What are the plans for SAP’s planning solutions portfolio?


A quick jog down memory lane, as I am flying from PHL to SNA. About 10 years ago, I went to an SAP training course in Northern CA to learn SEM-BPS . My background at that time was all ABAP, BW and some SD/FI on functional side. Till today – that BPS training by Peter Jones has been the best class I ever took for an SAP technology, and till date – BPS is the fastest I ever came up to speed on any SAP technology.

With all its technical beauty, BPS had its fair share of problems too. One such issue was the front end in Excel. It was a powerful front end, but BEx had an excel front end too. It was not an efficient process to use BPC excel for planning, and then switch to BEx for reporting. As a result, we used to replicate a lot of reporting functionality into BPC layouts to make life easier for users.  Needless to say, users were not thrilled – and this was not good for TCO.

BPS was not the slickest way to do planning in an enterprise, but it did its job within its limitations. SAP did the right thing soon after – and brought out integrated planning – popularly known as BI-IP. Now, BEx was the one client for planning and reporting. But IP could not do everything BPS could do – and there were a lot of consultants who hated it, and thought it was a step backwards compared to BPS.

 

One  issue with IP was lack of CRM integration. CRM planning could not be done with IP – it still needed to be done using BPS, due to a UI limitation. So market planning, TPM etc continued to use BPS while others moved over to IP.  Incidentally, the CRM integration to BPS is nothing to write home about – it is as un-user friendly as it gets. But it did its job at the time.

Then SAP acquired Outlooksoft. When I was a BPS consultant, I used to think that SAP will surely buy Hyperion. But Oracle bought them instead, and SAP took Outlooksoft, which is a Microsoft based product.

Outlooksoft’s strength was superior user experience. When I played with it – not in a project scenario, I think it was at an SAP booth at Teched or SAPPHIRE – I liked it, and thought it was pretty fast too. The only thing I did not like was that there was no netweaver integration. But SAP said they will come out with a netweaver version soon, and they did.

By now, SAP had at least 4 planning options – BPS, IP and 2 outlooksoft versions, which got renamed to BPC. Well, same with consolidations part of the house too – with EC-CS, BCS, BPC, Cartesis. As far as I know – everything was and is supported till date, and there is a “it depends” answer if SAP is asked what tool to choose.

So much for history – lets fast forward to the shiny new world of HANA. So the stand-alone HANA is mostly a datamart on steroids, with no generic killer app till date. SAP came up with CO-PA accelerator, which is pretty good. Then there is smart meter analytics – which I never understood why SAP did, instead of something else with more widespread appeal across the install base. And all this time – SAP, customers and partners have been asking “where is the HANA killer app?”.

So the next generation of HANA came where BW could use it as a database. The moment I heard about BW on HANA – the thought that crossed my mind was “wow – this is exactly what SAP needs. Not just for reporting, but for planning”. BPC netweaver is not exactly the fastest planning engine I have seen. In fact, I am not so sure how well it will work with big amounts of data, unless customers also buy BWA.  I am sure SAP will claim it is quite good on performance etc based on what they have seen – but based on my own limited experience, it has some ways to go.

Remember the BPS question of why do I need separate excel client for BPS when BEx already has one –  And then SAP coming up with IP that solved that issue? One would have thought that lesson was learned well by SAP – but guess not. BPC has its own excel client, while BEx, and Analysis for office also have excel clients. It beats me why analysis client couldn’t have been enhanced to cater to BPC too. There is more – remember the postable nodes in BPS that saved many a project some valuable time in implementing? Where did that disappear in the new products?

In my mind – BPC on HANA is a no brainer for SAP to prioritize. That is a killer app that SAP and Partners and Customers can all be happy to implement without the necessity for marketing  hype. Now, I do know that BPC on HANA is in the works, and will come out some day soon. I also understand from some blogs on SDN that SAP is building a planning layer in HANA that is different from BPC (but probably can be used by BPC later I suppose). The question is how many evolutions will it take before it moves all the performance hogging functionality into the HANA layer and provide true disaggregation, and lightning fast performance?

