In an earlier blog ‘HANA is a Productivity Magnifier’, we reminded ourselves that the original objectives of HANA were business oriented, not technical. In a subsequent blog we looked at the array of features that had to be created, and combined in the right way, in order to gain the benefits of HANA.
Here’s what I’ve found is a useful way to think about the connection between the technical innovations of HANA and its business benefits.
As we saw in the prior blog, HANA contains a number of innovative features combined in an innovative way. Because there is so much technology to appreciate here there is a danger that we get stuck at this level – focusing on the greatly enhanced speed that is enabled or some other technical feature.This is the ‘100,000x faster, so what?’ trap.
Instead we can think of a three layer model.
Starting at the lowest level there is a whole set of differentiated technical features. The metrics at this level are typically speeds and feeds (and pretty impressive ones too) or new technical capabilities.
The features at this first level are then used to build, at a second level, a set of differentiated business capabilities, things that we can do in businesses that HANA makes easy that were previously either very hard or impossible. For example being able to do high volume updates, whilst doing complex aggregations and queries on the same data and to do this using a simple data model that is simple to amend. Or being able to easily combine structured and unstructured textual input and get responses with sub-second response. Of themselves these don’t provide business benefits, but they do allow us to do new things in the business, or to do existing things more easily. The business metrics at this level are typically productivity metrics the ability to do things faster, with less effort or with greater effectiveness.
We can then take these differentiated business capabilities from our second level and apply them, singly or in combination, to specific business areas, and it’s at this third level that we see the specific, concrete and quantified business benefits appear.
It’s hard to make the mental leap from ‘ 100,000x faster’ to quantified business benefits, but I think you’ll find that thinking in terms of this three layer model, it becomes relatively easy to identify high value business cases.
For example, consider a customer who did their profitability analysis country by country in Europe, monthly, and at a mid level of their product and customer hierarchy because they can’t get the performance to do it at a more detailed level. This provides a not very granular and backward looking view of profitability, useful but limited in how you can action it. But by moving this to HANA, we can play in the new business capabilities “Get Complex Processing done in Seconds”, “Enable drill down to atomic data with instant response”, “Broaden the scope of the data (to all countriesof Europe)”, “move compute intensive processing to commodity Intel hardware for low TCO”.
By enabling analysis across all the countries of Europe (30x), down to detailed product and customer level (10x) and allowing analysis on demand (5x a day rather than once a month) we’d be enabling something like 45,000 times as much processing. But – if you would ask the business user what they thought about doing 45,000 times as much processing they would likely say “I don’t know about that and really don’t care – but what I do care about is that I can now do detailed profitability analysis right down to the individual product and customer level, across Europe, and on a daily basis – and that means that I can now fine tune my product mix per country and I can have more focused negotiations with suppliers – so profitability analysis becomes a day to day management tool to optimize the business – and yet the system I use to do this is really affordable!”.
BTW: My colleague Jan Koster came up with a great suggestion the other day. How about when doing workshops to uncover business requirements why not put the new business capabilities, onto cards and ‘play’ them into the business scenarios and business processes being considered. e.g “what would it mean to be able to get instant results to these complex calculations”, “how about if you didn’t have to wait for a batch run at this point?”, “what if you could combine your structured and unstructured data four times more productively at this critical point?” – you get the idea.
As Hasso said – “It’s not the speed, it’s what the speed enables”. By thinking about this middle layer, the special things that HANA enables, and then how we apply them to specific business situations we can usually find those specific, quantified business cases that HANA can unlock.