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SAP HANA: Building a Business Case

by Ken Murphy, Editorial Director, Data & Analytics

October 18, 2013


In this podcast, Ken Murphy of SAPinsider speaks with consultants and SAP customers about their experiences with building a business case for SAP HANA. Executives from fleet management firm ARI and medical device company Medtronic share insights into SAP HANA from a customer perspective, while Nicola Bianzino of Accenture and Karthik Palanisamy of Grom shed some light on how building a business case for SAP HANA differs from the traditional approach.


Ken Murphy: Hello, this is Ken Murphy with SAPinsider. In the two-plus years since SAP HANA’s general release as a standalone analytic appliance, SAP has expanded HANA’s capabilities. First, it was a high-performance database under SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse (SAP NetWeaver BW). Now, it is able to power the entire SAP Business Suite, and other targeted solutions. From the start, SAP has positioned and marketed SAP HANA as an innovative solution that can enable instant insight across the broadest of businesses, which is considerably different than many traditional IT solutions, which are intended to address a single initiative. How, then, does this also make building a business case for SAP HANA different? To answer this question, we spoke with a few consultants and SAP HANA customers, who shared with us what they’ve discovered, either in conversations with clients or from their own experience.

Nicola Bianzino is responsible for analytics and SAP HANA at Accenture

Nicola Bianzino: It’s a business transformation enabler for an organization. So the traditional approach of basing a business case on the technology prowess of a specific technology offering doesn’t really apply to HANA. HANA is about the art of the possible and needs a lot of investment from the business organization to be successful.

Ken: Echoing this thought is fleet management firm ARI. Based in New Jersey, ARI is the world’s largest privately held fleet management services company, managing roughly 1 million vehicles for a diverse client base. ARI implemented HANA as an analytic appliance in 2011 to gather and drive greater actionable intelligence for itself and its customers. Bob White is the company’s Senior VP of Client and Fleet Services. He says that building the business case for HANA depends on how you plan to leverage the technology.

Bob White: It’ shard to limit what the business case is here, it’s really deciding on what part of the business case you want to focus on to make the sale.

Ken: ARI had difficulty providing its customers with insights into transactional data and the company viewed SAP HANA as having the potential to make an impact across all lines of business. Within this context, the traditional IT-led Band-Aid method of trying to address the problem wasn’t sustainable. Here’s White.

White: At the end of the day in terms of the business case, time is money. And the beauty of in-memory technology is the speed at which it can deliver results and queries. So the demands were increasing and we were growing in size, the only way we could keep up with the growing demand at the old pace was to add more resources. So we kept going at it with a sledgehammer and throwing more resources at it in order to meet the need.

Ken: Like ARI, Medtronic – a medical devices manufacturing company based in Minnesota – also encountered reporting issues with a rapidly growing volume of customer data, and deployed SAP HANA as an analytic appliance to address the problem. As an early adopter, Medtronic’s initial business case for SAP HANA was somewhat unique in that there really wasn’t a baseline to follow. However, by isolating on the core business need of improved customer data reporting, Medtronic started on a crawl-walk-run HANA journey, and was then able to more easily make a business case for the technology with extensive in-house support from SAP. Steve Teichman is the IT Director for Business Intelligence at Medtronic. We asked him how important it was to have isolated a specific business process for SAP HANA to pave the way for eventual deployment.

Steve Teichman: It was very important. We knew that getting executives involved from all of the vendors that we needed to depend on was important so having our use case already figured out in what we were trying to do was really instrumental in getting the right engagement. I think that when you’re on the leading edge or the bleeding edge of technology you need to recognize that’s where you are and then make sure that you have everybody lined up that you need to in order to make sure that you’re successful and that they have a stake in making sure that you’re successful as well.

Ken: In the case of both ARI and Medtronic, the crawl-walk-run approach was undertaken with the underlying assumption that success would likely lead to SAP HANA being used to tackle other areas of operations. This is one of the key differentiators of SAP HANA, according to Karthik Palanisamy, the Senior Managing Director for Analytics at Grom.

Karthik Palanisamy: Putting in HANA, saying that this is going to be a platform in the long-term, and we are going to leverage synergies from multiple areas to bring that to bear in one place. The true, full potential is only leveraged if it is looked at in a more long-term and more holistic way.

Ken: Palinisamy adds that the emerging technologies that are driving rapid innovation in enterprise are in and of themselves helping to make a business case for SAP HANA. At the very least, they’re making it easy to look at SAP HANA from that strategic viewpoint.

