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Adoption Challenges of SAP HANA – Different Perspectives

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According to ASUG survey, some potential customers of SAP HANA are still skeptical about its adaptation. While some of them disagree, others are critical in their stance. Let’s find out the views from both the perspectives.

Various organizations are constantly discovering the best way to store data in a significant format so that the companies can make use of them in a better way to take key business decisions. Since the advent of Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) which began almost three decades back, various advancements in data management have happened. On this aspect, SAP has come up with High-Performance Analytic Appliance (HANA), a platform for processing high volumes of operational and transactional data in real time. According to various Industry experts, SAP HANA has established itself as a decisive technology for further innovation.

Speed Factor

In-memory computing tools such as SAP HANA can provide the existing SAP users to deliver a step change in terms of data processing and analysis. It is obvious that processing speed remains one of the crucial aspects of in-memory computing. Gone were the days when companies will have to access information stored in a data warehouse. Instead, the transactional data is stored in traditional memory such as flash storage, SSD drives or RAM and the analytics is carried out in real time. SAP HANA architecture enables the users to accelerate routine reporting functions to analyze large quantities of data such as current point-of-sale data in real time empowering your company to review segmentation, merchandising, inventory management and forecasting information or run end-of-period reports at very high speed at any given time or on any device. Technically speaking, the architecture of SAP HANA enables users to data view be generated in a moment of time, thus benefitting organizations to minimize storage resources and database footprint and potentially simplifies the modeling data and its usage.

Challenges in Adopting HANA

To know the pulse of SAP customers’ adaptation of SAP HANA, ASUG (Americas’ SAP Users’ Group) conducted a survey in August 2014. The full survey report is not in the public domain and is only available to the current members of ASUG. However, the ASUG news report of its survey titled ‘ASUG Member Survey Reveals Successes, Challenges of SAP HANA Adoption’ posted on ASUG News website on August 7th, 2014, is available on the Internet.

Despite the success rate and its business application, adaption of SAP HANA continues to be a key question in various companies. According to a survey research by ASUG, several potential customers and organizations are still skeptical on the HANA in-memory computing platform that can fit into their IT strategies.

According to the survey findings, over three-quarters of the respondents who have not purchased any HANA-based products said that they were not convinced on the business case that justifies the cost factor. The survey respondents also said that several issues such as skill sets, roadmap and upgrade issues prevented them to adopt HANA in their organization. In the survey, to a question asked to 377 survey respondents whether their company has purchased HANA, 55% of the respondents said they had not purchased; 40% saying they have and the rest 5% of them saying they are unaware of it. “The survey results are a critical feedback loop on the current state of HANA adoption,” says Geoff Scott, CEO of ASUG. “Like all new technologies, widespread adoption takes time and patience. The exponential rise in data volumes, coupled with our unquenchable thirst for speed and insight, requires solutions like HANA.”

According to ASUG, one of the key reasons for customer’s disinclination to purchase HANA was that SAP was not forcing them to move to their popular product HANA. ASUG stated that almost three fourth of the respondents who had not purchased HANA responded they expected SAP would “support their existing environments into the future or for at least five years or more,”.

Defensive Responses

In response to the ASUG survey on the adoption of SAP HANA, Steve Lucas, President , SAP Platform Solutions, says in his blog “We consider it to be a powerful voice for our technology users – one we take very seriously and continue to support. There is no reason for SAP to exist, save for our customers and their success, and that’s why its important to shed light on the survey and what it means for our customers.”. It is clearly evident in his blog statement that he was trying to defend the high price of HANA with the case understanding of HANA technology. He adds “According to the survey data, we have a high percentage of customers who haven’t yet purchased SAP HANA and cite their lack of use case understanding for the technology. Fair enough. SAP can always do more to ensure customers understand the opportunity SAP HANA gives them to reduce costs and simplify/accelerate their business processes.”

