The Second Question

As many of you have pointed out in private and in public – I have not blogged much since I have joined SAP . Trust me it was not intentional – just that other things like kitchen remodeling , getting used to my new job etc took all my bandwidth. But now that remodeling project is complete , I can get back to more blogging etc .

Any way – my first assignment at SAP is to work with our customers and partners to make sure they realize the value of BW on Hana . Since the day I joined SAP – I have been talking to customers about this, and something interesting became clear to me. So I thought it might be useful to summarize my customer and partner conversations in my blog so that we can have a more extensive conversation virtually .

When Suite runs on Hana , BW runs on Hana and assorted data marts run on Hana – what would be different for a business user ? In my opinion – after talking to several customers – it is the “ease of answering the second question” that is the most value adding scenario for a business user – especially the “business analyst” types.

Let me explain with an example that should resonate with many of the readers here

Analysts live in an ad-hoc world – their “real” work starts when an executive asks them a non routine question like “how many bottles of soda did we sell to top 5 distributors in Arizona last summer and how did we do against plan” . Question is simple enough – but there might not be an easy way to answer this .

Analysts will probably go to BW or CRM to find who their top 5 distributors are , how much was sold to them etc. and then they will probably log on elsewhere to find plan information . Finally, all of that gets dumped to an excel sheet , massaged with various vlookup functions etc and a prettied up table and graph will be presented to the executive . Most probably , one of the sources of information is yet another spreadsheet stored in a share point site.

Now, I have never met an executive who had asked all she wants to know in one question – and that includes me !

So as soon as the first answer comes in – the exec would ask her next question . “Hmm – that is interesting , how is that split across the various brands we sold them ?” .

The best analysts know this and will come with as much info that they can second guess. But that is a limited approach with most executives – invariably , more data dumps and analysis will be needed . And this takes time – hours at a minimum, days to weeks usually .

Now, what would change with Hana ?

For starters – a lot of data sitting in BW can be crunched and compared to spreadsheet data on the fly by the analyst without IT help using workspaces . This can be done without Hana too – if speed is not an issue and patience is over abundant .

BW sitting on Hana can be combined easily with other datamarts modeled directly on Hana via composite providers. So – adhoc queries spanning multiple sources become all the more easy . And of course the front end like BI 4.x Analysis makes this an excel friendly exercise .

Now when suite also works on Hana – and suite has the Hana Analytics Foundation under it – this becomes all the more easy . SHAF is nothing but Hana views that can also understand BW data . And of course it understands BI front end tools . So in effect – data sitting in suite, BW and other Hana datamarts are all available to users without a lot of manual work to make sense of it all .

Back to our analyst friend who got the second question – now he can quickly change the query to include more parameters and respond to the executive much faster than in the pre-Hana world . What is not to like ? 🙂

Of course , Hana does not replace the need to have a good solid BI discipline in place . The right way to look at this in my opinion is to think of how powerful is the scenario of having Hana and a good BI system together than just one or the other (or god forbid, neither).

It is also important to note that suite on hana does not eliminate the need for BW. Neither is it always a good idea to move everything in a BW system to a custom data warehouse even if it sits on Hana . If you are not convinced , try to implement a reporting scenario that is based on an ERP cost center hierarchy with time dependencies directly in Hana and also in BW on Hana . You can see why having these solutions to compliment each other is better than trying to force fit every requirement into one of them .

Now tell me – what is your “second question” I can help with 🙂


Published by Vijay Vijayasankar

Son/Husband/Dad/Dog Lover/Engineer. Follow me on twitter @vijayasankarv. These blogs are all my personal views - and not in way related to my employer or past employers

9 thoughts on “The Second Question

  1. Business suite on HANA should eliminate the need for separate BW system. Some of the principles of BI are still needed, but there should be no need of separate BW system.

    With in-memory columnar databases, we don’t need to transform data and store it in different format (different set of tables) to do analytic processing. Hence, there should be no need of separate BW system.

    We have data stored in normalized tables, and it should suffice for both OLTP and OLAP.


  2. As i see today, BW with HANA solution has taken a back seat compared to SAP Business Suite.

    For an existing SAP ERP customer if he see the SAP’s product roadmap then- HANA with Business Suite would be the best option. I think you agree on that as well from your statement “Suite has the Hana Analytics Foundation under it”.

    For a new customers who don’t run Business Suite from SAP but wants an EDW with InMemory Computing features, then SAP HANA standalone fits well.
    If he still need a cheaper deal then, Sybase IQ + Power Deisigner.

    So, i am confused how BW with HANA would stand here ? How can we convince a Business Analyst who is not worried at all which tool is being used at the backend?



  3. Thanks Vijay, thought-provoking as usual.

    Thinking along the same lines as Jamie’s comment, what about customers who don’t yet run Business Suite or BW? As you’ve said, a good BI disciple is crucial to success. So is BW transforming into an application that provides out-of-the-box BI governance for all customers, or if not, how do non-Business Suite/BW customers achieve the same level of governance?

    A lot of BI discipline can be streamlined through the use of modelling techniques in conjunction with information governance processes. Is there an opportunity here for SAP to assist? Information Steward & Data Services get you some of the way. Is Sybase PowerDesigner a potential candidate to round out the other applications?

    Hmm, as I said, very thought provoking 🙂



    1. If you have no use for what BW offers , and if you have no SAP source systems – you can build everything from scratch in Hana directly . You can model your data using power designer , have Hadoop for bringing in data like web logs etc to make it quite comprehensive .

      But definitely check out BW first and decide if there is anything significant you can use . If not – Hana is a very capable platform to stand on its own for custom development .


      1. thanks vijay. this is an interesting area for me, whether BW is valid for non-ERP customers. some of the BW capability, I wouldn’t want to be building manually into HANA. as someone else once said in this discussion, it’s fine to have a modelling standard, but can you enforce that standard throughout the lifecycle of the organisation?


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