Live from SAPinsider Studio: Glazer's Distributors on SAP BusinessObjects and SAP HANA

December 14, 2015

Ryan Ross and Ram Dev of Glazer's Distributors join SAPinsider Studio at Reporting & Analytics 2015 to discuss the company's SAP BusinessObjects and SAP HANA implementation.

Here is an edited transcript of the discussion:

Ken Murphy, SAPinsider: Hi, this is Ken Murphy with SAPinsider and I’m at the SAPinsider Reporting & Analytics 2015 conference, and here with me are Ryan Ross and Ram Dev of Glazer’s Distributors. Thanks for being with me today.

Ram Dev and Ryan Ross, Glazer’s Distributors: Thank you.

Ken: Please introduce yourselves, titles, and responsibilities with Glazer’s.

Ryan: I’m Ryan Ross, Director of IT Project Management Office at Glazer’s. I oversee a team of IT project managers, as well as our SAP functional support team which we call our Business Relationship Managers.

Ram: I’m Ram Dev, Director of BI-HANA. I oversee a team of HANA modelers, BOBJ developers, as well as ETL specialists.

Ken: Can you share with viewers some information about Glazer’s Distributors?

Ryan: Glazer’s is a privately held, family owned wholesale distributor of malts, wines, and spirits. We’ve been in business about 100 years. We’re in 15 states and Canada and the Virgin Islands. We’ve got about 7,000 employees, about $4 billion in annual revenue. We’ve got about 30 distribution centers across the country, and just to add it’s a highly regulated industry and it’s an industry with a lot of consolidation. Glazer’s has been on the acquisition track and growing through acquisition for a number of years.

Ken: And you guys are here speaking at the event about a BI project. Can you address the challenges in Glazers’ BI landscape that led you to look into enhance your analytic platform?

Ryan: In 2010 Glazer’s went down the journey of implementing a new ERP system, so as I mentioned there’s a lot of consolidation and we’ve been growing through acquisitions. We had a new executive leadership team at Glazer’s who realized that we needed a new ERP system to allow us to scale more effectively and efficiently. So we went down the path of implementing SAP starting in 2011. In 2012 we realized we also needed to replace our analytics platform; it was antiquated and didn’t have the ability to really mine the data that we could get out of new ERP system. So we went down the path of implementing BusinessObjects on SAP HANA.

Ken: Can you go into more of the basis for that decision?

Ram: As Ryan was mentioning, we had invested heavily in SAP, and our legacy reporting platform did not integrate well with SAPHANA. BOBJ since it was owned by SAP integrated very well with SAP HANA, and not only that but it consumes information models directly out of HANA so the performance is very optimized if you use BOBJ. We did evaluate other reporting tools and what we noticed is that other tools process data and they’re reporting slower as well, and this is something BOBJ doesn’t do and it kind of fits with our corporate strategy for a phased rollout. Those are the reason why we chose BOBJ.

Ryan: And I’ll add that our executives were also keen on us being best of breed. So they were really looking at us being on the forefront and we want to use our analytics as a competitive advantage in the marketplace. HANA, and getting that real-time view in analytics really was another decision factor for us moving down that path.

Ken: So SAP HANA as a sidecar implementation?

Ryan: Yes.

Ken: Why as a sidecar deployment?

Ram: Just the fact that at that point we were already in DB2 and we wanted to still leverage HANA as a reporting platform and S/4HANA was not there yet, so we decided to leverage HANA as a sidecar.

Ken: And you’re live now with BusinessObjects?

Ram: Yes.

Ken: And how are you using the (BusinessObjects) suite and toward what benefit?

Ram: BOBJ has an array of tools and features that not only supports visually with corporately governed dashboards, it also supports interactive reports and self-service BI so this array of tools and features we used all of them pretty much for our reporting and analytics. And as you know now more and more companies want to use data for a competitive advantage and BOBJ BI tools support that. It not only supports hindsight analytics it also supports insight as well as predictive analytics. And now with more and more innovations on the BOBJ tools like big data has come into the picture and BOBJ tools support even that and we are big on Lumira and Design Studio going forward and that’s the direction SAP is taking.

Ken: So with real-time and SAP HANA you’ve noticed a real difference in analytics between then and now?

Ram: We were never able to report real-time analytics on operational data and HANA and BOBJ is allowing us to do that, so that’s a game-changer for us. For example, out of stock or on-hand inventory for supply chain we are able to provide real-time on-hand inventory which was never possible before using these tools.

Ryan: And real-time view is very important for our business especially toward the end of the month working toward vendor goals and so forth. So our sales team’s looking at our numbers in real-time and having that real-time view is critical for us in making sure that we’re meeting sales objectives.

Ram: And even on the last day of the month we see a heavy usage of these reports because they understand where they stand at the beginning of the day and then they can increase their sales accordingly to adjust and meet their numbers.

Ken: Did you encounter any challenges as you undertook the project, and if so how did you resolve them?

Ryan: There were a number of lessons learned that we encountered and leveraged for our follow-on BI and HANA projects. One of them was from a sizing and preparation, planning perspective making sure that we have user-base, use case identified to see how it’s going to be used so we can size the HANA system, BI system accordingly up-front. Then from a requirements gathering we learned some lessons there and took some lessons from some consulting firms and we learned some new practices on how to narrow our scope and define the requirements. And then from a project methodology standpoint we went in with doing a more – we’re typically a waterfall ASAP methodology with SAP projects. With this one, BI is completely different and we took a different approach in using what we called a sprint methodology and we found that to be successful going forward. The other thing I’d add from a lesson learned is from a user adoption and user acceptance standpoint. Utilizing a strong super user community, utilizing what we call a competency center at Glazer’s and having executive sponsorship buying into it. Glazer’s is a 100-year-old company, we’ve been doing business processes pretty  much the same for a very long time and this SAP project and this new BI analytics system is a complete transformation for the way we’re doing business. So from a user acceptance standpoint it was very challenging for us from an organization change perspective and having that super user, the competency center, and executive sponsorship really helped with that adoption and us moving forward.

Ken: So everyone’s now on board? I imagine if you’re a salesman it wouldn’t take long for you to appreciate that change.

Ryan: Yes, and they’re realizing the benefits now of getting that real-time view and getting all of the data that SAP provides has really helped.

Ken: When you say sprint methodology does that just mean rapid deployment?

Ryan: What we call sprint methodology is really hybrid between a true agile and waterfall project where we still have the same phases of the project as you would in a waterfall project but we have multiple iterations around the design, development phases so allowing users to view and then we go back, change, adopt and present again. So for this initial project we had three different sprints. The first sprint we focused on making sure we had the metrics, KPIs identified and basically built out wireframes with some dummy data to make sure we had the design of the dashboards and reports correct. Our second sprint we actually did some development and built it in our QA system and presented it with some data, and our third sprint was another iteration to refine it and make sure that users were good with what the design and KPIs and output presented.

Ken: Well thank you for being here to share your SAP HANA story.

Ryan and Ram: Thanks, Ken.

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