Tag Archives: analytics

KXEN brings SAP Analytics to the Business Analyst Community

This week in Las Vegas I held a number of executive interviews as part of my role with the SAP Business Influencer community at TechED.  I’ll be posting on the SAP Community Network with abstracts here to link to the full content.  

This week at SAP TechED, the KXEN team was in full force both demonstrating the continuing value of the brand which SAP acquired last month and also their new SAP employee badges after cutting over to their new teams inside the SAP Analytics group earlier in the month.

According to Saravana Chandran, Senior Director for Advanced Analytics, SAP had good position with the up-market visualization space with its Lumira product and relatively good penetration in the statistician and data scientist market with its predictive analytics tools.  What KXEN brings to the table is the middle ground of business analysts who look for trends and forecasts as part of their day to day activities but who are not overtly looking to dissect the data into complex and reusable algorithms like statisticians.

“The vision of SAP Analytics is to reduce the data to decision latency, operationalize predictive model, and bring predictive analytics to broad set of users – beyond the data scientist while being open and flexible” claimed Chandran in my business influence interview this week at SAP TechED.  “Customers can leverage predictive models and extend the usefulness to the end user across all levels of expertise.  So you can democratize analytics and overcome the skills gap in today’s environment” where either the data is too complex (requiring more data scientists) or the application to simple to drive real trends and value to business decision making.  Chandran claims that due to the skills gap currently in the market, for every $1 spent on solutions an additional $99 is spent on services needed to use those solutions productively.  In today’s world you need to hire data scientists or bring in service providers to perform necessary analysis over time, pricing many companies (even large enterprises) out of the predictive analytics space.

To read the full article, including an embedded YouTube interview with Chandran and KXEN VP of Product Management Marco Casalaina, visit the SCN posting.  Thanks to Chandran and Charles Gadalla for their time to sit together and talk about predictive analysis at SAP TechED.  Follow my other SCN postings via my SCN profile page or Twitter (@william_newman).

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SAP Acquisition of KXEN Proxy War in the Cloud, Predictive Analytics Space

This week at the SAP Business Objects User Group Conference (SBOUC), Steven Lucas (President of Platform Solutions at SAP) announced the acquisition of predictive analytics and cloud-based solution platform KXEN.  This was position in response to SAP customer demand around greater workflow and process integrations with analytics in a cloud-based offering.  While the intent to acquire KXEN by SAP is not a done deal, the wheels are firmly on the track and the train is moving ahead to an October, 2013 close based on an analyst call hosted by both companies this morning.

The KXEN acquisition is definitely a good response to SAP customer demands in both the cloud and predictive analytics offerings.  At SAPPHIRE 2011, in private meetings with the analytics solution team, the direction of the solution roadmap for SAP in the space of predictive analytics was on the forward horizon view of many solution management team members.  As part of the product portfolio, SAP has a long-standing product development gate strategy with rigorous decision points on “make or buy” approaches to new product development. Acquiring KXEN is an acknowledgement that SAP – in at least this space of the predictive analytics field – needed to get in front of the customer based more rapidly than the organic product development cycles would allow.

The acquisition also speaks to a growing proxy war quietly playing out between SAP and Salesforce.com, arguably one of the leaders of the cloud-based sales force automation and marketing who has been cherry-picking talent recently from SAP’s Palo Alto and SuccessFactors Bay Area campuses.  Lucas came from Salesforce.com a few years ago to lead the SAP analytics and cloud platform efforts and in his current role targeting good partners (and the talent and products that come with them) to bring formally into the SAP ecosystem.  KXEN also has development solutions such as its Cloud Prediction which it launched at DreamForce 2102, and as such to direction of this and other product offerings on the Force.com platform is in question (this was directly asked during the analyst briefing at which point there was a “no change in direction” reply statement while at the same time acknowledging this and other products would enhance the HANA cloud offerings).  As the acquisition formalizes it is hard to understand how KXEN’s relationship with SalesForce.com, in short the buy appears to be away to poach and divert the product lines from Force.com to HANA while also getting a good look at the Force.com “wiring” as a part of the process.

As SAP makes more moves to shore-up its cloud and analytics strategy to support the HANA cloud offering, KXEN could be the first of several spot acquisitions in this field as SAP accelerates its product introduction cycles.

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[INFOGRAPH] Mobile Strategies Transform Finance

Tomorrow I will join SAP Experts editor Scott Wallask (@BI_ScottWIS) for a FREE 1-HOUR WEBINAR “Strategies to use Mobility for Effective Data Analysis and Data Governance.” The premise is that by effective use of mobile technologies, companies can make more accurate data and information more accessible and more transparent throughout the organization.

Mobile Transforms Finance (source: SAP America)

Mobile Transforms Finance (source: SAP America)

One of the areas where this has received great attention is the transformation enabled in various financial management processes.  Long gone are the days when expense reports and travel requests were approved in the backseat of the taxi or sedan on the way to the airport.  Nowadays, controllers and CFOs are taking advantage of fully-rendered, native spreadsheet environments on tablets and smartphones – buoyed by in-flight WiFi services – to review and approve financial close and other key processes whenever and wherever they want.

