Comparison between different versions or scenarios in the same report

Center of Excellence
edited May 2023 in Best Practices

1. Abstract

During the implementation of any application, a typical request is to combine multi-scenario or multi-version information in the same view to promote delta analysis and quick data comparison. Board plays an important role due to its flexibility and allows a solution to be achieved in several ways to provide the insight value of the underlying planning data.

2. Context

At the end or toward the end of the planning phase, it is worth assembling the planning numbers by planning scenario/version in a much more comprehensive and analytical view to make them more readable to any user.

As-is situation: A data view object allows detailed data per planning scenario/version to be shown by columns. Despite the columns shown by the data view, the block is only one. Therefore, even when showing detailed data by planning scenario/version, no comparison calculation (such as a gap or delta %) can be added. Such a calculation can be carried out through an algorithm which must be based on an additional block.

Therefore, to perform this analysis, it is possible to consider two approaches listed here below:

  1. Block reference feature.
  2. “Apply selection to block” feature.

Both approaches are valid alternatives, and the aim of this article is to analyze and explain when it is better to adopt one or the other.

3. Content

3.1 Block reference

Within the Layout configuration, under the "Block references" menu it is possible to apply the “Refer To” function to a data block with an info-Cube, to alter its aggregation or detail level.

The "Refer to" function allows referring the data block to a specific entity occurrence, overriding the screen selection (Select) and the axes settings.

The functionality is suitable in cases where the elements to be referred to are static and do not change over time.

Example: The user wants to compare the actual scenario against the planning scenario.

Planning data is stored in an info-Cube named “Sales” also structured by planning scenario, where the elements are “Actual” and “Planning”. In the final report, we do have the same info-Cube, but the “Refer to” is sequentially hardcoded for actual and planning:

TIP: Often it may be worth promoting the creation of a new entity on top of the Scenario entity to avoid changing the manual reference to the Scenario from the layout configuration when the navigation condition changes accordingly.

For example, with the entity “Compare Scenario” creation, which behaves as a dichotomous entity (i.e., 0-No/1-Yes) on top of the Scenario, the reference to the more static entity is shifted.

The relationship must be filled by setting 1-YES to the most likely Scenario to be compared and 0-No to all other members.

The suggestion is to open the relationship configuration through a dedicated screen below the admin capsule where only a few users can get access to the mapping.

In the layout configuration, apply the manual 1-Yes reference to the block.

3.2 Apply selection to block

The “Apply selection to block” is the recommended approach when it’s necessary to compare different versions or scenarios that depend on dynamic selections triggered during the execution of the procedure.

This feature is only available for the capsule procedure below the selection tile step. It allows you to inject a selection into a specific block of the layout. The result is like the manual reference to block but dynamically applied through the procedure execution.

Regarding its configuration, it is necessary to identify the screen, layout, and block into which the specific selection is to be injected.

This functionality may be useful in situations where the scenario selection is dependent on other settings.

Example: The user wants to compare the current scenario of the current year against the comparison scenario of the previous year.

Planning data is stored in an info-Cube named “Sales” also structured by planning scenarios, which are linked to the planning period of competence.

Adoption of an info-Cube defines valid combinations of planning scenario and planning period like below.

Thanks to the steps’ combination of the Select entity based on cube and the Apply Selection to Layout Block you get the following statement:

By launching the procedure, the two selections are applied to the data view blocks. The “apply selection to block” works as a dynamic “refer to”:

The final output consists of two blocks with the same info-Cube, where the first column refers to the current scenario (Planning – September 2022), while the second refers to the comparison scenario (Planning – Scenario 2021). Please be aware that in case of any existing “Refer To” block set during the layout configuration, that will be overwritten by the procedure.

4. Conclusion

As mentioned before, both the approaches can be a solution based on the requirements. Reporting requirements therefore could drive the choice of one of the approaches.

The approach 1-block reference is best used when the elements to be referred to are static and do not change over time.

It requires a power user license type allowing the user to identify and set which are the different scenarios/versions to compare within the report.

The approach 2-apply selection to block is best when the entity to refer to has to change dynamically based on dynamic selections performed while the execution of the procedure.

It requires good data model knowledge to build the procedure but then facilitates the comparison process for the final user, since it grants dynamicity to the previous approach.

In general, if a reference block is set in the layout, it will be executed as the last step before refreshing the screen, overriding the screen selection (Select) and the axes settings.

Therefore, always privilege simplicity in the configuration of the screen, avoiding having too many objects (Data-Views and Charts) and keeping the layout structure (number of blocks) as simple as possible for each of the objects in question, otherwise the time-consuming could become very impactful.

Comments

  • Lucien
    Lucien Active Partner
    Level 200: Leveraging Board for Business Insights Level 100: Foundations of Building in Board First Comment

    Thanks for sharing.

    We could probably have a User|Screen|Entity cube so it can be used by other users and on other screens.