Has the ASUG survey on SAP HANA been misinterpreted?

18 August 2014

James Appleby

James Appleby

Former Group Chief Executive

I’m currently in the US, having just come out of a meeting with the CIO of a major global corporation. We reviewed the SAP BW on HANA (BWoH) migration that we recently completed on their 10TB BW system, and discussed the next phase of their SAP HANA journey.

I was comparing and contrasting that conversation with the recent survey from the American SAP User Group (ASUG) - ASUG Member Survey Reveals Successes, Challenges of SAP HANA Adoption - which is a well done piece of research with some interesting findings. To access the full report (worth doing) you’ll need to be an ASUG member. It’s also worth reading the response from SAP’s Steve Lucas.

The report has been widely picked up and commented on, and not always accurately, so I thought it worth highlighting some of the key points and myths created and giving my view. For context, I have no information on the report that isn’t already written in it, although one of my team was heavily involved in getting the survey started.

SAP HANA take-up is slow

Let’s be clear, the report doesn’t say this. It says that “40 percent of respondents have purchased HANA”, and quotes SAP’s comment that more than 3600 customers have bought SAP HANA – it’s up to you if you think this is a lot or not. The main thrust of the report is to understand:

  • Of the 40% who have purchased it, what they have done, or are going to do, with it
  • Why 55% of customers haven’t purchased it (I guess the other 5% weren’t sure)

It also mentions that a lot of customers haven’t bought HANA, but this isn’t a surprise. SMEs will not buy it until they put their entire estate, including ECC and BI, onto a single HANA system; and that will only happen with business transformation. To me, what’s more important is that a large number of SAP’s key customers have purchased it – I’d be really interested in that statistic. My guess is that it’s a pretty high percentage, but that HANA is only being lightly used in most.

All I can say is this: SAP HANA is already forming a large part of my business and the majority of new clients are using HANA. Whilst we are still early on in the HANA lifecycle, take up is strong. Right now it feels reminiscent of SAP BW in 2001 – fast forward to today and pretty much every large enterprise that has SAP ECC uses BW.

Customers are starting with SAP BW on HANA

65%, according to the report. This is certainly my experience, although I would say that in the large enterprise sector that we work in, it is a much higher proportion when it comes to what our clients are actually doing. This is partly because many SAP BW systems have been around for more than ten years and need some love, partly because performance isn’t always BW’s strongest suit (particularly if badly implemented), and partly because of advice from people like us (see next point).

Starting with SAP BW on HANA is a bad thing

There is a view that this is a bad thing because it’s like turbocharging a data warehouse, so not very revolutionary. I disagree. It often makes sense for organisations to start with BW for a number of reasons:

  • Starting with SAP BW on HANA allows organisations to get comfortable with HANA in a low risk way. It’s a well-trodden track and the customer I just met with went live in ten weeks on one of the largest databases in the world to date, and with virtually no issues. The customer will gain experience, comfort, and an understanding of how SAP HANA simplifies its support organisation, and enables it to build new SAP BW applications faster and with more agility
  • BW is often a pain point for different reasons, and HANA solves a number of those pain points pretty easily. We have a lot of experience and Intellectual Property, so it’s low risk with a quick win. That’s always a good thing for driving future adoption
  • This first step in the journey has always highlighted significant benefits. These vary by client. I agree that they aren’t necessarily transformational, but they have been really important. The client I was just with can identify the root cause of a delivery issue much more effectively; to paraphrase a user: “wow, that used to take me two days to work out, now I can do it in less than a minute. That is a fantastic win for customer service”. (OK, I paraphrased quite a bit, but that was the essence of what she said). We’ve seen all sorts of benefits, but they really do vary quite significantly by client, and that is where what we do for a living comes in. Consulting has its value as you can’t template things!
  • SAP BW on HANA provides a platform for trying out some more exciting projects. The client I was just with is also looking at a change in business model which would require it to be able to perform real-time inventory reporting. I won’t go into why, but it is a genuine need. SAP HANA will enable this, but quite possibly not by using BW. We may well build a proof of value on it; it won’t take long to do, and the SAP BW on HANA sandbox can be used to do everything on HANA, not just BW.

Customers aren’t implementing SANA HANA because there isn’t a business case

Again, the report doesn’t say this. It says that they have not yet built a business case – there is an important difference. Many of our clients aren’t yet ready for HANA for a number of reasons, many of which boil down to the fact that they have a clear roadmap of what they need to do right now, and it is focused on “fixing the basics”. For this reason, we haven’t started looking at SAP HANA with them yet. We will eventually.

It is a relatively small number of organisations that have tried, and failed, to build a business case, and the reasons are often down to organisational design issues and long-term costs that are locked in and can’t be saved. There’s an expectation that, over time, it will become less expensive (the hardware is already substantially cheaper than when HANA first came out on a like-for-like basis), so for some organisations the waiting game is a better option.

Enterprise budgets tend to be locked into a cycle of trial in year one, initial roll out in year two and further development in years three and onwards. It’s simply how large enterprises work. I’d love to operate in a beyond-budgeting world, where logical business cases get approved immediately and budgets are rolling 12 months, but few organisations do this – they are required to do annual reporting and shareholders judge leadership teams on delivering to annual budgets.

Some final observations

There are a number of interesting things to note, some of which are included in the report:

  • Nearly 400 organisations responded. This is a large number which shows just how interested people are in SAP HANA
  • We are still in the early days of the SAP HANA lifecycle. Whilst it will be a long process, significant enterprise architecture always are
  • There is very little mention of the cloud in the report. That is surprising and I’d be interested to know why, given the prevalence of this topic
  • HANA is still focused on the SAP customer base. This is the bit I’d really like to change, but I think it is a little way down the line yet

The key take away though doesn’t change: to drive the adoption of SAP HANA, SAP’s customers need more help in building their business case, which as it happens, is something we have a methodology for.

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About the author

James Appleby

Former Group Chief Executive

When I started Bluefin, the premise was very simple: a values-drive organisation focusing on its customers and its people in equal measure. Amazing people with the right environment can do incredible things.

It has proven to be true, and I am immensely proud of what our customers and people have achieved, and what Bluefin has achieved as a result. Watching and helping people to grow, and seeing the results of that over 10+ years, makes me immensely proud, and the vision of being the world’s most customer-centric consultancy by 2025 is always at the front of my mind.

The world has changed immensely during our history, and technology is going through a seismic shift at the moment: the power of the consumer on the move; the shift of global economic power eastwards; the importance of climate change; next generation software personified in cloud computing; to name but a few. I love the opportunities that these changes create.

Outside of work, I love to share with my wonderful family and friends my passions of cycling, skiing and wine, although not usually at the same time.

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