This is a rather simple story to tell.
SAP has a problem, Whinshuttle had solved this problem in one way while InsightZAP (formerly known as InsightSAP) solved the very same problem in another way. Both Winshuttle and InsightZAP help SAP customers who struggle with rigid, expensive and inefficient processes that limit their ability to adapt to ongoing changing business conditions. That, more or less, ends the similarity between the two solutions. While Whinshuttle moves SAP users out so they will enjoy the benefits of Excel, InsightZAP brings the joy of Excel into SAP, leaving SAP users in.
It is no secret that SAP is one of the most complex IT systems ever built. In 50 years of continuous development, there is no other ERP system out there that matches SAP’s ability to perfectly build business processes end to end. Yet, back in 1972, when SAP was established, only rain came down from clouds and tired developers took some REST. R/2 turned to R/3 (and to S/4 just recently) but the foundation stayed the same. With lengthy and expensive development cycles (that needed very unique skill-sets) along with antique UI, SAP users were frustrated.
Meanwhile, back in the 1980’s, Microsoft started to develop its Excel – a shiny spreadsheet with a steep learning curve. With the help of the then MS CEO Bill Gates and the support of the Office suite of products, Excel overtook Lotus 1-2-3 and Quattro Pro, turning into the industry standard. Excel was the mirror of SAP in the sense that it was easy to use, yielded very quick results and everybody liked to work with it.
In 2000, Winshuttle connected the dots, and matched Excel pros onto SAP cons. Adding an addon to Excel from one end and remote logon to SAP from the other, the connection foundation was established. Winshuttle started as an alternative to SAP LSMW (Legacy System Migration Workbench) and its name suggests exactly that: “Winshuttle” was derived from the fact that one may use the software to “shuttle” data to and from Windows-based applications like Excel and SharePoint to the ERP system. The first use case was taken out of sales textbooks. Namely, an aching problem that someone with a deep pocket in the organization is responsible for. Automation of Account Receivable (AR) is such a process and CFOs were willing to pay in order to automate this process.
With time, and like many other applications, Winshuttle started to expand trying to move more processes and traffic over. Winshuttle’s main product is called Winshuttle Studio. Yet, Winshuttle also has other products: EnterWorks (MDM solution) and Evolve (Workflows). With Winshuttle Studio one can interact with SAP ‘directly’ (BAPI), by Query or via Transaction. Winshuttle is restricted to transaction record (batch input-like), selection from DB tables and RFC functions. It supports (limited) Live SAP validation and SAP F4 (search help) lookups. Winshuttle is known for its simplicity and ease of use, nonetheless, building a new script requires some technical expertise.
The endgame, no wonder, is turning Winshuttle to be SAP’s sole UI.
But the Winshuttle solution comes with a great cost. First and foremost, the organization is adding yet another island of code into its software landscape. Another job, another skill-set, another stitch in the organization fabric to take care of. In addition, Winshuttle users live outside the SAP grid, so to speak. They are deprived of the power of SAP as an ERP system. Winshuttle users cannot natively navigate from one business entity to another. Winshuttle users cannot schedule a job to send the report result to an SAP distribution list. Winshuttle users can not take advantage of SAP Workflow, BRF, Pricing, Responsibility, Events, Personalization, Preferences, Parameters, I18N, and many other standard SAP features. Lastly, when using Winshuttle’s query tools, users are not subordinated to the SAP authorization layer.
Founded in 2011, InsightZAP took the opposite approach. Instead of moving users out of SAP to Excel, InsightZAP brings Excel functionality into SAP – empowering users and processes with the joy of Excel. In contrast to Winshuttle, InsightZAP does not need to give away things. On the contrary, the power of Excel is added on top of SAP force.
Coded in ABAP and certified by SAP, InsightZAP leverages reuse to new levels. InsightZAP allows SAP users to access, process, enhance and automate information within SAP. Basically, InsightZAP displays any tabular ALV (ABAP List Viewer) data in its own unified SAP environment, allowing Creators (InsightZAP Makers) to enrich and extend it in three dimensions: Content, Structuring, and Automation.
- Content – Content in type of new columns (Formula, DB lookup, Text, Input, Comment, and others) could be added. In addition, navigation from one Insight Creation to anywhere else in SAP (e.g., SAP transactions, Reports, other Insights) is supported. This way, any needed information resides at the same screen (data columns) or a click away (navigation)
- Structuring – Data could be organized in manageable groups and easily accessed (navigation pane). A picture worth a thousand words and thus Graphs could be easily added to make information more comprehensive. Conditional Formatting could also be applied to mark outstanding data points in a distinguishable way.
- Automation – Toolbar functions encapsulate business operations and expose a clear interface. Selecting several records and pressing the Toolbar Function, enables mass change of SAP entities.
The outcome could then be shared and collaborate over with peers. All done on Production, in hours/days (rather than weeks/months), and without code.
