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The last few weeks have been exciting in HANA-land. After the tone of “renewal” set in Las Vegas (SAP TechEd) in September, there were milestone announcements in Bangalore, Madrid (SAPPHIRE® NOW + SAP® TechEd), and Beijing – a series of somewhat unprecedented events.  All this came back to me as I struggled with a turkey this past week – for some reason, I continue to persevere with the annual ritual of fighting the big bird (as opposed to a more manageable chicken) despite my culinary skills being sub-par! As I tried once again to manage this struggle against the big bird as skillfully as I possibly could, it struck me that the beginning of the end for the struggle with big data was now here.

If this sounds like the partisan call of an SAP employee, then so be it – but it is now clear that talk about SAP HANA is not merely a case of  enthusiasm from within SAP, but also an emerging trend among SAP customers and analysts who are beginning to see what the excitement is all about. The Gartner report making an assessment of SAP’s technology strategy, “SAP Throws Down the Next-Generation Architecture Gauntlet With [SAP] HANA,” clearly recognizes the potential of HANA. In recent times several customers, at landmark events (e.g., Red Bull at SAPPHIRE NOW and SAP TechEd in Madrid) have also made clear statements acknowledging the realization of value from their SAP investments like never before.

A business process focused individual might ask that this is all fine and dandy (yes that is an old expression, but it fits) from a technology perspective but how does this impact business process beyond analytics?

The initial SAP HANA success stories have a lot to do with analytics drawing on transactional data but that is because there has been an acknowledged recognition for some time now that businesses have to be more analytics-driven for better success and competitive advantage. However, until now there have been constraints on how best to handle big data. The notion of warehousing data, data stores, data marts, and the sort have dominated discussion more than the question about what we should do next to take business to the next level. It has almost been a lot of fretting about how to get to the analytics view with meaningful data that would make an impact, than about the outcome of the analytics view and what actionable steps it would drive in the business.

All that is behind us. If one thinks about how many organizations run data warehouses on traditional databases with all the limitations inherent in this traditional set up, it boggles the mind to think of how much data is waiting to be liberated! Suitable as it was, traditionally, for systems to run on traditional databases, the arrival of an express database running in memory, changes the game. Where SAP customers stand to gain is that their investments in SAP Business Warehouse (BW) can be driven further with the ability now to run it on SAP HANA. There is also an opportunity here for businesses to engage in a quick exercise to identify the various different flavors of use cases that have led them down the traditional SAP BW path (I suspect businesses over the years have arrived at SAP BW decisions for varying reasons), as now some of those might merit being revisited keeping in mind this deliciously disruptive technology which can power SAP BW here onwards!

Analyses that were de-prioritized because the effort was deemed not worth the potential value can now be re-prioritized. Many organizations will be surprised (as some have already acknowledged) by what they find out – potentially leading to new channels of discussion and hopefully new revenue streams and/or cost savings. This is where a serious impact on business processes might be felt. Once the light can shine more brightly on what is working and what is not based on the unprecedented ability to drive more from an analytics standpoint, organizations can leverage their business process experts to revisit or reengineer related processes. In the quest for continuing improvement, and greater cost efficiency, the ability to drive data from a mission-critical SAP BW system to a faster analytics outcome can be a key ally.

So if you are running SAP BW today, reach out to your SAP team and ask to have a conversation about what running it on SAP HANA can mean for you. This could have a significant bearing on how well you run your business especially in uncertain economic times.

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