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Will SAP HANA Lead to a Big Data Revolution?

December 17th, 2012 by

SAP HANA – Big Data

Lots of folks focus on HANA as a competitor to Oracle, and it is.  Even if HANA adoption and sales were to completely devastate SAP’s biggest competitor (Oracle) that would not be HANA’s biggest impact–, the HANA product has the potential to disrupt entire industries in the context of Big Data.

Unlike Big Data, I’ve been skeptical about the benefits and use of social media in the enterprise, writing about it in Why Social Media Marketing Success Is Elusive for Business and Social Media Fads and the Risk to the Enterprise.  On the other hand, Big Data hasn’t gotten anywhere near the attention even though it has a fairly clear business case.  Big Data has the capability to transform enterprises, organizations, and even entire industries.  We are not talking about abstract “build it and they will come” theories here either.  We are talking about a revolution in the way business is done.

Big Data will have huge impacts on customers, products, even whole regions of the world.  What do I mean when I refer to Big Data?

BIG DATA:  The ability to analyze large volumes of both structured data (like transactional data streams) AND unstructured data (social media, industry information, news trends, etc.) leading to market makers and market losers across virtually all industries.

This ability to synthesize structured and unstructured data streams with technology advances WILL transform companies and industries.
 
Over the next 5 – 10 years:

  • Computing power will continue to grow.
  • High speed memory processing (like in SSD drives) will improve.
  • Massive memory storage will come down in price.
  • In-memory database technologies will mature.

This “perfect storm” of Big Data know-how and technology advances will lead to the ability to identify:

  •  Subtle and even unknown market segments.
  •  Market and sales trends.
  •  Customer sentiments, needs, and wants.
    • Leading to new product or service opportunities.
  • Competitor strengths or weaknesses.
  • Etc., etc., etc.

Big Data will be part of the ERP iii [FN1] technology innovation driving customer focus related to customer acquisition, customer retention, and marketplace performance.  Big Data represents a business transformation shift in how business will be done in the future–, it represents a potential seismic shift in business performance in the marketplace.

The Big Data Revolution

The struggles are the semantics in how to synthesize the information and filter the nuggets from the noise.  Big Data allows you to understand what the keys are in terms of words, concepts, and ideas.  It then allows you to synthesize those keys with the various data sources.
 
In other words, how do you take the product sales information (transactional data), customer demographics (transactional), corporate market knowledge (unstructured internal), key word search (semi-structured internal and external such as with Google or Bing), with marketplace intelligence (unstructured external, including external social media), and innovate new or existing products and services?  That is the challenge that some folks are beginning to work on today.  That is the challenge that SAP’s HANA product enables for the future enterprise. 

Big Data means “Business Intelligence” will finally become, well, intelligent!

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[FN1]  For more information on ERP 3 see this comprehensive ERP treatise ERP vs. ERP II vs. ERP III Future Enterprise Applications.

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The SAP User Experience

April 9th, 2012 by
SAP User Experience

SAP User Experience

Over a decade ago SAP embarked on a journey to revamp their outdated user interface.  Enter “nJoy” SAP with all of the new “N” transactions.  But it has been over a decade now and other than some nice refinements to the GUI not much has changed.  A decade in the technology space is like a century in other areas.  Isn’t it time to take a hard look at the application suite again?

So you have the cute “Netweaver Business Client” but there hasn’t been a lot done to change the user experience for SAP applications.

Features, Functionality, Usability, and Performance Directly Translate Into User Experience

SAP Features, Functionality, and German Engineering

Let’s look at SAP’s years of leadership in the features and functionality area of Enterprise applications:

  • No matter what any other enterprise software vendor claims they can not come close to the depth of enterprise application experience SAP has.  A recent SAP fact sheet claims more than 183,000 customers in more than 130 countries (retrieved 4/8/2012).
  • SAP supports at least 22 major industry vertical solutions [FN1] covering such diverse areas as Automotive, Banking, Chemicals, Governement (Public Sector), High Tech, Mining, Pharmaceutical, Retail, etc.  Each of these areas has its own specialized process nuances and the application additions require specialized support.

The SAP application suite is massive as well.  If you’ve ever looked at an SAP price list you’ve probably been thoroughly confused and overwhelmed.  The SAP enterprise application footprint is gigantic.  SAP R&D spend for 2011 was about 13.5% of gross revenue (or about 1.9B Euros) and with a few exceptions SAP R&D spend is generally in the double-digit area of gross revenue.  Think about that, 1.9B Euros in R&D spend is more than the gross revenue of most of their competitors enterprise application sales.

