Tech Unknown Podcast With Tammy Powlas: Boosting Business Intelligence With Customized Analytics Solutions

Tamara McCleary

Tech Unknown | Episode 4 | Season 1

Featuring Guest Tammy Powlas and Host Tamara McCleary

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“Custom analytics app building allows you to create enterprise-wide dashboards, robust applications, and provide your end users with guided navigation and drill-down capabilities.”
Tammy Powlas, Senior Business Analyst and SAP Mentor

Business users today have specific needs for analytics insights, no matter which application they are using. This podcast discusses how modern, customizable analytics solutions can provide those business insights at the fingertips of end users in all departments of the enterprise.

The era of one-size-fits-all analytics is over… if it ever existed in the first place. Data-driven businesses need to customize their analytics to generate the specific insights that will increase efficiency, lower costs, and propel the business forward.

Thankfully, businesses don’t have to settle for off-the-rack analytics anymore. It’s never been easier to create customized analytics solutions tailor-made for specific business cases across the enterprise.

On this episode, Tammy Powlas, a CPA, project manager, and SAP expert, shares how business leaders can get their own custom analytics applications up and running.

“The more you contribute to the SAP community, the more you learn. You always learn more than what you give to it.”
Tammy Powlas, Senior Business Analyst and SAP Mentor

Listen to Learn

  • How to get started with custom analytics applications
  • What skills are required to build and maintain a custom application
  • What functionality to expect versus off-the-shelf solutions
  • How analytics will continue to evolve in the near future

About Our Guest

Tammy Powlas is a CPA and Certified Project Management Professional. She is also an SAP Mentor, top SAP Community Contributor, and SAP certified in BW, FI, CO, SEM, and ASAP.

Tammy Powlas is a Senior Business Analyst at Fairfax.

“Custom analytics designing is not hard to learn. I’m not a programmer myself and I can do it. If as a CPA and accountant I can do it, anybody can do it.”
– Tammy Powlas, Senior Business Analyst and SAP Mentor


Did you miss our last episode?

Check out our previous episode with Brian Solis: Customer Experience in the Age of Distraction.

Episode 4 Transcript

Tamara: Welcome to the (SAP) Tech Unknown podcast. I’m your host, Tamara McCleary, CEO of Thulium.

Business users today have specific needs for analytics and insights, I mean, no matter which application they’re using. In this podcast, we’re gonna discuss how modern, customizable analytic solutions can provide those business insights at the fingertips of end users in all departments of the enterprise. And with us to share this information, I’m so excited to have you join with us to meet Tammy Powlas. Tammy is a certified public accountant, certified project management professional, and SAP certified in multiple areas. Tammy, welcome to the Tech Unknown Podcast. Could you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got to where you are now?

Tammy: Well, I thank you for that introduction, Tamara. I’ve been working on reporting for several years, starting with SaaS several years ago, and that led into SAP in the business warehouse and business objects, and now, SAP Analytics Cloud, and I’m also an SAP mentor. And mentors provide guidance and feedback to SAP in technologies and strategies. And I’ve also been an SAP community hero, top contributor on the SAP community as well.

Tamara: Wow. I mean, I was reading a little bit about your background as I hope every host would. And I was [impressed] by how many things that you’ve done, and achieved, and accomplished. And, you know, what you’re doing within that community of SAP, and it is a community, how has your experience been with the SAP community?

Tammy: Well, I’ve been active in the SAP community about nine years, and I’ve been an Americas’ SAP User Group volunteer about 12 years. And I feel like the more you contribute to the SAP community, the more you learn. And to me, you know, contributing is one of those noblest callings. And like I said, you always learn more than what you give to it. So, it’s been a lot of fun.

Tamara: And do you recommend that people should really get involved with this community and reading and posting over there?

Tammy: Oh, absolutely. I think the more you give, the more you learn, and the more you’re able to help your company and your career. And it makes the day interesting, I think. There’s always something new going on. You know, SAP is a big, big company with a lot of products. And there’s always something new going on, some new innovations, and things to keep up with that really keep you into with the community.

