Virtual Characteristics and Key Figures Make Queries More Dynamic

  • by Jens Nissen, SAP BW/SEM Manager, NNIT A/S, Denmark
  • February 1, 2004
Though immensely useful, time-dependent attributes have limitations that can lead to inaccurate reports. The author explains the benefits of virtual characteristics and key figures, which use programmable BW user exits. He then walks you through five steps that will allow you to make the most of virtual characteristics and key figures.

In the SAP BW 2.x and 3.x environment, time-dependent attributes in the master data are very useful to display values for a characteristic back in time. Time-dependent attributes, however, can only show a characteristic’s value at one given point in time per query execution. This can limit the system’s ability to report on more dynamic situations.

To understand how limited time-dependent attributes can be, consider the following: A time-dependent attribute is created to represent a salesperson responsible for a certain customer. The corresponding characteristic is exclusively for the individual salesperson responsible at the key date1 that is specified for the query. If more than one salesperson shared responsibilities for the account over time, the resulting report would be historically inaccurate because it can show only the salesperson responsible on the date reflected in the key date. Unless you are willing to load the data as a characteristic in each transaction record, a BW query cannot show the appropriate sales representative.

Using virtual characteristics can solve this problem, because they make it possible to calculate values at the execution time of the query.

Jens Nissen

Jens Nissen is an SAP BW/SEM manager within NNIT A/S, a large Danish consulting firm providing, development, operations, and hosting of IT solutions including SAP solutions ( He has worked with SAP for the last 15 years – including three years with SAP BW. He has participated in major SAP projects in Europe and the U. S. in such roles as programmer, customizing consultant, and project manager. Prior to joining NNIT A/S, Jens worked in the UK as an SAP contractor and as an SAP consultant for Ernst & Young.

See more by this author


No comments have been submitted on this article. 

Please log in to post a comment.

To learn more about subscription access to premium content, click here.