SAP HCM Reporting: Are Query tools ancient history?

June 01, 2017
Written by Danielle Larocca

Senior Vice-President of HCM Solutions Danielle Larocca has worked in the SAP HCM space for over 20 years. An SAP Mentor and featured speaker at numerous conferences, Danielle has authored four best-selling books on SAP, is the Technical Editor for the SAP Professional Journal, and often the Voice of the Expert on SAPInsider’s Ask the Expert series for HR.

How it all started (for me)

My SAP HCM and Payroll reporting experience began in 1995. I was working for Doubleday Direct, which later became a Bertelsmann AG and AOL Time Warner Partnership in Garden City, New York. The company had decided to implement SAP amidst fears that their legacy payroll system would cease functioning in the Y2K era. My boss doled out functional HCM Reporting toolsassignments, and I was given reporting. As part of the implementation project and ongoing support, I was shipped off to various locations to attend ABAP/4 training, where I received ABAP certificates for BC400 Introduction to ABAP/4 Development Workbench, BC405 Workbench Techniques of List Processing, BC410 Transaction processing and BC430 ABAP/4 Dictionary. Leveraging these new skills, I went about creating reports in SAP using custom ABAP code.

ABAP: the primary option in the early HCM reporting days

Back in those days, there was no mention of specific reporting utilities for SAP HCM. We were taught to simply code everything using ABAP, so that is what I did.

I remember fumbling around the Report Tree (which is now part of the Easy Access Menu in SAP HCM) and there were shortcuts to something called Tools. This is where I found transaction code SQ01, which we now know as the Ad Hoc Query or the SAP Query.

The next step in HCM and Payroll reporting: Ad Hoc Query or SAP Query

This transaction code allowed me to create reports in a production client without ABAP. I was hooked! Not only was it faster and easier, but it was simple enough to use, so I decided to share it with our super-users. I started by searching the SAP application help content (which was still largely in German back then), but was disappointed to find very little documentation existed. Instead, I created a little guide to help my colleagues use the solution. I have always been a fan of keeping things simple, and I found that by breaking down the utility into a sequence of basic transaction codes and procedural steps, nearly anyone could create reports.

My newfound passion for HCM reporting led to a speaking opportunity at the 1996 ASUG (America’s SAP Users Group) Annual Conference. That speaking engagement led to an opportunity to conduct a training seminar for SAP Professional Journal (part of the SAPinsider brand that also hosts popular events like HR2017). From 1999 through 2006, I wrote several books on the Query solutions for SAP HCM, and had the opportunity to speak at conferences all over the world on the topic.  

The sad truth about the SAP Query Tools for HCM

Now, I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  The SAP Query tools for HCM have not changed considerably in the 22 years that I have worked with them. When you consider that the shelf life of the average technology book is approximately 14-16 months, the fact that the last SAP Query book I wrote in 2006 is still being sold today says a lot about how little the tools have changed.

The last major change I recall was adding the ability for the query to handle concurrent employment in version 4.6C back in 2000. When I review conference presentations that I created from 1999 through 2014, the query-related portion of the content is largely the same.  

OSS Notes including bugs and concerns for SQ01

As the number of HCM customers using the SAP Query and the Ad Hoc query increased, so did the number of OSS Notes. If you are not familiar with them, OSS Notes represent an online SAP service and portal that provides updates on patches in different modules of SAP and up-to-date information on SAP Notes. SAP Notes are correction instructions for bugs or issues found in standard SAP programs. The number of bugs logged for these solutions is staggering. 

The image above shows a small sample of the more than 725 items flagged as OSS Notes related to transaction code SQ01. These incidents range from incorrect results to unauthorized security and unexplained behavior. Over the years, SAP’s attention moved from on-premise transactional reporting tools like the Ad Hoc Query to more analytical solutions like SAP Business Intelligence (BW). With the advent of SAP SuccessFactors, there is also a movement towards Workforce Analytics, an amazing analytical tool for reporting on your HCM data from SAP SuccessFactors.  

Over 20 years later: transaction code SQ01 still used by most HCM customers

I even recall some speculation that SAP wanted to turn off access to transaction code SQ01 in the early 2000s, as they were not dedicating any resources to correcting bugs, nor were they continuing to develop them. I recall in 2015, Mike Ettling (then President of SAP SuccessFactors) being asked what HCM customers should be using until they move to Workforce Analytics. His response was essentially “keep doing what you are doing now”.

Last month, I spoke about HCM reporting at the Annual SAPPHIRE ASUG Conference in Orlando. I started, as I often do, by surveying the audience on which solutions they use. The majority use a combination of Ad Hoc Query, SAP Query, Wage Type Reporter, SE16 and ABAP merged together via Microsoft Excel or Access. When I shared access to the list of OSS Notes, many shrugged, since it is not a big secret. But they lamented that there are no other alternatives for them at this time.

An alternative SAP HCM and SAP Payroll reporting tool?

Since I have spoken at several conferences a year for the past 18 years, and have sold thousands of books on the topic of Query reporting, I feel just a little bit culpable for its widespread use.  However, for the past few years I have focused my energy on exploring solutions to the Query problem. Until all 16,000 SAP on-premise customers migrate off SAP HCM (keeping in mind the scheduled end of maintenance support date of 2025), they will need to use something to manage their day-to-day reporting. We know that BW is not designed for Payroll, Time or transactional reporting, so users need a solution that gives them access to their key operational data in real time.

There is a third-party solution that allows users to report on SAP HCM Payroll, Time, Benefits, Organizational Management, Master Data, Travel, Talent data, etc. It is EPI-USE Labs’ Query Manager™ and if you want to learn more about it, you can visit the Query Manager site. 

Learn more about SAP reporting

In future blogs, I will focus on outlining the reporting options available to you for SAP HCM on-premise, including how to access them, and the pros and cons of each. After that, I will do the same for reporting options in SAP SuccessFactors, including suggestions for customers who wish to report on data live from both SAP on-premise and SuccessFactors at the same time. Stay tuned.  



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