CIOs that imbed analytics in their companies generate 1.6% more revenue (source: IBM) than industry peers. This significant value creation is possible because these leading companies are able to exploit the large volumes of data their employees require to make smarter, timely decisions.
Last year, SAP unveiled what many experts consider to be the industry's most advanced real-time, in-memory database for business applications. Not surprisingly, companies have jumped at the opportunity to exploit this new and exciting technology to gain a competitive advantage.
Since its launch, I've been involved in a number of SAP HANA projects, from design to post-implementation. Bluefin Solutions has also been called in at the last minute by customers to help fix troubled projects.
Following my conversations with CIOs, it is clear that companies have faced four main challenges to the successful deployment of SAP HANA. I have summarised these here so you can avoid costly problems in the future.
1) Develop a change management strategy for SAP HANA
This may not come as a surprise to you, but change management is the biggest problem. The SAP NetWeaver platform - on which the SAP Business Suite products are built - enforces technical change management that have to be configured and maintained before you can move developed changes into a live system.
However, with SAP HANA, none of this is enforced and it requires a set of best practice to be applied to the system, to avoid changes being made inadvertently. In most cases, I find this is not set-up in the system. What's more, SAP Solution Manager can be configured to perform the change management process semi-automatically, but it is not usually configured to work this way.
In addition, I often find that the "extreme agile" approach that SAP and other SIs want to take requires changes to be made to inflexible change management processes. A middle ground of agile change management needs to be embedded within the organisation.
Tip: Review change management process to ensure these have been adopted for SAP HANA, including its technology components.
2) Know your skills gap with SAP HANA
SAP HANA introduces new IT assets - appliances, and software - into an organisation. These require skills that are often in short supply, including: 1) installing, configuring and maintaining these new IT assets; and, 2) developing new best practices to ensure maximum use of SAP HANA.
Technology platforms are often on different versions, configured differently. What's worse is I find that technology components within a stack have been installed incorrectly. Bad things happen in this case, especially as it relates to performance, stability and integration of new technologies.
Tip: Ensure you have a process to keep the technology platform consistent and that you have a hardware and business continuity strategy for SAP HANA.
3) Drive performance by design
SAP HANA is an amazingly fast database platform - it can do many tasks thousands of times faster than other RDBMS platforms like Oracle. However, it is not a panacea, and bad designs run slow on SAP HANA, just like on any other platform. What's more, there are things you need to know about SAP HANA' development which are significantly different than deploying a technology from Oracle.
For example, I had one customer that was conducting performance tests of SAP HANA. In collaboration with the company, data load performance was improved by 50x by applying the best practice Bluefin Solutions has developed by working with many organizations. It's important to design for performance, rather than assume that SAP HANA will get you out of trouble.
Tip: Put in place robot design guidelines and developer standards for SAP HANA, including how your SAP HANA specialists are continuously up-skilled and trained to address future changes.
4) Outpace the pace of change
One of the amazing things about SAP HANA is the pace of change. There are new elements of functionality coming in each major release. This is every six months. This pace of change poses challenges (and opportunities!) to some organisations because the latest version of SAP HANA may contain something you didn't know you could have.
This includes performance benefits, improved non-functional requirements e.g. point-in-time Backup or Fault Tolerance, functional capabilities like new certified 3rd party integration tools or developer features like debuggers and whole new technology components like the integrated HANA XS web application server.
Tip: Implement a process to review all of your standards every six months, after a major SAP HANA release. This way, you will be to plan to take advantage of all the new released functionality.
SAP HANA has opened up new opportunities for companies to compete smarter using the latest advanced business applications and analytics required by employees to make better, timely decisions.
Whether you're a CIO or an IT manager leading the deployment of SAP HANA, you should be aware of the four most common challenges other organizations have faced when deploying one of the most exciting new enterprise technologies to come onto the market in the past few years. Of course, if you have any questions, just give me a call.