• Crystal Vázquez Zambrana

Level Up Your Planning with Data Actions in SAP Analytics Cloud

Updated: Apr 7, 2021

Do you ever wonder how much time you spend on budget planning? If you’re like most busy professionals today, it’s probably too much. The good news is, SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC) provides a magnificent feature that can help you save time and maximize your planning capabilities. Data Actions is a flexible planning feature that allows users to run one or multiple steps of complex calculations within a story and make structured changes to data such as quickly copying data from one year to another.

So, instead of pouring numerous hours into manual data entry from one year to the next, you can now create a data action to massively apply data or calculations to your story. Data Actions has many use cases. For example, you can run depreciation for multiple or specific assets, copy data from one planning model to another, add parameters, create a script to apply advanced formulas for specific dimensions and so much more.

It’s all too often that I come across users who fall behind on the analytics side because manual data entry consumes a large part of their day. Data Actions changes all of that. Once you know how to create a Data Action and how to use it in each specific scenario, your life will be easier. Trust me, I’m an Expert!

What Exactly Can I Do with Data Actions?

At its core, Data Actions allows users to perform planning and simple consolidation functions including cash flow and accounts receivables planning. Users may leverage data actions to model a sequence of allocation steps and calculations as well as copy and paste data across models to unify data in a central model. To create a data action, you must first analyze your planning model and outline the necessary steps needed to be applied to the target model. Let’s look at some of the available steps.

Copy Step

Let’s imagine that you are working on a new budget for the 2020 Income Statement and you need to copy the 2019 values of the Fixed Expense Account. In this case, it seems that what you need is to add a copy step in the Data Action to duplicate those specific values for the next year. To create a copy step, you must go to the Data Action toolbar and in the “Add Step” section, select “Add a Copy Step”. Now you are ready to start building your data action with all the specifications that you want. Next, you will want to add the name of your data action, followed by filters and aggregations (if needed). Lastly, you will need to add the copy rules in the data action.

Tip: Adding filters in your data action step improves the performance.

Cross-Model Copy Step

Use this option if you want to copy data from a different planning model. For example, imagine that you are working on a story and you are using your Sales model. During the creation of the story, you noticed that some additional data from the Finance model is needed. You need to copy 2020 values of the Sales Tax Account to the Sales model. The cross model allows you to copy those values to the target model. To create a cross model step, you must navigate to the Data Action toolbar, under the “Add Step” section, select “Add a Cross-Model Copy Step”. Then you must add the name of the step, the source model, and the filters that you want. Please note that the only filter that is required is the version filter. Next, you will want to map the data from the source model to the dimension or measures of the target model. Finally, you may add a copy rule(s) by selecting the source dimension that is already mapped.

Allocation Step

This step allows you to run an allocation as part of your data action. With this option you can allocate values from one dimension to another. For example, you might need this option if you want to allocate your fixed costs to one or multiple departments. You must know that when a new allocation step is added to a data action, an allocation process must already exist in SAC. If you do not have an allocation process created, then the allocation step drop-down list will be empty and you will not be able to add the allocation step to your data action. To create an allocation step, you must go to the Data Action toolbar, locate the “Add Step” section, and select “Add Allocation Step”. Lastly, select the filters with the members that you wish to include and add the allocation step.

Embedded Data Action Step

With this new functionality, you can insert another data action into your new data action. This step is very useful because you can reuse other data actions. To create an embedded data action step, navigate to the Data Action toolbar and under the “Add Step” section click “Add Allocation Step.” Then, simply add the name of the step and select the data action name.

Advanced Formulas Step

This powerful step provides a script editor that allows you to execute advanced formulas in your story. Not a technical user? No worries! Even though the script editor is very user friendly for those who are experienced in f programming, it also provides a visual tool that facilitates the creation of the script for those that have never created one. With this feature, you can add value to your business and take your planning skills to the next level. Let’s say that you want to calculate the beginning balance of an account using the previous value of another account for a specific period. To create an advance formula step, go to the Data Action toolbar and under the “Add Step” section click “Add Advanced Formula Step”. Then, add the name of the step and select the visual tab or the script tab to start building your beginning balance calculation. For your reference, the script should look like this:

It’s crucial to save your data action after every completed step above. To complete this step, navigate to the toolbar of your story and select the “Data Action Trigger” option to provide your end-users an executable data action in your story.

Now It’s Your Turn

Now that you know more about Data Actions, do you see how it can automate many of your business processes and drive your overall productivity and efficiency– from duplicating data from a previous period into next to executing advanced formulas in your story - enabling smarter, faster budget planning?

If you’re ready to streamline your planning processes, consider leveraging Data Actions. Want to learn more about Data Actions capabilities or how you can incorporate them into your planning? Check out our training options or contact us today for more information on starting your journey to utilizing all of the capabilities that SAP Analytics Cloud has to offer.


Author: Crystal Vázquez Zambrana