Tamara: You know, I thought what would be really interesting for our listeners is if you could share with us some business use cases, and specifically around who can benefit the most from analytics application design.

Tammy: Well, really, it’s an application in the cloud. It’s built off of SAP Analytics Cloud, and it allows you to create enterprise-wide dashboards and create wide, robust applications, and you can provide your end users with guided navigation and drill-down capabilities. And to me, it gives you an ability to see things in a new light. It gives you professional applications in the cloud. And it also integrates with planning in the cloud and predictive in the cloud. So it really gives you the opportunity to create sophisticated applications.

Tamara: You know, that’s pretty fantastic. And you know, what is, in your opinion, the overall function scope of application design?

Tammy: Well, it’s an enterprise application designing tool and it allows your developers or your power users to use the SAP Analytics Cloud content and take it further by customizing and configuring the behavior with a specific set of elements. And it’s similar to the SAP Lumira Designer application, which is on-premise, but it’s in the cloud, and it also brings in those great inbuilt planning and predictive capabilities. So it takes your self-service analytics one step further. And SAP is always providing new features and updates in every release cycle. So, the roadmap for SAP analytics designers is promising with a lot of improvements. And the best thing of all is the licensing is included as part of the SAP Analytics Cloud subscription.

Tamara: You know, when we’re talking about custom-designed analytic solutions, I mean, what kind of functionality can people really expect?

Tammy: Well, the scripting capabilities, they deliver custom capabilities to your end users, you know well, the SAP Analytics Cloud stories deliver content, but it provides standardized in interaction and navigation. The analytic application gives customized user experiences in interactions, and it’s primarily through scripting. Additionally, you can build customized planning applications. So it’s something that gives it a more professional and sophisticated look, and it’s for your developer and power users.

Tamara: You know, then, okay, this custom-designed piece is fantastic. But if you’re gonna really compare, how does the functionality actually compare to, say, some of the off-the-shelf type solutions?

Tammy: You know, the off-the-shelf solutions, I would worry as an SAP customer about the connections back to SAP. You know, SAP customers, they’ve invested a lot in their SAP solutions. And the thing about the SAP analytics designer, there’s that functionality to embed your analytics inside your SAP applications, giving your day-to-day users a nice, professional user experience.

Tamara: Myself, even as a business leader, and for anyone who’s listening, I just wonder, Tammy, if we could pick your brain a little bit about how you would recommend a business leader get started with customizable analytics solutions.

Tammy: That’s a great question. I would ask your IT team to get started. We talked about the SAP community earlier, there’s a lot of free tutorials on the SAP community. And, you know, review the functionality, you know, get started in the cloud. And, you know, you could start today. And, you know, there is some general knowledge of JavaScript that’s nice to have, but it’s not required because there’s a nice Content Wizard to get you started and let you know what the next command is. So start today and take advantage of the free materials on the SAP community.

Tamara: That’s fantastic. And you know, actually, you got to meet some of my IT team earlier today, which is pretty cool. So these are genuine questions. You know, so how can someone actually lay the groundwork, though, within the organization if we’re making a shift to smarter analytics? And I think this is such a big… This is a really important issue because when we’re looking at digital transformation initiatives, and organizations really trying to, not only shore up their resources, but really allocate where they’re going to, you know, put their investment. I mean, the groundwork is actually pretty critical. How can we do that?

Tammy: Well, you know, I would recommend start today by using SAP Analytics Cloud, and you can go to, and there’s a free trial there. And then the SAP analytics designer is a part of SAP Analytics Cloud. And if you as a customer, you know, you’ve made a big investment in your on-premise solution, you can consider some hybrid analytics scenarios, such as using SAP Analysis Office with SAP Analytics Cloud. So I would start today. And again, there’s a lot of free materials on the SAP community.

Tamara: I saw that you’re actually one of the top contributors to the SAP community network. You know, you were listed as the top contributor back 2011 through 2016. And, A, what does that mean, “top contributor,” and, B, can you tell us the story behind that?

