Embed Tableau Dashboards in SAP ERP and S4/HANA

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Tamas HolicsThe need for utilising data increases and that of course includes operational data from ERPs. To serve this basic demand of companies SAP continuously improves their data analysis and data visualisation tools and offers great solutions like SAP BusinessObjects, Lumira, SAP Analytics Cloud or SAP Design Studio. But despite heavy investments, business intelligence still remains a weaker area for SAP, especially compared to great and widely used new-generation BI platforms on the market like Tableau and Spotfire.

It’s not easy to get around SAP’s closed ecosystem and make SAP data available in other platforms, but not impossible. You can even export data from SAP ERP systems with all existing business logic included (not only table level) using Data Unfolder and create magical visualisations in Tableau.

How about the other way around? Wouldn’t it be great if Tableau’s interactive visual analytics could be embedded into SAP?

Now this is not science fiction anymore, due to the recent efforts from VirtDB a technology spin-off of well-known Big Data Consulting company Starschema Ltd. They just released a product called InstantInsights which provides business decision support for SAP users, by embedding responsive Tableau dashboards right into SAP.

Figure 1 – Visualizing the overdue items for customer prior to creating a new Sales Order. In this example, data comes from standard SAP report S_ALR_87012178 – Customer Open Item Analysis

What to embed and where?

First of all, how do we know which dashboards should be displayed in SAP and on which screens? Is it possible to add dashboards to standard SAP screens?

When you launch InstantInsights, it will scan the currently displayed screen and will identify business objects like sales orders, materials, customers, storage locations etc. It will display an assistant bar on the left side, listing everything it has found (for ex. Company code 1000, customer 2503 etc.). For each business object, you can assign any number of Tableau Dashboards and you can display them in SAP by double clicking on it. This can be automated by setting a default dashboard.

Filter the dashboard based on your SAP screen field values

With InstantInsights’s solution, based on SAP field values, your Tableau Dashboard will be filtered automatically. It follows that you can use all the functionalities of Tableau, so you can drill down, filter etc. and you can even edit the dashboard in place.

The solution can utilize your existing BI reports and dashboards in a responsive way: for example when creating a Sales Order in SAP, a contextually filtered credit risk analysis dashboard can be displayed for the particular customer in the SAP Client. This can help the Analyst to assess the related risks before operative decisions taken.

Figure 2 - We've drilled down to see in-depth analytics for this customer. Seems like they are not a good party to do business with. In this example, Document detail data comes from SAP table BSID (Accounting: Secondary Index for Customers)
Figure 2 – We’ve drilled down to see in-depth analytics for this customer. In this example, Document detail data comes from SAP table BSID (Accounting: Secondary Index for Customers)

This provides interaction between the systems in one direction. However, we have a bi-directional integration.

Launch SAP transactions from Tableau

If you need some detailed information in a dashboard, you may face a problem that you are not able to display _all_ data that sits in SAP and is related to the item you have just selected. You can only add the required infos to the details section, to a tooltip or as a label instead. But would it not be easier to display SAP instead?
InstantInsights enables you to launch any SAP transaction when you interact with your dashboard. You can practically do anything with that, but we have chosen a simple use case: display the document in a new SAP window.

What is the business value?

Well, this two-way integration can be beneficial for you, because:

  • Help your SAP users make better decisions by providing analytical insights in the SAP screens (like credit risk analysis for customers, stock levels in a warehouse, predictive analysis etc.). You imagination is the only limit.
  • Using the two-way integration, you can trigger events in SAP by clicking on marks on Tableau Dashboards. For example, you can:

    1. Display objects in SAP
    2. Start a workflow in SAP, so a relevant SAP user will get a notification about a task to be done
    3. Trigger a business transaction (reject sales order, approve invoice, release purchase order etc.)

  • Reduce communication between teams (SAP and analytics) by merging them: now your clerks do not have to pass SAP data (in Excel…) to the analytics team and get some insights that they can use next week.
  • This tool also allows you to display non-SAP data – in a graphical way – within SAP screens without physically loading data from external systems. If your Tableau Dashboard visualises your Salesforce CRM data, you can make that available for your SAP users by embedding it. You don’t have to develop a new interface, load data and process on the SAP side.
  • You can embed SAP BW analytics in the operational ERP system. Since Tableau has a standard SAP BW connector, you can build dashboards on your infocubes etc., and make that available in the source SAP system.t
  • You can make an embedded end-to-end solution for SAP HANA: you can use the standard Tableau connector to visualize data that is in a HANA database, and provide it to the users in the same SAP GUI.
  • This solution is compliant with SAP’s current licensing policy and does not involve any indirect access of SAP systems.

Get your hands on it and sign up for a demo here.


Tamás Holics is a technology enthusiast with a 10+ year experience with SAP systems and works as the CTO at VirtDB.

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