 

Since ECC on HANA is also around the corner, will it take away investment from BPC on HANA?

And will SAP converge its planning technologies? Can SAP incorporate the best of BPC’s user experience, IP/BPS’ netweaver integration, NGAP’s HANA friendliness, R’s predictive abilities , BWA’s OLAP processing speed etc into one coherent product? or- as a buddy warned me today on twitter – will it end up with BPC’s integration and BPS’ user experience if SAP went down this route?  And will SAP come up with a full fledged cloud based planning environment along the lines of tidemark ?

I am sure SAP has some smart people doing its product portfolio planning, and that everything will converge at some point. But the sooner it happens – the more their customers will appreciate it.

I am not sure if the agile development paradigm used by SAP these days will help or hurt the speed of such integration. When different scrums happen for BPC, BW, NGAP etc – the project manager in me keeps thinking they will find it harder and harder to prioritize integration dependencies. Each product might get unique benefits for sure – but customers only care about overall solutions at the end – not individual products. With a distributed development organization like SAP, I would expect this to create more silos – not less. I have seen fiefdoms develop in big globally distributed teams I have managed in my past life – but those were in implementation projects, not product development. I have heard that SAP uses scrum of scrums to address this issue – so I trust they have a grip on this. And in any case, I am out of my depth when it comes to product development – so I will leave it at that.

Random parting thoughts –

1. Now that SAP plans to put HANA as the engine on every SAP product runs, and since Vishal has announced ECC will work on HANA in Q4 – I wonder if planning will stop being a separate system, and get folded into the business suite. On first thoughts it makes sense to me for a large set of customers to do cross domain planning to pull it back into business suite, and then let HANA deal with OLTP/OLAP planning loads efficiently. Planning is one of the most collaborative aspects in an enterprise – so I think streamwork integration is also a no brainer in this situation.I have no idea what are SAP’s thoughts on this – but I am very curious on what is the strategy for planning in the nirvana state.

2. A more technical question – if HANA is the database for BW going forward, will it make sense to convert most cubes to an account modelling structure to make use of columnar storage? Has any one tried to compare this with a traditional key figure model in BW on HANA to check performance?  If my instinct is right – and account model does help – it is definitely a plus for BPC, since it only supports account model now.

Only time will tell – or may be one of the EPM leaders at SAP can explain that to me at some point, ideally as a comment here, so that everyone can read it.

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Innovation – the price to pay


Everyone and his brother is out there on social media lamenting on lack of disruptive innovation.  While I don’t pretend to be a big innovator, there is a portion of my work that can be termed as “innovation” , or even “disruptive innovation”.  And after a few years of doing this, I can say with confidence that it comes at a high price, and it is not for everybody. Admittedly, I have come close to getting out of “innovation” a few times – but have continued to keep at it.

 

First issue is identifying what to work on. On an average, I consider 10 ideas to pick one to work on. These ideas come up as I talk with customers, colleagues, mentors, mentees and some times while watching TV or reading a book in a plane.  I will jot it down the soonest I can – and usually have an assortment of paper napkin sketches, notepad files etc where ideas are scattered.  I am not the only one who comes up with ideas – everyone in my team contributes ideas. Then I shortlist these based on only one criteria – is this something that can make my customer’s life easier in a tangible manner? If the answer is no – I ruthlessly cut it off.  This hurts egos more than one would think – especially my own. Some ideas that look brilliant as I jot it down in a plane ride look ridiculous when I think about it over a weekend.  And occasionally, it upsets my team when I kill one of their ideas. This needs to be done with some balance – if all you do is kill idea after idea, it just becomes a de-motivator.

 

Next up is recruiting a team to work on the idea. This is probably the hardest part – not everyone likes to do everything. And people have a life outside work, and value their work life balance. I have to respect that, and still make it work. And where I work, the team is spread across the globe – and typically we catchup over late evenings and weekends to work on innovations. No one pulls rank when it comes to innovation – people are free to join and drop off . My philosophy is that if people work on innovations voluntarily, it works out better than if it is forced down their throats based on official rank. So far it has worked out well – and I could not have asked for a better set of colleagues to work with.

