us and we have to deal with it. And I think the natural addition to planning is to start looking forward of where might we be going. If you don't know where you're going, you'll never end up there, right? Yeah. And this is where we're planning adds so much value if you combine that in a single platform. And I would never be one to judge. Every company has their own resourcing constraints and such. But I see all kinds of small planning projects popping up in our analytics user base where they have either a long-term strategic planning that they want to start with or workforce planning as they want to get the right talent at the right time. So small initiatives, and that will then be leading up to a larger enterprise planning deployment at a customer. But I think it is a natural extension to analytics and also where analytics can add so much more value because you have analytics and then put that into something actionable being a plan, which could be resource allocation.


[00:09:18.390] - Mustansir Saifuddin

Absolutely. I think what I like in this example, you mentioned two things, right? One is a lot of times when you think of planning, you look at the bigger enterprise planning approach. But here you have the ability or the capability of doing something small and you need planning no matter what you're doing. It doesn't matter if you're working with your labor data or your HR planning versus your financial or your sales data. You have components of planning which can be pretty easily integrated into this platform.I think that's one of the things that a lot of customers  always think about planning as a separate component versus having it together in an easy-to-use fashion where they can leverage the analytics at the same time, add a component of planning depending on what they are working on. So it's a natural extension. So that brings me to a more of a personal question. You've been SAP for quite some time as a Solution Manager for planning analytics. What drives you to make this tool as a tool of choice for customers? What is your take on it?


[00:10:31.710] - Nick Verhoeven

If we boil it down to what is the reason for using this tool? It's all about decision making. I'm very passionate about the topic of decision making because it's so abundant in all of our lives because we make decisions all of the time. Where I have the tool myself personally, where I use it to have multiple scenarios of mortgage down payments, I have it for multiple scenarios of investments. I'm using drivers to also influence those investments and what would happen if, and that is my personal life. But then when I go out there with the customers, we have scenarios in the oil industry, we have the medical industry. We have so many different angles that you get to for planning and you have to get into quite a bit of specifics. This is what I really like. This is what I really love. Then on my day-to-day job, what I try to make sure is that I look at the solution not only as a great platform, but also something pragmatic that can help people in their day-to-day operation of making better decisions. And this is the analytics and planning that comes together, which I hold so dear.


[00:11:45.150] - Mustansir Saifuddin

Yeah, that makes sense. I think you hit it in the head on this one, especially when you think about how simple can it be versus how complex you want to make it, depending on your use case scenario, right? So it really helps to have this capability built-in where you already have information coming from your organizations, different platforms, and you're looking at more like an analytic solution using SAC, but then you push in this planning capability in that tool, and all of a sudden you got this all-rounded view of the organization, basically. That's pretty powerful. Now, so thinking ahead, we always talk about roadmaps and what is really coming next. And this is, I call it... I call it a two-part question. When you think about roadmap, what is there, from a business perspective, short term and long term, what is coming next that a customer should watch out for when you think about the roadmap for SAC?


[00:12:44.190] - Nick Verhoeven

Taking that twofold question, starting with the short term, I'd say there's many developments, right? But I'll make a focus point where short term and long term also meet each other. And if I look at the short term, I'd say API, API, API. What I mean with that is within the application itself, so the scripting that we were just talking about, we offer APIs there so that you can, through scripting, enhance versions, set up customized planning areas. That is a multitude of functionalities there that you can use through APIs. So basically opening up the system to be manipulated in any way that the customer could want. I'd say that's one of the major short-term developments that we have offered and are also enhancing. This is something that also comes together with our B2P offering. So the import and export API can be leveraged by our integration suite, which can then also make sure that the data from the data marketplace in SAP DataSphere rolls in as drivers into SAP Analytics Cloud for Planning, does its calculations. And then if you want to go to the execution side of things, the integration suite can take those APIs again, take that information and push it out to execution system so that you actually execute on your plan.


