SAP TechEd Las Vegas 2016, Day Two - focusing on the customer

23 September 2016

Elliott Bajema

Elliott Bajema

Senior HANA Consultant

Following on from his report on day one of SAP TechEd Las Vegas 2016, Elliott is back with a roundup of the key events from day two. This time, the focus is on SAP BW/4HANA and real customer stories.

It’s the morning of the second day and it’s a big one for Bluefin. Our client will soon be up on stage in the customer keynote discussing the SAP BW/4HANA Proof of Concept (PoC) we have just finished. I’m lucky enough to have a front row seat to the proceedings.


The customer keynote is a drastic contrast to yesterday – there are no smoke and mirrors this time (seems all the marketing budget was blown on that DeLorean!). Irfan Khan, CTO of SAP Global Customer Operations, is straight-talking with a sharp focus on the business. The theme of the day is running faster, simpler and smarter with SAP, highlighting this with examples of real customers and how their digital journey is unfolding.

Irfan starts with some context of how we got to where we are now. It’s a sincere appraisal and one particular passage stood out to me:

When SAP introduced HANA five years ago, we didn’t have all the answers. But what we did have was a very elegant design and a kernel that was put together with some very basic capabilities… and it has simplified the architecture of IT. That in itself has provoked an entire industry into responding.

He continues to consider SAP's move to big data and the cloud. First, he explains how SAP's heritage of BW Data Warehousing naturally leads to BW/4HANA, extending the native capabilities of HANA into a guided approach to Data Warehousing. With SAP's cloud-first strategy, he then considers Business Objects Cloud, positioned as the frontend tool du jour for BI, Planning and Predictive. Rounding off, he mentions the HANA Express Edition, which is causing considerable excitement in the developer community with the promise of running HANA on a laptop, an ideal stepping stone for prototyping and learning to build for the new platform. 

Sticking to his promise of keeping it real, he points out “None of this is of any value if you don’t have customers implementing.” Now it’s time for some real customers to tell us how it really is…

First onto the stage is Brian Connors, Vice President of Strategic Technologies at Lenovo, a long-term partner of SAP, talking about the process they went through in simplifying their architecture using HANA and other technologies.

Steven Bernstein, SVP Digital from Epsilon is up next, and talks about their integrations and use of the HANA Cloud Platform.

Then our client Mary McLemore, Manager of Business Analytics at Noble Drilling, takes the stage to talk about the lessons learned through the BW/4HANA proof of concept we had run with them and AWS.

SOURCE: SAP. Mary McLemore, Manager of Business Analytics at Noble Drilling & Irfan Khan, CTO of SAP Global Customer Operations

The PoC was all about matching up Noble’s business needs with the advertised benefits of BW/4HANA –  namely: performance, flexibility, simplicity of modelling, and the ability to handle complex scenarios. To echo the results here:

  • Performance: The most uncontroversial benefit of being on HANA at all was the simplest to prove out. We took one particular inventory report which used to take 35 seconds on data for just a single oil rig. Now it takes only one second to run across Noble’s entire fleet.
  • Flexibility: BW objects can also be exposed as HANA Calculation Views. There are a variety of approaches to exposing this data via front-end tools to business users. We used SAP BusinessObjects Lumira to demonstrate the power of accessing underlying data objects.
  • Simplicity of Modelling: A great benefit of BW/4HANA is the simplified object set. There are only four object types: InfoObjects, ADSOs, Composite Providers and Open ODS Views. There’s no longer any need for persisted data in a lot of cases, and the technical constraints (most notably around performance) are gone.
  • Complex Scenarios: Previously, historical inventory snapshots were being obtained using an Analysis Process populating a direct update DSO and persisting it. On BW/4HANA, using an Inventory-type ADSO and a query with non-cumulative key figures, we demonstrated the ability to efficiently reconstruct inventory snapshots on the fly. 

We were able to get a quick turnaround on these results thanks to some great support by AWS; the 2TB X1 instance we used was up and running in Amazon's cloud in only a couple of hours.

Irfan wraps up by showing a video of the innovations ConAgra Foods has been embracing in SAP Business Objects Cloud to improve its SG&A Expense Management.

All in all, it’s a great showcase of SAP’s intended components for the future. The reception was very positive and there’s relief from our team that the big event has been a success.

But the day is just getting started…The showroom floor is fully up and running. Now it’s buzzing with people chatting, learning and wandering between displays.


Taking some time to browse the stands myself, I bump into the team behind the SAP HANA Academy series of YouTube videos. Anybody who, like me, spent countless hours watching these videos will recognize the voice of Tahir Hussain Babar, well known to all for his repeated opening line, “My name’s Bob”. 

As if further proof were needed that the SAP world is small, it turns out that we were born in the same hospital. We have a great conversation and it turns out the team are looking for content for a BW/4HANA series. Could be something in the works there…

Back at our booth with Lenovo we talk IoT, HANA, S/4, B/4, migrations, services and partnerships with anyone and everyone who stops by.

Eventually it hits 5 o’clock and the beverage stand suddenly becomes the most popular place on the whole floor as people start to relax and let their hair down. The day finishes up with a string of great partner events to attend, hosted by Lenovo, Virtustream and EMC. The atmosphere is buzzing and we’re keen to meet as many people as possible, but eventually we feel the toll of a long day being constantly ‘on’ and turn in for the night.

It’s been a pretty productive day here in Las Vegas.


About the author

Elliott Bajema

Senior HANA Consultant

Problems, and solving them, are a passion for Elliott, especially complicated data problems.

Elliott focuses on collaborating with clients to help them get the most out of their data, within their SAP landscape. Broadly speaking, this can involve making project management easier, facilitating financial planning, improving ease of access to existing information, and performing on-demand analysis and visualisations.

Elliott has undertaken a wide range of roles from demos and pre-sales work, front-line project build, dataflow design and modelling, through to training users and support teams for handover.  Having started out specialising in SAP BW, before  working with SAP BPC in the Oil and Gas industry his primary focus is now SAP HANA.  Producing cutting-edge results for clients on next-generation platforms.

Bluefin and SAP S/4HANA - welcome to the one horse race

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