SLN Spotlight_SAP Labs India: Do customers know what they want?
Most of the customers do know what they want but don’t know how and what they can. That is where the vision of a product gets paved. This is exactly what happened with Student activity hub (SAH) also. SAH started all the way back in 2015, fag end of the year, where we understood the problem statement has shifted from where to store the data in the Transactional system to what to do with the data in the Transactional systems. Customers always have a wealth of data but don’t know how to make use of it efficiently. Could customer make a meaningful Analysis of the data?
Customer DT workshops with University of Kentucky helped us a lot in understanding the business use cases. UK being one of the first few customers, who have used the power of HANA for in combination with Analytical tools to making strategic decisions in their university, were the trend setters. We quickly realized that customer data is scattered across heterogeneous systems and there is not specific format for structured/unstructured data.
A Solution from SAP, thus, should be able to store any kind of data, coming from heterogenous systems. This demanded an extensibility feature in Cloud which was not available. Options in front of us was to wait for the framework from core team or come up with a small-scale solution which would be non-disruptive with the concept of extensibility of SAP. We took a call of giving 1000 generic fields in one large table with the differentiation of type field in the table, to solve the extensibility issue. This worked for us beautifully. We came up with an extremely configurable solution for the customer which can accommodate any kind of data and do light analytics on the data. Initially we were looking at the solution which does analytics and byproduct of the same was Groups of students.
As an architect, we always know Flexibility is inversely proportional to Performance and we should have the right balance We inclined towards Flexibility over Performance assuming HANA is fast enough but customer gave us a different perspective on the same.
When we visited University of California San Diego (UCSD) we realized our vision of the product would need refinement. The customer was alright with a little less flexibility but was not ready to compromise even on few milliseconds of performance.Though we were trying to create a Flexible tool which would create groups as a result, we didn’t realize that customer would start comparing our SAH Analytical tool with some tools like Tableau/Cognos/ BO which are pretty mature Analytical tools. We quickly realized that we can help customer create groups alone through our application but should not present the application as yet another Analytical tool.
This has raised a challenge of building a highly performant, less flexible, highly integrable application. Cloud was always on the priority for the customer.
With the SAH going cloud it was not possible to sell the idea of SAH to customer without the integration solutions like SCP, SCC, SDI, WebIDE, HRF, Job Scheduler. This is where collaboration with all the stake holders like Zimmermann Daniel, Tolksdorf Markus (SCC), Tankov Nikolai (SCC) , Siebeking Ingo (Analytical work stream), Vagmayster Nachshon (WebIDE), Buchen Andreas , LeBlanc Richard, Schuller Axel (SDI), Mohanbabu Ramana (HRF), B Padmashree(Job Scheduler) of these teams helped us to get to the release of our beta version of SAH and have a customer validation done on a Live Cloud system.
Customer was excited to see the power of HANA and the SAH solution and what it has to offer, and how they can visualize solving many more of their issues with the help of a solution like SAH. The job is still half done and we only hope to help the customer go live with SAH on HANA Cloud to make all the strategic decisions which will help in successful retention of students in the universities.
This development journey has given all of us a great learning opportunity at different levels. UCSD always knew what they wanted but didn’t have the tools to deliver goods. We in SAP know how to help customer with HCP to solve their business problems. All in all, this workshop has affirmed yet again a deep sense of confidence that we, at SAP, are going in the right direction.