New SAP EPM OnDemand apps focus on planning, cost control, profit

The new wave of SAP EPM OnDemand applications for tablets and smartphones has a function-rich environment to rival the desktop and laptop.

SAP is moving to address the mobile computing needs of its financial management customers with a new set of on-demand mobile apps available directly from the SAP marketplace and other online application markets.

The initial three apps released as part of the SAP enterprise performance management (EPM) OnDemand suite announced last month at the SAP BusinessObjects User Conference. They are built on the EPM Unwired stack -- SAP's new Mobile Business Objects layer powered by the Sybase Unwired Platform (SUP) -- which bring full-function analytics and visualization to the user experience. The platform can run on a HANA database hosted in the cloud or on-premises based on the needs of the customer.

The initial EPM OnDemand includes three apps: real-time profit and loss analysis, capital project planning and expense insight. Supported by multiple language environments, these apps are designed primarily for tablet and smartphone Android and iOS users and offer full visual capability similar to that of desktop or laptop screens, allowing users to create content in a mobile environment. Previous apps were limited to simple authorizations and approvals because of limited computing power, data availability and user interface.

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Expense insight provides full visibility into the expense function, including trends, analysis (such as threshold warnings and alerts sent to your device) and automatic detection of multiple invoices. A second application for real-time profit and loss analysis provides deep insight similar in many ways to the SAP BusinessObjects Profit and Cost Management (PCM) solution. It delivers deep analysis into cost drivers, multiple cost allocations and cost centers, and extends the capabilities of both BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation (BPC) and Profit and Cost Management (PCM), two components of the EPM 10 stack. The third application, capital project planning, allows for multiple scenarios and project portfolios, including notifications, comments and depreciation planning.

"These apps are completely complementary, adding new capabilities where we did not have capabilities before," explained Bryan Katis, group vice president of EPM applications at SAP. "EPM OnDemand offers good office integration, allowing users to start a project in the office and then allowing them to pick that up on the go. We can offer finance as well as non-finance groups the same, consistent mobile user experience."

Native Microsoft users will find a seamlesss extension from on-premises to mobile computing environments via planned extensions into Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system. For example, the Capital Project Planning on Windows 8 will have many of the same commands, navigations and overall user experience that customers might expect from on-premises software for Microsoft products, such as BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation (BPC). The same user experience can be found with the new Real-time Profit and Loss Analysis and the on-premises PCM. With the Microsoft Surface tablet powered by Windows 8 already available and the new Microsoft Office platform due to be released in the coming months, the seamless cross-platform user experience promised by Microsoft is already under development for BPC and PCM, the core solutions found in the EPM 10 stack that come with a Microsoft Excel option.

While users of Windows 8 tablets will enjoy a native user experience with Windows 8 support for Excel, iOS users will take advantage of a new HTML5 environment called the AnalyticGrid, which brings a spreadsheet look to the Apple platform. The AnalyticGrid allows key spreadsheet functions, such as row hiding and sizing. According to Katis, this scroll-through hierarchy is the result of a working partnership with SAP's Palo Alto center, third-party partners and Stanford University.

William Newman is managing principal of Newport Consulting Group, an independent management and technology consulting firm based in Clarkston, Mich. Contact him via email at wnewman@newportconsgroup.com or follow him on Twitter (@william_newman).

This was first published in November 2012

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