As the attached infograph details, some of the value statements are pretty heady.  While each organization is unique to their potential financial and cycle time benefit, there are some compelling reasons to target the finance organization for operational efficiencies as well as greater value-added tasks (for example, due diligence to M&A transactions, opening new global markets, and other expansion and growth efforts).

The double-edged sword to this effect is the fact that you CAN work just about anywhere, so consider a fully-unplugged tropical vacation at sea.  Particularly in the February peak of the winter season ….

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February 27, 2013 · 2:17 pm

Will SAP’s Strategic Weapon Render Oracle’s “Soviet Era” Market Defenses Useless?

I’ve been digesting the latest round of “SAP on HANA” posts since attending the press conference in Palo Alto this week. In the words of my father in law, “this reminds me of a story.”

Back in the 1980s a little known top secret program was shaping up in the Southern California cities of Hawthorne and Pico Rivera. The genesis of the program was a concept that would create a strategic long-range bomber able to fly undetected through Soviet and Communist Bloc airspace requiring only a single fueling to any target in the world. The program created the B-2 Spirit (aka “Stealth Bomber”) and was deployed after flight test in the early 1990s.

Will SAP on HANA render Oracles “Soviet Era” market defenses useless?

I have maintained that the Stealth Bomber was always more of an economic weapon to end the Cold War than a military weapon. While the design of the air vehicle was state of the art mission performance, it simultaneously rendered the multi-billion dollars of investment the Soviet government had made to create a radar perimeter around the largest nation in the world obsolete. Pretty much overnight. Without the necessary talent, economic resources, and more importantly time to respond, the Stealth Bomber was a compelling factor laying the stage for the end of the Cold War and positioning the United States as the world’s only legitimate super power (economically and militarily).

Now it seems that SAP has its own stealth bomber in hand with the announcement it will run enterprise resource planning (ERP) and other enterprise systems (CRM, SRM, PLM, etc.) real-time on HANA. The strategic implications are tremendous.

Of course this announcement does not equate to immediate swelling of the customer ranks and the traditional upgrades that are associated with a new release. My colleagues Jon Reed and Cindy Jutras made the case for this in a recent article for searchSAP.com. And that might well be true. What the article missed, however, is that as much as “SAP on HANA” is a technological play, the move has greater impact as a strategic “de-enabler” for SAP’s competitors, both in the application as well as the database levels. By making the forward customer experience a de facto in-memory performance experience, SAP hopes to render its market competition insignificant in current form within the next 10-20 years. In short, this move essentially guarantees SAP a role as “first-mover” for perhaps the next generation of business professionals representing over 60% of the current world’s top companies and organizations. Having reached that “tipping point moment” significantly underscores the shift in roadmap priorities for SAP and creates even further momentum in the marketplace.

Much like the Stealth Bomber helped to set the stage for the end of the Cold War in the 1990s, the “SAP on HANA” move positions Oracle, Microsoft and IBM in particular with a transitional database response strategy, in a purely reactive mode. With IBM as a friendly “competitor/partner” on the HANA team, the move is really more a sharp thrust at Oracle. Microsoft has its own install base and strategy with Microsoft SQL 2013 which will be released with in-memory capabilities later this year. Microsoft and SAP have a long and fruitful relationship with its Duet Enterprise program which I have covered extensively (and will gain importance as user interfaces increasingly simplify in the coming years).

For Oracle, based on what is available in the public domain, my impression is that the company has neither the talent, financial resources or the time to respond with this move by SAP in like manner. Much like Soviets of the Cold War days, its best move may be to find a partnership with Microsoft or at least put something into the market that will create message confusion until it figures out a real database roadmap (its long-standing post-merger conglomeration of various enterprise components it labeled “Fusion” over five years ago has since reconciled somewhat but still resembles a collection of brand applications rather than a fully-integrated business suite). In 10 years net new customers will want an in-memory performance experience. Not old Soviet era radar tower performance.

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SAPExpertsToday – BI Expert Increasing Data Visualization Using the MAKit (promo)

Rapid Consulting Founder and Chief Technologist, Anton Ansalmar joins me with this Promo Video for SAP Experts Today (BI Expert 2012-12). To watch the full video (login required) please visit the SAP Experts link found in the video description.

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January 10, 2013 · 6:42 pm

SAP Makes Historic Announcement, Will it Mean the Death of Batch Computing?

In a short answer: yes.

In a global press and media event today hosted online and originating in Frankfurt, New York and Palo Alto, a who’s who of SAP leadership commented on the release of SAP Business Suite powered by SAP HANA.  While we have enjoyed the power of analytics over SAP BI using HANA, SAP today made the final and inevitable step to take its in-memory computing to full-scale ERP processing.

SAP Co-Founder and Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Hasso Plattner, opened remarks with an at-times whimsical accounting of the development of the “perfect ERP system.” #HassoTop10 ideas were created over six years ago when in-memory computing was just a glimmer in many SAP executive’s eyes.  [See the complete list on my SAP Community Network post.] While many of these ideas have been around for a while as SAP has moved HANA to the forefront, others will soon become common place even down to the data transaction level (do we really need to have arguments around OLTP versus OLAP?)