Palanisamy: I think it really starts getting closer to the buzzwords we hear in the industry. For example, self-service, Big Data, mobilizing analytics. I think in the past, companies have tried to do it internally and tried to get to that state, but I think HANA truly is a platform that actually enables you to get to that level.

Ken: But what if, unlike ARI or Medtronic, an organization has a harder time isolating a business process it wants SAP HANA to address? Bianzino calls this an “abundance problem” in that SAP HANA does offer different options that can drive value.

Bianzino: There isn’t really like a universal formula on how to choose what is the best way of starting with HANA. So it’s very much a conversation that has to take into account the different factors. When I talk to clients, what I advise are two things. Pragmatism, meaning focusing on starting with something you can manage both in terms of scope as well as speed to value. So there is a lot to learn for all of us in the technology domain, and there are infinite possibilities. So we need to start with the success, we need to learn inside an organization how to manage it. And in relation to the speed to value part, it’s very important that an organization focus on trying to drive as fast as possible the business outcomes. When I talk to clients I always say, “You need to have an open mind about HANA” meaning in terms of how you’re going to use it. There are many, many different opportunities. So you have to consider things at a different level.

Ken: To whittle down possible use cases to help focus the building of a business case, Palanisamy suggests finding common ground across an organization.

Palanisamy: First, you need to look at is what is the need across the board, or what are the different gaps we have in our organization? And then see what solution can bring synergies, or what technology can bring synergies and bring solutions out to the business. Don’t look at HANA being the Nirvana state solution or technology, but you also have some change management and growth, so grow slowly and follow the progression. As HANA matures and can start leveraging more solutions, then that’s how you build your pipeline. So I think that is key to building a business case.

Ken: Results, too, help build that pipeline for additional deployments. ARI first explored SAP HANA after building a business case for SAP BusinessObjects Explorer to improve its business intelligence platform. Bill Powell, ARI’s Director of Information Services, explains ARI’s transition to building a business case for SAP HANA.

Bill Powell: Once we had some experience with SAP (BusinessObjects) Explorer with a select group of our customers, the feedback was overwhelming; it was in the right direction we wanted to go. We wanted to empower our customers, and give them the ability to analyze their own information. We were able to do that very tactically in a more of a siloed base, so each customer could analyze their own information. Then we took a step back and looked at our strategy and determined that we would also like to use this internally to look at all of our customers and compare and contrast our rail customers vs. our oil and gas vs. our pharma, and so on and so forth. The amount of data and the volume of information got us down the road toward HANA.

Ken: This speaks toward the idea of looking at SAP HANA as a long-term strategic solution. Bianzino says that a failure to do this could lead an organization to adopt SAP HANA yet still stifle what he calls, “the art of the possible.”

Bianzino: If you focus a HANA implementation on making one single process faster than you had it implemented in the past, you definitely achieve very important benefits, but then you’ve missed the opportunity of extending the process at the enterprise level and understand the connection of that process with other processes of the enterprise.

Ken: ARI recognized from the start that speed wasn’t the sole benefit of SAP HANA, or even the most important. Here’s Bob White.

White: It was interesting for us, because it was really two-fold. One, it was higher than just simply a business case; there was a product shortcoming, or a customer delivery shortcoming that we had to address. The demand to access and leverage the data that we stored and warehoused, and not only to deliver to our customers but to do meaningful analysis of it and to deliver to them not just data but information, actionable decision-able information. The demands were growing, and the demands were becoming  more urgent, so we had an issue that we needed to solve from a core business delivery standpoint. The other side of the house, we do a lot of transactions. We manage a lot of transactions, a lot of volume and a significant number of resources and a significant percentage of our overhead costs are dedicated to managing high-volume transactions. Those transactions also require our internal resources to access and leverage the data to make appropriate decisions when managing those transactions. So we were able to build business cases around leveraging that data and speeding the time of the transactions and therefore getting more through-put to our existing resources and the cost structures that we had. So we really had the ability to do both. To use it and embed the technology in our internal systems to create efficiencies and cost savings to create a business case, but it also allowed us to leverage the technology to meet a core product demand from our customer base. So it really fit well with where we were at that time.

Ken: And, says White’s colleague Bill Powell, with no signs of slowing down.

Powell: It’s exciting, the business demand is higher than ever. There certainly isn’t any slowdown in the pipeline so to speak, in terms of the amount of requests to, “Hey, can you move this information to HANA?” “Can we get access to it via HANA?” And again I want to stress, it’s just not about just using HANA, but it’s about the products and services you can put on top of HANA, and how you leverage that to provide business value.

Ken: Again, this is Ken Murphy with SAPinsider, and you’ve been listening to an exclusive SAPinsider Online podcast on building a business case for SAP HANA.




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