Last week, I had a chance to attend EVM World 2012 in Naples, FL, the party place-to-be for project performance and earned value professionals. http://evmworld.org/conference-program/conference-overview/. We chose this setting to make the formal announcement of the launch of SAP’s new Program Performance Analysis for Aerospace and Defense analytic application http://bit.ly/JZHsVA. This happens to be SAP’s first industry-specific solution to be built in HANA, so the A&D team is kind of proud of that distinction. Over the last couple of years, after we had spent several workshops with some of the industry’s leading companies gathering requirements on what would constitute a best-in-class set of KPIs and user experience and then repeated this process with mockups and further iterations, the development team took a look at the magnitude of the implications of the resulting data model, dashboard design, scorecarding approach and fundamental volume of data. The numbers indicated a classic “Big Data” problem scenario, and we made the decision to move off of disk and into memory with HANA. In fact, it shouldn’t have been much of a surprise. When we looked at the competitive landscape for Program Performance Analysis at the outset, we were initially surprised that we didn’t find anything occurpying this market niche. But clearly, if you are going to provide hundreds of metrics with live aggregations of tiers of dashboards across many dimensions and have ultra-fast performance in an enterprise environment with hundreds if not thousands of programs, projects, contracts, work packages, products, etc., there is no other choice than to build on the power of an in-memory database like HANA.
At the EVM World conference, I made a presentation on “Obtaining 360 Degree View of Aerospace and Defense Program Performance” which featured the new application. While being the last session on the last day of any conference is not the ideal spot, we had representatives in the audience from several large A&D companies and DOD agencies. The response from the audience at the end was very receptive, including a number of questions about this new thing they had just learned about called an in-memory database. One of the conversations I had afterwards was very telling. One group of representatives from a large defense contractor said that the value proposition of Program Performance Analysis was fantastic and exactly what their company needed. Interestingly, however, they expressed concern that their organization wouldn’t know what to do with such an application. They said people on the business side, like program managers and line of business executives, are used to IT systems being imposed as mechanisms to achieve compliance and keep the lights on, as opposed to actually providing enabling business value. I took this as a huge compliment for PPA (and possibly a barb at their enterprise ERP vendor, which is conspicuously not SAP). I also took it as a warning sign of how we need to position this new solution. This is a challenge I am excited to take on. The people who will truly appreciate what an application like PPA can do are those business leaders who want a new kind of business software application – one that is purpose built for them and their most pressing needs, designed by them to be incredibly useful and easy to consume, and under the covers has the horsepower to solve the biggest problems in real time with very little IT support required. In the typical A&D organization, this will be the COO-type individual who leads a large portfolio of strategically important line of business engineering and manufacturing programs that wants a best practices approach to be the standard approach across his organization.
Our partner Dassian was a conference sponsor and made a great presentation on keeping projects on track while operating in an SAP ERP environment. Having caught a ton of fish in their pre-conference deep sea fishing expedition, they were also kind enough to treat me to a feast of their fresh catch at a restaurant that prepares what you bring in a cooler. So while PPA is without any real competition in the market, we will take advantage of the fishing while the weather is good!