 

It also improves teamwork and delegation abilities. I understood early on that delegation is the key to success. And I try to teach that to everyone in my team. The trick to delegating successfully is to make sure the team understands what is being delegated, and what is their authority and responsibility.  You cannot just delegate responsibility ! But once they are comfortable with taking on authority, and willing to be held responsible – the results are unbelievable. Irrespective of the result of the actual innovation project – they develop into amazing leaders, and it is the biggest gratification I get in my job. I did not invent this – my managers took this approach with me, and I am paying it forward for the next generation.  Some times, things don’t work out as planned and an inexperienced person might screw up. It is up to the manager to make sure there is sufficient support when failure happens, and no one is thrown under the bus.  Especially when it comes to disruptive innovation, this is key. If you cannot live with this – don’t start down this path.

 

And then there is the price to pay on family life, hobbies etc.  I had to sacrifice a lot, and so have many people I know. My wife supports me to a great extent, and without that I would not have taken this up. It is hard to balance – and once you are deep into an innovation project, it is extremely hard to switch off completely. This is rather unfair for the family, and has to be carefully weighed before starting, and then periodically throughout the project.  At the moment, the only way I handle this is to take breaks between innovation projects so that there is some balance on personal front. The work-life balance is a personal decision – and if you care enough about your team, you should watch out for their work-life balance too.  All of this needs to be factored in when you plan the project. Nothing ever works to plan, and you need to balance aggressive milestones with a dose of reality.  This is a learning process, and I am definitely in the first half.

 

Finally – disrupting the “life as usual” for a customer, or for your own company is a challenge. it does not matter if you spent 3 months working every waking hour on this project. If you cannot make a business case and SHOW things will get better, no one will accept your innovations. And then you have 2 problems -1. risk of wasting the blood, sweat and tears spent on current project, and 2.  getting investments for next project from management.  And you would have broken a lot of glass before the final solution is pitched – so there is a potential long term price to pay as well.

 

And one last thing – be prepared to take the least amount of credit for success, and maximum amount of criticism for failure.  It is easy to know if this is working or not – if it is not working, you will soon find that there is no one left working shoulder to shoulder with you any more.

 

So with this big price tag – will I do this ever again?  ABSOLUTELY ! I won’t change a thing – it is the most satisfying part of my job 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As HANA matures, where should SAP focus?


It is not news that SAP is betting the farm on HANA. SAP’s sales and marketing organizations have done a tremendous job in making sure the HANA message is delivered loud and clear to its customer base.  SAP sold more that 100M Euros worth of HANA last year , and will probably do much bigger numbers this year too.

 

BW on HANA is already out, and is touted as a killer app. It might very well be a killer app – but that remains to be seen. In our internal lab projects, it is not as smooth as we expected. It is a bumpy road – but it is definitely fast. DSO activation for example is super fast, but it will also fail inexplicably, and then the time you save in activation is lost in trying to research what went wrong. The good thing is that since we know it is very fast, despite the teething problems – I am sure lot of customers will buy it. And to a certain scale, software is sold in bundles any way – so nothing will stop SAP from selling HANA licenses. Customers actually using HANA in production is another story altogether.

 

Buying is just a first step – the bigger question is who will implement. As of now, mostly SAP PSO is doing the implementation. But that is not a scalable model at all. PSO cannot satisfy the market by themselves, and SAP should be aggressively pitching to SI partners to sell and implement BW on HANA. You get some benefit by just doing a database switch to HANA, but the real benefits come from simplification – which means redefining the datamodels and data flow.  And that takes time and expert industry knowledge , and not just technical skills.

 

SI partners are terrific at implementation, and building accelerators for implementation. However, what they are the best at is NOT building apps. For apps, it is the smaller developer’s world. But then, SAP HANA is not yet available for smaller developer to do something about productively.  SAP has made a good first step. A sandbox is available for them to play with. But it is not a full development environment they can create a product, license it and sell it in a store.

