The first question you need to address when considering whether SAP BW on HANA is the right solution for your business concerns:
- Your needs;
- You wants; and
- Your aspirations.
The following diagram from SAP attempts to show the IM evolution that all organisations go through:
So let’s park "aspiration" for now – you will only be able to get there once you have resolved the “need” and thereafter the “want”.
Establishing what you Need and Want from IM
I recently worked through this process with a customer and we had to be absolutely brutal about the reality of their situation.
We eventually stripped it back to the following decision tree which guided them to the decision to implement SAP BW on HANA:
1. They needed a global Enterprise Data Warehouse Solution
2. The decision was to go with SAP BW because of:
- The Governance and Change Controls provided through the Transport management System;
- The integration into their SAP installed base, with SAP Data Services providing integration capability for the other (non-SAP) platforms; and
- The mature Security and Controls built into SAP BW.
- Simplified solution architecture through LSA++;
- Performance (and only because it supported the simplified LSA++ solution architecture); and
- Future proofing (“What DBMS will you have in place in 5 years’ time?”).
The main paradigm I had to challenge with this client was that SAP BW is, in their experience, not a good platform for Business Intelligence since it is expensive, inflexible and not delivering the expected value.
The counter argument that I consistently promoted was:
SAP BW is an application layer through which you configure the underlying DBMS to provide you with the required database objects / structures that will address your reporting needs. Other DBMS’s (MS SQL Server for example) have similar development tools (such as SQL Management Studio or Microsoft Visual Studio) through which you can deliver a similar platform, albeit directly on the DBMS Platform. However, what you are missing with other DBMS platforms are the Governance and Controls for Change Control and Version Management, the native integration into SAP Enterprise Applications and the Security and Controls provided out-of-the-box by SAP BW.
If you have inexperienced resources designing, building and testing your SAP BW solution, you will end up with a solution that is neither scalable nor supportable (i.e. Total Cost of Ownership will go through the roof). However, the same applies to other enterprise data warehouse solutions built on Oracle, Teradata, Microsoft SQL Server, IBM Netezza etc.
So that probably addressed the “need”.
There are a lot of tools available within SAP’s HANA platform (e.g. SAP HANA Live, integration with Sybase IQ, etc.) to address the “want” and eventually support the “aspiration”, but they come at a cost. Just look at the differential in license cost for SAP BW on HANA and SAP HANA Enterprise. In addition to product maturity issues, there is currently also a large skills gap in the market for applying these tools properly.
“Want” can quite often be addressed without incurring addition licensing cost by using the existing tools in clever ways, but (and here is the big “but”) you need to have someone with the knowledge and experience and skills to be able to guide you in deciding what is appropriate, relevant and mature.
The phrase “evolution, not revolution” springs to mind.
As I said before, my view is that you should (for now, at least) put “aspiration” onto the back-burner since it is too expensive and most organisations are not ready for it. Over time, as your Enterprise Data Warehouse matures you can start driving towards aspiration. However, until you have established and EDW platform that is widely adopted and used within your organisation, you are at risk of spending a large amount of resources on something that might or (probably) might not be used because the fundamental building blocks are not in place. A good example of this would be to produce the world’s most glamorous dashboards when the underlying operational and management reporting is non-existent.
At this stage you should have an idea of what it is that you want to do (strategy). The question you need to answer now is the "how" and the "when" (the roadmap). For both of these you need the budget. To get budget, you need to build a business case. For this you need to consider …
OK, let’s not yet spoil the fun. In my next blog, How to build a compelling Business Case for SAP BW on HANA - Part 2, I will address building the Business Case for SAP BW on HANA.