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Planning for SAP HANA adoption can be challenging

Choosing which SAP HANA enterprise application to run can be challenging. Here are strategies to consider when planning to adopt SAP HANA.

One of the biggest challenges when planning an SAP HANA adoption strategy stems -- ironically -- from the flexibility of SAP HANA itself. Because SAP has transformed SAP HANA from a relatively straightforward in-memory data warehouse into a platform capable of running many enterprise applications, choosing which SAP product to start with can be mind-boggling.

An adoption plan also must consider deployment logistics -- where and how SAP HANA will run. Should a customer buy a standalone appliance? Integrate with an existing data center environment? Or tap the cloud?

The answers, it turns out, start with the fundamentals -- a good business case. Unfortunately, according to Gartner, establishing a compelling business case is challenging for companies considering SAP HANA adoption.

"The reason the business case for SAP HANA is such a major challenge is because many organizations have large investments in their ERP implementation," Gartner analyst Roxane Edjlali said. "They have purchased licenses for their existing DBMS -- Oracle, IBM, SQL Server -- and so they need a good business case for switching their underlying DBMS for HANA."

A second challenge for businesses, Edjlali said, is answering the questions: If you put HANA underneath your ERP system, for example, what business processes should you run differently? If SAP HANA doesn't result in a beneficial business process change, why do it? These can be "difficult questions for many organizations," Edjlali said, noting that the third major hindrance to adoption is that the SAP install base is risk-averse; they are waiting to see a large number of implementations before jumping onto HANA.

That wait may be over soon. At the end of 2014 SAP reported having more than 5,800 HANA customers, including more than 1,850 customers for SAP Business Suite on HANA. In addition, SAP CEO Bill McDermott told financial analysts during SAP's 2014 year-end financial results call that "We now have 1,200 customers already on the HANA cloud platform."

Different paths to SAP HANA adoption

One of the easiest adoption strategies starts with SAP Business Warehouse powered by SAP HANA, Edjlali said, noting that Business Warehouse, by itself, often has performance problems in meeting the expectations of business users. In this case, the speed offered by HANA's in-memory database is the key. "So BW on HANA speaks to a problem they already have today. It delivers value, and it fixes a problem that is not usually business-critical," Edjlali explained.

One pixelVIDEO: Migrating SAP ECC to HANA

"It's also a less risky path toward adoption," she said, "and it's a good way for SAP customers to get their feet wet, fix a problem they actually have, and at the same time get to learn HANA and figure out where else they want to bring it."

Some companies may need assistance as they develop an adoption strategy. Many SAP HANA implementations will be custom, based on the business use cases, which will then face several possible deployment choices. For instance, a brand-new SAP customer may easily err toward an operational expense deployment decision by moving to a pay-as-you-go cloud service versus a capital expense through the purchase of new hardware for the data center, which in turn could be a very large scale-up system or a scale-out solution.

Whether an organization forges ahead alone or works with a consultant or SAP directly to align its business goals with HANA options, it will need to go through steps to identify a valuable business need, the technical method of achieving the goal, and the cost and licensing impacts. All major SAP integration consultants have their own process maps and methods.

Five steps can help you realize the value of SAP HANA

For example, according to Akhilesh Tiwari, global head of the SAP practice for Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), five steps -- even when followed across many industries -- can help an organization realize the full value of SAP HANA. The TCS steps are initiate, discover, analyze, define and recommend.

"In order to deliver success, we first need to understand and define how we'll measure it, so we begin by conducting a series of stakeholder interviews with executives, business users and the IT organization," Tiwari explained. "Here we establish the vision and metrics for the project."

In the second step, discover, TCS collects data; investigates existing investments, architecture and code; and identifies business pain areas.

"Then we identify industry benchmarks and best practices, spot the capability gaps and the 'could-be' capabilities of the organization -- and determine the infrastructure additions and accelerators needed," Tiwari said.

