Inspired by an internal email from Adam Thier, who heads EPM product management and architecture with this golden line “there are still large numbers of business users un-served by information technology” prompted me to write this blog…on our launch of the next gen EPM On-Demand apps. My first blog after my move back into product management role..
Breakthrough vs. Incremental innovations
How does innovation come through – is it by asking what the user wants or by questioning the conventional wisdom. Quoting Steve Jobs – “Break through innovations can never be achieved by just asking the users what they want which will only lead to incremental changes”. Welcome to era of breakthrough innovations by seeking Unserved users – Departmental use cases, Put the people in focus, Packaged out-of-box applications….
Under served or un-served users and use cases
As technologies evolve, applications needs to be re-looked at, as the possibilities are unlimited to serve uncovered use cases or un-served users
Enterprise vs. Departmental use cases – Largely users have been served by enterprise business systems and the goal have been to automate process, reduce time and give more time for ‘value added’ work. This is fairly been achieved by many large enterprises and many other enterprises in the process of doing the same. Let’s take the example of Budgeting/Planning, majority of customers have done a fairly good job in automating the budgeting process and getting benefits from the same. I have been recently working with a French Headquartered MNC who has been using SAP BPC to achieve good benefits of single view of the budgets, forecasts and a consolidated view of the plans. Now their question – “We have done the automation for budgeting, but what’s next in value chain”. Still lots of our users use Excel for many of their detailed analysis, and the system /applications do not exist for some of this work.
This is where SAP, with its deep expertise of building applications, have ventured into building applications for new use cases, for the un-served leveraging the latest technologies and deployment options . This focusing on quick fix for many of the current problems, which is not available in the enterprise systems they are running. Often this is where smaller product vendors go build applications to solve specific problems, and SAP is now into that league as well.
The best example for this is the new SAP EPM On Demand application for Expense Insights that opens up new ways for departmental managers to analyze the expenses that hits their cost centers, dispute and resolve any issues and enable right view of management /Group heads to review expenses. This is something that was done by many analysts pulling the data into spreadsheets, slicing and dicing, collaborating over emails and doing it in a very non-standard way. Great example of departmental use case being addressed by a new application that was un-served before.
Put the people in focus – in the world of anywhere, anytime – Often in the past lot of focus was put in building applications based on technical feasibility and rich functionality that can address 100% of the nuts and bolts of the problem. Now with this focus we totally mess up the human interaction part as the solution gets complicated to use, as it needs to solve all 100% use cases. So here is the shift – put the people focus, address each major use case in the way the users would like to best interact with the system and make it appealing for the real real users. They should love to use it as they use ipad, facebook, google, twitter or Excel. Users in the current world do not distinguish between the business apps they are using and the personal apps they use. They should self learn easily and use it.
Now with advent of mobile, this becomes even more relevant as the possibilities of doing work in work desk is gradually diminishing, and the human interaction happens from anywhere, anytime.
The best example for this is new SAP EPM on Demand Real time Profit & Loss Insights – my personal favorite of the 3 apps that was launched – also called as P&L on the fly, is an amazing application that would cater to the ultimate goal of any finance and business manager – which is visualize the profitability in detail. This applications can pull tonnes of data into HANA, allow users to model it on the fly and review profitability by customer, product, projects, channels or any level they would like to do the analysis. Behind it is a very powerful allocation engine built on directly on HANA, and the best part that I really love is the calculation modeler that can be done by the business users themselves.
Finally, for those un-served end users they are handed out with an amazing visualization called “Whaleback curve” which is the best way of visually reviewing profitability performance – and that too on their mobile device, anytime/real time and anywhere. And they can quickly focus on the contributing and non contributing products or customers.
Scratch to build vs. packaged out of box – how cloud helps – in the classic enterprise application world, especially for analytical applications, its always a tool set provided and you scratch to build. Take an example of planning, you are often provide a planning tool and based on customers requirements the entire model is built. Many a times packaged solutions have been tried out, but often failed because it was focused mainly on the enterprise use cases, and focusing on solving the 100% of the puzzle. This is where the world of cloud and on demand apps is amazing. The packaged out of box solutions can be rolled out, and continuously updated very well when applications are built with a on demand /cloud application approach. On demand also removes stress of upfront capex commitments as companies only pay as they use, which is one of the key value for departmental managers to make quick decision to get these applications.
Another important benefit of the packaged out of box is it can really preach companies to adopt best practices, even look at changing the way do their work, as they get a great way of looking at a different best practices way of doing the job.
Best example of this best practice out of box packaged application is the new SAP On Demand Capital Project Planning that allows business managers to look at their capex projects, see the returns/cash flow impacts and allows them to prioritize based on the reviewing the kpis. Another wonderful example of solving needs of un-served users, with a compelling departmental use case.
Hybrid model best suited for business (the Sun and Planets )
As you can see the above compelling departmental examples that opens doors to serve un-served users with information technology, the best approach here is providing an hybrid model that Integrates on-premise application Enterprise use case world with the on-demand departmental use case world. This is where SAP’s new EPM on Demand applications are the planets that surround the Sun – planets being the departmental applications, surrounding the sun which is the On premise EPM and ERP applications. SAP with its On Demand Data Services will provide a compelling integration approach to connect this two worlds. All of this powered by SAP HANA, Cloud and Mobile.
EPM On Demand (Planets) around SAP On Premise (Sun) in HANA Cloud (Cloud)