Tammy: Well, top contributor means, you know, I’ve helped answer questions or written blogs to help the community and, you know, people rated them well. And I think it’s a good way of giving back to the community. But like I said, I’ve learned a lot more than I’ve given. I think every day I go out there, there’s something new I didn’t know that helps my company and helps my career and be a better SAP user, or power user, or developer. So again, I think it’s a noble calling to contribute, and it’s an honor to help the community.

Tamara: All right, I just think it’s so valuable and it’s what’s needed. And honestly, we’re all, like, scratching our heads trying to, you know, I would say get up to speed, but I actually think that’s not even accurate. We’re just all trying to catch up. And, you know, I think that mentoring relationship is absolutely critical. And, you know, just a little bit more, if you will allow me to dive a little deeper into you, Tammy, the person, how did you decide you wanted to become a CPA?

Tammy: A CPA, well, you know, I was always good with math and I always enjoyed it. And it just did sort of, like, what we talked earlier about an analytical background, and it just sort of, you know, they made sense. And, you know, I still think of today, you know, accountants keep the world in balance. So it’s a great way to use the math skills, and really, you understand what’s going on in the company too.

Tamara: Yeah. But you know, looking down the road a bit, I mean, for me as a technology futurist, and looking at our future of life, our future of work, this is kind of where I live, I wonder… And you don’t have to be correct. Again, you know, when you cast a knowing glance around the corner into the future, it’s more about, you know, taking a look with the best information that you have now, what do you think you and I would be talking about five years from now?

Tammy: Well, you know, I think it’s probably already here. Maybe I just don’t know it. I think there’s gonna be more of an Alexa type analytics, where we talk to the apps, and it kind of concerns me, because, like, right now, there’s so much natural language generation and search to insight. There’s so many of those features now. Then it’s gonna be voice enabled. And I’m just worried that we’re gonna get to the point where, that old saying, “Talk to the hand, the mind ain’t listening,” and now we’re gonna be talking to the app, the mind ain’t listening. You know, I think it’s probably there now and I just don’t know it. And, you know, it’s really gonna get interesting.

Tamara: It is. You’re right. It’s here now, right? Genie is out of the bottle, vocal interfaces are here, they’re getting much more sophisticated. And by the way, with other… I mean, I think this is the juicy part about technology is that, you know, technology doesn’t live in silos like we often do as human beings. And one piece of technology affects all the others in this reverberation. And when, you know, I was in Barcelona, this year at Mobile World Congress, you know, and I’ve been there many, many years again, and again, and again, where we were talking about 5G and about what we might do with it. But this was the first year when I actually saw it demonstrated. And it really blew my mind that we’re no longer just talking about the future, we’re actually living in it right now. And these vocal interfaces are quite powerful. Now we’re, you know, seeking answers to questions, and we are driving a lot through analytics. And when you utilize a vocal interface that also then is utilizing other modalities, such as these mixed reality settings, it’s… When you look at the business application for that and then transformation of the workforce of the future with that, and how we will learn, and how we will grow, and how we will innovate, it’s positively mind-blowing, don’t you think?

Tammy: Oh, absolutely. And just think we were talking about accounting earlier, the CFO could just say, “Generate my financial statement and my analysis,” whereas, in the past, we spent hours writing the management, his statement of opinion is just gonna generate, “Just give me my financial statement.”

Tamara: Yeah. And I know some of my team will be happy about that because some of the reporting we do, some people are like, “Wait a minute, it’s 3:00 p.m, on a Friday, this means I’m gonna be working the weekend.” And how nice will it be to have access to that kind of data and those insights at our fingertips.

Tammy: Absolutely. Yeah, automated analytical review, we’ve gone full circle, right?

Tamara: All right, so now I’m gonna ask you an even bigger question. And this is gonna just ask you to step out of the analytical CPA mindset and go, all right, complete, total, off-the-leash futurist. Ten years from now, Tammy, what do we talk about?

