Getting Started with Planning

Business planning can include a wide range of complex processes. Read this guide to get a basic understanding of some of these processes, and to learn how SAP Analytics Cloud can help you carry them out.

Topic Sections
What is planning?

Planning is all about setting strategic goals for a business and then determining how to meet those goals by creating annual budgets, tracking progress in forecasts, and simulating scenarios to find new opportunities. These plans are formed by projecting historical data (known as actuals) into the future, by gathering input from different departments, and by considering trends, risks, and opportunities in the market.

For example, the executive leadership of a bicycle manufacturer notices the growing demand for electric bikes, and decides to increase the sale of e-bikes by 20 percent over the next three years. In the upcoming year's budget, the Finance department determines the overall cost and income resulting from this plan.

However, planning activities aren't restricted to executives and financial analysts. Departments across the organization collaborate on the plan:
  • Sales managers set new quotas for their account executives, determine which geographic areas will make up the increased sales, and incentivize e-bike sales with higher commissions.

  • The Marketing department plans promotions and advertising campaigns to drive higher e-bike sales.

  • The Operations department makes sure that the supply chain and manufacturing capacity are available to increase e-bike inventory.

  • HR plans to hire technicians who have experience with electric motors and to create new training resources for existing staff.

These departmental plans each relate back to the central financial plan, and to the overall goal set out by leadership. Successful plans often include input from many employees, not just from finance experts.

Collaborative planning

How can SAP Analytics Cloud help?

Plans are complex and collaborative. Working with standalone spreadsheets or in disconnected planning systems can slow down the process, introduce errors and uncertainty, and make it difficult to adjust to new insights and rapidly changing markets.

By bringing a broad range of planning features together with analytics, predictive, and collaboration features, SAP Analytics Cloud helps you plan simpler and faster.

For example:
  • Get up to speed quickly. If you're familiar with spreadsheet applications, you can use many of the same functions while booking values. Or you can even work directly in Excel.

  • Avoid disconnected and outdated copies of the data. View different versions of the data side-by-side, including your own private copies. Schedule data imports, or refresh live data sources directly from the story.

  • Collaborate in the cloud. Share stories in discussions, or comment directly on data points that need attention. Send private versions of the data to members of your team to get their input, and keep everyone on schedule using the Calendar.

  • Understand the patterns in your data. Forecast values using predictive algorithms, calculate the key influencers for a KPI, and simulate how that KPI shifts with different driver values.

  • Remove barriers between planning and analytics. Visualize your data immediately to get new value from your actuals data, compare different scenarios, and tell compelling stories about your plans.

Find out about planning features

Read this section to get a quick look at some of the key planning features in SAP Analytics Cloud. You can also take a look at learning resources for planning at the SAP Analytics Cloud website: published on SAP site


Users with BI licenses can do basic data entry on planning models and create private versions, but to publish versions or use planning tools, you’ll need a Planning license. See Features by License Type for Planning Models for details.

Data entry

Data entry needs to be efficient and easy, whether you’re a finance expert booking values to forecasts, or a line-of-business employee providing input for a bottom-up planning process. Get a familiar experience for data entry using a table that shares many functions with common spreadsheet applications.

Data entry is based around the table, where you can type relative or absolute values into individual cells. And you can copy cell values, along with all the data that aggregates up to the copied value.

You can plan at any level of a hierarchy, and the data will automatically be rolled down to the lowest level. And you can use the Planning Panel to quickly adjust proportions between members and move values along multiple dimensions.

Performing data entry by percentage

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Version management

When you're planning for all possibilities, it helps to understand how different plans relate to each other and to your actuals data. Version management helps you complete tasks such as the following:
  • Carrying out variance analysis, such as making sure that your working forecast is on budget.

  • Quickly exploring, sharing, and publishing different scenarios without losing sight of the original data or introducing unnecessary complexity.

  • Rolling a private version back to a previous state if you need to take a different direction.

You can use the Version Management panel, or just right-click the version header to access these options.

Using the Version Management panel

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Data actions

With data actions, you can model sequences of copy-paste operations, allocation steps, and advanced formulas. With advanced formulas, you model complex processes such as cash flow planning, depreciation, and carry forward operations. You can build these formulas using a visual editor that doesn't require scripting knowledge, although a scripting engine is also available for fine-tuning.

Copy operations make it easy to move data from one part of a model to another, or to a different model. For example, if you have separate models for Headcount and Expense Planning, you can use a data action to copy data from those models into a central Finance model.

To make your data actions more flexible and easier to update, you can also add parameters that can be set while designing or running the data action. You can also run other data actions as steps within your data action, letting you quickly reuse common calculations.

Planning users can then run data actions in a story.

Or, you can schedule them to run automatically in the Calendar.