Consider the depth and breadth of application functionality in the context of the various solution options available (see Footnote 2 below for a SMALL sample from ONE Application Component area) [FN2].  If you’ve ever had to deal with an SAP price-list trying to develop enterprise solution architecture, or license requirements, you may quickly become overwhelmed by the massive feature and functionality landscape. 

SAP Performance Options

Many of SAP’s products are hardware and database agnostic.  I don’t mean that it will run on any hardware, or any database, but it will run on most major platforms.  Because of the way the applications are structured they will also run in what SAP callls “2 tier” or “3 tier” landscapes.  This means the applications are scalable, in both size and performance, to whatever level of hardware investment you decide.

With the introduction of SAP’s HANA in memory computing solution(s), performance within the application is changing by orders of magnitude.  Massive amounts of data and programs are now loaded into, and then read from memory rather than from hard drives.

Whether you want to scale up or use HANA system performance should never be an issue.

Usability, Usability on the Wall, Who’s the Fairest of Them All?

Now we get to the heart of the matter.  As demonstrated SAP is a GREAT engineering company with huge R&D spend, a comprehensive industry solution portfolio, and a mountain of enterprise application options.  They’re German, what did you expect? Scalability and performance are not issues so the only area left is usability.

The “nJoy” program is about a decade and a half old.  In technology terms that is like the difference between the Stone Age and the industrial Revolution.

Unfortunately on the user experience curve they are in the IT Stone Age.  While there are great functionality enhancements coming out in the various enhancement packs at the same time the ability to use the application suffers.  Each major version of the SAP GUI offers a more pleasing screen, but it is still the same underlying data entry requirement–, the same fields, the same tabs, the same screens, the same old everything with a little bit of “lipstick” added.  But it is still the same fat, bloated, over-engineered user experience. 

SAP User Experience Customizing Pain

Please, don’t tell me about GUI XT or any of the other “customizing” options for screen layouts.  The starting point stinks and then you expect a customer to pay (consulting time, employee time, system integrator time, etc.) to enhance or modify the screens.  The SAP enhancement or modification option is not simple either — a simple screen enhancement is a significant engineering undertaking.  Unlike several modern “drag and drop” applications SAP requires development work to add new fields, change field labels, populate data in those fields during transaction run time, screen development is needed to “build” a new screen layout, and then you have to reassign a new “Z” transaction with copies of the modified underlying programs, adjust security, etc.  It takes a major engineering effort to make SMALL changes to the user experience.  SAP you have GOT to change this!  Your customers should be able to focus on the user interface without having to worry about all of the underlying engineering.

A Model for the SAP User Experience

Recently I offered The PERFECT SAP Acquisition Target in a CRM application called “SugarCRM.” As an SAP consultant who wants to see SAP continue to do well there are a lot of lessons that can be learned from them.  They are a cloud vendor who has set their target on Salesforce.com.  They provide a great navigation and ease of use experience.  And best of all, you can alter field labels, hide fields, add custom fields, completely change the layout of screens, and a whole host of other things without having to do any coding at all. Even if this isn’t an acquisition possibility for SAP it might help some of those German engineers in the SAP CRM space to download the opensource version and explore it.  Maybe they will learn a little something from a scrappy upstart who recently received $46 million in venture capital.  And this was from several VC organizations so a number of investors are betting millions on SugarCRM’s marketplace viability–, even in a marketplace saturated by salesforce.com and Microsoft.

Apple has Proven that User Experience Can MAKE the Market by Addressing Customer Pain Points

It’s been a long time SAP since you have seriously considered a remake of the user experience.  Since then Apple has proven that addressing customer “pain points” is a market winner. It’s about time to take another hard look at the user interface and user interactions because SAP “usability” has always been a customer pain point.  The “nJoy” program is about a decade and a half old.  In technology terms that is like the difference between the Stone Age and the industrial Revolution.  Don’t you think it’s time to get really serious about the user experience paradigm?

==============

[FN1] Retrieved 4/8/2012 from http://help.sap.com/industries.  Along with this there are “sub” solutions within several of the industries and across industries.

