Yes, we are a bit late, but what with BI on top of our planned SAP BW HANA platfrom

Of course we all like to discuss the latest innovations on analytics and business intelligence showing the ultimate technologies, features and capabilities. However in my daily discussions with large enterprise customers, I often see that these enterprises are not using these innovations yet. Aren’t they interested than? Sure, they are, but large enterprise firms just cannot always be on top of technology. They have so many end users and thus require stability. Doing an upgrade or patch, often brings them into complex approval and workflow processes. Changing or extending technologies has even bigger impact: think about learning curves, adoption programs and new development.

As a result I face a lot of them running “traditional” SAP BW systems with Bex Query analyzer on top of it. Of course the business intelligence environment is fully Excel driven and all of the well-known issues appear: Governance issues, various different versions of the same type of reporting causing a lack of trust in the data, scaling issues and many more.

Is this architecture wrong? Absolutely not. Is it the best way being prepared for the future? Hmmmmmm, not sure. What I see is that this architecture quite often evolved to one:

  • Composing of an inscrutable number of Bex queries and workbooks. End users requiring to create new business analytics reports and dashboards face issues finding what they exactly need

  • Facing performance issues due the growth of data volume and complexity. The accompanying business analytics environment inherits performance issues consequently

  • Doesn’t support the latest user requirements for (near) real-time data accuracy; the accompanying business analytics environment inherits performance issues consequently

  • Lacks smooth integration with third party data sources. Complex scripting needs to be developed and maintained to acquire third party data into SAP BW

There is by the way a very good related blog on this topic here. Written by Freek Keijzer, it is about a series of 3 blogs on "BW on Hana, now what ...?".

BI Strategy assessment

Increasing market and in-company agility makes these enterprises considering in-memory platforms. Quite recently I participated in a similar discussion where the customer – apart from SAP BW – also runs SAP ECC amongst other applications. This enterprise is in manufacturing. To get a good insight in their day to day issues, I used the BI Strategy assessment with following phases:

  1. Business Intelligence needs analyses: based on several interviews, I collected the core information and insights needs of the end user stake holders

  2. Business Intelligence Strategy & Execution baseline: in this phase I create a detailed overview on what is exactly available today and what of the in 1.) defined user requirements can be delivered or not

  3. Gap Analysis: combining 2.) and 1.) I create a GAP overview of what cannot be accomplished and what can. These gaps are also prioritized

  4. Based on all of the above 3 steps, a Business Intelligence foundation roadmap is created leading to a concrete architecture picture and a step-by-step action list

Migration plan to in-memory

Once the exact pain points for information insights are crystal clear – using the BI Strategy Assessment – we can discuss the future architecture for this enterprise. Bringing them to in-memory SAP HANA has so many advantages, that enterprises often already concluded themselves to make this step. It is not a discussion about IF but more about HOW. In these discussions a future growth path onto a full in-memory platform is drawn quickly; both ECC and SAP BW migrate to in-memory and typically functionality as Bigdata, Hadoop connectivity, campaign analyses or predictive analytics – to name a few - are added to the future strategy on the fly. In the same discussions the enterprises fear the path: “can we as a company follow these steps adequately?”. “Do we have the governance and processes in place to be ready for in-memory”. Let’s also not forget a natural tardiness of big companies to change technology: adoption curves, decision taking processes, user training to just name a few.

So what is often done to split the migration towards future-proof in-memory up allowing the enterprise to follow and adopt?

They first migrate their SAP BW environment onto SAP BW HANA. It not only allows the enterprise to cut the migration process in pieces starting with a phase 1 that can be overseen and managed, it also answers to their need to start with high performance business analytics immediately. One of the things customers bring up discussing large in-memory migrations, is how they can already in an early stage starting to benefit from it with their business analytics. Well, starting with migrating BW onto BW HANA answers to this requirement: in a few weeks time (thinks 7-9 weeks migrating SAP BW and another week to set-up the BI platforms), the customer composes of a high performance platform allowing for:

  • Ability to online explore and visualize SAP BW data to the lowest detail level at staggering speed

  • A SAP BW HANA data platform that is open to new initiatives as Hadoop, Iot or others

  • Using the latest SAP BI Platform, the customer can now really quickly start creating business intelligence applications that answer to the latest requirements on agility, visualization capabilities and self-service. If you just consult my diary on SAP Design Studio, you’ll learn that the embedded templates ensure enterprises can create exploration dashboards in just a day!

  • All the BI on top of a SAP BW HANA environment is online! A record change in SAP BW is immediately reflected in the business intelligence applications

SAP can by the way support this migration to SAP BW HANA. Have a look here on what is been done using a so called Rapid Deployment Solution.

Later phases

From what I hear from enterprises is that they typically opt in a second phase to bring their ECC onto HANA. With the SLT connectors to SAP BW HANA, this brings real-time analytics to the plate of the end users. Phase one, and this phase two, can easily be delivered within a year respecting the enterprise tardiness.

Do you as an enterprise recognize yourself in the above? No worries; you are not alone and you are definitely in a position that can be transformed into a full Digital Transformation readiness state, but don’t wait too long.

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