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HANA Project Management and Delivery

I’d like to share some of my experiences from a project management, delivery perspective based on some of the commonalities, observations and lessons learned from having implemented SAP HANA. As with any new innovation, change is inescapable. With this positive change also come the immediate benefits of “Big Data” to our customer base.

Customer Challenges:


While engaged at major consumer products, retail apparel customer, I came to immediately understand the pain-points that were limiting visibility in their supply chain with impact to demand planning and Point of Sale (POS) inventory processes. For example, the Oracle EDW was not able to handle large or broad analytical queries on detail data. This prevented the business from analyzing and acting because too much time was being spent on compiling POS data. The existing tools (data warehouse, spreadsheets, canned reports), had capacity and reaction time limitations where speed and responsiveness was constricting the breadth and width of analysis that was needed.

The objective was to stand-up the SAP infrastructure for HANA, SLT and the BI content using Supply Chain and POS data for use by the Supply Planners and to develop use cases for the customer to experience HANA and learn how to develop and use it effectively to benefit their business. The ability to deploy real-time access and visibility into the retail inventories to gauge which products are selling would provide the competitive edge needed to support fact based decision making and creating “one version of the truth”.

Not So Traditional Lessons Learned

As all projects are unique, below is a set of top lessons learned I’d like to share from my experience and that were subsequently reviewed by the wider project team:

  • Don’t underestimate the need to perform a methodical sizing of the source systems and scoped infrastructure prior to build, otherwise capacity, performance and supportability is jeopardized
  • Be aware of the hardware procurement lead time process and the availability of establishing a valid start date with committed team resources; ideally all hardware and software should be racked/stacked and validated before project start
  • Business and IT often need more time with the new tools and to think about reporting and analyses differently from how it has been done in the past
  • Don’t take client side Business and IT resource availability too lightly and consider the right people for the right role at the right time in light of conflicting projects and personnel running in the same environment
  • Up-skill early; take advantage of free SAP HANA training venues, awareness of technical and functional features of the HANA architecture and component offerings. Gain an understanding of what HANA can do versus what HANA does not do
  • Perform, quick, informal project status aligned to schedule, risk, etc. with team multiple times a week, e.g., daily Scrum stand-ups; status changes frequently and a well-built stakeholder communication plan goes a long way
  • Employ methods and tools using the ASAP Agile methodology that is iterative in order to account for change and expectations management with regard to the development
  • Albeit, scope management may not always be easy to manage in a fluid environment, however it is especially critical to ensure scope verification is constant and updated in the event of changes resulting from added know-how and processes
  • Expectation setting remains more critical than ever; the business was seeking solutions to problems that were broader than the scope of the project which was focused on technology, not business processes or data integration
  • Inconsistent terminology and data definitions are often flushed out early; review of the data elements and calculations need consensus around business rules definitions in order to prevent discrepancies and confusion
  • Prior to project start, prepare scope and define prerequisite documentation around defined data sources, list of reports, data dictionary with technical fields, Entity Relationship Diagram, mapping of report fields to data sources and fields, etc.
  • Strongly consider use of HANA Enterprise Cloud offerings to minimize project risks relative to the schedule and cost, thus allowing a faster time to value

In addition, I’d like to illustrate some of the core differences that distinguish a HANA project to that of a traditional project:

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Change is Good!

Big Data is much more than data. It represents a new way of doing business –one that is driven by data-based decision-making. Leveraging Big Data capabilities with large data volumes and a variation of data sources – both internal and from third parties – can more than ever deliver more “intelligence”.

Despite a number of technical and project challenges and concurrent projects for key client resources, the project team was able to successfully deploy the HANA, SLT, and BI infrastructure; provision the key data required for the BI Content; design and develop useful BI content for both Supply Chain and POS analysis.

The project resulted in excellent performance with the initial content. Most reports returned results in 8 seconds and less in preliminary testing…even when querying over 1.4 billion rows of detail data. Quick, decisive reports gave the customer what was needed to improve their supply chain pain points and the opportunity to further develop efficiencies resulted in the lessons learned. For example, the setup of a governance structure and process for managing and evolving the HANA and BI environments.

The ability to store, access, and explore the data at the most detailed level can significantly reduce manual effort and re-processing time to update business analyses and get answers to key questions/issues quickly and efficiently. This resulted in the client’s ability to increase analyst productivity and reduce response time to new business needs or challenges.

As mentioned at the onset, innovation brings change and change is inescapable. It’s a very exciting time and the new generation of HANA products and services are more transparent, tangible, and valuable. There’s something to say about being an early adopter and the ability to deliver quick solutions that achieve an immediate pay-back!

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