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Responding to the Digital Imperative

How SAP HANA Helps Organizations Leave the Competition Behind

by Irfan Khan | SAPinsider, Volume 17, Issue 3

August 3, 2016

Success in today’s economy depends on technology. You could have brilliant people, innovative business plans, and perfect processes, but if you’re using yesterday’s technologies, you will fall behind. Competitors using real-time digital processes will quickly surge ahead of anyone who tries to continue with business as usual. Learn how you can take advantage of SAP HANA to give your business a technological advantage, complete with real-world examples of companies that have successfully done so. 

The 103rd edition of the Tour de France kicked off on July 2 with more than 200 riders vying to finish the grueling 2,100-mile, 21-stage race with arms raised in triumph as they crossed into Champs-Élysées in Paris as the champion. With the sheer number of innovations appearing in today’s top-of-the-line road bike, the bicycles lined up at the start of the race this year were in many ways unrecognizable from  those entered just a few years ago. In fact, with the accelerated pace of advancements in road bike technology, it is not hyperbole to suggest the winner of this year’s race would have absolutely no chance of winning were his ride a top-of-the-line model from 2010 — just six years ago.

Now that you’ve allowed me to indulge in my sports analogy, my guess is you probably see where I’m going with this, because the relation holds true for business. You could be the Greg LeMond of your industry with the most brilliant people, the most brilliant processes, and the most brilliant business plan, but if you are using yesterday’s technology, which doesn’t provide real-time, integrated, and consequential digital processes, you are going to lose. This is the digital imperative and it is happening everywhere you look.

Embrace Digital Opportunities

The way people are producing and delivering goods and services is evolving at a pace we’ve never seen before. Human beings can’t keep up with the accelerated convergence of the digital world with the physical world. In financial services, we see this with trading algorithms that optimize the value of a portfolio without any human involvement. In agriculture, which has relied on human hands since its inception, we see driverless combines integrated into a digital information network that optimizes crop yield by automating decisions such as when to plant a crop or when to harvest.

These examples barely scratch the surface of what digital businesses can — and do — accomplish. This unprecedented era of productivity, spurred on by digital economies, is radically transforming industries of all stripes. To fully meet this opportunity, however, the business can’t employ the same incremental step changes that have worked in the past. A company doesn’t become a digital enterprise by merely running a system in the cloud that isn’t integrated with its existing infrastructure.

But while transitioning to the cloud can be a legitimate first step in a digital journey, digitization of the enterprise requires more. It requires the business to really think about what it could accomplish by running technology in a simplified, connected, and consequential manner. How could mission-critical processes change if the information you need is in one system, in real time, and ready for predictive analysis?

SAP HANA and the Digital Core

The digital disruptors are the companies that recognize what it means to have a true digital core: being completely integrated and having a simplified infrastructure with an intelligent platform that can deliver real-time information, can connect any system to any other system, and is broad in nature but singular in construct. This is what the SAP HANA platform delivers, and it is forcing companies to make a decision: Will they continue to use the road bike of yesterday because it was a good investment at the time? Or will they buy today’s most innovative, advanced bicycle because it helps them leave the field in the dust? Will they do what it takes to win?

SAP HANA will help you win. Why? Because it is a singular technology platform that gives the business the ability to respond to the needs of its business users and customers, and to react to competitors and market forces in a more agile and rapid fashion than any other product.

A Glimpse at the Disruptors

The SAP HANA Innovation Awards are a great way to find digital disruptors. With nearly 50 entries from organizations spanning a multitude of industries, the 2016 SAP HANA Innovation Awards clearly show that the concept of digital transformation with SAP HANA is far from an obscure, futuristic aspiration but rather something organizations are doing today — and with extraordinary results.

What could be more exceptional than improving people’s healthcare outcomes? Mercy Health — the winner in the Analytics Wizard category — is a great example of the digital innovations possible with the SAP HANA platform. Mercy Health, which runs a network of 46 hospitals and hundreds of clinics and outpatient facilities, discovered that disconnected and inconsequential ordering processes related to surgical equipment and blocking off operating room time were both costly and inefficient. By refining scheduling and procedures, Mercy could increase personalized care to more people. Mercy used SAP HANA and the SAP BusinessObjects suite to drill down into an unpredictable variability in costs, analyzing how more than 10 million surgical supplies are ordered and used each year. Using big data analysis to connect previously disparate processes, Mercy saved $13 million in less than two years in managing procedures, with a 12% improvement in operating room block utilization.

Now, you might ask why healthcare providers couldn’t do this before. Why have expensive surgical equipment in an operating room if the patient didn’t need it? And the answer, of course, is because the information that providers required rested in different systems; hospitals relied on disconnected processes because that is what the technology delivered. Breaking through to provide a new model of care is a digitization tour de force, using a data-driven approach to optimize processes that vastly improve the patient experience. 

Innovation with SAP HANA comes in many flavors, and Stanford School of Medicine — the SAP HANA Innovation Award winner in the Next-Gen Apps category — exemplifies the type of innovation companies are pursuing with SAP HANA Cloud Platform. In the case of Stanford School of Medicine, this means using the platform to solve the challenge of completing and linking genomic profiles to a specific medical record. With the aim of creating the medical record of the future, Stanford collaborated with SAP to create a digital medical platform that would integrate clinical, genomic, and wearable sensor data to provide decision support for estimating patient risk, diagnosis, and treatment.

What the Stanford School of Medicine is doing is far more than simply going from file-based to computerized medical records — the equivalent of buying a piece of unintegrated cloud technology. If you think about which result has the best potential to transform patient care, you’ll begin to understand the digital imperative in action.

I could go on, but I will close with telecommunications giant Vodafone, the SAP HANA Innovation Award Digital Trailblazer winner. Vodafone used the SAP HANA platform to understand customer profitability at a granular level, thus significantly plugging revenue leaks by being able to predict, for example, when a specific customer might leave the network. Before its digital transformation with SAP HANA, Vodafone was like many companies that relied on random data sampling to mitigate loss. There was too much data, too few resources, and too many manual processes to expect anything better. With SAP HANA and embedded analytics providing the ability to analyze all data from multiple sources in real time, Vodafone has identified tens of millions of previously unidentified revenue leaks.

Visit to read more about the SAP HANA Innovation Awards. I bring them up here to highlight how real the digital imperative is. Sooner rather than later, digital disruptors will lose the “disruptor” descriptor, and instead will be called “winners.” SAP HANA ensures you won’t be left at the back of the pack.

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Irfan Khan
Irfan Khan

General Manager and Global Head
Database & Data Management

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