 

So on both sides – implementation and apps building, SAP has some ways to go. If they don’t get their act together in short time, next year – we will start hearing the HANA shelfware stories.

 

There has been some announcements meanwhile on HANA for SMEs that I saw a few days ago. I am not convinced how SAP is going to sell HANA to SME clients. SME is primarily a market for hosted systems – public or private.  Why would they care about the nuts and bolts of the database that their system is based on? They just expect it to be reasonably fast.  As I mentioned to few friends on twitter – not verbatim –  “If I hire a landscaper to mow my lawn, why would I care if he uses a Black and Decker electric machine, or a manual push mower?”. I don’t – I just pay the guy to mow the lawn, and will hire another one if the first one does not do a decent job.  If there are special apps that are HANA based that give me a positive top line impact, there is a case to pay a premium for HANA. Otherwise, I doubt this will fly.  Especially after companies like Workday have made their cloud offering in-memory based fully and not charging specifically for it, it is hard to ask a customer to pay a premium for modernizing an old system.

 

Once BW on HANA is out of the way, obviously SAP will come out with ECC on HANA.  With most of the heavy lifting in ECC done in ABAP layer, customers will not see any huge benefits buying HANA as a database. And it is a few hundred million lines of code – so SAP is not going to rewrite everything in ECC to work on HANA. This essentially means SAP needs to build more things like the CO-PA accelerator, and more specialty apps for ECC that needs HANA.  Which then needs the small developers and SIs to play a big role to scale it meaningfully.

 

So, will SAP make the effort and actually make it work for the small developers and SIs ? or will they try to do it all by themselves?  And while they are at it – I hope they try to make this work for mobility, cloud and everything else too.  one approach – is to stay the way it is now. SAP will try to create the market, with the hope that some day in future partners can scale it. Or they can make it work for partners and smaller developers right upfront, and build a larger momentum.

 

None of this is new to SAP – several people have already made the case to SAP on these matters. And to SAP’s credit, they are good listeners. Now the only question that remains is when they will act.

 

 

The Social Media Giveth, And The Social Media Taketh Away


If you ask me what has had the biggest impact in my life for the last few years, I will say without exception that it is social media. And I am only a minor league bench quality player in social media , compared to the stalwarts. But even then – it has changed how I live and work.  On the personal front – I won’t go to a restaurant or buy a book at an airport without checking out reviews, or asking on twitter for a quick opinion . Without facebook, I would never have kept up with what is happening in the world of competitive dog shows, which is my hobby.  On the work front – twitter is a life saver. I have lost count of how many times others have helped me find information quickly, or offered help when I tweet out a question.  It is also rather  funny that I usually never get a timely response from most of these sources if I tried on email or phone.  I blog when I get an idea that I think more than one person would like to hear – and nothing has taught me more in these past years than clarifying thoughts in my own head when I settle down in a plane ride, and open my computer to post something on my blog.

But for all that it gives, social media also has a terrific/terrible way of taking away.  When President Obama was candidate Obama in the last elections, I had seen many of my friends on Facebook supporting the campaign there, and helping with fund raising.  I was pretty impressed that his campaign was smart enough to use social media to raise so much money and awareness. And this year – I see many other friends effectively use Facebook to attack Obama’s policies, and help his rivals to raise money.

I have lived in US for about a dozen years now – and have watched with amusement how polarized people are when it comes to political ideology. Some of the smartest people I know – people who provide very balanced and well thought out opinions on work related matters, and who are polite at kid’s soccer games – they tend to make extremely biased statements with no restraint when it comes to politics. This is true for people in both left and right wings of the political spectrum. And in these 12 years, I have only seen the partisan nature increase – not decrease, both by career politicians, and by common man . Watching Facebook and twitter, I have a feeling this partisan nature has accelerated since the last election. Social media gives information so quickly, and without any editorial intervention – that it permeates faster than any other information delivery mechanism of our times.

