SAP unveils the future…….

An interesting couple of days at SAP SELECT in Berlin. An event where Hasso Plattner, and Bill McDermott unveiled the latest set of solutions. S-Innovations or the simple set of business functional areas represent a completely redesigned set of enterprise functionality designed to exploit the full potential of HANA. What was quite astounding was the way this technology changes the rules for how IT is run, and at the same time throws away the rule book for businesses.

Firstly imagine an enterprise IT system where that data compresses from 1TB to 9GB, runs on a single server, has almost instant response time, where data updates no longer take place, where records can’t lock and batch jobs no longer exist. As the data doesn’t change then development and testing take a completely different path. That is pretty remarkable!

But it’s what that means that is so important – as everything is a calculation on the fly – how you work can change, dramatically. So to work out sales and see profit – instantaneous or nearly so – a press of a button. So as long as the actions have taken place – billing, cash movements, payments, stock entries etc. – you have your financial position. So period ends become simply a different date filter selection. And then of course you can execute simulations of business changes with the live data, as these won’t change the data – just the result you see.

With billions of connected devices, the internet of things, with this type of capability collecting and using the data directly from many more billions of sensors in them becomes practical in your enterprise system.

Is this a fairy tale, a story of slide ware, of future technology? No, it is here now, and only those who take the journey of investment early will capture the real benefits of this scenario where early adopters really will prosper.

Hopefully more news around this at our 2014 Conference in 7 days time.




Fighting Fraud with SAP

SAP recently announced its new Fraud Management tool, an analytics application designed to help users improve fraud scenario analysis and adapt to changing fraud patterns. By using this to execute complex analytics on big data sets, using in-memory computing and other advanced processing techniques, the tool is designed to help SAP users better prevent fraud .

Currently in “controlled” (limited) release, the final version is expected to come in three initial flavours of Fraud Management: an insurance claims fraud offering, another designed for use in the public sector and a cross-industry application (for use in, for instance, the purchasing function). It’s certainly true that fraud is a pervasive risk in businesses:  according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, the typical organisation is at risk of losing up to five per cent of its revenues to fraud. If that figure sounds surprising, it’s even more so to hear that that this translated to a total global fraud loss of more than $3.5 trillion in 2011. While not all of this fraud may be addressable, it’s clear that the cost of fraud can add up for businesses in many sectors.

Here at the User Group we await to hear more about the product ahead of its final release later in the year.  If you are an SAP user wanting to find out about the latest product updates network with your peers, please check out our current calendar of webinars and SIGS taking place throughout 2013.

Business Suite on HANA : What does it mean?

SAP started off the New Year with a bang with a notable announcement around the launch of a new version of its Business Suite that allows database reporting via HANA. The reported goal is to help enterprises businesses to run in real-time on a single in-memory platform and instantly complete transactions, analyse and forecast data.

This announcement has been greeted warmly by most industry experts.  Ray Wang from Constellation Research commented: “The analytics and crunching capabilities is what’s driving organisations to seek faster speed.  Speed is the difference between a five day drug recall and a five minute drug recall.  Speed is the difference between a 30 day supply chain plan versus the ability to reroute 2 iPhones to your store in 30 seconds.  The impact is huge for customers if SAP does succeed. Given SAP’s market share, this is a big deal as this reduces the need for separate business intelligence systems.  The performance difference will create a huge competitive advantage for those who adopt versus those who do not.”

CBR offered the analyst perspective, noting that Ovum described the news as “a potential game changer” by making SAP much more relevant to its customers, but noted that it will be crucial for SAP to avoid confusing the marketplace as it has evolved from a database to an analytics platform to simply a “platform”.

Ovum went on to argue that a further challenge will be convincing customers that the “transformative” benefits of Suite on HANA will be non-disruptive technically. Computer Weekly  reiterated that while the benefits of the SAP Business Suite on HANA are clear, convincing customers that these benefits will deliver more than incremental innovation is where the challenge lies. This is particularly true given that intensive people and technology training to identify the patterns and algorithms required to serve up insight on demand will be needed in order to
realize the full benefits.

From the perspective of the User Group, it’s great to see that SAP listened to the feedback we provided as part of SUGEN and regarding the pricing of HANA on Business Suite and incorporated it into its pricing strategy. We’ve been used to paying for databases in a certain way, so it’s great to see that SAP providing similar licensing options. In terms of the solution itself, it looks great. In the first instance we’d expect those organisations that have a real need for speed to look at migrating. We’re sure new customers will also welcome the news as it simply gives them more database options.

Survey reveals SAP users’ licensing concerns

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, here at the User Group we recently surveyed our membership regarding their thoughts on SAP licensing.  I can now reveal some of the top-level findings from the study:

95% of SAP users believe that the company’s software licensing policy is overly complicated

  • 89% of users stated that they would like SAP to reduce complexity by offering software that is only limited by one license or usage metric
  • 67% stated that as SAP’s product catalogue has continued to expand they have found it increasingly difficult to track license usage
  • 97% stated they should have the ability to ‘park’ unused licenses for support periods
  • 97% didn’t believe that SAP has effectively explained the migration path of moving from on-premise to its mobile or cloud offerings and how this impacts on their existing licensing agreements

In many respects the results aren’t a surprise, as in the current business climate many organisations are looking to ensure they are getting maximum value from their software licenses.  At the same time the changing IT landscape is also having an impact on the complexity of software licensing.  This is an issue currently facing a lot of software vendors and their customers, as many license terms were agreed at a time when workforces were larger and the vast majority of deployments were on premise.

