As a producer of some of the most recognizable personal and home care brands in the world, Colgate-Palmolive is consistently exceeding the expectations of its global customer base. This statement holds just as true for the technology the company uses; it has consistently been a pilot customer for SAP applications that eventually become mainstream solutions. Colgate was a ramp-up customer testing out SAP’s functionality for speeding profitability analysis (SAP CO-PA Accelerator powered by SAP HANA) and was also an early adopter of SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse (SAP NetWeaver BW) powered by SAP HANA.
Colgate’s implementation of SAP HANA CO-PA Accelerator late in 2011 was meant as a test project as the business saw an opportunity to enhance its profitability analysis reporting and to confirm the capabilities of in-memory technology for use on larger, more strategic projects. With significant time savings on numerous brand profitability analysis processes, Colgate then decided to move its business warehouse and trade promotion management solution onto the SAP HANA platform.
To learn more, insiderPROFILES spoke with Ruben Panizza, Global IT Director for Colgate, who is responsible for the business’s data warehouse functions and whose team supported the implementation of SAP Accelerated Trade Promotion Planning powered by SAP HANA.
Q: How important is trade promotion to the business? How has it evolved at Colgate-Palmolive?
Trade promotion management (TPM) is an integral part of how our business is managed. It is critically important to make the most efficient use of our promotions to grow both our business and our customers’ business. Due to the importance this planning has to our business, we are always looking at ways to enhance our existing TPM system — what we internally refer to as Colgate Business Planning (CBP) — to enable our business users to improve the quality of how we build and analyze promotional activities. We wanted to provide near real-time capabilities in terms of planning, simulating, and creating these customer promotions. In order to achieve this, we decided to implement SAP Accelerated Trade Promotion Planning powered by SAP HANA. This solution helps us quickly provide data to our users, which benefits our planning process.
Q: Why did you implement SAP CO-PA Accelerator powered by SAP HANA as a test case for putting trade promotion on SAP HANA?
Profitability analysis was a good test case for us because of the large amounts of data and reports we amass in that area. Operational reports on profitability analysis at both the customer and product level have hundreds of different views, and the reports had to be run overnight. The first project was for our Hill’s Pet Nutrition division, and running customer and brand profitability analysis on the SAP HANA platform gave us significantly faster results. Business users were able to run reports much faster than before, from minutes to seconds, with much more comprehensive sets of data. We also proved that we could dramatically improve the performance of the reporting without business disruption, so users today are still running the same report that they used to run before. Of course, instead of reading from the traditional database, the report is read from the SAP HANA database, but nothing changed in terms of functionality or the front end, and it was very transparent for users. Based on those results, we saw the potential for SAP HANA technology to be used in other business areas — not just for reporting but also for planning, like running trade promotion on SAP HANA.
Q: Can you provide examples of specific areas in trade promotion where you could leverage SAP HANA?
We saw an opportunity to leverage SAP HANA to improve our performance in rendering our layouts within our TPM application. Depending on the size of an event or the promotion, it could take a user up to an hour or more to build an event, which involves either rendering a layout, saving the event, or posting the promotion data back into SAP NetWeaver BW. Moreover, if users were managing more than one account, building 30 or more events per year per account, this could take longer. We had users spending considerable time building and maintaining their account plans.
This was one of the key drivers for moving to SAP HANA. We saw an opportunity to improve performance of our planning layouts. The goal we had set together with SAP was to realize a 35%-40% improvement in this area. In some cases though, we were able to cut the rendering time in half or greater, depending on the size of the promotion. For some larger promotions, we cut the rendering time by up to 60%. During testing, one user said that a single task that had taken the better part of a day now could be completed in just one hour, which is a significant improvement. In addition, there was a desire to create a more user-friendly interface, hence the move toward SAP Accelerated Trade Promotion Planning powered by SAP HANA. This application delivers the same look and feel as Microsoft Excel, which is the preferred interface for many users, with the performance expected by our users. Therefore, in addition to better performance, we introduced an improvement in productivity by providing the ability to create and save multiple promotions in Excel — not event-by-event like they had previously.
Q: What steps did you take to integrate the new technology with your existing on-premise infrastructure?
We had a combination of on-premise and remote support for the SAP HANA implementation from the very beginning of the SAP CO-PA Accelerator powered by SAP HANA project, including excellent support from the SAP development team, which assisted us with getting the trade promotion testing in place to ensure that it could handle the volume of users we planned to have.
Before fully migrating our internal CBP application onto SAP HANA, we ran tests on both the CBP application and SAP Accelerated Trade Promotion Planning powered by SAP HANA. We found that the SAP application was getting better results, so we then put some of the same changes into the CBP application to get the same level of performance. The challenge we faced was getting the same stability within the SAP HANA environment and tuning SAP HANA to get the best performance out of the system. Because we were one of the very first customers and SAP was continually making improvements to SAP HANA, we had to implement a lot of revisions. So other customers implementing the solution today will likely have an even easier implementation than we did.
Q: What are some of the benefits that running trade promotion planning on SAP HANA has brought to the business?
SAP Accelerated Trade Promotion Planning powered by SAP HANA has been very important in optimizing promotion activities for our customers. End users can quickly and efficiently plan and execute their promotional activities within a simple and familiar user interface. It enables them to obtain the level of details required to effectively analyze the business without system speed being a barrier. Now, with SAP HANA, users can see the impact of the event changes to their overall account plan or commercial goals within the same day.
The overall benefit that running trade promotion planning on SAP HANA has brought to the business is that our users are spending less time building plans and therefore can spend more time analyzing their plans to identify opportunities and interacting with their customers. The increased speed of the system will help users plan better promotions that, in turn, will benefit our customers by creating events that maximize business value.
Q: Do you foresee additional business use cases for SAP HANA?
Yes. In fact, we have a big SAP HANA project planned for our SAP NetWeaver BW environment this year. Today, we have two instances of SAP NetWeaver BW. One is the enterprise data warehouse in which we process transactional systems data loads and transformation, then copy it into our SAP NetWeaver BW enterprise reporting system where most of our 6,000 users go every day for reporting and analysis. With our recent SAP NetWeaver BW upgrade and SAP NetWeaver BW Accelerator implementation, putting SAP HANA on our BW environment wasn’t the top priority last year. However, a clear business case is to combine the two SAP NetWeaver BW systems and have the data loads and transformation in the same BW system due to the performance improvement on those data loads and updates. With everything in one system, it will simplify our environment and give us the opportunity to access information at very detailed levels in cases where that is required.