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The current version of SAP Business Planning and Consolidation, version for SAP Netweaver (BPC) has been available for a few years now and I am asked almost on a daily basis from a variety of sources, why would I invest in the expense of implementing or migrating to a BPC application on a HANA platform (also referred at times as “BPC on HANA”).   This is great question for those unfamiliar with what BPC and/or HANA brings to the party.  I wanted to document my thoughts here so that I can easily refer all future inquiries to this spot!

Why BPC? 
BPC has been accepted by thousands of customer around the world for their planning and consolidation needs…large and small implementation testimonials are available for reference in scores of industries[1].   Independent evaluations, such as Gartner,
consistently position BPC with the highest marks for vision, usability, and value.  In its current available version (10.0) BPC works within a variety of host SAP BW systems, allowing the synergistic consumption of pre-delivered BW content for developing your BPC process.  If you are already an “SAP house”, using BPC is really a “no brainer” – the ability to leverage an existing SAP Business Warehouse (BW) implementation, or even install a new BW implementation to host BPC[2], is simple when you consider the massive amounts of delivered content provided to you when you install BW.  This delivered content received from the BW side allows easy extraction of master and transactional data.  Addtionaly, you also have a multitude of prepackaged solutions from SAP’s rapid deployment solution (RDS) teams[3].  These solutions are usually free of change and typically include:  predefined data models supporting a variety of business processes and industries, best practice reporting templates, and predefined control monitoring processes templates based upon industry best practices.
If SAP’s pre-delivered materials just don’t quite meet your business process needs, BPC’s native administration user interface is extremely adaptable for custom requirements.   Data access can be achieved via web reporting, using the familiar MS Excel reporting interface, or enabling the easy to use Mobility/EPM Unwired solution to mobilize access to BPC data, in any scenario SAP has delivered bucket loads of options that will meet the most demanding custom requirements.
 
Why HANA?
HANA as a product at SAP has been around a relatively short time, but adoption has been brisk…approaching 2000 customers as of the writing of this blog.  The HANA approach has been applauded by a variety of third parties as well as the greater user community.  Probably the best flattery is from SAP competition, take a look at their recent offerings and you will see “in memory” and “columnar store” all over the place.  HANA is years ahead of these guys in delivering a holistic system that is based on in-memory technology and speaks to delivering business value by:
•    Eliminating data redundancy throughout the process, HANA accomplishes this by enabling the “store the physical record once, consume those same records in multiple scenarios virtually”.   HANA accomplished this by allowing the definition of layered virtualized “views” of data which are populated at runtime.  These views can be as simple as joining one or more database tables and/or the view can utilized the deep functional calculation capability built within HANA to perform complex logic operations on the data.
•    Data administration is greatly simplified: only one copy of the data has to be loaded, less places to store data means less load on your reconciliation processes,  if only one copy of the data exists then your data correction process is greatly simplified.  Storing one copy of data records leads to the elimination of data confusion within the organization. 
•    Data is loaded into HANA and becomes immediately available.  No need to wait to fill aggregates or specialized data marts. 
•    BPC on HANA can provide reporting access either from the BW model supporting BPC  (access via BPC/BW) or the underlying tables in HANA supporting the BPC/BW layer (access via HANA itself). This reporting model flexibility allows full access to data stored for BPC/BW activities but also provides full access and join capabilities with data that has been directly stored in HANA (i.e.: data that was may not be directly related to BPC/BW sources).     

Why BPC on HANA?
This brings us back to the question of “Why combine the two:  BPC and HANA?”  The overall compelling reason is true business value.   The combination of BPC and HANA enables:
  1. Faster decision making – by enabling faster data loads you can access this data faster, you plan faster, you close faster, and most importantly you react faster to real life business conditions.  The price or your primary strategic raw material, let’s say it wheat, is ready to rise quickly due to devastating weather pattern right at the time of you supplier’s harvest.   What is it worth to your business to be able to easily recalculate the entire financial portrait of your company in minutes instead of days?   May be of great value if your competitor figures out that the remaining available wheat from another supplier should be locked in right away before you can get to it!
  2. Eliminate “Blind Spots” in data. HANA’s performance allows BPC to operate with your lowest level of data granularity.  This means that details such as product trends and clustering can be identified at the UPC level or maybe the physical customer address level.  Introducing a specific new product becomes easier to track against budget projections.  Immediately realize if a specific location is starting to fail take corrective action before store results in a financial miss.
  3. Use delivered HANA tools directly on BPC data to enhance the accuracy and information content of your financial plan.  Delivered with HANA is a predictive algorithm library (PAL).  PAL contains dozens of statistical models that can be deployed to scientifically calculate trend and variation for more accurate forecasts. Because BPC/BW/HANA work together this can be fully automated so that an up-to-date forecast can be created whenever new data becomes available.  Remove the guess work of creating a forecast!   HANA also has geospatial tools, recently delivered, that allows the visualization of your plan/forecast
    on a map projection….potentially reducing the financial analysis burden for non-financial personnel considerably.
  4. Flexibility in design – data can be easily consumed using BW or HANA pathways (see section on HANA above).  Your potential choices – perpetuate a BW centric analytics, or migrate to a HANA centric analytics model, or possibly something something in between?  Either way you decide, performance and usability is assured.
  5. Vision for the future – for the poker lovers out there, SAP is “all in” on their vision for HANA.  This means that you can
    expect continued cutting edge innovation and exciting new capabilities being released form SAP continuing well into the future.  The competitors to SAP see the value we created, but they are way behind in delivering as robust a system.   To be competitive in today’s market:  do you want a system based upon older technology and capabilities[4]?  Or do you want a system that can deliver you the future today?   Key innovations for BPC/HANA are poised to be delivered before the end of this year, they include:
    • Moving a variety of calculations currently being performed in the application layer into HANA – this has the potential to accelerate the entire planning process even faster.
    • Redesign of the BPC web UI to allow for easier mobile interfacing and the accommodation of more regional language options
    • Availability of new cloud deployment options:  from Amazon Web Services as well as via SAP Hana Enterprise Cloud
    • Extension of  multi-temperature data concepts to allow more optimal and efficient system management
    • SAP HANA has plans to update to faster processors in the near future, realizing even more performance capabilities
 
I invite all readers to leave comments or share their relevant experiences.

Sheldon Edelstein

SAP Database and Technology Solution Management 

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