Introducing Flexible Time


Overview

With the Q2/2022 release of SAP Analytics Cloud we have introduced some significant changes to the date dimension configuration, and date handling options for local models.  Collectively, we are referring to these enhancements as Flexible Time, however broadly speaking these can be grouped into two sets of enhancements.  The first of these are changes to the standard configuration options for the date dimension, the most notable of which is the introduction of weeks as an independent date granularity which can now be used for booking data.   The second set of enhancements is focused on allowing the solution designer or model administrator to enrich the preconfigured date dimension where necessary.

Our objectives in delivering these changes are to expand support for industry specific fiscal configurations and any time related KPIs, while providing more general flexibility in date modeling and support for unique customer use-cases and requirements.

System Managed Time

With the changes enabled via User Managed Time (discussed below), we now have specifically designated the standard configuration of dates, as it existed prior to the Q2/2022 release, as System Managed Time (applicable to New Models only – see Flexible Time Limitations) and this is the default handling for any newly created date dimensions within a model.   This provides auto generation of the date dimension and key properties via a standard set of configuration options including specification of a year range for the model, definition of date dimension granularity, selection of the default date hierarchy, and application of any fiscal shift.

In addition to the standard configuration options discussed above, several enhancements have been introduced.   Included amongst these are:

Refreshed User Experience – like other dimensions, you can now see the details of the date dimension and browse its contents to see the specific members, and their associated properties.  Furthermore, common date properties such as From/To Year are now surfaced directly in the date details panel rather than within the model preferences.

Default Booking Behaviour – ability to include an unassigned member within the time dimension (automatically created by the system) which will become the default disaggregation target for spreading if the “Booked to Unassigned” behaviour option selected.   Note that the default behaviour (for both existing models and for newly created models) is “Distribute Values” and, with this, the Unassigned member will not be created.

Week Granularity – definition of week as the lowest level of detail within the date dimension, thus allowing for plan capture and storage at the week level.   To enable week granularity for selection, you must first enable “Week-Based Date Pattern” within the model preferences.   Week granularity and weekly pattern capabilities include:

  • Support for week to period mapping (e.,4-4-5, 4-5-4, 5-4-4, 13×4)
  • Properties to define the First Day of the Week and First Week of the Year, as well as support for fiscal shift in the context of weekly patterns
  • Creation of the fiscal calendar including calendar date and range mapping for each week, as well as inclusion of 53rd weeks in the appropriate fiscal years based on the settings above
  • Ability to mix weekly patterns with other time granularities (g., periodic, or daily), to simplify mapping across models with different date granularities where those non-weekly models are required to respect a specific weekly fiscal configuration

User Managed Time

For scenarios where the auto-created members and attributes within the date dimension are insufficient, the modeler can now toggle on the “User Managed Time” option.  This setting, once enabled, will allow the user to directly edit the contents of the date dimension.  This enables a host of new possibilities including:

New elements – ability to add new custom date members (e.g. adjustment periods)

Managing attributes– inclusion of custom attributes (e.g., holiday flag, days in month) to be used in calculations, or modification of existing attributes (e.g. changing specific dates/date ranges for automatically generated members)

Hierarchy management – Modification of preconfigured hierarchies (e.g. inclusion of Half-Year semantic in existing hierarchies), or addition of new hierarchies including custom members or custom attributes (e.g., create new hierarchy to reflect inclusion of adjustment or special periods)

Please note that enabling User Managed Time is a one-time conversion, and it is not possible to go back to System Managed Time upon saving a model with User Managed Time enabled.  

Flexible Time Limitations

Most of the enhancements described within this blog are focused on the New Model, including the explicit distinction between system managed time and user managed time.   Existing Account Models will not gain access to weekly granularity, nor the dimension editing capabilities associated with user managed time.   They will, however, gain access to several of the improvements for system managed time, including the ability to modify the date availability range within the date details panel, inclusion of an unassigned member and changes to the default booking behaviour, and the ability to browse the contents of date dimension.

Beyond specific the differences between model types, there are some limitations to native capabilities within SAP Analytics Cloud when leveraging some of the Flexible Time features (most typically when enabling User Managed Time).  A list of these restrictions can be found in the online help.  It is our expectations that these limitations will be relaxed over the coming quarters.