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Why Companies Are Turning to SAP HANA as the Platform of Choice

by Ken Murphy, Editorial Director

December 15, 2015


The question of how to turn data into action is on the minds of CEOs and CFOs all over the world, with the shared goal of positioning their organizations to compete in a digital economy. This imperative exists in large part because of the empowered customer, who expects personalized service, customized products, and greater choice for how to engage with a company and its products and services.

Providing a business with deep, real-time insights to create a context-rich experience for the customer was one of the key themes emerging from SAP at SAPPHIRE NOW and throughout the year, following the February 2015 release of SAP S/4HANA, the next (fourth) generation business suite that embeds SAP HANA at the application layer.

With SAP HANA as the foundation, this system of insight, according to SAP, provides organizations with the platform to re-imagine business processes — and even business models — to become a customer-first organization. With SAP HANA now embedded into the application, future customers of the new business suite will discover what existing SAP HANA customers have known for some time: that SAP HANA, for all of its use cases, isn’t about running existing processes faster. It’s about generating real-time insight to run a real-time business. With a platform to turn an increasing volume of structured and unstructured data into actionable data, companies can be far more proactive in how they respond to fluctuating market conditions, and even predict future outcomes to stay a step ahead of the competition and changing customer demands. This is what it means to be a digital enterprise.

SAP Co-Founder and Chairman of the Supervisory Board Hasso Plattner drove this point home at SAPPHIRE NOW, explaining that only with real-time, contextual data can an organization have an instantaneous glimpse into any part of the company and thus make informed, real-time decisions to always steer the company in the right direction. 

SAP HANA changes the analytics game by enabling real-time reporting directly on an OLTP system. This makes analytics more accessible, for starters, because users do not have to query IT to build reports that in the past necessitated first pulling the data out of a transactional system before it could be consumed. As most users could attest, these static reports were often outdated before they hit someone’s inbox.   

Organizations that have turned to SAP HANA to make analytics more of a central focus have already achieved significant results. At SAPPHIRE NOW, for example, Dr. Christof von Kalle, Director, National Center for Tumor Diseases, showed during one of the keynote presentations how the center is using SAP HANA to help combat cancer by drilling down for granular analysis of human genome data in cancer patients, which he said had never before been possible.

SAPinsider has had a front-row seat to witness many recent examples of companies using SAP HANA in various forms to drive real-time insights. From the print and digital pages of SAPinsider this year alone, those examples include:

  • Animal Health International’s migration to the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence (BI) 4.1 platform, and upgrade to SAP Business Warehouse (SAP BW) 7.3 powered by SAP HANA for a real-time, proactive business intelligence environment. According to Tim Hays, the company’s Vice President of IT, this completely changed the BI culture at the company; with easy access to real-time reports, users started to rely on data for making important decisions. “Our job as an IT organization is to help the business make the most appropriate decisions and make the information actionable. That’s the reporting environment we were after, and SAP HANA is a big part of that,” says Hays.
  • An interview with SAP CTO Quentin Clark at the SAPinsider BI-HANA 2015 conference where Clark discussed at length why the need for deeper analytics is top of mind for C-level executives. The real material difference, Clark said about SAP S/4HANA, “is how deeply we’re able to take advantage of SAP HANA in the (business) suite in the applications themselves.”
  • An article about the 2015 SAP HANA Innovation Award winners, which includes AmerisourceBergen deploying SAP CO-PA Accelerator powered by SAP HANA to import financial data cubes representing two years of data from SAP Business Warehouse (SAP BW) directly into SAP HANA. With this implementation, customer and materials reports that previously wouldn’t complete were available in less than five seconds.
  • JetBlue Airways’ implementation of SAP Business Planning and Consolidation powered by SAP HANA, a project the 16-year-old company undertook with the goal of arriving at an 18-month rolling forecast. The company had previously based forecasting on quarterly reports that needed to be manually updated into spreadsheets; knowing even as this cumbersome process was underway that the forecasts it generated would be outdated as soon as they were prepared. In the rapidly changing airline industry, that simply wasn’t good enough. Now, with continuous planning and insight into future months, the airline can plan according to not what happened in the past, but according to what is likely to happen in the future.
  • The National Hockey League (NHL) unveiling a new statistics portal in 2015 with SAP HANA as the engine that allows fans to create a personalized and customizable real-time statistical experience. Previously, the league had large volumes of dark data — box scores from long-ago forgotten games, for example — and turned to SAP HANA to make this as well as current stats come alive for its fan base. SAP HANA, said Chris Foster, NHL Director of Digital Business Development, “helped us take the wealth of data that we have and put it to scientific analysis.”

2015 was a seminal year in the evolution of SAP HANA as a platform to help companies transform their analytic landscapes. As more companies turn to SAP HANA to address the pressing need for real-time insight and solve challenges posed by big data, SAPinsider will continue to be there to share those success stories with our readers.

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