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SAP BI vs. R/3 Reporting

Many companies that use core SAP ERP modules never implement a SAP BI solution choosing instead to use R/3 based reporting.  Since R/3 is by nature a transactional OLTP system and was never designed for analytics and reporting and the importance of a unified view of a companies data it is somewhat surprising that more businesses haven't found, and leveraged the power of, SAP Business Intelligence. Comparisons
R/3 Reporting
R/3 is an OLTP transactional system used for real-time operational data.  Reporting is only available from a single system and is transaction based.  R/3 reports are more likely to be broken as the system is highly changeable based on the needs of the business and will require ongoing maintenance and support costs.  Only limited web reporting is available and most reports are simple and list based.  Many users querying significant data volumes will slow down the system and disrupt the experience of the average user.
SAP BI Reporting
BW is an OLAP reporting system mainly used for summarized data rather, although drill down to line items is possible.  It houses historical data from multiple systems (including non SAP third party sources) and even data that no longer exists in the source systems.  SAP BI offers a wide range of data analysis tools including Excel and web based analysis, scorecards, dashboards  and pixel perfect static printed style reporting capabilities.  Most reports are not real-time but are a day or more old, for small data volumes near-time (<5 minute) reporting is possible.  Users querying the dedicated BI system will not slow down the source system and as the data is stored in a more optimal way the reports are available to the user much quicker. 
In addition to the reporting options it also provides ETL functions, better security, the option to 'broadcast' reports to users in a number of different ways and formats and allows planning based on historical data.

So in summary if you are faced with this decision consider these advantages that BI reporting has over R/3:
  • By offloading ad-hoc and long running queries from production R/3 system to BI system, overall system performance should improve on R/3.
  • SAP BI is specifically designed for query processing, not data updating and OLTP. Within BI, the data structures are designed differently and are much better suited for reporting than R/3 data structures.
  • Better front-end reporting within BI. Although the BI Excel front-end has it's problems, it provides more flexibility and analysis capability than the R/3 reporting screens.
  • BI has ability to pull data from other SAP or non-SAP sources into a consolidated cube

For up to the minute operational reporting you should use R/3 but for more historical strategic reporting a dedicated BI solution provides faster performing, fully featured reports with stronger data analysis capabilities.

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