In response to survey finding of 75% of SAP customers who said they have no plans to implement SAP HANA for the next five years, Lucas states “To me, this feels like a great thing. Customers don’t feel forced or pressured to do something. That’s the antitheses of what people perceive software companies to be.”

On the customers’ lack of understanding of HANA technology, it is interesting to note that he cites the analogy of people who have never driven the Porsche car trying to answer about its speed and handling capability. Lucas says in his blog “I get the intent of the question but asking people who don’t own HANA what they think of it, is like asking people who have never driven a car what they think about the speed and handling capability of a Porsche.”. The obvious or rather crude analogy of super expensive Porsche luxury car is a clear message from Lucas hinting that the potential customers are absolutely unaware of the speed and the superior capabilities of HANA.

After a week of Lucas’s blog post, another blog of James Appleby, Group Chief Executive, Bluefin Solutions, posted on August 18th, 2014, defends the critical aspects of HANA not being implemented by the potential customers. James in his blog titled ‘Has the ASUG survey on SAP HANA been misinterpreted?’ interestingly says that the statistics of 55% of customers who haven’t purchased HANA is not at all surprising because the SMBs will not buy HANA until business transformation happens and smaller companies put their whole estate which comprises of ECC and BI into a single HANA system. He says “It also mentions that a lot of customers haven’t bought HANA, but this isn’t a surprise. SMEs will not buy it until they put their entire estate, including ECC and BI, onto a single HANA system; and that will only happen with business transformation.”

Critical Views

While trying to figure-out critical views from a non-seller i.e. from a SAP partner’s or a SAP customer’s perspective, I incidentally read a remarkable blog titled ‘Y U No Love HANA?’ posted by Jelena Perfiljeva. In the blog posed on September 10th, 2014, Jelena in a rather amusing way has expressed her perspective on the ASUG survey results on the adaptation challenges of HANA. According to me, the blog post of Jelena Perfiljeva is one interesting read for all those who are into implementation of SAP HANA.

In the blog, Jelena points the analogy of Lucas comparing HANA to the Porsche luxury car and relatively compares HANA to a very expensive dress Dior. She states that she cannot afford the expensive Dior dress or rather not having the need of it. She quotes “In case you didn’t get the analogy by now, there are SAP customers that need HANA just like I need a Dior dress, at least at this time.”

Then she compares HANA with the analogy of age-old cell-phone and
VHS, DVD, Blu-ray and what not! On her analogy of HANA with primitive cell-phones, she says that “Not every student or housewife had one of the first cell phones and not every SAP customer is Unilever or Coca Cola.” She adds to explain the analogy of HANA with Dior dress, DVDs, Blue-ray and cell-phone “So not everyone needs a Dior dress or is in a rush to replace their DVDs with Blu-ray and the first cell phones were not for everyone either, even though now almost everyone has one. Kind of makes sense, doesn’t it? But when pretty much the same thing is said about HANA, all of a sudden SAP gets their Hulk on.”

Another interesting aspect which Jelena points out in her blog is that SAP should know their customers’ requirement from an intelligent perspective and for that she poses a question “could SAP use HANA themselves to find out what their customers actually want and need?”

Finally she concludes her blog with the message to SAP saying that the [HANA] user groups are not critical of SAP rather they are trying to improve the relationship and reminds SAP not to be insensitive to the SAP partners and users who need their help.

A Brief Conclusion

As I have brought the various perspectives of adoption challenges of HANA, readers can draw their own conclusion based on their knowledge and experience.

On the deeper penetration of SAP HANA in the Industry, it is still too early to predict companies deploying HANA across various verticals. As stated in the ASUG survey finding, organizations may wait to see more of real-life use cases before deciding on adopting SAP HANA in their business units.

Even though the some of the potential customers of SAP may not feel the immediate necessity of HANA, the HANA in-memory platform has certainly raised the efficiency factor across businesses and one should not undermine its value.

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On March 7, 2015
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