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The insideEdge (SAPinsider Vol. 8, Iss. 3)

by Sanjay Poonen | SAPinsider

July 1, 2007

Uncover the two key characteristics of winning analytic applications with SAP’s Senior Vice President and General Manager of Analytics.
 

In the exploding arena of analytic applications, simplicity and relevance have become the core competencies.

By simplicity I mean that, more and more, analytics will become embedded within a business process, just as they are in everyday life. Today people use GPS systems to find the fastest route between point A and point B; Amazon.com uses analytics to suggest the appropriate books a customer might be most interested in reading. By extension, people would expect that when working with business information, analytics will seamlessly guide them through their jobs, making their decisions smarter, yet not requiring they have a Ph.D. in mathematics. If, for example, an employee files an expense report, he or she will expect to see analytics telling them how much they have spent over the past quarter or the year to date.

Of course, simplicity is also about ease of use. The goal is to get advanced analytics to every information worker, not just power users, in a form that is simple to navigate and easy to digest. I have an eight-year old nephew, and I'm amazed to watch him play SimCity, a simulation computer game that enables the building of virtual cities. I marvel at how the simulation uses very sophisticated rules that are invisible to a child playing the game because they are hidden within the game-playing process. It's building a make-believe city made easy. Analytics need to be as simple to information workers as the SimCity experience is to a kid.

Analytics, to be effective, also need to be relevant. TIME Magazine's 2006 person of the year was "YOU," and analytic information is no exception to this drive for relevance and personalization. Sales representatives need to see the relative profitability of their customers; procurement managers need insight into the performance history of their suppliers; a plant manager needs to know — at a glance — the health of his shop floor systems, and when something is wrong, be able to get to the root cause quickly, without having to drill around in a maze of information.

Relevance means that personalized information is presented to users as a function of not just their static preferences but also predictive choices, much the same way that users pick their favorite books on Amazon.com. The system doesn't just serve up personalized information; it also intelligently suggests additional books they might be interested in reading.

This transition requires analytic applications that are integrated on a very rich technology platform that is service enabled. By adopting an enterprise service- oriented architecture such as SAP NetWeaver, and by using flexible design tools such as SAP NetWeaver Visual Composer, and performance management solutions such as SAP Strategy Management (from our recent acquisition of Pilot Software), analytic applications can be deployed within sophisticated business processes.

This also requires a consolidated architecture so that IT doesn't have to think through or bolt together a multitude of different platforms. The faster IT can integrate, the faster the business can innovate. With integrated analytics in their arsenal, information workers can increase business agility — meaning they can sense and respond quickly to capitalize on business opportunities or overcome business challenges.

Sanjay Poonen
Senior Vice President and General Manager, Analytics
SAP Labs, LLC

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