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Real-Time Business Becomes a Reality: Florida Crystals Takes to the Cloud

That Florida Crystals was the first company to go live with SAP Business Suite on SAP HANA deployed in the SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud was not surprising to me.

The West Palm Beach, Florida-based sugar company has always been on the leading edge.

The privately held firm was the first in North America to go from selling raw sugar as a commodity to become a fully-integrated sugar company, guiding the product from field to the table. It’s a complex business. Florida Crystals works 185,000 acres in Florida. It owns two sugar mills, a sugar refinery, a packaging and distribution center, a rice mill—and what may be the largest renewable power plant in North America. The $5.5 billion company is the largest sugar refiner in the world and still growing by acquisition, recently moving into Europe and Latin America and looking at opportunities in China and Africa. It deployed SAP ERP years ago in 1995. The company was also an early cloud adopter, ridding itself of its data center way back in 2010.

With SAP Business Suite powered by SAP HANA and the SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud, CIO Don Whittington saw an opportunity to speed up mission-critical business processes and enable employees to focus on higher-value work than waiting for overnight batch processes or devising Excel-based workarounds.

Florida Crystals was able to migrate to the cloud in record time—less than three days. The migration began late on a Friday, and Whittington told us, “it was business as usual on Monday.”

Only it wasn’t business as usual.

Key performance processes like accounts payable doubled in speed. Cost center reports that used to take minutes took milliseconds; programs that ran for hours now finish in minutes. The end-of-month workload that took three days now runs in about four hours. Whittington tells us that response times across most business transactions have improved by anywhere from 50 to 500 percent.

I see an increasing number of companies like Florida Crystals getting interested in SAP HANA because they’re struggling with complexity. They have numerous batch processes. Analysis is based on old data. And because of the limitations of their existing technology, they’ve built in a lot of workarounds, which further complicates business processes.

We recently conducted a survey of IT managers with IDC and found that more than 40 percent needed a minimum of two days to prepare financial data for reporting. The average time to process data and make it available for analysis across most other business functions was more than a day for half of the respondents. In some areas, a week to ten days was not uncommon. Even more concerning, more than 40 percent said that users could not perform predictive analysis or work with real-time data because of these limitations.

If you looked at a pie chart of the average business user’s time today, the majority is spent waiting for information with a sliver dedicated to actual business analysis. With SAP HANA, that gets inverted. Business users can do reporting on-demand, on their own, and in real-time. No more spreadsheets, manual processes—and waiting.

That’s what we’re seeing at Florida Crystals. Things are simpler for IT, too. With the SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud, they don’t need specific resources or expertise to make the system work. It’s a fully managed cloud service.

In a testament to those results, just a few months after deployment
Florida Crystals recently earned Constellation Research’s SuperNova Award for Technology Optimization & Innovation the project. You can read more about it here:

To hear from Florida Crystals’ leaders about their experience with SAP Business Suite on SAP HANA deployed in the SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud, check out this video.

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