Over the years as an SAP consultant, I have been on engagements differing across the board in every variable imaginable. Despite how vastly one project differs from the next, there are two things they all seem to have in common. The first is that at the end of each and every project I have learned a significant amount as each customer has a different business use case and requires its own unique solution. The second: almost every single engagement has involved using HANA at some stage in the project. One engagement I was on in 2013, however, was far and away the project with the gravest need for a HANA implementation. The customer was a large firm in the insurance industry. The customer had been maintaining data in fairly impractical fashion requiring constant manual upkeep, which due to the magnitude of the data was becoming problematic. Once the Statement Of Work was signed, a team consisting of a Project Manager, four other SAP consultants, and myself arrived on site to clean up the situation.
As I mentioned, the method the customer used for recording and storing data was not ideal to say the least. The customer had some of its data in legitimate source databases (SQL and Oracle DB types) but some of its most crucial data was stored solely in excel sheets requiring the data team to manually update them each day. Remember, this is an insurance company whose data included myriad complex equations and calculations.Excel is not the ideal tool for such large data sets. The customer agreed that it was time to start maintaining their data more efficiently; they acquired the necessary licenses and gave us the keys to their environment, which was about to become powerful and HANA-driven.
The customer chose HANA to transform the way they housed and calculated their financial data because of its unparalleled calculation engine and capabilities. They chose SAP to execute the conversion because they knew an environment built around SAP best practices could have a very positive business impact. Rather than the careful and meticulous Excel equation management methodology the customer had been operating with, we implemented logic in HANA Models (about 40 views total each rolling up to one or more Calculation Views). We were able to build out all calculated columns/attributes and expressions to produce a maintenance-free data model capable of dynamically, instantly, and accurately outputting values for all financial metrics that used to be calculated by hand in Excel.
Meeting all of the customer’s very specific business requirements was no easy task; a large amount of time, effort, and difficult logic went into meeting them. When we had validated that our formulas and values were correct, it was clear that SAP HANA had done its job for this company’s data analytics processes, providing information to the end-user quickly in a meaningful way.
No longer does the customer have to search through tabs and workbooks for one specific value and manually perform the math against the other values. Our data models allow HANA’s powerful calculation engine to execute complex equations on large financial tables with up to hundreds of thousands of rows. At the end of the engagement, I found so rewarding to see that we provided the customer with the type of data a financial firm needs to function. In addition, we built the model using generated time data that will automatically update when the months/years change. Therefore, this customer is able now to use our data models and subsequent reporting solutions for a very long time to come.
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