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Big Data, Big Rewards: SAP Solutions Unlock the Power of Real-Time Analytics

by Thierry Audas and Jason Rose | SAPinsider

January 1, 2013

More data has been created in the last five years than in the entire history of humankind. In this environment, companies must figure out how to glean insights from the mountain of big data that they have at their fingertips. Fortunately, with real-time analytics solutions from SAP, businesses are able to cut through the noise, find the actionable insights within data, and stand out among the crowd.

It’s no secret that the amount of data businesses must manage is growing dramatically. Business applications, sensors, consumer devices, and social networks are generating a huge volume of information — a trend known as “big data” — at a faster pace and with greater variety than ever before. More data has been created in the last five years than in the entire history of humankind, and the amount will continue to double every two years.1

On top of this mountain of big data, customer expectations are shifting dramatically. Consumers no longer make purchasing decisions based on great advertising or on information from a single source. We live in a world where feedback from numerous existing customers is readily available, through social networks, for example.

Succeeding in the world of the empowered consumer hinges on your ability to sift the gold out of big data and use it to rapidly respond to your customers. To support your business in this campaign, SAP solutions provide real-time insight into the areas of your data that matter most when it comes to meeting your customers’ needs.

Moving Toward Real-Time Insights Using Big Data Analytics

A host of new and increasingly forward-looking signals (around customer sentiment, business risk, uncertainty, and other non-financial information) is available through big data to help inform business decisions. Yet most companies are still using the same lagging signals (financials in the form of income statements and balance sheets) that businesses have used for the last 100 years — information that is inadequate for supporting the sophisticated decisions that are necessary today. Business intelligence (BI) enables you to identify the signals that will have the biggest impact on your business and quickly turn this information into a competitive advantage through analytics.

There has been a distinct evolution in the approach to BI, in terms of the types of questions asked and the tools that are available to answer those questions. Over the past two decades, organizations have invested in traditional BI tools, such as standard reporting, ad hoc query, and multi-dimensional analysis tools, which are designed to answer questions about what has happened and why. While these tools have their purpose, it is no longer enough to focus on analyzing the past.

Fortunately, with new functionality that supports visual exploration and discovery, as well as predictive analytics, companies can use big data to answer questions about what is happening at the moment of engagement with customers and business partners — and ultimately about what the best course of action is to overcome their challenges. Real-time analysis of big data enables you to gain critical insights into:

  • Customer trends: Customer and channel trends can rapidly change due to a number of factors, including promotions and competitive offerings. Real-time insight into these factors helps you keep up with these trends, giving the information you need to make intelligent decisions on product placement, channel strategy, segmentation, rewards, and pricing and discounts, to name a few.
  • Products and services: New products and services are coming to market at an increasingly rapid pace, with an equally fast path to commoditization and shortening product life cycles. With real-time analytics, you can stay a step ahead of challenges and changing trends so you can address them more proactively.
  • Operations: Business happens in the real world. Macro disruptions, like a hurricane in the US or an earthquake in Japan, will affect your global supply chain and cause pricing on commodities to fluctuate. Even micro disruptions or intra-company issues, such as manufacturing equipment failure, may require a proactive sense-and-respond mechanism — for example, a dynamic picking and packing process on the production line optimized by a delivery schedule. Real-time insight into such issues can help you react quickly to mitigate the effects of a problem on your operations.

For companies ready to embrace the promises of real-time analytics, SAP is uniquely positioned to provide the tools they need to take advantage of the big data opportunity.

Seizing the Big Data Opportunity with Real-Time Analytics Solutions from SAP

SAP BusinessObjects business intelligence (BI) solutions and the SAP HANA in-memory computing platform offer customers the real-time analytics capabilities they need to make full use of the glut of information found in big data. Let’s take a look at two customer organizations that have used SAP solutions to unlock the power of real-time analytics and stand out from the crowd with customers: FreshDirect and Charité — Universitätsmedizin Berlin.

