Live from SAPinsider Studio: Panel Discussion on SAP HANA as a Foundation for Analytics (Part II)

November 17, 2014

This is Part II of a two-part panel discussion recorded live at SAPinsider's Reporting & Analytics event in Atlanta. Dan Kearnan of SAP moderates the discussion with Gopal Krishnamurthy of Visual BI Solutions, Nic Smith of SAP, and Steve Freeman of Decision First Technologies. Topics of this lively discussion include:

  • SAP Lumira and free run-time license of SAP HANA
  • BI strategy assessment tools
  • SAP HANA as an enabler of self-service BI tools
  • Business and IT considerations in moving to SAP HANA as a BI platform

View the video, and read the edited version of the transcript here:

Dan Kearnan, SAP: Those are all good insights. Just to sum up, it’s always challenging to make the ROI and business case for anything you want to bring into your organization. And I think talking to experts like both of you, Steve and Gopal, will help start the ball rolling. Another recommendation might be, we have a big SAP HANA community out there so in talking to other SAP HANA customers to see how they built a business case will also be useful as well. Anything more you might want to add, Nic?

Nic Smith, SAP: I wanted to add a nugget from the BI side. We’ve also made things easier for customers to begin – especially on the BI side – to adopt SAP HANA and to get some of this technology working for them. So recently with new innovations like SAP Lumira, our data discovery, data visualization solution, we’ve included free run-time license of SAP HANA, so customers that already own the BI suite, and have already made an investment into SAP BusinessObjects and new solutions like SAP Lumira can get up and running quickly and don’t have any sort of barrier to begin to adopt that, so lowering that footprint and really making it right for customers to go and innovate and build new solutions on the latest technology. In addition to that we also have a complete BI portfolio of strategy assessment tools that allow customers to walk through “what do I need from a BI perspective?” “What does my infrastructure look like?” “What’s my footprint today and where do I need to go in the future?” Together licensing and strategy guidance are a couple of things that we’ve done recently to help our BI customers with that.

Steve Freeman, Decision First: I have one comment about SAP Lumira, because I think we’re going to move on to other parts of the conversation and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this. So, we’re asked about self-service all the time, and everyone wants to go to a self-service world and many times people sort of confuse the notion of interesting visualizations with self-service. They’re both important, and so SAP Lumira is a wonderful visualization tool. The great thing about SAP HANA that we’ve found is that it helps support self-service, because when you think about it everything is self-service if you know how to do the query. If you know the business logic, then it’s self-service. The challenge has been, we can’t push the – we force our users to understand the business logic, and so you get this power user distributing reports to end-users sort of scenario. With SAP HANA, what we can do is we can take that business logic, the tribal knowledge or actual business rules that are out there, and embed them in SAP HANA views and then attach something like SAP Lumira to them which really opens up the product to truly be self-service, so we in our world are in the business of developing these business use-case specific analytic views, and then opening up all these great visualization tools to truly be self-service. So it’s been a huge enabler from our perspective.

Dan: Good point. To keep things rolling along here, I’d like to wrap up our conversation with, for those companies who are interested in going down the path of moving SAP HANA into their IT infrastructure or across their organization, if you can give me a few points that you would provide to customers to let them know some of the key considerations as they move to that transition either from an IT or business perspective to enable the organization to get started with SAP HANA. Gopal, I will start with you and then we can move down the line.

Gopal Krishnamurthy, Visual BI: One of the things that we continue to drive customers is first creating the awareness within the organization. Don’t just look at the cost; we are engaging the customer in creating the awareness, justifying the ROI and giving them a presentation tool to evangelists within the organization, and a lot of times we feel that it’s like doing a proof of concept. When seeing is believing, and I see a greater adoption of SAP HANA when people really see the benefits, so we actually let them (see the benefits). So let’s do a proof of concept, let’s not talk about it, let’s play with it. So we have an infrastructure, a lab infrastructure where we do a low-cost POC to get them to see the power of SAP Lumira, Design Studio, and Design Studio is another great product that SAP has rolled out recently which works great on SAP HANA. So those are the things that we are doing. And a lot of times a customer can have a sidecar approach to SAP HANA so they think, “Oh, I’m behind on my technology, I have to do all these upgrades.” So one thing is, SAP does have a sidecar approach to leapfrog – yes, you might not be mature today, but you can actually leapfrog and they don’t know this. That they can actually jump to SAP HANA. So we are being kind of an evangelist and creating awareness both in the IT and the business.

Dan: So helping to sell it internally through proof of concepts and other ways to show the value is good. Nic, from a BI perspective when you layer BI on top of SAP HANA, is there any big change management concerns, or can people continue on from a BI perspective just with better benefits?

Nic: Yes, and getting up and running quickly, and building out proof of concepts was going to be my answer to your question there, and I think SAP Lumira is a great way for the business to be agile, and build out POCs, show value back to the business and again getting back to your question of how do we sell this into the business. I think it is part and parcel, pick your favorite executive and marry your initiative up to what matters most to them. But going quickly and running fast with an agile solution like SAP Lumira can offer the business tremendous value to build out a custom solution that they can see value in right away and that will pave the way for further investment down the road. So I think that’s a perfect way to get up and running quickly at a low cost.

Dan: Steve, you’ve worked with customers who’ve actually adopted SAP HANA. Any words of advice or considerations in terms of what kinds of things a company had to do in order to bring SAP HANA in? Was it a huge ordeal, was it a fairly easy move forward? What are your observations?

Steve: Unfortunately, it’s the gamut. I’ve seen very large strategic decisions around SAP HANA and in some cases it’s a point solution, and they all have different cost benefits. One commonality in how do you prepare for success with SAP HANA? Relevancy to the user is a key aspect of our approach. And by that I mean oftentimes in our world we’re very data-centric or we have been very data-centric. Get the data in, get it structured, get in cleansed, and that’s time-consuming and it’s important, but the culture of the BI teams have been very data-centric, slap a tool on it and hope for the best. Maybe buy a new tool because they come up with some new tool every year. But you’re never going to be successful that way. The way you’re successful is you’re relevant to the business. So you need to be very business-focused in your approach to BI and sometimes there are challenges there because the BI users have demands that are very difficult in the past to structure properly and time-consuming. But now with SAP HANA we can take a much more business-centric approach. What are your needs? Let’s go ahead and design analytic views very quickly to support those needs. And so if you’re going to be successful, I think you need to change your thought process a little bit and still maintain the foundational aspects that have made SAP such a strong organization, but also be more business-focused in your approach to requirements, and then be more agile in terms of your deployment to them. And I think it’s supported by the technology, but as a BI center of excellence let’s say, if you don’t have those thoughts and that approach engrained in your approach you’re not going to reap the benefits as much as you could with SAP HANA.

Dan: That’s a very good observation, and thanks to all of you for those insights. What I’d like to end on is for those more interested in continuing their journey or their understanding of SAP HANA, go to where you can get a wealth of information on almost any question you might have on SAP HANA. And the other thing I’d like to leave on is for those that might want to start kicking the tires quickly on SAP HANA, we have SAP HANA set up in Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud, where you can actually start an instance of SAP HANA, load your own data and start to play with SAP HANA in a test or dev world so you can start to see the value and maybe build the business case as we’ve been discussing throughout the conversation. So thanks for your time today, and I hope you’ve learned something about SAP HANA, and SAP HANA and BI together. And I hope you continue your journey with SAP HANA. Thank you.

Here is Part I of the panel discussion.


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