While I was growing up in India, most people there had no idea of US election politics. We knew who the American President was, and that there were 2 parties, and that was pretty much it. Now my cousins,  nieces and nephews in India know as much about US politics as people who live here. It was quite amusing for me to hear how they view American politics strictly based on what they see on social media.

This is not just an isolated thing that affects politicians alone. I see this all the time with enterprise software world too – affecting vendors, influencers, customers etc. Some software vendors have totally embraced social media. I have seen many email signatures that read “social media leader for blah blah” as the designation of the sender. People actually get paid to manage social media, and I don’t even find it funny any more. Admittedly, I was shocked and found it funny when I first saw it – but not any more. I have accepted it for a fact that vendors want to control social media some how.

Question is – is social media giving them sufficient bang for the buck? Every one I have asked so far from vendor side assures me it is hugely beneficial to them. It is not a secret that vendors like to “buy” influence some how. Some do it with finesse – and give influencers enough information, and then get out-of-the-way on how it gets interpreted and analyzed. Some are more blunt, and will use social media as a pure marketing platform and blast out tweets, and blogs that praise themselves and say nasty things about competitors.  Some times different parts of the same company take diverse approaches when it comes to use of social media, which probably just results in erosion of  brand credibility .

But how many buyers make a decision based on social media? very few that I have seen. There are a few exceptions, but largely the purchasing process in enterprises have not followed the shift that has happened in consumer side.  But there is a silver lining too – although ultimate buyers don’t value social media all that much, there are influencers to that buying decision who make up their minds based on what they have seen in social media. I have been surprised personally when I give out my business card, and someone I have not met before would say ” Ah I recognize you from twitter and your blog”. It has occasionally also helped me win business. So may be it is just a matter of time before social media becomes a big criteria for enterprise purchases . But at least for now and for near future, more weight is still given to quality of the product, price, references etc.

I am yet to see a CXO who told me ” I am impressed that you guys refuted your competitors’ mean comments in your sponsored blog. I am now convinced I should buy from you, let me cut a check for perpetual licenses. Looking forward to more content like this”.  But what I have seen is CIOs and others calling me and asking ” hey, my team just pointed this flurry of activity to me from this company. Why do you think these guys are suddenly saying all this stuff about the other guys? What are they really afraid of ?  Should I be worried?”.  In my mind – it is a  perfect example of social media back firing , despite good intentions.

Social media is a fantastic opportunity to listen to your ecosystem, as long as you also follow-up with some action.  Then you can use social media to point out the actions that you took.  Of course, you can also use it mostly as a platform to shout from – but then you carry the risk of your ecosystem tuning you out quickly.  Even before social media existed, it was not possible to get a second chance create a great first impression. With social media, it is next to impossible. People form opinions really quickly based on what you do in social media. If you mess up – it will be hard to earn back the trust.  It is a hard balance to strike, but now that the pundits have social media maturity models and best practices, I suppose this is all well covered.

Analyzing Project Success – talent wins games, teamwork wins championships !


I am on cloud nine at the moment – our team successfully finished a huge big project go live in a “minimum fuss” way (THE way go-live should be) and I am getting ready to party hard with the gang.

It was a journey that started in the fall of 2009 – and the team is as intense today as they were 2 years ago. But the one thing that gives me more satisfaction than anything else is that there was no “us and them” between client team and “my” team apart from a contractual/legal perspective. I hold this as the prime reason for our success – we could have done every thing else right, but without this “joined at the hip” partnership – we would not be here today celebrating, and smiling ear to ear. Due to confidentiality reasons – I cannot disclose the client or the exact work we did, but I thought some one would benefit from my experience if I shared a few highlights from the project. If I manage to get the legal hurdles cleared, I will make a second post to complete the picture.

The client brought in an A team from their side – and the project was owned by a senior executive from business. Both business and IT leadership reported to her. Consequently, everything was done with the sole objective of making sure business got what they needed. The Program manager, technical manager, development manager, architects and project managers were all great people with great domain expertise – and they all wanted to “get the job done”. Even when they disagreed (passionately), they had the maturity and trust in each other to discuss and get to common ground.