[FN2]

SAP Application Components

like SAP Auto-ID Infrastructure, SAP BOBJ Spend Performance Mgmt, SAP CRM, SAP ERP, SAP SCM, SAP SNC, SAP SRM, …

SAP Best Practices

SAP Best Practices packages are available in different country versions for various industries

SAP BusinessObjects portfolio

like Address Directories & Reference Data, Crystal Reports Viewer, SBOP Data Federator, SBOP Enterprise, SBOP Extended Analytics, SBOP Text Analysis, …

SAP Business One

like SAP Business One 8.8, SAP Business One 2007, Crystal Reports for B1, Remote Support Platform for B1, …

SAP Connectors

like Business Connector, …

SAP Content

like BI CONT, SAP Business ByDesign CONTENT, …

SAP Cryptographic Software

like SAP Cryptographic Library, …

SAP Development Projects

like customer-specific development projects software, …

SAP Education Products

like Acrobat Con Learning by Adobe, Knowledge Acceleration, RWD Info Pak Suite, SAP Productivity Pak by RWD, SAP UEM by KNOA, Training Content for SAP KW, …

SAP Frontend Components

like NetWeaver Business Client, SAP GUI for Windows, SAP GUI for JAVA, SAP ITS, SAP IGS, …

SAP In-Memory (SAP HANA)

like SAP HANA Enterprise Edition, SAP HANA Enterprise Ext. Edit., SAP HANA Platform Edition

SAP Mobile Solutions

like MOB ACCAPROVER INT, MOB HR APPROVAL INT, MOB MGR INSIGHT IPD, …

SAP NetWeaver and complementary products

like SAP NetWeaver, SAP NetWeaver CE, SAP NetWeaver Mobile, SAP NW Identity Management, SAP MDM, SAP Content Server, …

SAP On-Demand Solutions

like SAP Sales OD Integration

SAP Rapid Deployment solutions

like SAP Business Communication Management rapid-deployment solution, SAP CRM rapid-deployment solution for Sales, Marketing, and Service, SAP IT Service Desk Operation rapid-deployment solution, …

SAP Solution Extensions by Partners

like BOBJ XBRL Publishing UBMatrix, SAP CPS Full (Scheduler), SAP Ext. Diagn. by CA Wily, SAP IncentivePayback by Vistex, SAP Quality Center by HP, …

SAP Solutions for Governance, Risk, and Compliance

like SAP Global Trade Services, SAP GRC Access Control, SAP Process Control, SAP Risk Management, SAP Nota Fiscal Electronica, …

SAP Technology Components

like LV for Solution Manager, Remote Support Component, SAP Landscape Transformation, SAP Solution Manager, SAP Support Enablement Package, SAP TAO, …

Adapters

like Informatica, IWay, Seeburger, for SAP NetWeaver 04 (EP Edition), for SAP XI 2.0, …

Composite Applications

like Industry Composites Applications (SAP COMP App for BOP, for E-Tax) SAP DOCB, SAP CQM, SAP XIEP, SAP XLPO, SAP SOP, …

Country-specific Add-Ons

like HR-CIS, SAP Core CEE, SAP E-Recruiting – LOCFR, SAP HR-CEE, SAP IS-U/LOCIN, SAP IS-UT CEE, SAP Real Estate CEE, …

Fuzzy! Products

like Fuzzy! Analyzer, Fuzzy! Bank, Fuzzy!Boykottcheck, Fuzzy! Double, Fuzzy! Post, Fuzzy! Umzug, …

Industry-specific Components

like Banking Services from SAP, SAP Bank Analyzer, SAP CFM, SAP Deposits Management, SAP Discrete Industries, SAP Insurance, SAP IS-U, SAP Mill Products, SAP Oil & Gas, SAP Patient Management, SAP Retail, SAP Trade Industry Demand Mgmt, …

Miscellaneous Components

like AppServer LINUXx86 64 on 6.40, Convergence Tool, SAP Kernel, …

Plug-Ins

like SAP Plug-In, SAP Enterprise Portal Plug-In, SAP Solution Tools, …

Supplementary Components for Cross Industry Solutions

like Project Management, Life-Cycle Data Management (SAP PLM Integrations), SAP Railcar Management, SAP Test Data Migration Server, SAP Visual Basis, …

Sybase Products

like AFARIA, Sybase Mobile Sales, Sybase Mobile Workflow, Sybase Unwired Platform, …




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An SAP ABAP Innovation Revolution Beyond HANA

December 12th, 2011 by
ABAP Development Revolution

ABAP Development Revolution

Some time back I wrote about Opportunities for INNOVATION SAP, HELLO? At the time I wasn’t really expecting a lot and I’m guessing I didn’t have a lot of influence but I do find it coincidental that many of the suggestions I offered have been adopted. Some of them, like the switched framework to improve order management processing is included in ECC 6.0 EP4.

