During the week in Madrid there was a lot of activity centered on SAP HANA and Mobility which I guess was to be expected. However, one thing which was apparent to me was there were a lot of stands demonstrating faster ways of producing reports and processing and visualization of information which is okay but not ground breaking. For me there is still a long journey for businesses to really begin to get real business value from their future deployment of SAP HANA and Mobile to make real stepped business changes. The need to push and foster top down innovation within organisations will be key to driving future wealth creation for business with SAP HANA and SAP Mobility platforms. It's clear that companies who are beginning to turn their target operating models from inward facing to outward facing ensuring that their services and underpinning technology touch all they do business with will be the winners.
The real standout for me was the Kingfisher Group COO presentation during Vishal's wrap up keynote session. It was one of the most relevant and insightful discussions that week on the business application of SAP technology. The ability to make massive time and financial saving by extending Kingfishers enterprise right to the heart of their vendor communities to allow for better internal access to consolidated demand and sales forecasting to internal sourcing teams but also to provision this information in real time via dashboards to vendors was delivering tangible benefit.
Also, the ability to provide analytics capability across this value chain is reaping massive rewards and all demonstrated in 7 weeks through an extreme agile approach. That was quite impressive. As a strategy is absolutely will deliver transformational change and benefit for this fascinating organisation over the coming years and is a leaf to be taken from the books of Kingfishers business strategy by turning its operating models inside out and rapidly by embracing business and cultural change by adopting agility to deliver rapid results.
Managing your assets more efficiently
I also took some time out to sit through Belgium Rail's presentation on its deployment of SAP Extended Enterprise Content Management, a core component of SAP's EIM strategy and product suite offering used to bring together all semi and unstructured asset documentation with structured asset related information held in SAP ECC 6.0.
The standout aspect here for me was the seamless integration between SAP ECC 6.0 Assets Object Hierarchy with the Asset documentation including CAD Drawings, Q&A manuals and Product Description manuals specific to an Asset. All this accessed through a single Asset Hierarchy through the SAP Web UI was clearly delivering significant financial benefit to Belgium rail.
I often wonder why clients have a morass of solutions such as MS SharePoint, IBM Lotus Notes, EMC, File Shares and various portals when a single SAP solution is out there capable of managing all enterprise information! To me this is a no brainer for many businesses with SAP Core Front or Back office. The ability to consolidate and provide true transparency of all your Enterprise Information Assets through a single SAP solution can deliver real tangible savings when implemented with benefits and outcomes positioned at the core of the delivery agenda.
SAP HANA everything, everywhere
One thing I took away from some of the TechED sessions was the use of SAP HANA specifically ICM XS Engine and IndexServer as a complete application development environment with client UI adoption of OData and HTML5. This openly discussed as a complete development environment for business applications. This for SAP core ERP back office not just the SAP BI / SAP BPC / SAP CRM space but also used to develop completely new applications which may not actually directly interact with SAP. Reinforcing the future position that anything and everything will ultimately be SAP HANA centric. There will I have no doubt be a tipping point (sooner than we think) where the move to SAP HANA based technology will no longer be an option for businesses to consider. My take away from this is that organisations can no longer ignore the SAP HANA effect; it is coming so start preparing!
SAP personas, could this provide a new trend retail experience?
One thing which was also high on the agenda throughout the sessions at was SAP's focus on UX, as businesses extend their reach to consumers and suppliers who expect user interface flexibility. As we all know flexibility on UI enhances user uptake right. As business operating models are turned more outside from the inside the UX aspects of the SAP platform will evolve to meet the demands of ever information hungry consumers.
Some really cool presentations and demonstrations in terms of how the user can customize their own individual interaction screens with SAP transactional solutions screens were presented. The ability to completely separate the UI layer from the transactional solution was pretty awesome. One thing that I was itching to ask was how does this impact on training and support with such a flexible set of GUI front end customization.
The SAP response was well the IT departments have a 'slide bar' which controls the amount of customization which can be made by the end user. I think the ability to co-innovate with clients around the screen personas capability is a game changer for businesses whom suffer poor user adoption.
Imagine customers being able to walk into say a Vodafone shop, log into a terminal, browse SKU's, order, pick and collect their phone and finally print out their contracts without needs to rely on the shop assistant because the UI is simple and not SAP centric without Vodafone needing a separate application. With of course the usual disclaimers!
Enterprise Information Management is growing up
I was really pleased to see a massive push on SAP Enterprise Information Management (EIM) through the EIM track.. SAP is really pushing hard on establishing a consistent approach with SAP EIM messaging across its product portfolio, often a point criticized by analysts. To be consistent in its view of how to manage the entire information lifecycle effectively and efficiently across the enterprise information value chain. It is clear that Master Data services are rapidly evolving and that this SAP EIM platform is the main approach through the use of MDG and MDM to create a standard and consistent view of master and transactional data across the enterprise linked to unstructured by design rather than accident. A real opportunity for businesses with challenges particularly around master data catalogue information could well reap significant benefits by exploiting this integrated capability.
