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SAP Financial Consolidation: which tool to choose?

For the Financial Consolidation process SAP offers several tools. Since the acquisition of Outlooksoft, two of them are BW-based. In this blog I would like to discuss what the considerations are to be able to make a choice between them.

In 2003, SAP presented SEM-BCS as the SAP BW based financial consolidation solution. The benefits were obvious. BW-based SEM-BCS has the same reporting functionality as BW, it can load data from the BW environment and is more flexible to set up. In 2006 version 6.0 was introduced, which was a reliable and mature version. In June 2007, SAP strategically acquired Outlooksoft, and from that moment on this became the primary SAP financial consolidation tool. SAP has been working since then on improving the integration with SAP BW and is currently offering SAP BPC (the new name) in two versions, one on a Microsoft Platform, the other on a SAP Netweaver Platform (SAP BW).

The three options I would like to discuss here are:
–         SEM-BCS
–         SAP BPC (Microsoft based)
–         SAP BPC (SAP BW based)

The most appealing feature of SEM-BCS is that there are no additional license fees necessary. This is especially the case for heavy SAP using companies. Another advantage is the seamless integration with SAP BW. On the downside is the user friendliness. Compared to the excel-based SAP BPC frontend this is less appealing. Also SEM-BCS is not a strategic tool for SAP, so there will be no new developments on this tool. However, since quite a few large customers are using this tool, they will probably muscle badly needed functionality in there. Also, the support will last until 2017. Finally, changes in SEM-BCS customizing are very controlled. Which is a good feature in a large company, where a lot of people are working on the tool, but a bad feature for a small company, where usually one person is working on the tool.

SAP BPC (Microsoft based):
This tool is basically Outlooksoft, only with a new name. All the good stuff from Outlooksoft is there, but of course it has little to do with integration within your SAP architecture. That is directly the main disadvantage. Apart from that, it is a flexible tool, easy to use for the financial department (who like working with excel anyway) and easily set up.

SAP BPC (SAP BW based):
This tool is the strategic direction of SAP. So all large SAP customers will eventually evolve into this tool which will combine the best of both worlds. A flexible tool integrated in your SAP architecture. Unfortunately, this is all still very new, so it will need time to mature. When implementing, make sure you have a SAP consultant as liaison to help you solve software issues that may occur.

A final note on the implementation effort, this is about the same for SEM-BCS and SAP BPC (Microsoft based). However, for SEM-BCS you will need more IT skills, and typically you hire these, where as with the SAP BPC tools the business users can do a lot more. Also for future maintenance SEM-BCS requires more IT skills than SAP BPC.

In conclusion, SEM-BCS is a tool for a larger company, who requires SAP BW integration, and has it on the shelf. SAP BPC (Microsoft based) is the better choice for smaller companies who are not using (a lot of) SAP BW. SAP BPC (BW based) will be the choice for companies that require a user friendly tool integrated in SAP BW and have the means to invest in this strategic solution.