Right from the start, we partnered at all levels of the program organization – from developers to sponsors. We had several hiccups along the way ( attrition issues, technical issues, relationship issues etc) – but since we had strong relationships, there was no difficulty in having honest conversations on what is happening , and how we are going to solve it. In a large complex program spread over multiple locations – this is critical. Nothing was ever hidden in status reports – full transparency, and joint plans to solve problems, and joint parties to celebrate successes .

A fantastic example of the partnership that I remember on top of my head was when we were finalizing scope early on. I, and another person brought up a discussion that the number of reports to be developed looked out of whack based on past experience. The leadership team took it seriously, and went back to discuss more on this – and came back with a scope that was about a third of what was originally proposed. They identified redundancies, and lower priorities and diligently worked through to save the project a lot of unnecessary work. I had made this recommendation on reducing scope, despite it meaning my team will bill significantly lower hours and there by make less $$ . The point is – $$ billed is not the biggest success factor for a consulting company. The primary goal for the consulting company is extremely high customer satisfaction leading to long term partnership, and being elevated to ” Trusted Adviser” status with the client. My mentors taught me that lesson early in my career, and I try to teach that to the next generation of PMs that come after me.

Change requests have a big bad name in project management field, especially with analyst community – and the word on the street is that SIs use it to milk a client dry. I never had any trouble in this regard – all changes were discussed in detail and agreed on, before we proceeded with any change requests. Every change had full justification and agreement, and I am very proud of the fact that not once in the whole life of the project did any one have to say “lets see what the written contract says”. That is the beauty of having a solid relationship across all parties involved, and a solid process to govern the project change control.

As I look back in time, the one thing that strikes me most is the sheer number of people who learned valuable skills and experience in the project from both client and our side. Leadership is all about empowering the team , and delegating authority and not just responsibility. While the project had a well defined escalation path, a lot of decisions were successfully taken by people closest to the issue, with appropriate heads up given to management for integration purposes. Having gone through this experience, I am sure we are all well positioned for success at whatever comes next in our careers. It gives me a lot of satisfaction that a lot of leadership talent was identified and nurtured through the program.

One thing I learned in the course of the last 2 years is that there is no one-size-fits-all way to motivate a big team. Some get motivated by money, some by getting additional responsibility and visibility, yet others by periodic change of roles within the project and so on. My project leaders and architects are exceptional – they found what made every team member tick, and acted on it, taking my help where needed. I still remember being fascinated by developers in my team pretty much competing for fun on who will find the most bugs, who will fix the most bugs and so on – over weekends and holidays, on their own time. How awesome is that? I could not be more proud of my gang – they rock. We have our fair share of disagreements – but team work and a common goal of making the project successful, ensures we get over them in the shortest time, and healthiest manner possible.

Last but not least – there is a lot I am thankful to my support staff, ,my managers and my mentors. A two plus year project of this size meant that I had to ask for help periodically. They not only gave me support and guidance behind the scenes – they also came in person and celebrated our successes. They cared – and we appreciated that a lot, and it is a lesson we will take with us as we progress in our own careers.

Most people who read this would have made an assumption that this was an SAP project – with me being an out-and-out SAP guy, and an SAP mentor and all that. Well, this was NOT an SAP project. It was my first non-SAP project too. I am an extremely hands on person when it comes to technology – but I had to learn to trust the technology experts on this gig. It was very unpleasant for me at the beginning, since I am used to providing a lot of technical input to my team in SAP projects . But I learned that there are many people with MUCH better technical talent than me – and I should just trust their judgment. That was a HUGE lesson for me, and one of the most important ones I learned. Of course I did not learn it fully (yet) and occasionally jump in and make comments based on what I think are corresponding scenarios in SAP 🙂 . I must also say that this has made an impact on my view of SAP. There is a lot SAP practitioners can learn from the non-SAP world, and I am glad I now have this experience under my belt.

