I spent a lot of time last year talking with vendors about big data and it’s ramifications for both the tech industry and the economy at large. Often these conversations centered around one or another vendor’s use of the big data term as the buzzword de jour, regardless of whether anything they do even vaguely looks like big data as the industry defines it. Much of the problem revolves around the fact that siloed big data is meaningless unless it is wrapped around core solutions, core process and core information.
Which is why the announcement a couple of weeks ago that SAP would be giving its Business Suite customers the option to both captures and analyze transactional data in real time on a single in-memory platform. Essentially, Business Suite using HANA allows organizations to run their businesses in real time and perform the trifecta of transacting, analyzing and predicting on one system. If the 80’s was all about the “continuous improvement” buzzword, product like this actually allow continuous improvement in IT to occur – by intrinsically tying together the end-to-end business processes that generate the data itself. It doesn’t hurt either that by unifying these formerly discrete functional areas, organizations are able to reduce duplication of data and simplify their systems.
In pitching this offering, SAP is articulating three core themes and benefits:
- Smarter – real time big data management, efficiency gains across supply chains, predictive smart analytics
- Faster – business processes, insights, decisions
- Simpler – Suite on HANA radically simplifies IT. Moving all applications onto the HANA platform to close the data divide between analytical and transactional world.
It’s very early days, SAP is releasing this gradually and currently targeting early adopter customers – they’re promising more general availability in Q2 however. Initial customers include John Deere and Ferrero.
Providing customers with near-real time insights into their data is something of a holy grail for technology vendors. If SAP can truly roll this out on a widespread basis, the impact will be significant. Given SAP’s considerable market-share, this move is both a massive opportunity for SAP to expand its footprint within existing customers, but also a threat to other enterprise BI providers who will feel the pinch from customers questioning the need for a standalone analytics suite.
Cost is something of an unknown – SAP will need to work hard to avoid it’s traditional temptation to charge in an aggressive and complex manner. To truly succeed, the pricing and licensing should be simple to avoid barriers to adoption. Add to that the unknowns around training and migrating from existing analytics products and there is some murkiness around how this will actually work.
SAP also needs to overcome the conservatism of many of its customers – the ideal way to do this is through articulating the benefits and giving customer a very low risk and low cost way of seeing for themselves the benefits that connected transactions/analytics platforms can bring – again this goes back to the licensing and pricing models.
SAP has long been mocked by other enterprise vendors for being a laggard when it comes to the cloud – rather than come out with some cloud-washed application however they’ve looked hard at how they can deliver real value to customers. Running Business Suite on HANA provides a credible means of differentiation and sees SAP playing, to use a sporting metaphor, to where the puck is heading. It’s going to be interesting to see the customer uptake for the extended product suite.