Improving Operating Effectiveness at FreshDirect

FreshDirect is an online grocery company that distributes high-quality fresh food to residences and offices in the metropolitan New York area, with a 100% on-time guarantee. Because the company bypasses the usual layers of distributors and middlemen, the food it delivers can be four to seven days fresher than in a typical supermarket. The ability to analyze data in real time is critical to FreshDirect’s ability to make effective operational decisions that ensure on-time deliveries and customer satisfaction. 

FreshDirect uses SAP ERP to manage its day-to-day plant operations, but needed a way to convert the vast amount of information in that system into data that managers could use to quickly respond to customer issues around product quality and shipments. After implementing SAP BusinessObjects software, FreshDirect is able to dig into customer data to identify issues affecting customer loyalty, experiment with resolutions, and monitor the customer response, enabling the company to provide fast, agile, and effective problem solving in real time (see Figure 1).

Business performance monitoring with SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards
Figure 1 Business performance monitoring with SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards

More importantly, SAP BusinessObjects BI solutions allow FreshDirect to address small issues before they become bigger problems. Since employees can track deliveries in real time, FreshDirect will know immediately when there are too many orders to fill to meet the on-time guarantee, and can then deploy more workers and trucks to the locations that need them most. This means that FreshDirect takes care of an issue before customers are ever affected by it.

In the two years before implementing the SAP solutions, FreshDirect had to provide half a million dollars in customer credits for late deliveries and quality issues. The savings the company realized by using real-time analytics to reduce customer rebates quickly paid for the technology investment, and the improved customer satisfaction has helped FreshDirect retain an edge over the competition.

Real-Time Insights Means Faster Patient Treatment at Charité

Charité — Universitätsmedizin Berlin is one of the largest clinics in Europe, with 139,142 inpatients and 593,614 outpatients treated in 2011. Since it collects huge amounts of clinical, research, and medical system information, the clinic has seen a 30% increase in the volume of data in recent years. Real-time analysis on this vast amount of data is key to the clinic’s ability to maintain compliance with medical records management regulations and provide the best possible patient care.

In 2008, Charité decided to standardize data across all hospital functions using SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse Accelerator. Since then, the clinic has used the SAP NetWeaver technology platform and SAP’s in-memory computing capabilities to deliver central reporting for financial controlling, operating room management, and patient care.

In 2010, the clinic introduced SAP Business-Objects Explorer software and the SAP HANA platform, which enable users to instantly run queries and simulations based on historical data (see Figure 2). This provides doctors with immediate access to information and, since they no longer need to hunt for data, gives them more time for their patients. In addition, because doctors can instantly share results with partner institutions, they can prescribe treatments more quickly and effectively, eliminating redundant treatment risks.

Doctors at Charité can explore patient medical records on their mobile devices using SAP solutions
Figure 2 Doctors at Charité can explore patient medical records on their mobile devices using SAP solutions

With real-time insight into patient and company data, Charité is able to meet the complex compliance requirements of the medical field and ensure the highest quality care for its patients.

Are You Ready?

Opportunity is knocking — and not just with your existing customers. With a middle class reaching 5 billion worldwide, and rapidly growing incomes in the emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India, and China, there is a huge new market waiting. Real-time analytics solutions from SAP help you cut through the noise, make meaning out of your data, and stand head and shoulders above the crowd. To learn more, visit

Thierry Audas (; Twitter: @taudas) is Director of Product Marketing for SAP BusinessObjects BI solutions. He helps SAP customers better understand how SAP BusinessObjects BI solutions provide enhanced capabilities for the entire organization.

Jason Rose ( is head of business intelligence (BI) solution marketing at SAP. Jason leads the go-to-market activities for the industry’s leading on-premise and cloud-based BI solutions: SAP BusinessObjects. With over 12 years of experience in BI and performance management, Jason is able to drive crisp customer communications, tailor market messages, and grow SAP’s thought leadership position in BI. Joining Business Objects in 2005 and holding leadership positions in both sales and marketing, Jason has been helping customers solve critical business issues through the application of information and putting in place the right incentives. Jason is a frequent speaker at conferences and analyst events on analytics and the impact of information on corporate performance and decision making. 

IDC iView, “Extracting Value from Chaos” (June 2011). [back]

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