Success is multi-dimensional. A lot of times projects get measured along time lines and budgets alone. We surely managed by SPI, CPI etc – but that was just one of the many dimensions. We were clear on conditions of satisfaction, and both my client counterpart and I were committed all the way to make sure we kept each other in the loop on what is happening. It is a professional relationship I cherish, and I am sure it will continue past this project too.

As Michael Jordan said ” Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships” . I second that – 3 cheers to the team ! There is more work to be done for remaining phases of the program – but for now,let us Party 🙂

SAP HANA – slowly moving out of hype into actual projects


2011 was when HANA hype was on over drive – it was along the lines of “HANA will solve world hunger by feeding entire generations on perceived future business value” . Every where I mentioned HANA, customers were pushing back with raised eyebrows. That did not stop SAP from selling HANA though. SAP customers do not typically buy licenses piecemeal – they buy a basket of stuff, and apparently HANA was in a lot of baskets, especially in the last quarter. This is not unusual buying behavior – it is the norm.

And then 2011 ran out. When I came back from vacation, I was amazed with the demand for big ERP projects. And right on its heels, came demand for HANA projects. Not isolated demands – many customers, some of them VERY big names – are now sufficiently intrigued to start pilots for HANA. To say the least, it has taken me by surprise – the pleasant kind.

There is a huge amount of misinformation on HANA that has been spread knowingly or unknowingly in 2011. I think the first half of 2012 will be spent setting expectations straight.

A very common scenario I am running into these days is customers that have custom built data warehouses in Oracle or SQL Server. These have thousands of Stored procedures etc. They want to find out how to migrate this over to HANA. Or more specifically – they want to know if there is a way to semi-automate the conversion of SQL of existing solutions to HANA’s SQL. If they cannot do that – the cost of re-inventing the solution in HANA from scratch is not something they seem to have an appetite for. I have pinged SAP to ask what they think about this. If you know the answer – please post a comment.

Another common question – “so we buy HANA as a datamart, then put HANA under BW as DB, and then under ECC – will this all sit in one appliance? do we need to buy more and more licenses and hardware?”. So far I have not had to explicitly answer this question. Funny enough – they look at the expression on my face and deduce the right answer magically 🙂

Basis experts invariably ask me “hey can we virtualize HANA? Can you put it on a cloud and offer us as a service? When will SAP support non-intel processors and other OS? ” . My answer usually is to point them to existing documentation. If they persist, I show them the installation files and how it can be hacked. That is the best way to deal with techies , right?

Landscape Sizing, HA and DR are all high on CIO agenda – they just want assurances that they can safely deploy this in production. This is a lot more easier now to answer than even a few months ago, since there are more options available, and we have more experience with sizing. This is also where people start getting an idea of the real cost in putting up a HANA system – and there is always an aha moment.

The other half of the aha moment comes from clients understanding there is no one HANA consultant who makes the system stand up and work. SAP started off by saying “HANA is an appliance” – and that is partly to blame for this. An appliance is like a fridge or a wireless router – you buy from a store, bring it home and it starts working after it is powered on with very few instructions. HANA is not a true appliance in that sense- and once customers get that, they realize it is like every other project. HANA needs multiple skills to pull off successfully – data modelling, BOBJ, Admin/security, ETL etc.

BW on HANA has captured the attention of several customers. SAP is doing a good job pushing it in the field. I met several field sales people at FKOM, and was amazed to see how pumped up they are to sell HANA. But more than BW itself – a lot of customers are waiting for BPC to work on HANA. I was not very pleased with the BOBJ integration with HANA initially, but it has improved and I know more improvements are planned. It is best for SAP to nail it before customers start several projects in parallel and stress out SAP support.

Many of my customers – and me too – are waiting eagerly to see how many companies will SAP parade at SAPPHIRE as live on HANA , especially for the BW case. If SAP shows a large number of customers on the key note stage, then we should have a great HANA year in 2012. Towards middle of the year, I think many more HANA projects will start – and not just small pilots. And If SAP does come out with ECC on HANA by end of the year, it will be an excellent shot in the arm. 2012 could well ramp into a terrific 2013 for HANA.