SAP users are no different and these findings illustrate that they would like to see license costs and conditions that are transparent and flexible.  Encouragingly SAP has acknowledged these concerns and is starting to work with SUGEN to engage on a topic that is clearly challenging for both parties.

We will be looking to work closely with SAP in the UK, to ensure users are provided with greater clarity when it comes to licensing.  To find out more about the licensing workshop we are running at this year’s User Group Conference click here.


Cutting through the technology hype

Gartner’s recently released Hype Cycle report noted that the bubble of expectations around cloud computing has finally burst. Expectations around Big Data, however, are on the up.  From the perspective of an SAP user such predictions are ‘interesting’ considering the investment the company has made in both areas over the last 12-18 months.

While the Gartner report signals that cloud may have lost some of its lustre, this is probably more of an indication of greater realism.  While cloud computing clearly offers some exciting possibilities it does still present a number of challenges when it comes to things like compliance and application customisation.  As I have mentioned in the past, I think certainly for the foreseeable future we will see many organisations implement a hybrid model, whereby vendors such as SAP will supply both on-premise and cloud solutions.  This approach can reduce integration issues and also means organisations don’t have to put business-critical processes in the cloud if they felt it was too risky.

It makes sense that Big Data is on the up in Gartner’s Hype Cycle with CIO expectations around its potential growing fast.   Certainly SAP is addressing this as it is vigorously driving HANA adoption and the development of compatible applications, which means that businesses of all sizes, can take advantage of incredibly swift information analysis. This is already becoming a disruptive technology for industry sectors such as utilities or finance where huge amounts of data are being generated. The potential elsewhere is also huge if you believe industry commentators.

Here at the User Group we always encourage organisations to really cut through the hype surrounding new technologies and services. Reports from the likes of Gartner can help, but every organisation is different. It’s always wisest to make a really thorough evaluation of your business needs and capabilities before taking the plunge implementing a complex and costly project.  For the latest information on cloud, Big Data and beyond make sure you are signed up for our latest SIGs and our User Conference in November.

Is Big Data big money?

SAP’s recently announced financial results, were generally very well received by the business community.  With revenues being boosted by growing customer demand for the company’s cloud and in-memory computing (HANA) offerings.   However, it was also interesting to read that some commentators were asking the question: is SAP trying to become more of a database company?

Undoubtedly SAP is dedicating a lot of resources to this area. It’s clear that SAP mean business, and is pouring vast resources into achieving this end goal. Important acquisitions have been made over the past couple of years such as Sybase, alongside a $337 million investment in the SAP HANA Adoption Program and a $155 million venture fund to spur development of applications compatible with HANA. Views on whether SAP will be able to achieve this gambit into the database market effectively range from the dismissive to the contemplative, but most see it as an interesting and achievable target that will provide value to customers. Ovum analyst Tony Baer describes the investments as a ‘logical first step’, but goes on to state that “SAP still has work to do to make its mark as a serious database contender” by solidifying its Big Data strategy to prove that HANA’s niche extends beyond turbocharging SAP Business Warehouse performance.

SAP has professed that Big Data, and the in-memory computing needed to successfully process it, is increasingly becoming the future of IT for many businesses. Ray Wang at Constellation Research who recently authored a  report on HANA, stating that overall, it is important for customers to avoid getting too distracted by vendor chest-beating, and instead they should seek to understand which use cases HANA is most suitable for right now.

At this stage this appears to be sensible advice. At the User Group we will be looking to provide you with all the latest updates and insights around HANA both through our SIGs and at the User Conference later this year.  So don’t miss out!

A busy week for SAP, but what about users?

SAP has had a busy week: as well as further extending its acquisition offer for SuccessFactors, it’s made a brace of product announcements. Firstly it made public the latest round of innovations for SAP Business Suite. Then came the revelation that SMEs would also gain analytics applications powered by HANA.

Both of these announcements are, of course, welcome news for SAP users. The Business Suite improvements, in particular, are a boon for those using the software in the wake of SAP’s previously announced commitment to extending its lifespan. If this level of updates can be kept up throughout, then we’ll have a capable piece of software to work with for some time to come. By making these upgrades integrate seamlessly with existing Business Suite implementations SAP is making life much easier for customers.

Of course, from last November we already knew the potential of HANA. SAP and other organisations have hardly been shy in announcing that Big Data, and so the in-memory computing needed to successfully deal with it, is increasingly the future of IT. However, by adding applications for SMEs SAP is making sure that everyone can benefit, rather than running the risk of splitting the world into technology haves and have-nots. It will certainly be interesting to see how SMEs adapt to the world of Big Data moving forward.

For more conversation on SMEs and HANA, we’ll be discussing the subject at the next SAP Business One SIG on February 22nd.