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SAP unveils BW/4HANA data warehousing software for HANA

SAP releases BW/4HANA data warehousing software for HANA; Forrester report shows high ROI for SAP Jam collaboration platform.

Data warehousing is now part of SAP's move to the full digital age with the unveiling of SAP BW/4HANA.

The new version of SAP's data warehousing software platform is designed specifically for the HANA in-memory database. This is a big differentiator from the old SAP BW platform, and brings data warehousing directly into the business digital transformation, according to Neil McGovern, SAP senior director of product marketing, data warehousing.

Expectations of data warehousing software are changing dramatically, McGovern said, with new demands for handling streaming data from IoT applications, dealing with larger volumes of unstructured data that is typically stored in Hadoop data lakes, and the need to have real-time reporting.

"These demands aren't well-addressed by the traditional data warehouse, that honking big centralized data set with your data analytics and your big engine," McGovern said. "The logical data warehouse is going to be needed to meet the end user needs, so that's the sort of role that data warehousing software is now playing and we're building a solution targeted for that role."

Unlike previous SAP BW products which supported various databases, such as SAP HANA or Oracle, BW/4HANA is built only for HANA and takes advantage of its in-memory capabilities, according to McGovern.

"Previous versions of our data warehousing products had to treat every database as a simple black box, but now that we only support one database -- HANA -- we can leverage the capabilities of the platform itself," he said. "Instead of having to bring the data to the processing, we can use the built-in functions in the database, for instance for sentiment analysis, for streaming analytics which is good for IoT and improving performance. There's performance improvement from the in-memory capability and also the ability for the localized data access."

BW/4HANA provides an open rapid application development environment for data warehousing, a modern UI, and cloud support for Amazon Web Services (AWS) and SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud (HEC), the vendor said.

Fairfax Media Pty. Ltd., a media and entertainment company based in Sydney, Australia, has already started to take advantage of some of these new capabilities. The company faces continuous challenges to the ways that customers consume content, and the standard monthly reports generated by its traditional SAP BW system could not keep up with the diverse business units faced daily, said Diego Lombardini, Fairfax' head of finance systems.

Fairfax considered upgrading its current SAP BW system, but decided that the main benefit it would achieve was only faster reporting, according to Lombardini.

"I had personally been working with HANA since it first came out and knew the capabilities the technology could provide, so we hired the best local team to deliver on what we thought was the right solution for our business, in the shortest period of time," he said via email. "We chose BW/4HANA instead of traditional BW on HANA to leverage the best of both worlds: a robust, next-generation data warehouse platform (BW) and a high-performance virtual platform (HANA)."

The development model of BW/4HANA has allowed Fairfax to get the best out of BW's data management platform and HANA's virtual data platform, Lombardini explained.

"Our key design principle is to load the data into the system once and work on virtual data models that are reused multiple times," he said. "This means we store the data once and we also define measures once, which leads to consistency in results."

Current BW users have a couple of approaches to moving to BW/4HANA, McGovern said. "If you are on BW -- say in Oracle -- the path is that you can move to BW on HANA and that allows you to migrate to the BW/4HANA object set," he said. "So it's a two-step process and about two-thirds of our customers are in that situation. The other third are on BW on HANA right now, so it's a much more straightforward migration for them from BW on HANA to BW/4HANA."

BW/4HANA is generally available on Sept. 7 with cloud versions on AWS and HEC and an on-premises version.

SAP Jam shows big ROI according to Forrester report

The SAP Jam social collaboration platform can save organizations that run it a bundle, according to a new report from Forrester Consulting.

The study found that enterprise-sized organizations that run SAP Jam benefit greatly from faster access to information and expertise, decreased employee training and onboarding costs, and reduced time spent closing deals, according to Liz Witherspoon, Forrester Consulting principal consultant.

SAP commissioned Forrester to conduct the study in early 2016 to determine the total economic impact (TEI) for organizations that run SAP Jam. A previous study was conducted in 2015. The 2016 study indicates that enterprise-sized organizations that run Jam report a combined net present value (NPV) of $19 million and an 11% increase in ROI from the previous year. The total ROI for SAP Jam was calculated at 527%, Witherspoon said.

Both reports surveyed 30 customers who had been using Jam for more than six months with key decision-makers in seven enterprise-sized organizations interviewed in greater depth, Witherspoon said. The results were analyzed and Forrester created a representative organization that captured elements of all the surveyed organizations and applied a financial model to the findings.

Specific results indicated the following:

  • A 15% decrease in time spent to access information and expertise, resulting in a $17.6 million gain over 2015.
  • A 19% reduction in the costs to train and onboard new employees, up 6% from 2015 and resulting in $5.7 million in savings.
  • A 9% reduction in the time to close new business, leading to a sales efficiency increase of $4.8 million over three years.
  • A 14% reduction in costs to resolve customer service issues.
  • A 20% reduction in costs of licensing fees by consolidating multiple collaboration platforms.

All of the increases in efficiencies and reduction of time spent totaled up to savings of $23 million over three years for the representative organization, Witherspoon said. One of the main reasons for this is that SAP Jam is tightly integrated with SAP business applications.

"Those that we interviewed and surveyed were using applications like [SAP] CRM, supply chain management, Employee Central, and SuccessFactors," she said. "So with those other business applications integrated they are able to have the collaboration appear alongside the business data."

Even organizations that run business applications other than SAP's would likely achieve similar ROI, Witherspoon explained, particularly in the areas of reducing training costs and time to access ROI, but they may not see the same results in the time to close sales.

Training and onboarding of new employees was one of the key areas that organizations can realize savings, according to Witherspoon, as organizations can use Jam to support online or blended learning and mobile access to content.

"This means that they can take some of the travel out of the training programs, and in some cases they might reduce by one day and have a lot of work done ahead of time through Jam or in some cases eliminate travel altogether," she said. "They were also able to onboard and train new employees using the SAP Jam mobile functionality, which is important because some are global organizations and not all of their employees have desktop computers, so the ability of people to do their training over the mobile devices was another way that they were able to work more efficiently and cost effectively."

Witherspoon attributes some of the increase in ROI in this year's study from the previous year to the increased number of users across the organizations. The organizations in the report had about 50% of employees on Jam and 83% said that they were going to increase the number of users over the next year.

"So when you already have 50% already using Jam and then 83% of the organizations say they are planning to increase the usage it means that they are going toward wider adoption and it often can mean that they're seeing success, but that's just an inference," Witherspoon said. "That increases the ROI, as the more adoption and usage, the more an organization will get the financial impact. I think that's what's happening over the course of a few years, ROI increases as expansion and use of the tool increases."

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