Since SAP HANA’s release, SAP has not only expanded its capabilities but widened the value proposition as well. First, it was a high-performance database under SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse (SAP NetWeaver BW). Then, it began powering the entire SAP Business Suite, and today, it is delivered as a platform on which companies can build solutions to enable instant and even predictive insight. No matter how you look at it, SAP HANA is considerably different than many traditional IT solutions. insiderPROFILES recently spoke with several consultants and SAP HANA customers to discover how SAP HANA’s uniqueness makes building a business case different.
"It’s a business transformation enabler for an organization," says Nicola Bianzino, who is responsible for analytics and SAP HANA at Accenture. "The traditional approach of basing a business case on the technology prowess of a specific solution offering doesn’t really apply to SAP HANA. It is about the art of the possible and needs a lot of investment from the business organization to be successful."
Echoing this thought is ARI, the world’s largest privately held fleet management services company, managing roughly one million vehicles for a diverse client base. ARI implemented SAP HANA in 2011 to gather and drive greater actionable intelligence for itself and its customers.1 Bob White, Executive Vice President of Fleet Services at ARI, says that building the business case for SAP HANA depends on how organizations plan to leverage the technology. "It’s hard to limit the business case, so it’s really more about deciding what part of the business case you want to focus on to make the sale," he says.
ARI had difficulty providing its customers with insights into transactional data, and viewed SAP HANA as having the potential to make an impact across all lines of business. Within this context, the traditional IT-led Band-Aid method of trying to address the problem wasn’t sustainable.
"At the end of the day, in terms of the business case, time is money," says White. "And the beauty of in-memory technology is the speed at which it can deliver results and queries. So as the demands were increasing and we were growing in size, the only way we could keep up with the growing demand at the old pace was to add more resources."
Similar to ARI’s experiences, Medtronic — the world’s largest medical technology company, based in Minnesota — also encountered reporting issues with a rapidly growing volume of comment data, and deployed SAP HANA as an analytic appliance to address the problem.2 As an early adopter, Medtronic’s initial business case for SAP HANA was somewhat unique in that there really wasn’t a baseline to follow. However, by isolating the core business need of improved sales and comment reporting, Medtronic started on a crawl-walk-run SAP HANA journey, and was then able to more easily make a business case for the technology with extensive in-house support from SAP.
"The true, full potential is only leveraged if it is looked at in a more long-term and holistic way. For businesses to put in SAP HANA and say it will be a platform for the long term, they are going to leverage synergies from multiple areas
to bring that to bear in one place."
— Karthik Palanisamy, Senior Managing Director for Analytics, GROM
Steve Teichman, Senior IT Director for Business Intelligence at Medtronic, emphasizes how important it was to isolate a specific business process to pave the way for eventual deployment. "We knew that involving executives from all of the vendors was really instrumental in getting the right engagement," he says. "When you’re on the leading or bleeding edge of technology, you need to recognize that’s where you are and then make sure all the necessary people are lined up in order to ensure success."
In the case of both ARI and Medtronic, the crawl-walk-run approach was undertaken with the underlying assumption that success would likely lead to SAP HANA being used to tackle other areas of operations. This is one of the key differentiators of SAP HANA, according to Karthik Palanisamy, Senior Managing Director for Analytics at GROM. "The true, full potential is only leveraged if it is looked at in a more long-term and holistic way," says Palanisamy. "For businesses to put in SAP HANA and say it will be a platform for the long term, they are going to leverage synergies from multiple areas to bring that to bear in one place."
Palanisamy adds that emerging technologies that are driving rapid innovation in the enterprise are in and of themselves helping to make a business case for SAP HANA. "It starts getting closer to [reaching] some of the buzzwords we hear in the industry like self-service, big data, and mobilizing analytics," he says. "In the past, companies have tried to do it internally and tried to get to that state, but I think SAP HANA truly is a platform that enables you to get to that level."
But what if, unlike ARI and Medtronic, an organization has a difficult time isolating a business process it wants SAP HANA to address? Bianzino calls this an "abundance problem" in that SAP HANA does offer different options that can drive value.
"There isn’t a universal formula on how to choose what is the best way of starting with SAP HANA," says Bianzino. "It’s very much a conversation that has to take into account the different factors. When I talk to clients, I advise two things: Pragmatism, meaning focusing on starting with something you can manage both in terms of scope as well as speed to value. And secondly, in relation to the speed-to-value part, it’s very important that an organization focuses on trying to drive as fast as possible the business outcomes. There are many, many different opportunities. So you have to consider things at a different level."
To help focus the building of a business case, Palanisamy suggests finding common ground across an organization. "First, you need to look at the needs across the board, or identify the different gaps in the organization. And then see what solution can bring synergies, or what technology can bring synergies and bring solutions to the business. As SAP HANA matures and can start leveraging more solutions, then that’s how you build your pipeline [for SAP HANA expansion]. That is key to building a business case."
Results, too, help build that pipeline for additional deployments. ARI first explored SAP HANA after building a business case for SAP BusinessObjects Explorer to improve its business intelligence platform. Bill Powell, ARI’s Director of Information Services, explains ARI’s transition to building a business case for SAP HANA. "When we shared SAP BusinessObjects Explorer with a select group of our customers, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive and we knew then that it was the direction in which we wanted to go," says Powell. "Then we took a step back and determined that we would also like to use this internally to look at all of our customers and compare and contrast our rail customers vs. our oil and gas vs. our pharma, and so on. The amount of data and the volume of information we were able to manage got us down the road toward SAP HANA."
This speaks toward the idea of looking at SAP HANA as a long-term strategic solution, not a short-term fix to a specific pain point. "If you focus an SAP HANA implementation on making one single process faster than you had in the past, you definitely achieve very important benefits," says Bianzino. "But then you’ve missed the opportunity of extending the process at the enterprise level and understanding the connection of that process with other processes of the enterprise."
According to White, ARI recognized from the start that speed wasn’t the sole benefit of SAP HANA, or even the most important. "For us, it was twofold: One, it was higher than just simply a business case; there was a product shortcoming, or a customer delivery shortcoming that we had to address. There was a demand to access and leverage the data that we stored and warehoused, and not only to deliver to our customers but to perform meaningful analysis and to deliver actionable information to them," White explains. "On the other side, we manage a lot of transactions, which requires a significant number of resources, and a significant percentage of our overhead costs are dedicated to managing high-volume transactions. Those transactions also require our internal resources to access and leverage the data to make appropriate decisions. So we were able to build business cases around leveraging that data and speeding the time of the transactions and therefore getting more throughput to our existing resources and the cost structures that we had. So it fit very well with where we were at that time."
And, according to Powell, the internal demand shows no signs of slowing down. "It’s exciting, and the business demand is higher than ever," he says. "There certainly isn’t any slowdown in the pipeline in terms of the amount of requests to move data and expand access to SAP HANA. It’s important to stress, it’s not about just using SAP HANA, but it’s about the products and services you can put on top of SAP HANA, and how you leverage that to provide business value."
1 See "ARI Fleet Management Drives Real-Time Analytics to Customers" in the April-June 2013 issue of InsiderPROFILES . [back]
2 See "A Peek Behind the Curtain: Medtronic Shares Its Experiences as an Early SAP HANA Adopter" in the October-December 2011 issue of insiderPROFILES. [back]