With Classic BW coming to the end of its life it is time to consider the options. BW 4 HANA is the obvious choice but it is not the best or most cost-effective option for everyone.

SAP BW has a large user base within SAP ERP customers, but for many it is not meeting their business requirements – being too slow to react to evolving business needs and too costly to develop and support. Without HANA, many BW systems do not provide the performance required by modern analytics tools and end user expectations.

It is difficult to implement an agile stream to your classic BW solution and support a choice of analytics tools. Both of these are becoming very important.

Here’s some more information on each option


BW 4 HANA is the obvious migration path but it is not a cheap or simple migration and is therefore not the best option for everyone. Like most things HANA you get performance improvements by migrating to HANA, but the real benefit comes from doing things differently. So just migrating from legacy BW to BW 4 HANA might not solve your problems.

BW 4 HANA combines the benefit of the BW approach with the Native HANA SQL-based approach. The catch is you need resources and architects who know both approaches to really benefit.

The BW approach forces a particulate approach to data modelling. Although this reduces flexibility, it prevents mistakes that can happen in a SQL-based approach, and means consultants don’t need to have the same lower level data modelling skills that a SQL-based resource needs. BW has functionality that is achieved by ticking a box that requires significant developments in a SQL based approach.

These include:

  • Non-cumulative key figures (inventory, balance sheet)
  • Exception / time based aggregation
  • Hierarchies
  • The items that are easier in BW are generally the items that still run on the ABAP stake and only work with specific SAP reporting / analytics tools.

BW 4 HANA is only available on-premise or managed cloud (HEC), there is no pure cloud option (SCP) due the requirement to have an ABAP stack. BW 4 HANA is best suited to large organisations that need an EDW and have a significant investment in their existing BW system and internal BW skills.

Native HANA EDW or data mart

Native HANA, sometimes referred to as an SQL-based approach (though is more graphical that SQL coding), is a lot more flexible that a BW-based approach. You can stand up a datamart solution on SAP Cloud Platform (SCP) replicating data from SAP ECC in under a month.

Native HANA provides a lot more flexibility to build an EDW and makes it possible to have both an agile and a formal side to your EDW. However that flexibility means you have more responsibility. You need to put standards in place for data modelling that are based on a recognised data modelling methodology and then enforce them. A Native HANA solution can be more efficient and use less resources and memory than a BW-based approach. You need to have a good understanding of what you can do virtually and when you need to materialise data.

The skill set required for Native HANA is different to BW and not all BW consultants will easily transition. In fact, it is closer to the skill set used in the Microsoft and Oracle EDW world. You need at least some of your senior resources to understand both HANA data modelling and the SAP ECC data.

Native HANA solutions can be deployed on SAP Cloud Platform (with big data options) as well as on-premise and managed cloud. This makes it easier to start with a small investment.

S4 Embedded Analytics

S4 HANA includes embedded analytics from both the embedded real time BW/BC system and FIORI analytics.

The embedded BW/BPC system is great for centralised finance reporting and planning, it is used in conjunction with analytics cloud and it can also provide flexibility to individual business units. The underlying design of the finance model in S4 makes this possible. However don’t try to use the embedded BW to build a data warehouse within your ERP, you will run into major performance and resourcing problems

FIORI analytics within S4 enables greater interaction between analytics and transaction processing providing insight-to-action. The underlying HANA queries need to be created by experts and there is a limit to how flexible they can be.

HANA might be fast but if you are not careful you can use up a lot of system resources with analytical queries. The KPI dashboard with complex KPI calculations that greets most users every time they logon could be consuming 50% or your system resources or even bring down the system!

Use S4 FIORI analytics for your operational reporting and simple KPI’s but be aware of when you need to move to a proper analytical data model / EDW in either a separate Native HANA system or BW 4 HANA.

Bluleader has experience in Native HANA BW 4 HANA and embedded analytics, we are happy to provide advice relevant to your organisation. Drop us a message today.