InsightZAP Vs. Winshuttle
Before diving into comparing the two solutions, let’s take a look at the jewel in the Winshuttles’ crown, their raison d’etre – The Journal entries Automation. This core competence of Winshutlle allows users to map excel data onto BAPI/Batch-Input interface to automate the create/change process of business entities.
In InsightZAP, any Excel file could be instantaneously added into SAP and could be then used as a baseline by itself (or means to enhance other SAP entities such as reports/queries/other-Excels). Using the toolbar functions (buttons), automation could be added- enabling mass creation/change of SAP objects from Insight Creator directly. The functionality and the content are decoupled in the sense that the toolbar function exposes an interface (set of fields). The content is then mapped onto that interface, enabling the desired functionality. Hence, Excel files are merely one source of content for InsightZAP. By the same token, one may start from a standard SAP report and use the toolbar function to automate processes related to this report.
Needless to say that having the automation process handled from within SAP has its own advantages. Content could be validated against SAP data, content could be enhanced from SAP DB tables, and content could be protected using SAP authorization objects. Moreover, Toolbar functions could be sequenced and scheduled, this way the entire process could be fully automated. The automation could be performed to the level that nobody needs to do a thing besides replacing the origin Excel files when new content arrives.
Yet, as stated before, automation is only one layer in Insight Creator. Using InsightZAP, any report, query, or an Excel file could be easily transformed into a full-fledged office, so to speak. The one SAP T-Code you turn on in the morning and never leave. With the ability to add any needed content, to organize it in a manageable way, and to automated processes – business end-users could now effectively and efficiently interact with SAP. Purchase Order report could turn into the Office of the Buyer and Invoice report may be enhanced to become the Office of the CFO– Just like that.
When we move away from Automation, the thing Winshuttle started with, the advantages of InsightZAP are getting even clearer. As said, these days Winshuttle enables selection from DB tables (including joins), access to transactions (Restricted to transaction record, batch-input like), RFC functions, (somehow limited) Live SAP validation, and SAP F4 lookups. However, in SAP these things go without saying. If one uses the right Data Element, validation will be automatically carried by SAP and search help will be there for your.
Far and beyond the comparison with Winshutlle, InsightZAP platform dramatically enhances the reach of SAP users. InsightZAP brings to the world of SAP new abilities such as:
- Snapshot – Periodically snapshot time-consuming reports, allowing users to instantaneously view a ‘few minutes old’ content.
- Report Merger – Merging information from two different SAP reports.
- FIORI app – every InsightZAP creation could be viewed as a responsive SAPUI5 based Fiori app instantaneously.
- Publisher – Share any report through any format and any media.
- On Demand Publisher – SAP users can email Insight Publisher a request for a report and get in return the needed content based on their authorization level.
The SAP Way
SAP is a mission critical application and as such it developed a certain way to process changes. In most cases, SAP uses a three-system landscape: Dev, QA (Quality Assurance), and Production. New developments are done in the Dev system by Developers, they are moved to QA for further testing, and transported to Production thereafter. Each system uses Authentication, authorization, and Audit Trail layers to monitor both users and changes.
On that note, building a new automation script is such a change. It requires some technical expertise at both solutions- Winshuttle and InsightZAP.
InsightZAP 100% adheres to the “SAP Way” (so to speak). In case a new automation script is needed, it is (only once) developed in Dev, tested on QA, and transported to Production. Subsequently, any InsightZAP Creation could use that automation as out-of-the-box functionality.
Walking through Winshuttle’s customer reviews, time and time again users talk highly about “how straightforward and easy to use Winshuttle is”. Some say: “The primary use of the software is for loading large amounts of data to SAP” and “it saves us the manual work and provides a safe and speedy way to move data”. Yet, it looks that this ease of use comes with a price. Winshuttle reviews also talk about the fact that “Corporate group policies make it difficult to deploy the application unless you go with the centralized server option which is expensive”. Others say: “Security, integrity of data is the biggest concern when using such software. Also the UI sometimes is not intuitive, so might need some training before use”. It looks as if in Winshuttle the SAP Way was traded for simplicity and ease of use.
Winshuttle was at the right time and place to support SAP users when they needed quick automation that is easily performed. Winshuttle connected Excel to SAP, allowing quick and efficient journal entries automation. However, this connection comes with a cost. It adds another code island to the company software landscape with all the derived costs. It moves users outside the SAP grid with all the derived costs. It does not follow the SAP Way of doing things.
Nonetheless, between the option to do things not in the right way and not doing things at all – sometimes organizations pick the first choice.
InsightZAP brings the joy of Excel into SAP without compromising any of the SAP way. On the contrary, in the InsightZAP framework SAP and Excel complement each other for the benefit of SAP business end users. CIOs and CFOs do not have to take the hard decision anymore, since with InsightZAP they can enjoy both worlds.