Observations from SAPPHIRE Now and ASUG Annual Conference 2015

Jul 27, 2015 posted by Kellton Tech Media Team

Another year of ASUG and SAPPHIRE is complete, and a lot of information was covered. So, what's the verdict? Below are three key take-aways. WARNING: One may just blow your mind away!

  • Hasso Plattner's mind still generates some massive ideas
  • For companies with heavily customized systems, avoidance of HANA is not necessary
  • The User Interface and User Experience are taking interesting turns, especially in Wholesale Distribution 

The Mind of Hasso

On the last day of SAPPHIRE, Hasso Plattner reminded us that computing power and the programs that consume it form a vicious cycle. As the in-memory power of HANA has shown us, more power leads to testing the limits--of HANA, of the hardware that supports it, and of the imaginations of those who would throw the Big Data of Hadoop into the mix.

While Plattner speculated what would occur if a research group could use real data to build a system. Not just actual data points, but real data volumes. He then told us that his research group was given access to the actual data for all 3 regions of the Colgate-Palmolive Company (the entire database.) During this part of the presentation, Mike Crowe, CIO of Colgate-Palmolive, stepped on-stage to show how the company can now use HANA analysis in their live transactional system to perform business reviews in real-time. Thanks in part to the research of Plattner's students, C-P can now use not only their own data, but live macro-economic data to separate the business drivers from the outside economic factors (in this case, Crowe was highlighting the exchange rate risk in Brazil as a factor of the company's poor performance in the region.) Live data allowed the business to make real-time management decisions. Not quite turning on a dime, but close.

Then, Plattner ventured into medicine, where he speculated that terabytes of medical research and treatment data could be utilized in real-time using HANA. A big claim, of course, especially since that aspect of HANA has nothing to do with ERP. At that point, Dr. Christof von Kalle, a director of Oncology from Heidelberg, Germany, took the stage to show the physical manifestation of Plattner's words. Tracking historical research, patient data, and genome sequencing against data from a single patient, the live HANA Big Data platform allowed the oncologist to pinpoint a likely cause of a cancerous tumor and the best treatment based on the tissue type and the genomic identification structure within that patient. Personalized medicine from the shadows of an ERP system.

And what will come from the mind of Hasso next? We can only listen to what he tells us, then wait for the next person to come on-stage to prove it.

HANA Is Not Out of Reach for Custom Code Shops

Many SAP customers with highly customized installations have put HANA in the back of their minds because they believe that only a full re-implementation can bring HANA efficiencies in the door. A great ASUG presentation by Gary Norris and Lou Stein of LockheedMartin Aerospace showed just how far a custom shop needed to go to make the move. One of the key takeaways here is something we've been telling clients for over a year--start with the HANA Sidecar. Norris could not stress enough how much value LockheedMartin was able to glean from that starter system--from learning how to code for HANA to learning the best ways to tune queries hitting it. Some of you are shaking your heads. "They can't be as customized as we are." Think again.

LockheedMartin Aerospace Custom Analysis

  • 1200+ custom functions
  • 3700+ custom programs
  • 2800+ custom tables
  • 6500+ custom data elements
  • 1600+ custom transactions
  • 2.3 Million lines of code

It will take some time for LockheedMartin to determine the value of the conversion. They had just gone live on April 20, 2015, before Norris and Stein made the presentation. ASUG allows customers to learn from each other and the pair concluded with these key items that custom shops MUST take into account:

  • Conversion from any database to HANA takes some evaluation of code and testing
  • Management and Functional customers need to understand the risks of a database migration--this is NOT a technical upgrade
  • TEST-TEST-TEST
  • Complete a clean upgrade to the current Enhancement Pack (Enhancement Pack 7 as of 6/1/2015) BEFORE you convert to HANA
  • Recommend starting with a HANA Sidecar to let techs learns the ins and outs before moving the whole system

Visit your local ASUG Chapter or SIG to get more great customer-to-customer communication like this. Check out ASUG.com. To view Gary and Lou's presentation in its entirety, click here.

Overlap of UX and UI in Wholesale Distribution

In a pair of panel discussions featuring Wholesale Distribution customers, we found that technology is driving the User Experience(UX) in amazing ways and that the User Interfaces(UI) are not just graphical in nature. Of course, SAP presented key advances attained by several customers that leveraged both UI and UX concepts to drive a rich user experience. Each of the three firms cited below took a unique approach to enhancing their user experience. The resounding finding across the various companies referenced was that an optimal user experience led to both productivity advances and better system acceptance.

Delek Holdings (a Downstream Oil & Gas company) was willing to pull out all the stops, using everything SAP has to offer--Fiori, Personas, NetWeaver Business Client (NWBC,) SAP GUI and different BI front-ends to optimal user interaction. What they learned was they could pair up user interfaces in 2 flavors each based on the user's system familiarity. For the hard core users, NWBC and SAP GUI were the implemented pair. For the very casual users, including executives, Fiori and occasionally Personas were the fare of the day. In the end, pairing the right user type with the right user interface improved user acceptance.

Moving the other direction was Tyson Foods, who settled on a single UI product--GUIXT from Synactive. Tyson used GUIXT to create "cockpits" for each of its functional areas. In one instance, they combined Fleet Management and Plant Maintenance. In another, they created an "MM Menu" combining 8 transactions entry start screens (with the limited data selected needed) into a single screen. According to Tyson's GUI leader, by limiting what users can do, they limit what they can mess up.

Finally, in the How Tech Improves Wholesale Distribution category, SAP highlighted a smart vending machine from Fastenal. The machine is faced with a large touch screen that displays the products stored inside. The machines are located on the Fastenal customer sites, so that users can self-vend the fasteners and other items needed on the job. By simply selecting their goods via touch screen and swiping their ID, the parts are dispensed, invoiced to their cost center or project, and a replenishment order is sent to the regional Fastenal location.

There were tons of other great presentations and information to see, many available on the ASUG site if you are a member. Simply click on the ASUG Annual Conference Presentations link at www.asug.com. Not a member? Check out How to Become a Member here.