Live from SAPinsider Studio: Kirk Anderson of SAP on SAP Cloud for Planning

December 29, 2014

Kirk Anderson, SAP VP, EPM Go-to-Market, visits with SAPinsider Studio during the SAPinsider Reporting & Analytics 2014 conference in Atlanta to discuss SAP Cloud for Planning. Topics of this discussion include:

  • Ease-of-use functionality, including collaboration tools
  • How the SAP HANA Cloud Platform delivers a state-of-the-art EPM environment
  • The solution focus on combining analytics with planning and forecasting

View the video, and read the transcript of the conversation here:

Ken Murphy, SAPinsider: Hi, this is Ken Murphy with SAPinsider, and I am at the SAPinsider Planning & Performance Management conference 2014. Today, I am pleased to be joined by Kirk Anderson, the Vice-President for SAP’s EPM Go-to-Market. Kirk, thanks for joining us.

Kirk Anderson, SAP: Thank you for having me.

Ken: Today in the keynote we heard a lot about SAP Cloud for Planning, a new release. I was hoping you can shed some light on that for our viewers and tell us a little bit about it and what it brings to the table.

Kirk: SAP Cloud for Planning is an entirely new natively built for the cloud solution on the HANA Cloud Platform which we plan to release in Q1 of next year (2015). So what we’ve really tried to focus on is building a solution that from the ground up was built specifically for the cloud and to be delivered in the cloud. Some of the key features that we’ve tried to focus on is first of all it’s a very modern platform so the application itself has been built out on the HANA Cloud Platform to ensure optimal performance, very high-speed performance utilizing the capabilities of HANA. The second thing is we focus very much on being a people-centric product. So unlike maybe a lot of the development we may have done in the past, right from the beginning with this application what we did is we engaged a team of UX designers; these are not development people, these are designers whose key focus was building something where  ease-of-use was truly at the center of the whole design of it. And then the third thing we’ve tried to focus on with the solution is really bringing together analytics and planning and forecasting. So in the past, a lot of applications were very good at planning or they were very good at analytics, but we really looked at it and said that what we really need to do is bring the analytics in where people do the work itself. So that’s really the third key focus was bringing together those items. And then I guess the last thing would be collaboration. So we really tried to focus on embedding collaboration in context. That is, the ability to collaborate with multiple other people but working directly within your environment so you don’t have to go out to another place to do the collaboration. And when we talk about in context, it’s that ability to be able to share common documents for everybody to see the exact same thing when they’re working on and collaborating. So those have been sort of some of the key concepts behind it.

Ken: I understand the simplicity in that it’s sort of an all-in-one comprehensive solution; you have no-fuss, no-muss all in the cloud. But you’re analyzing now so much more data, you mentioned use-ability – do you need to have data scientists go through all of this data that you’re analyzing?

Kirk: No, that’s one of the things about deploying it on the HANA Cloud Platform is we’re using a truly state-of-the-art in-memory technology, so the data volumes that we can deal with are huge. And therefore all of the modeling and all of the data movements and everything that traditionally had to be done to try and prepare the data become a non-issue. So we’re able to load data at the lowest level of granularity that we need to be able to analyze and then on the fly to be able to build the various different views that we need to be able to see that data by. Unique to each user’s specific requirement.

Ken: So HANA then is doing all of the work for you, and a key feature in that the analytics are embedded in the solution?

Kirk: Correct, yes.

Ken: So what does this replace for customers, or does it? So if I have a host of on-premise BI applications does this offer a different alternative?

Kirk: It offers a different alternative but for a number of customers it will actually be supplemental or a complementary application. So if we take our existing SAP BPC or Business Planning and Consolidation customer base, what we’ve had from a lot of customers, especially the larger corporations, is they want the ability to be able to allow their divisions and strategic business units to deploy their own planning solutions, but in such a way they integrate back into the core Business Planning and Consolidation application. So in the design of the application one of the things we’ve really focused on is the ability to integrate between the two. So allowing corporate to run solutions such as Business Planning and Consolidation, allowing divisions to independently deploy their own cloud-based solution utilizing this new application but in such a way we’re able to integrate the master data and the meta data they’re working with so that we can basically communicate back and forth seamlessly between the systems.

Ken: And can you address mobility in Cloud for Planning and the importance in EPM?

Kirk: I think the main thing we find for mobility is that by the end of 2015 it’s expected that approximately one-third of the workforce will be mobile and remote. So as with any other application or any other area today in order to support this ever-increasing mobile workforce we need to be able to have the ability to deploy these applications on any type of device any time and make the user experience as efficient or better than what they have basically if they’ve been working on-site with the application itself. So we focused on the development of what we call EPM Unwired, which is an application which is really the container within which we deliver our EPM related content for mobile devices. So helping to ensure that it’s secure, that it’s real-time, that we have appropriate collaboration capabilities, etc.

Ken: And so from a cost perspective, resources, time, money – is Cloud for Planning the most cost-effective path toward overhauling an EPM strategy?

Kirk: There are a number of advantages to cloud, obviously in terms of pure cost the fact that it’s deployed in a cloud environment we can take advantage of economies of scale in managing the underlying environments which obviously can make the costs quite attractive. But I think every bit as important or more is the speed with which deployment can be done. So no longer do companies necessarily have to wait on IT departments that are oftentimes overburdened already; they have that option of basically going out as a business and having it immediately stood up and available as a system and starting to work with it without having that dependence there.

Ken: Kirk, thank you very much for your time.

Kirk: Thank you. 

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