Tammy: Well, I think it’s more virtual reality, more augmented reality more… And these aren’t new concepts. I think, you know, I learned about them about 20 years ago in grad school. It’s just, you know, now we’ve got the technology in CPUs to see it through, to see it end to end. And it’s almost like we’re living the Star Trek Next Generation, I think, because, you know, they have all these holograms and stuff. And I think you probably already saw that stuff too at the conferences you go to, so it’s not gonna be dull. How’s that?

Tamara: Right. It’s like, “Fasten your seat belts, people, we’re in for a wild ride.” Well, my last question, I mean, I’m genuinely curious, what makes you wake up in the morning inspired? What is it about what you do and how you’re living…? It doesn’t have to be professional, but it can be a little bit of both personal and professional. What really lights you up?

Tammy: You know, for me, it’s always like, “What can I learn new today? What can I do differently today? You know, what can I do differently?” And then, you know, part of that is, you know, contributing to the SAP community. And again, always learning there and giving back. And then learning more, and helping my company run SAP better. So, you know, that keeps me motivated, along with a healthy dose of exercising.

Tamara: Well, you know, that’s always good, right? Well, I really appreciate you discussing with us about analytics today. And, you know, I do think that, you know, as we’re looking at… I mean, everyone who’s been to any sort of business conference… You know, I wouldn’t even guess, we’ve been talking about digital transformation for a long time now, but now, it’s actually become not a nice to have, but it’s imperative. We’re talking about needing to innovate. And it’s difficult for some of these larger legacy companies and enterprise companies to innovate, just from the structure, the massive largeness of an organization. But when we talk about intelligent business in needing to boost business intelligence, and the pairing with customized analytic solutions versus straight out of the box, these are really important pieces. And I think sometimes it can be for business leaders a bit overwhelming with what to do first, how to prioritize, who’s owning what, and how it’s actually going to be, well, actualized within the organization. So I really appreciate your insights on this. I mean, since you are such a prolific mentor on the SAP community site, you know, any last words of wisdom or messages that you have for anyone out there that is looking to really boost those business intelligence pieces with a customized analytic solution?

Tammy: Well, I think I said it before is, you know, get out in the SAP community and start learning today with all the free tutorials and materials. And, you know, I think that’s a great way to get started. And, you know, SAP has the free trial. So, you know, there’s no time like today to get started. So it’s an exciting time, like we talked about. And you know, there’s a lot with this tool, and I didn’t even cover it with the analytics designing, the smart discovery, the augmented analytics. So it’s an exciting time, it’s not that hard to learn. You know, I’m not a programmer myself and I can do it. So I think, as a CPA and accountant can do it, anybody can do it.

Tamara: Well, my biggest takeaways from talking with you is…

Tammy: Start today.

Tamara: Start today. So it’s all about now.

Tammy: Yes, absolutely. Thank you.

Tamara: Tammy, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us, and your insights, and for getting a little personal with us, too. I really appreciate it. Everyone, it’s been such a pleasure. Tammy Powlas, and, where can we all find you? Where can we connect with you? Are you on LinkedIn? How can we find you?

Tammy: Probably the easiest way is Twitter @tpowlas. See you there.

Tamara: All right, fantastic. Well, if we’re not following you, we’re missing out. So thank you so much for joining us. And everyone, this has been a fantastic conversation about boosting our business intelligence with customized analytics with Tammy Powlas. Thank you so much.

Thanks for listening to the Tech Unknown podcast. Find us at for a full transcript of this episode and more. And don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Tamara McCleary

About Tamara McCleary

Tamara McCleary is CEO of Thulium, a social media analytics and consulting agency, driving Smart Social through proprietary data analytics and award-winning storytelling. Tamara ranks in the top 1% in influence globally. Named the #1 most influential woman in MarTech by B2B Marketing, recognized by Entrepreneur Magazine as one of 10 Online Marketers to watch, and named Top Digital Marketer by Brand 24 in 2019. Featured multiple times in Forbes for her pioneering influencer marketing strategies on social media for B2B and Enterprise, Tamara serves as a unique advisor to leading global technology companies such as Verizon, IBM, Mercer, MMC, SAP, Dell EMC, and AWS.