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Author's profile photo Rukhshaan Omar

Should every problem be solved by SAP HANA?

Have you read and heard about the break-through capabilities of SAP HANA. And watched the great video testimonials from leading organizations? Are you still struggling to indentify the business scenarios where SAP HANA makes sense within your organization either today or in the future?

Have you ever wondered why when you buy a new car you suddenly notice many more drivers driving the same car?  The theory is that your awareness has changed and that is why you notice them – not because there are more cars.  When I started developing use cases for SAP HANA it was important not to present SAP HANA as the silver bullet for every business problem out there. I started by considering: Now that SAP HANA has the potential to overcome the hurdles of slow analytics, pre-defined queries, currency (latency) and granularity of data – What tasks can be accomplished a whole lot easier?

What changes?

What specific activities are impacted, when you can have the results of complex analyses and transactions available at your fingertips? For example, your business no longer needs to:

  • Wait for newly recorded data to be reflected in analysis
  • Have teams working on different versions of data
  • Have teams of back-office staff gathering data and maintaining custom dash boards in PowerPoint and Excel spreadsheets
  • Make corrections and adjustments to the data not once but multiple times (e.g.  incorrect  or wrong data sets extracted from source systems) to sanitize the data before reporting
  • Make decisions based on outdated, partial/incomplete, aggregated data and information
  • Guessing the current  state of the business  or the impact of specific actions
  • Constantly reacting to emergencies due to changes in business operations and rationalizing outcomes with after-the-fact analysis
  • Dependent on IT for service delivery, particularly when seeking answers to questions that requires changes in the data warehouse  (structure and aggregates)

Business Scenarios

The graphic and table below highlights six categories of business tasks and lists example scenarios in each of the categories.

  • Business Performance Analysis and Reporting, Business Planning and Predictive Analysis are the obvious categories. With SAP HANA you have the opportunity to re-think existing tasks and eliminate efforts associated with dealing with performance and volume hurdles to analyse large datasets.
  • Segmentation and Correlation can now become much more interactive. The market or data analyst can run multiple queries, constantly refining parameters as he/she discovers insights from queries. Very similar to how most users on the internet use search engines like Google to discover and search for information on the web. Having the ability to reduce the query response from hours to seconds is very significant as now many multiple queries can be iteratively performed during a single thought process. 
  • The last two categories I call Anticipate and Act with Foresight and Optimize and Unify Processes. These represent scenarios where analyzing huge volumes of data within processes become viable.
  • Anticipate and Act with Foresight  is like having an early-warning system built into your business processes: For example, Utilities companies can monitor smart meter readings to determine high deviations  of electricity consumption and ensure that consumers are notified thereby avoiding “bill-shock”
  • Optimize and Unify Processes are where the usage of analytics within processes really becomes interesting. Businesses can operate a lot more dynamically within business situations. For example dynamic pricing or dynamic discounting within competitive environments. Another example is that of  item traceability – having the ability to track and trace potentially harmful produce is not the task of one organization but requires many participants such producers, logistics, warehouse storage, retailers all to collect, share and analyze data.

Sample Business Scenarios

More examples:

  1. Use cases from early adopters of SAP HANA
  2. The SAP HANA InnoJam at SAPPHIRE NOW 2011 in Orlando at the SAP HANA InnoJam at SAPPHIRE NOW 2011 in Orlando

Have these examples sparked inspiration for using SAP HANA in your organization? Are there better names to categorize these use cases or even new categories that I have missed? 

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      Author's profile photo Trond Stroemme
      Trond Stroemme
      My understanding is that HANA is an in-memory reporting tool, it's primary use being the analysis of data extracted or distilled from real-time business processes (which still occur, and will continue to occur, outside of HANA). Thus, even though HANA can be used to digest information and arrive at decisions faster, it cannot move faster than the speed of light - i.e. reality itself (the business processes, as represented by the ERP system).

      As long as HANA relies on data being fed to it from SAP ERP, or BW, or external sources, it will remain a reporting and decision-making tool. If, on the other hand, there were to be announced plans to move the ERP business processes themselves in-memory, to HANA or similar technologies, it would mean a considerate change in the way SAP works - and also have a profound impact on our everyday lives as SAP professionals. But as far as I understand, this is not currently on the cards?

      And even if this were to happen, we'd still need the current ERP technology to be around. I do not imagine businesses willingly shed their "physical" data storage for a virtual, cloud-based entity - those relational DB's with their tangible, traceable, auditable, back-up'able documents, records and data will be around for a long time.

      HANA will allow you to play with reality to an extent not seen before, but won't make reality itself go away anytime soon...

      Author's profile photo Rukhshaan Omar
      Rukhshaan Omar
      Blog Post Author
      Hi Trond,
      SAP HANA has evolved from a high-performance analytical appliance to a platform for building the next generation of powerful, data-driven applications. In fact, SAP has already launched the first application powered by SAP HANA appliance software – SAP BusinessObjects Strategic Workforce Planning and also announced plans to deliver many more innovative applications that will transform how people across industries and lines of business plan, decide, collaborate, and execute.
      Have a look at these links to get more details:
      Author's profile photo Trond Stroemme
      Trond Stroemme
      Hi Rukshaan,
      thanks for clarifying. Still, I am puzzled about the whole concept. Sure, collaboration and execution with the help of in-memory computing will add speed and agility to businesses and processes, but I also presume the same businesses will want (and have a legal need for) preserving, storing, and archiving their business data - including transactions done in real time. This requirement won't go away anytime soon, and will surely hamper or offset the benefits of pure in-memory technology such as HANA. I'm quite convinced auditing and legal departments will need to physically store business documents even in the future, including electronic traces of every little change and transaction history along the way. Having someone point to a stack of servers with some terabytes of rapidly fluctuating bytes of RAM is not going to be enough; I imagine those pesky relational DB's with their columns and rows will prevail for quite some time to come...
      Author's profile photo Ralph Richter
      Ralph Richter

      Hi Ruks,

      I like the graph how you have described categorized the different HANA Opportunities. This helps when discussing business topics with the people and it allows creativity also to go bend the described use cases below.

      Thanks Ralph

      Author's profile photo Rukhshaan Omar
      Rukhshaan Omar
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks Ralph. I agree that in order to spark the imagination for HANA use cases you need to provide a simple diagram that is focussed on the what rather than the how.

      You may have seen my latest blog on the hana innovation award

      The rationale is to recognize innovative use cases of HANA deployed in production vs "imagine if I could" use cases


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member


      Using in memory databases makes our lifes easier but i think we need to explore also any other practical solutions inside SAP.



      Author's profile photo Rukhshaan Omar
      Rukhshaan Omar
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Michael

      I agree - the title was intended to be controversial at the time - SAP HANA was not yet generally available and I wanted to highlight the possibilities