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This is Part 2 of my analytics review of SAPPHIRE NOW (go here for part 1) . Where available, I’ve added links to watch the relevant presentations yourself at SAPPHIRENOW.COM (the presentations are being loaded up over the next couple of weeks, so if there’s no link, do a search on the site in case it has been added since I posted this).

Early morning on Tuesday 14th May 2013, Day 1 of SAPPHIRE NOW. Since I was on the wrong time zone, I was up in time to go for a run and sill catch dawn over the conference center – a beautiful cloudless morning in Orlando.

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Then it was time to head off to the conference center for the first meetings with the rest of the social media ambassador team. The first thing I saw as I entered the show floor was the demo areas designed to show off SAP’s new capabilities, such as the www.NBA.com/stats area below:

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The show floor was vast – and it seemed like analytics, in some form or other, was in every booth and theatre. SAP is now clearly an analytics company.

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SAP CEO Bill McDermott gave one of the best executive keynotes I’ve seen at SAP so far.

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The highlight of the presentation, for me, was the announcement of SAP’s 25th industry: sport and media. It turns out that Bill’s grandfather was a professional basketball player, called “the greatest long-distance shooter in the history of the game”.

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Bill was joined by celebrity guests to discuss how SAP is helping the NBA, the NFL, and companies like Under Armor make the best use of their information assets, to better reach out to fans. Bill said SAP is now a “B to B to C” company, helping customers get closer to their customers.

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The first session I attended saw Steve Lucas host a panel with Rick Smolen (author of “The Human Face of Big Data”), Stuart Birrell, CIO of the McLaren Group, and Margit Lugstein of HSE24. McLaren gave examples of how they are making better use of telemetry data from the McLaren cars using SAP HANA, and HSE14 talked about the advantages of using SAP CRM on HANA to cross-sell in real time.

Lucas issued a challenge:

“If you have a great idea, a crazy idea, if you want to bring some people together to build an amazing solution, we want to talk to you NOW, not next year… let’s build the next amazing solution to become part of the global digital nervous system…”

Next, CSC explained how they helped their customers with new “big data” opportunities. Business efficiency has always been about identifying bottlenecks. New sensor data makes that easier than ever before. Examples included an advanced train dispatching system for the Swiss Federal railways that uses an in-memory data grid to interpret hundreds of messages per second from sensors and other peripheral systems. The result helps Swiss trains run like clockwork! (96% are now on time, up from 92%).

Another exampled talked about using analytics powered by machine data to improve safety and equipment availability. When a massive mining dump truck goes down, it can cost a million dollars a day. To prevent that, millions of rows of data from machine sensors are used to calculate parts replacement, availability, and the certifications required to service – making mining equipment more reliable and workers safer.

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Next up was Al Grube of the Schwan Food Company, talking about how they implemented an enterprise data warehouse using SAP HANA, with the help of Hitachi Consulting.

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Schwan’s core business is high-quality frozen foods, with over 500 depots and 5,000 trucks around the country. The company had been struggling with their 17TB SAP BW warehouse. Sales executives were manually gathering data from multiple data sources to make decisions – a process that could take up to two weeks. A year later, they have completed a very successful pilot using SAP HANA that automated the previousanalysis. The company now uses SAP BusinessObjects BI 4, and found it faster and more flexible than previous solutions.

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Analytics can now access data first thing on Monday, and their recommendations are being implemented in the field by Tuesday. Root cause analysis helped identify issues store by store and SKU by SKU, and the company has seen increased revenues by “ensuring that stores have a good product mix, needed back stock is available, and SKU’s have distribution points at the retail stores.”

Steve Lucas had a busy conference – here he is again, presenting a session on how to “Transform Business with Database and Technology Solutions”.

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Lucas explained that “SAP HANA is not a database. It’s a platform to transform your business”. Today, enterprise systems involve having to move the data all over the place: from transactions to the data warehouse, to analytics solution and predictive solutions. This is what causes situations like queries that last hours, or the days it takes to close the company books. It’s an “enterprise cut and paste” experience that is expensive and wasteful. According to Lucas, the point of SAP HANA is to “take these technologies, and it combines it into one – you don’t need four separate systems, just one, without moving the data, no enterprise cutting and pasting”.

I myself was taking part in a big data trend, the quantified self – using data to improve our own lives. I was participating in the SAP Analytics fitness analytics challenge and using a fitbit device to measure the amount of exercise I was getting. 12,978 steps on Tuesday so far!

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Next up: Deloitte, with a presentation on SAP HANA maturity (they are both a customer and a supplier of the technology):

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Hey! Who let that bird in here? Where’s his badge? (was he there to tweet the proceedings?)

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The New Zealand customs agency did a great session about how they use SAP Sybase technologies to improve the security and convenience of the country’s borders.

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John Priest explained how the agency uses software from SAP in a detection system to identify high-risk individuals during the airline booking process or before a port is reached on cruise ships.

In addition to the theatre and demo sessions on the show floor, SAP Global Communications had arranged a series of sessions for key influencers.

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In this session hosted by SAP’s Jayne Landry, various organizations explained how they were using in-memory technologies to made a difference in their industries:

  • eBay: analytics to optimize the eBay marketplace, and treasury management for the PayPal payment service
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  • Verizon: faster analytics for all their back-end systems
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  • Citibank: money laundering analytics
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  • Centerpoint (utility company): analytics on the new data streaming in from smart meters

It wasn’t only SAPPHIRE NOW in Orlando, it was also ASUG 2013, and I attended a great session by Molson Coors on how they have moved to the SAP BusinessObjects tools for their analytic users including brand managers, using SAP Web Intelligence:

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And dashboards using SAP Dashboards:

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Then it was time for the afternoon’s keynote, by a very high-energy Seth Godin. His basic message was very appropriate for the conference: if anything is worth doing, it involves some risks – go make something happen!

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On the show floor, I was dragged into the “hunt a Canuck” competition organized by Mark Richardson of ASUG Ontario (a big chunk of SAP Analytics is done out of Vancouver, the historic home of Crystal Reports). Here’s three of them!

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Nic Smith helped me film a promotion for SAP Lumira, which was at a special discounted price during the conference (sorry if you missed it!). I’ve always wanted to a cheesy ad like this! Vine give you just six seconds to do it…

Then it was time to head to the APJ Analytics Networking event, where I stumbled across the DSLayer.net crew – all SAP mentors and long-time experts in SAP Analytics technology. You should read their blogs, listen to their podcasts, and follow them on twitter.

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And that was it for day 1!

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