How to Leverage Report Automation to Increase BI Adoption

Victor Ayers

Too many customers implement BOBJ BI or SAP BW/BI systems, and after months of hard work finally go-live with a basic list of reports. The report requirements often are a starting point; a way to define what information should be built into the system. What many project managers or IT directors don't realize is that their BI systems are being underutilized. They train the end-users to run reports by telling them where the reports are located and how to populate the prompts or drag in additional fields. Dashboards might be released with drill-downs attached for the users.

Often, what ends up happening is everyone continues to run all their reporting requirements directly in the ERP system. Thereby overloading the transactional system to the point that everyone suffers. The BI system sits idle and underutilized.

So why then does BI user adoption remain so low at these customers?

For those who just implemented SAP ERP, one of the reasons for low BI adoption is because all users just had to learn how to use a new system, SAP ERP. This system can contain thousands of operational reports and many different formats such as ABAP, ALV, Crystal Reports in addition to dozens of operational t-codes. Now you want to ask your users to learn how to use several other new tools on top of that. These include: MS Analysis, BI Launchpad, Bex Analyzer, webIntelligence, Crystal Reports, Analysis for OLAP, Explorer, and Lumira!

What I've found across all of my implementations is that BI is used first for repetitive reporting. An End-User has a specific need to satisfy (e.g. a list of open AR, billing backup report for a customer, total work hours by employee every week, etc). The way the users run these reports is by opening up the same report every week and inputting the same prompts, and executing the report. Often, the user has to navigate the report until they get it into the right format. If the users remember their training, they might be able to save the 'view' of their report to their BOBJ favorites or as a local excel file that they can re-open and refresh the data every week. Often times though, the users have simply had too much information to digest between having to learn SAP ERP t-codes, reports, and BI login procedures and tool usage along with how to use each report.

A better option for these users is to leverage the available report scheduling options and tools that you now have available via your BI system in order to automate reports.

As an example, let's use the scenario for Purchasing Compliance. One of the rules in purchasing is that each Purchase Order (PO) Line item should have a Purchase Requisition (PR) document and line item attached to it. So how would we automate such a report? (For the purposes of this blog, we will assume all data resides in SAP BW and BOBJ BI is used as the front-end reporting tool).

First, we need to build a bex query based on the purchasing infocube. The cube's data must have the PR # and line item included in the data model along with the PO # and line item. Since the requirement states that the user needs to see all PO line items that do not have a PR, we can translate this into our bex query by applying a filter on the PR # field equal to 'blank'. This will then return only PO information that does not have a PR document attached to it.

Ideally, the users in this system will have their organizational values stored in their SAP security profile. Let's say there is one accounts payable (AP) manager per company code in this system. Each user has their company code stored as a role in SAP BW. We can then leverage the concept of Authorization variables in the bex query to auto-populate and filter the report by company code. This will also allow us to schedule this report for all AP managers. The rest is a matter of saving the query with all the required fields/information that the manager would want to see every week.

Once the query has been built, we can then schedule the report to be sent say every Friday to every AP manager in the organization. The AP managers would like to have the report in their e-mail inbox at the start of their workday. The business process should be defined and documented as well. For example:

  1. Friday morning - AP manager receives list of non-compliant PO's
  2. AP Manager takes this list and contacts the person who created the record (included in the report via the field "Created By")
  3. Employee then has to update the missing information using t-code ME32N in the SAP ERP system and bringing the PO back to compliance.
  4. As you can see, the business process stays simple at 3 steps. If the report were not automated, the AP Manager would have several extra steps to go through before arriving at step 2 above.

    These happy employees didn't have to spend 10 steps getting to their data

    So by now, you can start to appreciate why your BI reports might not be being utilized as much as you had hoped they would be. The average end-user is already busy as it is. Having to learn yet another tool or even having to go through all the steps to get to that information simply causes frustration to the user and often resistance to the new tool. People are creatures of habit and suddenly changing all their habits can cause frustration. This is where a good change management team and ongoing training helps, but if you can reduce the number of changes that involve effort on the end-users part, the better.

    In our scenario, we have a BOBJ BI 4.1 system available. We can schedule the report to be sent via BOBJ as a webI report. To do this, we can take our bex query and create a webI document based off the bex. Then use the scheduling options in webI to run the report and save instances of the report if necessary. BOBJ allows you to deliver the report to the user's BI inbox (inside the BOBJ BI launchpad) or to have it e-mailed as a pdf for example.

    For customers who do not have BOBJ and only have SAP BW, you can still schedule reports automatically. You can send out the reports via the process chain and add a step right after refreshing the purchasing cube. Using a decision tree will allow you to choose which day to run the report. Alternatively, you can leverage the Bex broadcaster functionality to simply schedule the report regardless of whether the cube was refreshed.

    Contact ATCG Solutions now for help with how to schedule a report, embedding Business Intelligence into your business processes and increasing BI adoption and End-User Acceptance at your organization.

    *Image courtesy of and creative commons.