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SAP Analytics Cloud Predictive Planning – Frequently Asked Questions


Question: What is Predictive Planning?

Answer: Smart Predict as part of SAP Analytics Cloud offers time series forecasting, classification & regression scenarios to augment stories with predictions.

Predictive Planning in SAP Analytics Cloud is the ability to run time series forecasting scenarios directly on top of planning-enabled models to offer a smart baseline for the forecasting activities.

Check the intro video below or read more to this here

Question: is Predictive Planning already available in SAP Analytics Cloud?

Answer: yes, it was delivered with SAP Analytics Cloud third quarterly release in 2020.

Since then, a number of incremental improvements have been delivered:

  • In 2020.Q4, local currencies are now supported and user-friendly descriptions are supported to display entity names. Read more about the currency support here.
  • In 2021.01 and 2021.Q1 QRC time series models have been improved to better leverage the most recent data points.
  • In 2021.04, data smoothing techniques are made “first-class citizens” to increase the overall model accuracy, provide simpler models and better handle disrupted data conditions.
  • More improvements are planned in 2021, along the lines of being smart, self-service & trusted. Stay tuned and you can refer to SAP Analytics Cloud roadmap explorer to know more.

Question: I am a SAP Analytics Cloud customer. Do I need a specific license to leverage Smart Predict or Predictive Planning?

Answer: Smart Predict and Predictive Planning capabilities are available on SAP Analytics Cloud Cloud Foundry deployments. The official note is here.

The capabilities are available to every BI or Planning license in SAP Analytics Cloud, on the Cloud Foundry deployments. Please refer to the Plans page to know more.

Predictive Planning time series forecasting are available for SAP Analytics Cloud planning-enabled models. Planning models can only be created by end-users having access to Planning Professional Licenses.

Actuals and predictive forecasts can be reported on using any type of SAC BI / Planning license.

Question: I have a specific need that’s not served by Predictive Planning existing capabilities. How can I ask enhancement requests to SAP?

Answer: any SAP Analytics Cloud enhancement request should be raised via our Influence portal. Please search for what others have already entered, up-vote enhancement requests and enter your very own enhancement requests if they do not exist today. SAP Analytics Cloud product management teams welcome your ideas and thoughts! Read more from my colleague Christian Happel here

Question: I want to learn more about Predictive Planning. Where I can find more information?

Answer:

Question: It is possible to access Predictive Planning online demos?

Answer: Yes, please see:

Question: what are the major Predictive Planning use cases?

Answer: The use cases most often seen with Predictive Planning so far are

  • Expense & Cost Planning (see more to this here)
  • Revenue and Sales Planning
  • Headcount planning

Other less recurrent use cases include resource management, cash flow forecasting, volume forecasting… basically whenever you have sufficient historical data and want to use predictive (time series) to support your planning activities.

Question: are there examples of customers using Predictive Planning today?

Answer: Yes.

You can refer to the SAP Corporate Controlling testimony here.

You can also read more to how Roche is using Predictive Planning here.

(SAP Innovation Awards 2021 submission)

Question: are there any known restrictions?

Answer: Please see the detailed documentation here.

Some important points:

  • You can generate your forecasting entities including a maximum of 5 dimensions and/or attributes at a given time.
  • You can create up to 1000 time series models in one go and a maximum of 500 forecasts.
  • To be in the sweet spot, you need 5 times more actuals than forecasts you need. If I want to forecast January to December 2021, ideally I should provide actuals from January 2016 to December 2020 as one example. In case you have less history, predictive forecasts will still be generated but you will receive warnings as you can be less confident in some of the predictive forecasts.

Please refer to the best practice here to handle the cases where you need to generate 1000+ entities.

Question: can you please tell more about the automated time series forecasting used behind the scenes? 

Answer: The logic of the algorithm used for automated time series is described in this blog. It has been crafted & tuned to be robust while accurate and yielding results that are explainable to business users and result for 20+ years of product investment, and proven by customer success.

The logic is also constantly evolving and is being improved over time as evidenced by two recently delivered user stories – which form part of an ongoing product investment plan to mitigate the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to the ability to plan & predict.

  • In 2021.01 and 2021.Q1 QRC time series models have been improved to better leverage the most recent data points.
  • In 2021.04, data smoothing techniques are made “first-class citizens” to increase the overall model accuracy, provide simpler models and better handle disrupted data conditions.

Customers cannot replace the automated time series forecasting logic with custom algorithms. This is actually on purpose since Predictive Planning is geared towards business users.

Such users will typically not have the skill set to delve into data science details & algorithms, but are happy to be able to solve complex and labor-intensive forecasting problems by themselves without requiring help by data scientists who are themselves scarce in most organizations.

There are other SAP solutions like SAP Data Intelligence or SAP HANA supporting custom algorithms & approaches to time series. You can read more to the overall SAP AI landscape in Vriddhi Shetty excellent blog.

(TO BE CONTINUED – MORE Q&A to come)