Uncovering the Value of SAP BW Powered by HANA: Answering the Second Question

Posted by Vijay Vijayasankar on February 21, 2013

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As many of you who have followed me on twitter and other blog sites have have pointed out, I have not blogged much since I have joined SAP . Trust me it was not intentional – just that other things like kitchen remodeling , getting used to my new job etc. took all my bandwidth. But now that remodeling project is complete, I can get back to more blogging.

Any way – my first assignment at SAP is to work with our customers and partners to make sure they realize the value of BW on HANA. Since the day I joined SAP – I have been talking to customers about this, and something interesting became clear to me. So I thought it might be useful to summarize my customer and partner conversations in my blog so that we can have a more extensive conversation virtually .

When Suite runs on HANA, BW runs on HANA, and assorted data marts run on HANA – what would be different for a business user? In my opinion – after talking to several customers – it is the “ease of answering the second question” that is the most value adding scenario for a business user – especially the “business analyst” types.

Let me explain with an example that should resonate with many of the readers here.

Analysts live in an ad-hoc world – their “real” work starts when an executive asks them a non routine question like “how many bottles of soda did we sell to top 5 distributors in Arizona last summer and how did we do against plan”. The question is simple enough – but there might not be an easy way to answer this .

Analysts will probably go to BW or CRM to find who their top 5 distributors are , how much was sold to them etc. and then they will probably log on elsewhere to find plan information . Finally, all of that gets dumped to an excel sheet, massaged with various vlookup functions etc and a prettied up table and graph will be presented to the executive. Most probably, one of the sources of information is yet another spreadsheet stored in a share point site.

Now, I have never met an executive who had asked all she wants to know in one question – and that includes me!

So as soon as the first answer comes in – the exec would ask her next question . “Hmm – that is interesting, how is that split across the various brands we sold them?”.

The best analysts know this and will come with as much info that they can second guess. But that is a limited approach with most executives – invariably , more data dumps and analysis will be needed. And this takes time – hours at a minimum, days to weeks usually.

Now, what would change with HANA?

For starters – a lot of data sitting in BW can be crunched and compared to spreadsheet data on the fly by the analyst without IT help using workspaces . This can be done without HANA too – if speed is not an issue and patience is over abundant .

BW sitting on HANA can be combined easily with other datamarts modeled directly on HANA via composite providers. So – adhoc queries spanning multiple sources become all the more easy. And of course the front end like BI 4.x Analysis makes this an excel friendly exercise.

Now when Suite also works on HANA – and Suite has the HANA Analytics Foundation under it – this becomes all the more easy. SHAF is nothing but HANA views that can also understand BW data. And of course it understands BI front end tools. So in effect – data sitting in suite, BW and other HANA datamarts are all available to users without a lot of manual work to make sense of it all .

Back to our analyst friend who got the second question – now he can quickly change the query to include more parameters and respond to the executive much faster than in the pre-HANA world . What is not to like?

Of course, HANA does not replace the need to have a good solid BI discipline in place. The right way to look at this in my opinion is to think of how powerful is the scenario of having HANA and a good BI system together than just one or the other (or god forbid, neither).

It is also important to note that Suite on HANA does not eliminate the need for BW. Neither is it always a good idea to move everything in a BW system to a custom data warehouse even if it sits on HANA. If you are not convinced , try to implement a reporting scenario that is based on an ERP cost center hierarchy with time dependencies directly in HANA and also in BW on HANA. You can see why having these solutions to compliment each other is better than trying to force fit every requirement into one of them.

Now tell me – what is your “second question” I can help with?

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