Q: There’s some confusion in the market about where the SAP HANA platform ends and where SAP HANA applications begin. Can you clarify?
A: One of the early SAP HANA use cases was to act as a real-time, in-memory database to dramatically accelerate analytics and business reporting. SAP HANA has evolved rapidly from this early start. Not only have we expanded the database services by adding advanced predictive, text, and geospatial analytic capabilities, but we’ve also extended SAP HANA to include an application server as well as a planning and calculation engine, a rules engine, and business function libraries. By pushing these technology components from the application layer down into the in-memory database layer, SAP HANA has opened the door to a new breed of applications that were not possible in the past. In effect, SAP HANA today is a real-time data platform as well as an application foundation on top of which next-generation applications can be developed and deployed.
Q: What is driving the adoption of these applications in the market?
A: The recent explosion of data along with new advances in mobile and cloud technologies has opened up new opportunities for businesses to derive new meaning from this data that, in the recent past, was considered out of reach because of cost or technology restrictions. Having experienced the real-time performance of SAP HANA in accelerating their business analytics and reporting and the impact it had on their business, our customers challenged us to push SAP HANA even further by developing new, innovative applications to run on the platform. This new class of applications brings together these technology advances to empower companies with the tools they need to prepare for tomorrow’s new business challenges.
Q: Of course, technology is most useful in the hands of users. What are some of the use cases that SAP had in mind when developing these apps?
A: We focused on scenarios for which SAP HANA can bring strong business impact, such as enabling personalized customer engagement, improving businesses’ agility and planning, and proactively managing risk. One of these use cases was enabling intelligent customer engagement because of the direct impact that could have on a company’s top and bottom lines. Applications such as SAP Customer Value Intelligence and SAP Audience Discovery and Targeting help companies build a more detailed understanding of their customer base for more intelligent, personalized engagement. For example, they could run high-precision marketing campaigns on large customer populations, identify strategic cross-selling and up-selling opportunities, and leverage internal and external unstructured data to reach influencers and decision makers.
We also focused on the capabilities enterprises need to sense external signals that require instant response in a tight and predictable timeframe. In September 2013, we announced the general availability of SAP Demand Signal Management, an application that allows manufacturers and consumer product companies to instantly capture, cleanse, and analyze downstream point-of-sale data as well as market research and sentiment data in near real time so they can reduce stock outs, develop more effective trade promotions, and optimize new product launches.
We also saw an opportunity with SAP HANA to help our customers develop more proactive risk management strategies. Applications such as SAP Access Control Role Analytics help customers efficiently monitor and analyze hundreds of thousands of user roles across their organizations, allowing them to quickly identify and decommission unused ones and trigger audits preventing access risk violations and reducing compliance costs. Other applications such as SAP Fraud Management leverage SAP HANA’s ability to run fast simulations on large amounts of transactional data to help fraud investigators in the insurance industry and public sector reduce the number of false-positive alerts so they can quickly identify cases that have a higher risk of being fraudulent.
Another category of focus is enabling smart business planning and business agility. Applications in this category such as SAP Sales and Operations Planning and SAP Accelerated Trade Promotion Planning aggregate large amounts of disparate operational data from across the organization and drive faster, more accurate business planning. SAP HANA’s ability to accelerate internal corporate planning cycles enables companies to quickly iterate on their plans, simulate results, and readjust to reach better business decisions.
Q: How do customers deploy these applications? Will they need to replace their existing databases?
A: Our goal is to offer our customers choice among deployment options. Customers that want to run their entire business end to end in real time can choose to replace their legacy database and migrate their SAP Business Suite applications to run on SAP HANA. In this case, these new applications are readily available for them to deploy. We also offer customers the choice to deploy these applications while keeping their existing databases and enterprise applications completely intact. We refer to this as the “sidecar” deployment approach, in which relevant data is copied out of the original database and into SAP HANA using any number of extract, transform, and load (ETL) tools that are supported by SAP HANA. The application is then deployed on top of the SAP HANA instance that hosts the data copy.
Q: Are these applications part of SAP Business Suite powered by SAP HANA? Are there any overlaps?
A: There is no overlap. SAP Business Suite powered by SAP HANA allows customers to run mission-critical business processes in real time, allowing them, for example, to eliminate batch processing from their material requirements planning (MRP) and accelerate their financial close. SAP HANA applications provide new and complementary use cases to these mission-critical processes without any dependency, meaning that customers don’t need to be running SAP Business Suite powered by SAP HANA to deploy these applications. In fact, there are SAP HANA applications that don’t require any sort of SAP footprint. Customers that have already migrated to SAP Business Suite powered by SAP HANA can drive even more benefits from these applications by leveraging the out-of-the-box integration that they have with the various SAP Business Suite components.
Q: The list of SAP HANA applications is already fairly broad. How broad will it get?
A: It will only get broader. Our goal is to push the SAP HANA technology to its limits so we can offer our customers the broadest choice of new use cases possible. Not only are we developing applications on the enterprise side, but also on the consumer side so our customers can deliver new and exciting experiences to their own customers. We have also expanded the SAP HANA ecosystem, opening the door to partners, independent software vendors, and start-ups to bring in their own use cases and applications to run on SAP HANA and offer them to customers through the SAP HANA Marketplace.
Q: Can you give a few examples of how customers are using these applications?
A: Each year, Europe’s leading home shopping retailer ships out over 11.5 million parcels to its more than 1.5 million customers. The company realized that some of its customers engaged in “choice shopping” — ordering an item in different sizes or colors only to keep one and return the rest. This behavior has a negative financial impact on retailers because they often bear the return costs. The company leveraged the SAP Audience Discovery and Targeting application to identify these customers so they can better target them with campaigns, programs, and incentives that can reduce such behavior. The company estimated that decreasing its return rates by 1% can lead to millions of euros in savings. Another example is a large consumer products company that is using these applications to enhance its business planning and decision making. In the past, the company’s business users had to extract invoice and goods receipt data from multiple data tables into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and then manually identify mismatches in quantities and prices. Today, with the SAP Invoice and Goods Receipts Reconciliation application, the company can instantly detect these mismatches, helping it avoid unnecessary payments to vendors, accelerate its financial close, and drive more collaboration between accounting and procurement teams.
Another consumer products company uses the SAP Accelerated Trade Promotion Planning application to better plan their promotional activities. Depending on the size of the event, it used to take the company’s users up to an hour to build a trade promotion. For users managing more than one account, building 30 or more events per year per account, this can be very time consuming and counterproductive. Today, they are able to significantly reduce this planning time, cutting it in half for certain events. The overall business benefit is that users spend less time building plans and more time perfecting and analyzing their plans and interacting with their customers.
For more use cases and customer examples, see “A Holistic Guide for Your SAP HANA Journey” at HANAmagazine.com.
For more information about these applications, visit both www.saphana.com/community/learn/solutions/enterprise-applications and www.saphana.com/community/marketplace.