[00:14:03.470] - Nick Verhoeven

So that would be short term. Those APIs also offer a lot of perspective for the long term. So one of the statements that our major development leaders, so Matthias Kramer, has made is that artificial intelligence will come to each and every workflow of SAP Analytics Cloud. Now, the only way to make that work or have something that is effective through AI is to make sure that your application is offering all of the APIs for it to work. Just to give you an example, if you want to have something like asking your application to be built using scripts with certain functionalities, then you can ask the AI bot to write that. But that's only possible if the APIs are there, if it has the ability to create a version API, if it has the ability to trigger data actions. This is where it really meets each other. Just to give you an exciting perspective here, we internally have already developed bots that can generate entire applications, can also create queries, like we know from the pending just ask functionality, but the former search to insight functionality that's still there. But then going beyond that, also leveraging large language models to write a query and also ask AI to summarize.


[00:15:29.910] - Nick Verhoeven

What do we see in that query? What are the most profitable stores within my assortment? It's these two stores. Note, this one store is actually on the rise compared to the last time you asked. Those insights the AI bot can offer. I've seen internal demonstrations where we can already do it. We also have an external statement of direction on AI, where we also have some of those beta demos already visible because we're really committed to deliver on that.

[00:15:59.100] - Mustansir Saifuddin

That is so exciting. I mean, especially thinking being on the projects myself, I know that from a customer standpoint, this is really exciting stuff, especially when they're looking at how to maximize their investments, especially on a platform like SAC, and you mentioned a couple of other technologies where you bring in data from DataSphere and all these other surrounding BTP, et cetera, how they all make it so much useful and allow any organization, any business who is using these platforms to extend their value proposition to the end users. So definitely something exciting and really looking forward to having these short-term and long-term goals coming together and giving this tool a boost that it really can make decision making, especially when you talk about these analytical tools, the decision making is where you're looking at time to value, and how quickly can you make those things? I know we talked about a lot of different things. So coming to our closure, one thing that I always like to ask my guests is based on what we talked about so far, what is the one key takeaway that you want our listeners to leave today?


[00:17:22.400] - Nick Verhoeven

I'd say it's where we started. We spoke about what makes the platform special. In my mind, it's the presence in not only the analytics market, but also in the planning market, and with that also now with AI and predictive coming together. I think the most important thing is to not decouple these two elements, because to do relevant planning, you want to make sure you understand your current state of the business, the latest trends, and also having analytics looking at the future using AI and predictions, those are natural inputs to your actual plans, and those plans that need to turn into execution. It's so logical if you look at the plan to check X circle from Deming. There are so many things that always relate to these two are interrelated. And I think within a platform, they should also be interrelated. That's my main takeaway.


[00:18:24.480] - Mustansir Saifuddin

Yeah, I think that is really powerful. Thank you for sharing that. And that's really what sets the whole application apart from so many other tools out there. And with that, I'd like to wrap our session. I do want to thank you for coming on to our show. I'm looking forward to our next conversation, which is all about planning and what makes SAC planning such a powerful tool. I'm looking forward to having that deep dive where... Especially when you look at all these things outside in the market, even from SAP, you have BPC, you have other competitor planning applications out there. We'll talk about more into a deeper perspective of what SAC planning can do and how will that be a game-changer for folks who are looking at planning as one of their additional analytics capabilities to be built into their platform. So looking forward to that. Thank you.


[00:19:23.910] - Nick Verhoeven

Thank you very much. I'm looking forward to that as well. Thank you Mustansir.


[00:19:26.590] - Mustansir Saifuddin

Thanks for listening to Tech-Driven Business brought to you by Innovative Solution Partners. Nick shared valuable insights on the power of SAC planning. His main takeway? To do relevant planning, you want to make sure you understand your current state of the business, the latest trends, and have your analytics looking at the future using AI and predictions. We would love to hear from you. Continue the conversation by connecting with me on LinkedIn or Twitter. Learn more about Innovative Solution Partners and schedule a free consultation by visiting Never miss a podcast by subscribing to our YouTube channel. Information is in the show notes.

Comments (0)

To leave or reply to comments, please download free Podbean or

No Comments

Copyright 2022 All rights reserved.

Podcast Powered By Podbean

Version: 20240320