SAP Planning and Consolidation Software Gets the HANA Treatment

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If you’ve been following SAP for the last year or so, you know that the enterprise software maker is betting its future on its in-memory database called HANA. SAP has promised to migrate its entire application portfolio onto HANA, including both analytic and transactional applications.

The latest application suite to get the HANA treatment is SAP’s enterprise performance management software. Specifically, BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation 10.0 can now be deployed on top of HANA, resulting in significantly better performance than is currently possible with standard database deployments.

In fact, Dave Williams, Senior Director of Enterprise Performance Management Solutions Marketing at SAP, told me customers that migrate BPC from a standard database to HANA can expect to see up to 20x performance improvements by hitting  table in-memory and in parallel – rather than in the application server. Another important benefit is HANA’s ability to quickly ingest relatively large volumes of data from multiple data sources, meaning BPC-on-HANA users will potentially have fresher and more data available for analysis than before.

BPC on HANA stack (Courtesy of SAP, 2012)

Budget planning and consolidation is a notoriously laborious process. It involves pulling in financial data from numerous sources – including siloed, out-of-date spreadsheets – and reconciling all the conflicting numbers. Having covered the EPM space over the years, I’ve learned it’s not uncommon for organizations to spend weeks closing their quarterly books. The upshot is that you pretty much have only one go at budget planning and consolidation, if for no other reason than it just takes too long to allow for any ad hoc analysis or experimentation with “what if?” scenarios.

This is where HANA support for BPC will be particularly helpful. Once data is loaded into HANA, the performance improvements means users will get answers to their questions much faster than before, allowing them to perform “what if?” experimentation to get a much better understanding of the potential impacts of various budgeting scenarios. Not to mention, closing the books each month or quarter will take a fraction of the time.

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But migrating BPC on to lightening fast in-memory database isn’t a silver bullet for planning and consolidation. As I mentioned, it’s not uncommon for line-of-business managers and others to perform their own slice of the process on desktop spreadsheets in isolation from the rest of the enterprise. This practice must be reigned in to truly streamline the budget planning and consolidation process. From a services perspective, SAP and other EPM vendors must do a better job educating their customers about the perils of this siloed approach and help them apply techniques – both technological and cultural – to stop it.

About Jeffrey Kelly

Jeffrey F. Kelly is a Principal Research Contributor at The Wikibon Project, an open source research and advisory firm based in Boston. His research focus is the business impact of Big Data and the emerging Data Economy. Mr. Kelly's research has been quoted and referenced by the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, Forbes, CIO.com, IDG News, TechTarget and more. Reach him by email at jeff.kelly@wikibon.org or Twitter at @jeffreyfkelly.