What's New with SAP HANA? (and what does it mean for Digital Transformation?)

Blog /Whats-New-with-SAP-HANA-what-does-it-mean-for-Digital-Transformation

The spate of product enhancements with which SAP closed out 2016 speaks volumes about fundamental characteristics of digital transformation we can expect to hear much of in 2017. Specifically, improving usability, digitizing the core, simplifying infrastructure, streamlining data management, enabling fast and easy application development and integration and extending analytics across the enterprise — all areas targeted by SAP with its recent product enhancements — will guide digital progress in the year ahead.

S/4HANA — the digital core imperative

Piecemeal edge innovations of past years no longer pass muster. Core business processes that drive operations must be completely re-imagined — from the consumer to the core — if they are to remain relevant and viable in today's digital economy.

Slated to be available in 2017, the new SAP S/4HANA 1610 release, the third major on-premises release of SAP S/4HANA to date, represents SAP's latest effort to provide customers with a true digital core.

First announced in February 2015 (followed in May 2015 with the announcement of SAP S/4HANA, Cloud Edition) S/4HANA is a complete ERP system, covering the core, mission-critical business processes across lines of business, such as finance, sales, service, marketing, commerce, procurement and sourcing, manufacturing, supply chain, asset management, research and development, and human resources.

Significant enhancements to S/4HANA 1610 include:

  • Embedded support for a new SAP Fiori 2.0 user interface makes it simpler for end users to consume transaction and analytics data side by side.
  • New functionality, usability and integration enhancements (along with enhancements to inventory management, materials requirement planning and warehouse management) allow supply chains to perform better with increased agility, promoting lower lead times, better customer service and higher profitability.
  • A simplified data model and prediction and pattern recognition capabilities, along with machine learning and embedded analytics, enable businesses to leverage real-time insights. 
  • Innovations in line of business and industry functionality allow companies to realize productivity gains and dramatically simplify their IT landscapes.

SAP reached more than 4,100 SAP S/4HANA customers globally in the third quarter of 2016 and is producing new updates for both cloud and on-premises SAP S/4HANA editions every quarter — providing more and more businesses across industries with the digital core they need to run live in today’s digital world.

HANA 2 — a digital transformation platform for sustained innovation

Released in November 2016, SAP HANA 2 builds on the HANA in-memory database first announced in 2010. HANA today is an almost-$4 billion business, and prospects continue to look good for sales going into 2017, according to SAP. Moving forward, SAP HANA 2 will deliver technology enhancements twice a year to support agile IT and continual innovation through transformation.

Enhancements found in HANA 2 that cement its status a leading platform for digital transformation include:

  • Improved database management with high availability, security, workload management and improved administration capabilities.
  • Improved data management with enhancements to enterprise modeling, data integration, data quality, tiered storage and a new edition of the SAP Enterprise Architecture Designer Web application.
  • Improved application development with enhanced functions for application servers, development tools and languages, including bring-your-own-language support. 
  • More analytic insight embedded into applications with enhanced analytical processing engines for text, spatial, graph and streaming data.

SAP HANA Cloud Platform — speedier app development & integration

Intent on increasing adoption of SAP HANA Cloud Platform as the PaaS of choice for enterprises, SAP recently unveiled new business services for its SAP HANA Cloud Platform, including a virtual machine, an SAP Ariba Cloud integration gateway, an API business hub, new workflow services, business rule functionality and data quality microservices. SAP also added analysis and transformation capabilities for streaming data and predictive analysis services for applications running on the platform.

SAP BusinessObjects — analytics for all

At TechEd Barcelona, SAP revealed that several new features and capabilities are now available across the SAP BusinessObjects portfolio of cloud and on-premises solutions.

Highlights of SAP BusinessObjects include:

  • SAP BusinessObjects Cloud is now available for purchase via a credit card in 34 countries at Sapstore.com through a simple checkout process.
  • New enhancements in SAP BusinessObjects Cloud include data wrangling capabilities taking advantage of embedded machine learning to provide data profiling, error detection, and recommended visualizations. Live connectivity to SAP S/4HANA is now available.
  • SAP plans to enable organizations to interact with data using SAP Digital Boardroom and Microsoft Surface Hub by providing an interactive display of Digital Boardroom content within the collaborative, touchscreen device.
  • SAP BusinessObjects Roambi is now available globally in 25 countries around the world.
  • SAP continues to innovate the core analytics technology with updates to SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence (BI) and planned enhancements for SAP BusinesObjects Predictive Analytics.

Digital Transformation gets real in 2017

As reported in Bloomberg, SAP raised the top end of its forecast for 2017 sales by 7% to as much as 23.5 billion euros ($25.5 billion). Clearly, SAP anticipates that digital transformation initiatives among its customers will hit an inflection point in 2017, and the company is driving enhancements and innovation through its HANA-powered solutions accordingly.

At NTT DATA, we are regularly questioned by our customers about SAP’s roadmap for HANA, particularly in connection to how SAP's continual enhancements to its HANA-powered solutions will impact their digital transformation plans.

The slew of product enhancements with which SAP closed 2016 should spark an “aha” moment for SAP customers tasked with digitalizing operations.

In addition to centering their digital transformation strategy on business-process redesign — a position NTT DATA strongly advocates — SAP customers should also look at the key areas addressed by recent SAP product enhancements:  improving usability, digitizing the core, simplifying infrastructure, streamlining data management, enabling fast and easy application development and integration, and extending analytics across the enterprise.

Measuring improvement across these critical areas provides invaluable, meaningful insight into the progress of digital initiatives. In other words,

if your strategy does not map cleanly against all of these critical areas, then you are probably just spinning your IT wheels, and not transforming much at all.

Where to begin your transformation journey?

There is no cookie-cutter strategy for digital transformation. Each company has its’ unique IT environment, market forces, corporate objectives, industry imperatives, customer expectations, and business priorities.

For net-new SAP customers, S/4 HANA is a no brainer. For existing SAP customers, S/4 HANA is your future. Even though mainstream maintenance for SAP Business Suite extends to 2025, SAP S/4HANA, the first digital core for digital business in the industry, is sure to impact ERP landscapes in a big way in the years ahead, so laggards increase their peril as the years of “wait-and-see” tick off.

HANA 2, The SAP HANA Cloud, and SAP BusinessObjects solutions afford great, immediate opportunities to move the digital-transformation needle by easing integration challenges, enabling the development of innovative new applications and extending analytics to frontline workers.

However, businesses are driven by process streams, not by technologies. Which is why at NTT DATA, we encourage our customers to focus their digital transformation strategy on business-process redesign.

Check out our next installment of SAP Advisor for an examination of key business processes ripe for digital transformation, and a review of the SAP HANA-powered solutions best suited to enable Enterprise-Grade Digital Business.

Contact NTT DATA today to learn how our SAP expertise and Enterprise-Grade Digital Business approach can accelerate your digital success in 2017.

Post Date: 1/8/2017

Tim Clark - NTT DATA Tim Clark

About the author

Tim is a Vice-President with NTT DATA with responsibility for SAP Consulting and the global HANA COE. He has 20+ years of experience in the SAP space with a focus on leading large scale global transformation programs and outsourcing engagements. He has worked across 30+ countries and a variety of industries, including Wholesale Distribution, Semiconductors, Building Materials, Consumer Products and Oil Field Services. Previously, Tim was a Vice-President at Neoris/CEMEX and a Partner at Accenture.