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IT Briefcase Exclusive Interview: Optimizing Data Analytics with SAP

October 4, 2013 No Comments

In this interview, Jerome Feltracco and Padmini Ranganathan from SAP outline key changes in data management, and offer expert advice for businesses looking to integrate and analyze company data to increase overall business value.

  • Q. What key changes in data management and data analytics do you think have had the greatest impact on the Enterprise over the last 10 years?

A. Padmini Ranganathan: Amongst technology innovations, the ability for business leaders in a company to look at Big Data – structured and unstructured – and mash-up it up within their business context. Business leaders’ ability to arrive at insights that were not before possible is having a significant transformational impact on companies.

In the past, traditional ways to obtain insights included outreach to IT or a central reporting team, which gave way to self-service access to pre-generated reports and saw the emergence of self-service data discovery tools.  Today, with SAP’s Business Intelligence Suite, and powerful, self-service visualization tools like SAP BusinessObjects Explorer and SAP Lumira, every person in the business value chain gets immediate and easy access to actionable insights. This includes the ability to further explore and identify root cause, model what-if scenarios, predict outcomes and collaborate to ensure the right decisions and actions are being taken related to business, role and initiative.

  • Q. How can organizations today begin to reconcile the increased demand for information from a “business” perspective, and the need to effectively manage data on the “IT” front?

A. Jerome Feltracco: I believe that that this very challenge should be seen as an opportunity by IT. By that I mean that organizations should shift from a ‘managing data’ mentality to creating self-service open data environments for the business users. At SAP we call this ‘Agile BI’. The business needs the ability to consume data (even Big Data) with speed, agility and autonomy. That’s how an organization (even a large one) can retain the ability to ask new questions and react before others do to new signals. SAP’s Business Intelligence Suite, Big Data capabilities and cloud deployment options make this totally feasible for most businesses.

  • Q. With the increased speed, volume, and variety of data that Big Data brings to the table, what are the top data analytics challenges SAP customers are bringing to the table, and what solutions are you currently offering to help them overcome these roadblocks?

A. Padmini: Amongst Big Data challenges, the top business issues companies are looking to tackle are ‘getting closer to the customer’ and ‘managing risk effectively’.  Depending on the industry, getting closer to the customer takes the form of targeting consumers with the right promotion at the right time, or the ability to offer the right alternatives to help customers make their choices.  A combination of social and mobile data, as well as POS data, provides perspectives on customer segmentation, preferences, and trends to help with effective targeting.  Managing risk can take the form of operational risk, including service scheduling and delivery, or effectively adapting to demand signal trends and patterns.

  • Q. With so many new tools and technologies available today, enterprise data frequently ends up residing within many silos.  How is SAP working to help companies integrate and analyze this data to increase overall business value?

A. Padmini: This question accurately sets up what big and small companies face today: a siloed approach to how their IT shops are organized – silos of data, captured in various kinds of databases and data warehouses (and now new data sources in the cloud/Internet).  These data sources span the spectrum of business focused or end user focused data marts/data warehouses.  In addition, certain data can only be captured in certain data marts. These are all reasons why there is a proliferation of siloed data marts.

Companies do not find it easy to continue in this model for a number of reasons:

Obvious reasons include cost of ownership, cost of administration, duplication of efforts, or constant provisioning of new mash-ups for each use case.

Additionally, the new generation of leaders are aware of the benefits of having a 360-degree view to provide value back to the business; they also realize that this requires a lot of work to massage, collect, and consolidate data from these sources.

IT needs to deliver real-time access to business insights in order to enable every individual in the organization to make decisions ‘now’ as opposed to 2-3 weeks from ‘now’.  This concept is gaining popularity, as it helps grow and transform their business or even enter new business markets with a competitive edge. This requires the CIO or IT team to be a value partner for the business in provisioning real–time insights and access to business leaders at all levels.

One example of this is product mix decisions across multiple channels at retailers and consumer goods companies who have a consolidated view of data across different silos to capture new revenue opportunities.

  • Q. In the process of analyzing data, the gathering of data frequently takes a longer than it should. What solutions are SAP currently offering to help organizations increase the speed with which they gather, compile, and effectively utilize their data?

A. Padmini: SAP introduced SAP HANA allowing companies to provide a single data foundation for transactional and analytical needs, capture and consolidate data across different data silos, and analyze and make decisions from vast amounts of data – of different data types, across different silos. This enables businesses to be more responsive, nimble and reactive.

Out-of-the-box, SAP HANA’s single data foundation comes with sophisticated data integration and data capture that allows a company to do one or more of the following:

Target, capture and provision data from any data source – including sources such as social media, event streaming or unstructured data of different types (spatial, text, etc.)

Integrate with Hadoop for large volumes of semi/unstructured data

Transform data from multiple data sources, no matter what the data volumes

Have nimble/agile modeling of data without the need for aggregate indexes, which enables many valuable use cases with low cost. This is unlike undertaking similar projects with a data warehouse as those involve lots of heavy lifting to build aggregates and high indexes that are ‘build’ intensive.

All of these features enable high performing queries in real-time supported by agile visualization – regardless of structured or unstructured data – as well as the ability to handle real-time analytics at critical ‘event-occurrence’ moments and during the aftermath. This lends itself to a number of use case scenarios, including track and trace, predicting outcomes and prevention techniques, remote diagnostics, continuous diagnostics, sentiment trend awareness, point of sale promotions and offers, fraud detection and prevention, and more informed planning.

  • Q. Can you please share a few customer success stories with us?

A. Padmini: Absolutely. One example is governments that are getting more transparent with their citizens. In addition, retail stores are now able to reduce the rate of customer return. Also, oil drilling companies are able to reduce their cost of maintenance and service because large volumes of previously operational data is now available to view, analyze and collaborate on.


Padmini Ranganathan, Senior Director, Analytics for Industries and LoBs, Technology Marketing, SAP

In her current role, Padmini Ranganathan leads a team of analytics experts dedicated to industry- and role-based applications of analytics, finding impactful uses of business information.

Padmini brings more than 20 years of experience in business applications, including consulting, customer programs, product management and marketing.

Prior to this role, Padmini has delivered innovative products on-premise and on-demand to market in the areas of supply chain and procurement, at SAP, Ariba and Oracle.


Jerome Feltracco, Head of Global Industry Go-To-Market, Platform Solutions, SAP 

Jerome has a passion for solutions that truly help organizations better align their limited resources to maximize efficiencies and results.

Jerome has guided his clients toward the adoption and successful implementation of innovative analytic performance optimization solutions to align resources to maximize results.

As a subject matter expert in performance management and Analytics he has presented extensively in the US and internationally on numerous performance management topics such as Results-based management, performance based budgeting, predictive planning, strategic cost alignment, shared services, charge-back systems, risk management, performance measurement,  and predictive analytics.


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