There is clear push to maturing out the products in the SAP EIM stable through tighter integration. The ability to provide an excellent platform to bring structured and unstructured information into SAP HANA using Data Services with the use of SAP Information Steward to improve the quality and finally and most importantly to provide effective Information Governance.
One thing I found very cool was the ability to build semantic models for all information across the enterprise, the ability to build standard business focused taxonomy capable of re-use across all line of business application…and even cooler, the ability to build business glossaries for business terms across the enterprise.
Great insight but what about Supply Chain?
One thing that came out of some of the presentations was the increasing capabilities of SAP Master Data services and those on the next release roadmap. The ability to use SAP HANA to pull in massive amounts of customer related information through the various SAP EIM modules. This provides a stepped change in how businesses segment their customer base, therefore supporting the needs of the Marketer whilst increasing data quality as shown in one of the presentation slides has shown opposite.
I was constantly fascinated by several presentations on customer insight - the ability to bring in massive amounts of twitter and social media feeds into SAP HANA or to use OEM services such as Netbase as a filter to extract customer sentiment from into SAP HANA. So, this is just sentiment and we all know this is not binary and in many cases not even accurate.
I found myself on several occasions asking the "so what?" question through some of the presentations. Just exactly what is the value of all this information acquisition, surely it's more than gaining greater customer insight or that 360 degree customer view?
After sitting through another presentation which flashed up the slide opposite my juices really started flowing an "aha" moment.
So what would be the net effect of using SAP HANA platform, SAP Data Services and Information Steward to better support business supply chain in real time? Get it?
So, if you start to think about this further… if you sucked in weather, traffic, vendor information, fuel pricing (current and future), commodity / raw material pricing into the mix leveraging all the varied Web 2.0 services available there is a huge amount of business value you could bring to the supply chain. I then started talking to people I met about this as I made my way through the various presentation and I formed a view which said that this was one of the killer use cases for business out there. There will be many others but the key take way from "Aha" moment is that SAP HANA and EIM will be a game changer.
Mind blowing customer interaction through a utility bill
I sat through a presentation of SAP Document Presentment. I used to think that Adobe forms was the way to interact with customers in terms of rich document delivery such as the dreaded utility bills! Not anymore. The SAP Document Presentation application was immense in the way in which you could use SAP Document presentment to tailor 'on the fly' a utility bill based upon the 1-2-1 segmentation characteristics of the customer. If they were of a certain age - increase the font. If they were on particular tariff - deliver ads and suggestions automatically into the bill to offer up potential better value options - or cross sell specific services. The ability to command this granular level of intimacy with customer bills was pretty awesome to see demonstrated.
The key point being that all this capability was built using tools which, if you were familiar with PowerPoint, you could easily build solutions without the need for hardcore technical skills. The other aspect I thought was quite useful was the fact that one template could be used instead of dozens!
Apache Hadoop blended with SAP HANA - an interesting cup of tea
I went to several demonstrations and presentation to see where SAP is going with Apache Hadoop and asked a few questions for my clarity. SAP is adopting a similar approach to that of IBM with Infosphere BigInsights. To provide increasingly comprehensive user interfaces (as native out of the Box Hadoop is developer hungry) to Apache Hadoop through SAP Data Services and SAP HANA.
The real business case for Apache Hadoop is where you want to analyze slower velocity big volume data such as web logs in an affordable manner for example as part of web customer insight programme. The cost entry point for SAP HANA means that the storage and processing of large volumes of semi-unstructured information such as web logs should be pushed down into Apache Hadoop for processing as it is more affordable.
One thing that I picked up from one of the presentation was that as part of a client engagement it's not only important to look at SAP HANA in context of real time analytics but that due care and consideration should be given to ascertain the Velocity, Volume and Variety of the clients information. This discovery used to determine the optimum processing technology to use. If you don't do this then you may well find that you deliver less value by using SAP HANA when you could use Hadoop instead at significantly reduced cost. For me the above slide demonstrated this view very well indeed.
So my take away from this was that as part of any SAP HANA POC or implementation careful consideration should be given not only to when to use SAP HANA but also when to use integrated tools such as Apache Hadoop as you could end up with a very expensive outcome.
I also took the opportunity, outside and inside Irish Bars and Samba bars : in Madrid to talk to a number of people (many strangers) and the general business sentiment was as follows.
"It's really tough out there in the business world but we really need to accept that and move on with the things which we know are going to support future wealth creation next year".
"Were all fairly jaded with the depressed environment but we must carry on as frankly were tired of constant inertia".
"We can move on things which have a good business case behind it".
I picked up a number of things which I hope to see more of in the coming year. I sensed that although people are cautious that sentiment is changing in the business community starting to move on the things which will make a difference. It cannot get any worse therefore if we have the cash (and many do because they have not been spending it) let's get on with things next year. When things really start to pick up this will put us in an even stronger position.