"Our fourth step is to target the value opportunities to close gaps, mapping value drivers to business drivers. We identify the deployment options and define the methodology to move forward," he added, noting that the last step is to finalize the business case by evaluating the costs and licensing changes across the implementation ... while calculating ROI and plotting a five-year roadmap.

Enter SAP's guide to HANA use cases

Because finding a business case for HANA is integral to adopting HANA, SAP has created a 434-page PDF document to help customers find solutions that match their needs. Called the "SAP HANA Interactive Use Case Map," the document takes a collection of customer case studies that span 27 industries and lets a prospective HANA customer explore them via several different paths -- via business use cases, by available products (like Business Suite, Business Warehouse or even SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud) or by industry.

● SAP breaks the business cases into six categories:

● Operational reports, dashboards and analytics

● Data warehouse and data mart

● Optimizing business operations

● Big data

● Real-time operational intelligence

● Decision support, simulation and automation

If a user clicks on "big data," for example, the resulting big data page will share how SAP HANA is a game changer for big data, as well as highlight SAP HANA big data-related case studies from 12 companies, including the National Football League, eBay and Mercedes-AMG.

Each case study has a dedicated page that highlights the HANA results. For example, Mercedes-AMG went live with SAP ERP powered by SAP HANA to close the gap between transactional computing and business analytics, bringing them together in real time. Plus, Mercedes-AMG was the first company to go live with SAP Business Suite powered by SAP HANA in a virtualized production environment. In addition to the anecdotes, SAP includes links to videos, reference slides, studies, blog posts and articles about Mercedes-AMG and the company's use of SAP HANA.

At the bottom of these case studies, the guide links to the "Big Data Customer Adoption Journey Map," which in turn shows a "5 Simple Steps to Value" graph that provides links to additional HANA adoption resources around big data.

What if your chosen SAP HANA solution isn't in the massive guide? SAP also provides additional "Journey Maps" for adopting SAP HANA-based products, such as SAP Simple Finance, Customer Engagement Intelligence, Fraud Management, and Sales and Operations Planning -- all powered by SAP HANA, of course.

--Chris Maxcer

Going all-in with SAP HANA: Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores

Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores is a privately owned company that boasts more than 330 locations in 40 states in the U.S.

"We're a net new SAP customer," Mike McCane, director of Data and Development Services at Love's, said, noting that Love's was intrigued by what HANA had to offer.

After first implementing CRM powered by SAP HANA on a standalone appliance in Love's data center, the company launched Business Warehouse and Business Suite on HANA. In April, Love's will go live with a new HR system on HANA, then build out an SAS-based solution with HANA for Love's marketing team.

"It's turned into this huge ecosystem. Our decision was to go ahead and adopt it now and avoid any pain and expense associated with future migration," McCane said.

The only disappointing aspect was HANA Live. "That was one of the many selling points for us, and come to find out it was limited for Love's based on our license agreement with SAP," he said. "We couldn't create custom views or manipulate the data as we had originally hoped.

"It was pretty limiting for us, and there's not a lot of delivered views in the HANA Live environment, especially in HR, so we couldn't leverage it as much as we wanted to coming out of the gate. That being one of our first options, we wanted to see if we could do it there, and if not we could push it to BW or create an OLAP report if it was operational."

That disappointment aside, McCane said that Love's is growing incredibly fast and IT needs to be able to keep up to serve the business's growth goals with systems that can scale and are supportable. "The advantage of being a net new SAP customer is that we don't have to justify any migration expense," he said. "I'm glad we made the decision to go to HANA when we did."

Like in Love's case, adoption success with HANA doesn't seem to be limited to the initial business case -- in fact, while SAP HANA may not be easy to cost justify, ultimately HANA adoption is rising quickly. In 2014, SAP reports it gained more than 1,000 customers for Business Suite powered by SAP HANA.

Meanwhile, Gartner reports that HANA customers are starting to implement more HANA then they had initially planned. "Customers are not saying HANA is perfect, but they are sticking to it and growing their footprint," Gartner's Edjlali noted. "That's a good sign they believe they are on the right path."

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