Creating an advanced formula using the visual tool

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Planning processes can get complicated. You can use the Calendar to keep track of tasks, stay on schedule, and collaborate with your team. Create, assign, and work on tasks, and add files, approval workflows, and processes that link tasks together. Create multiple tasks at once using recurrence, or generate tasks automatically based on model data. You can also use the calendar to schedule data locking and automatic data actions, and to view your input tasks and publications.

Keeping track of processes and tasks in the Gantt view

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Business Content for Planning

Business content gives you a head start in setting up your solution by providing premade models, processes, and stories designed for different lines of business and data sources. Business content is stored on the Content Network and available for import by admins of any SAP Analytics Cloud system, excluding trial systems.

You can import it to your system to get premade models optimized for connections to data sources such as S/4 HANA Cloud and SAP IBP, as well as polished stories to present the data. Some business content packages also contain data actions and structured allocation steps to lead your users through a complete planning workflow.

For example, the planning content currently includes SAP Integrated Business Planning, Integrated Financial Planning for SAP S/4HANA, and a suite of best practices content for Financial Planning & Analysis for S/4 HANA Cloud.

For more details on the content available, see the Content Documentation.

Integrated Financial Planning for SAP S/4HANA business content

Predictive forecasting

With predictive forecasting, you don't have to rely on your intuition alone. Back up your forecasts by selecting a value and calculating the likely outcomes for future periods based on historical data. You can then add the predicted values directly to your table.

Previewing your predictive forecast

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Data locking

With data locking, you can choose sections of data to lock when you're getting ready to close your books. Each section can also be delegated to owners who can lock the data themselves, or set the data to a restricted state where only the owners can edit it. You can then schedule changes to data locks in the Calendar.

Setting up data locks

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Validation rules

Validation rules let you define allowed member combinations across dimensions to prevent improper data entry and planning operations in stories based on a specific planning model. For the dimensions you define in a dimension combination rule, only the member combinations that you specify as allowed combinations can pass validation.

For example, you might want that certain products are allowed to be sold in limited locations. You create a validation rule between the product dimension and location dimension members. Planning users can do planning only for the allowed combinations of products and locations.

A validation rule for region and product

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Value driver trees

Value driver trees let you take a driver-based planning model and turn it into a streamlined visualization for running simulations and making strategic decisions. For example, you might be discussing how vulnerable your business is to raw material prices, or which product line to grow over the next few years to increase profitability the most. Value driver trees allow you to book values to drivers and inputs, visualize the flow of value through the accounts, and see the overall impact on KPIs now and in the future.

You create value driver trees directly in the story. The option to add nodes automatically based the model’s account structure can help you get started quickly, but you can still add and customize nodes as needed. Features like undo and redo, search, and drag-and-drop node linking make it easy to get set up.

A value driver tree with collapsed nodes

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Input tasks

When your plan needs input from a group of coworkers, such as regional managers, you can assign an input task to them.

These managers can be assigned to their areas within the model, so that you just need to choose the regions and send the input task. Each manager adds their input in a story that is filtered to their own region, and then sends the task back for review. At the end of the process, the results are booked to your version of the data and you can continue your work.

Choosing assignees for an input task

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Currency conversion

Currency conversion features make it easy to work with data from multiple currencies, and to predict the effects of exchange rate shifts. Exchange rate tables can be applied to more than one model, and swapped out as required. They can also contain multiple rates for different dates and categories of data, and for specific scenarios. From within a story, you can view your data in different currencies, apply a different set of exchange rates, or analyze multiple exchange rate scenarios side-by-side.

Planning with local currencies

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Structured allocations

You can use structured allocations to establish reusable steps for allocating costs, such as allocating the cost of IT support across different departments by support hours used, or the cost of travel across different product groups based on sales revenue.

You build allocation steps using a visual tool that doesn't require scripting expertise, but that covers a range of different allocation workflows.

Editing an allocation step

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Two-way integration with BPC

If you need an on-premise planning system but want to add a cloud-based user experience, you can connect to your SAP Business Planning and Consolidation (BPC) data from SAP Analytics Cloud.

For example, you may want to keep central Finance activities in your BPC system, and import that data to SAP Analytics Cloud as the basis for agile and simple departmental planning.

Or, you can use SAP Analytics Cloud as a client extension for BPC for NetWeaver and BPC for BW/4HANA. In SAP Analytics Cloud, you can get the latest data from BPC, do analysis and make updates, and then write the new data back to BPC, all from within a story.

Exporting data back to BPC

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Integration with SAP IBP

SAP Analytics Cloud supports two-way integration with SAP Integrated Business Planning, helping you make sure that your financial plan is tightly linked with your supply and demand planning.

For example, you can set your strategic plan in SAP Analytics Cloud and then export it to SAP IBP to check the plan against your supply chain constraints. Then, you can bring the data back into SAP Analytics Cloud to make further adjustments to your financial plan based on the supply chain analysis.

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