Five SAP HANA implementation tips CIOs should know

Your journey to a successful implementation of HANA begins with analyzing the information that is currently available. Here's what you need to know.

If you're planning an SAP HANA implementation in the near future, you're probably on a fierce hunt for guidanc...

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That's because despite HANA's ability to analyze massive amounts of data in real-time, HANA adoption rates have so far been on the low side, although they do appear to be rising as its functionality expands into a major platform for enter­prise applications and word about its success spreads. Still, the dearth of real-life experience from which to learn may leave early adopters feeling like they're making an SAP HANA implementation journey in the dark.

To make that journey a bit clearer, here are five tips to help light your way. (Note: The first three tips apply to the HANA database, and the last two are on HANA applications, or S/4HANA Enterprise Management; see sidebar for more on the difference.)

Spend time deciding whether you want on-premises, hybrid or cloud versions of HANA. Maintaining an in-house database infrastructure has always been an expensive undertaking, due to the cost and overhead involved. CIOs must decide if the future direction of their company requires them to partially or fully get rid of their in-house database infrastructure and partially or completely move to cloud. The decision on whether the cost associated with the HANA database is justified may take longer for companies that have already heavily invested in in-house infrastructure. However, undertaking a cost-benefit analysis greatly helps in this decision-making process. Often companies only migrate their old and slow databases to SAP HANA to speed up transactions processing, but leave the applications side as it is or do it later on to take advantage of S/4HANA Enterprise Management offerings.

SAP has positioned the HANA portfolio into two distinct categories:

Technical. This is the powerfully fast database processing side of HANA.

Functional. This is the application side, positioned as S/4HANA Enterprise Management. It's on the Enterprise Management side of HANA, where there are ongoing innovations and simplifications in business processes taking place. These are released every quarter.

Companies may choose only the technical upgrade by choosing HANA database and leave the functional side for implementation later on, or they may do both at once. However, it is not possible to implement Enterprise Management without first implementing the HANA database.

Address hardware sizing by calling on the experts. HANA's simpler database, faster CPUs and flexible scaling requires CIOs to diligently conduct hardware sizing when it comes to HANA, since these are an altogether different ballgame than traditional databases, and any misstep could lead to underestimating or overestimating the required hardware. To make the most-informed decision, CIOs should engage multiple SAP HANA-certified vendors and then compare the results and reports of each vendor. If most vendors suggest a similar database size, then it is better to go for the higher estimation of database size. If there's a significant deviation in hardware sizing estimates from one vendor to another, then CIOs should ask each vendor to provide references to similar sizing projects that they've undertaken or get help from SAP to validate the vendor-suggested database size.

Tap into any available HANA knowledge and experience. At this time, there aren't too many reference clients and industry referrals that CIOs can consult to see how well others have done and the challenges they faced. Being a newer technology that has not been adopted among a lot of enterprises, even SAP consultants engaged in HANA implementation do not have a depth and breadth of experience. Fortunately, SAP helps with its early adopter program, known as SAP Ramp-Up. In this program, SAP engages subject matter experts who then engage with early adopters on a regular basis throughout the duration of SAP HANA implementation to guide and advise on all technical and functional aspects of HANA. SAP also incrementally shares technical guides, user manuals, presentations, roadmaps, accelerators and other assets to enable the client to effectively and successfully implement HANA.

SAP's ongoing innovations to SAP S/4HANA Enterprise Management can evoke an intense case of FOMO.

Access SAP Activate. For companies opting for HANA's Enterprise Management, the S/4HANA deployment methodology SAP Activate ensures expedited and guided S/4HANA Enterprise Management implementation. SAP Activate leverages best practices, guided configuration and proven implementation methodology to ensure a project's success. SAP Activate eliminates the traditional way of creating an SAP Business Blueprint document that maps current business processes with SAP Best Practices business processes and then conducts a gap analysis -- SAP Activate gets straight to the gap analysis. CIOs must be aware that it is still too early to evaluate if SAP Activate will ensure that all important business processes are captured, given that not all SAP Best Practices are currently available in HANA. However, SAP does keep on adding and building up the Best Practices library. So can CIOs rely only on the library as it gets fully built out? Not likely. An approach that seems to work well so far is to use traditional business blueprinting, but also create a variant or additional document by using SAP Activate.

Create an implementation roadmap and stick to it. SAP is continuously rolling out newer functionality and innovations with each quarterly release of SAP S/4HANA Enterprise Management, which can evoke an intense case of FOMO (fear of missing out). But it is critical that CIOs do not let new offerings and features derail the ongoing SAP project. In other words, don't go back two-steps on an already-agreed upon solution just to take advantage of newer innovations, or the result will quickly become scope creep, skyrocketing project costs and timeline slippages. CIOs should put a hard-stop on adopting S/4HANA innovations until the initial SAP HANA implementation is complete. Later, after SAP HANA implementation has successfully gone live and business processes have matured, CIOs can embark on "continuous-improvements" projects to implement latest S/4HANA Enterprise Management innovations available at that time.

Next Steps

Cloud vs. on-premises HANA: Which should you choose?

How to find the best HANA cloud provider

HANA implementation forces some hard decisions

This was last published in March 2016

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