So, one thing that I have been chewing on for a long time is how to dramatically improve ABAP development and overall application enhancements.  My own requirements were to find a way to make ABAP coding simpler, improve code quality, provide better overall system performance, and make it easier to troubleshoot. Tall order I know. Impossible? No!

Welcome to the “Big Data Revolution”

This post is more about a technical issue which SAP can “easily” address that would completely revolutionize its own internal development as well as external customer development.

The New SAP Development Revolution

I’m not an SAP ABAP coder but over the years I’ve had enough exposure to it to see some great tools, resources and improvements. This development effort has been mostly on the usage side of the existing syntax.

  • What if there was a way to revolutionize the way ABAP is coded that is 100% compatible with current syntax ?
  • What if it dramatically improved coding quality and solution development?
  • What if it improved the performance and consistency of customized ABAP solutions?
  • What if it simplified the entire coding process AND made troubleshooting easier?
  • What if it opened up a whole new world for coders to develop dramatically improved solutions?

You say that sounds crazy? Not only is it possible it would propel SAP’s place in the entire business application space to new levels.

Where Did This Crazy Idea Come From? And WHAT IS IT?

After many years working in SD (along with other modules) I had a client who needed help creating a new “smart” trade promotion execution solution. The solution had to do a LOT of things no standard SAP process handles. It needed to dynamically determine complex offers, with discounts, free goods, limits, caps, quotas, perform dynamic best price processing, provide loyalty points, etc. –, all while dynamically evaluating the customer segment and strata for offer eligibility.   The solution had to be done across a large population of order items, with multiple promotions based on the mix of products and the number of discounts or promotions that had already been given to a customer over time. The mix of products or offers could bundle multiple free goods, multiple offer discounts, or other special items, in a many to many relationship, based on the customer purchase and purchase history.  And performance HAD to be good because of the huge order volume.

The client had been asking for someone to deliver this for some time. A previous system integrator who did their upgrade couldn’t do it. I ended up spending 6 months working on a new custom coded ABAP “mini-module” in SAP that allowed them to achieve their goals by using mostly master data.

That process taught me more about ABAP programming and SAP coding than I ever anticipated. As I went through this process I was amazed at one simple thing that was completely lacking from all of this coding effort –, the amount of “VIRTUAL” SQL syntax for internal data processing in the form of loop, sort, read table (with key), append, move, move corresponding, index, etc.

Why not develop the syntax to handle all of this in the background through “virtual” select statements?  Create a new “iSelect” syntax which performs all of these functions that can be exploded.

SAP already uses internal tables in memory for processing data during the transaction stream.  By creating a new “iSelect” syntax much of this coding, looping, moving, etc., could be masked by fairly common SQL type commands. Since this would be compiled syntax the performance would likely be better and the quality would be FAR better while needing fewer lines of code to accomplish the same thing. For simplicity I will call it “internal SQL” or, iSQL.

This would be the perfect complement to SAP’s HANA in memory processing, and would help with reporting extractor and programming development of all kinds.

This type of iSQL could be developed to allow inner or outer joins on internal tables, external tables, or any combination of them. The normal SQL statements like Select Sum, Select Distinct, etc., etc., etc., could be employed throughout the entire ABAP processing stream. With internal tables in memory as well as the tables read from the database.  Still more interesting would be the ability to “explode the code” underneath this new iSQL syntax. When finer detailed control, processing, or calculations are needed, within or across joins, the underlying loop, sort, append, etc., could be exploded out and adjusted to fit the specific need. This would speed up development efforts by being able to quickly rough-out a data processing framework and then explode the code to make more detailed adjustments.

By focusing on syntax that is like SQL for the internal loops, sorts, reads, sums, append to table, move, etc., the coding complexity is reduced WHILE also providing more flexibility and options. SAP would have greater control over the development of the internal / external table processing standards and programming knowledge around actual data processing would improve.  This would be the perfect complement to SAP’s HANA in memory processing.

It would allow for faster, more reliable coding efforts with a higher performance result. Small performance tweaks or changes to the underlying compiled iSQL statements, along with that ability to explode the underlying code would create a revolution in the ability to more quickly and consistently deliver SAP solutions.

What is most important of all is this could be rolled out piecemeal and stay 100% backward compatible with no negative downstream effects. As new iSQL syntax is developed the original coding standards could remain in place without change. It would just add an additional set of power processing options. Think about all of the areas this would radically affect, custom coding, data conversion, SOA development, report development, function module creation, you name it. This could create HUGE customer benefits for outstanding development.

I’m tired of crappy, poor performance, system choking code from poor development, aren’t you? Come on SAP, YOU CAN DO THIS!!!!

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