This move makes a full verticalization of its own database into its technology supply chain. Clearly the focus on HANA and designing the application layer to optimize on a HANA data stack will be a big win for HANA partners Intel, HP, and IBM.  As such, SAP will walk an inevitable tightrope with its announcement, potentially alienating its current database providers.   Plattner was careful to provide some reassurances in this area. This is a technology update only, the software remains the same. Only the database changes. In the next release we will look at mobile computing everywhere.”  Business Suite will also be supported by other non-HANA databases, also DB2, Oracle and others based on the development of SQL.

https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRUm7bpDUBxX-qsBkVMOWwCXPe7GGnrHmZ1tZoUgdI1dv08Oza3According to Plattner, “Manufacturing processes, like dunning, can become interactive.”  Vishal Sikka, Member of the SAP Executive Board (Technology and Innovation), introduced a new collaboration with the HANA technology partners code named “Kraken” (think of the beast that took down the city in Clash of the Titans).  In an orchestrated but nevertheless impressive demo, a manufacturing query that would normally take 1 hour processing returned in 7.2 seconds.  This beast is claimed to offer 100 billion scans … real-time.  (Drop your sunglasses for a moment and whisper, “dude” for effect.)

Will companies really be able to leverage the benefit of HANA on SAP Business Suite.  “If a company can’t imagine how to leverage HANA, it probably isn’t the right solution for them,” Plattner noted. Premier SAP customer John Deere led a compelling discussion around an initial customer co-innovation case study. With more HANA customer communities to be announced, look for more success stories in the future.

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How Analytics Shaped an Obama Win, Romney Defeat

The stories are slowly coming out of the election night landscape where an overly confident Governor and an equally confident incumbent President basked in the glow of a hard fought campaign.  As the election results trickled in one thing was becoming clearer by the hour, one candidate had correlated the demographics of the citizen vote particularly in key battleground states – and the other had not.

If 2008 were the election year that President Obama won with a solid push of social media, 2012 could be the year that the incumbent President had a competitive advantage with clear transparency of the voting population based on his use of advanced, cloud-based analytics.  Hosted largely by Amazon Web Services (AWS) as described in this New York Times piece by Steve Lohr, the AWS platform allowed for canvassing, massive phone poling, and real-time forecast projections which painted a very different view particularly of the ground game than what the GOP was predicting based on 2008 demographics.  A completely different ground attack resulting in a largely unpredictable election outcome that even as the key battleground state of Ohio was being called for the President, few Romney supporters would believe the numbers staring in front of them.

This time, the Obama campaign’s data center was mainly Amazon Web Services, the leading supplier of cloud services. The campaign’s engineers built about 200 different programs that ran on the Amazon service including Dashboard, the remote calling tool, the campaign Web site, donation processing and data analytics applications.

These data analytics applications gave the Obama team a clearer vision of the ground game which became painfully obvious in the key state of Ohio:

  • The Obama team had a higher number of voters in their turnout model in the key metropolitan areas surrounding Cleveland, Cincinnati, and the college city of Columbus.  GOP models accounted for a lower overall turnout particularly with historically minority groups.  In short, the Romney camp had too small a denominator for their projections.
  • GOP models also incorrectly accounted for the Libertarian candidate, Governor Gary Johnson, who took most of the 1.6% “other” vote in the Buckeye state.  Conventional thinking in the Romney camp was that these conservatives would “come home” on election night.  They didn’t. Advanced voter forecasting particularly in rural counties where the Governor won overwhelmingly would have showed that the GOP didn’t win “enough” to take the state.

By and large the final embarrassment came on Fox news when a disbelieving election night crew went to confront their own projections room for a final answer on Ohio.  The analysts – realizing they were the messengers about to be shot – sheepishly stood by their projections with “99.95% accuracy” in calling Ohio for the President.  At that point even the Fox News projection room was apparently working with more sophisticated analytics tools than even the Romney campaign had available.

Even national trends escaped the GOP which is cause for much needed reflection.  While the GOP took a larger percentage of the Caucasian vote in 2012 by 2% over 2008, the overall electorate had shifted by nearly 5% of population swing to minority groups, particularly Latinos.  While the Obama camp likely saw this trend emerging, the Romney camp was completely oblivious to the fact that by achieving their own campaign objectives it would cost them 2 million votes.

In the end one could argue that the campaign outcome in the final days would be changed much differently. However the Romney camp, bouyed by its own inaccurate portrayal of the ground game, believed that states like Pennsylvania and Michigan might be in play and diverted much needed funds for advertising and events into those markets.  Romney played the safe “incumbent” role in both Ohio and Virginia since their forecast models showed victories in those states – as well as Florida.  In each case the suburban and urban vote came out strong for the President.  Again, Team Romney was simply working with the wrong denominator.

Much can be said about the candidate profiles and the Republican party will spend months dissecting what went wrong and what should have been.  In the end though, their strategies and ground tactics were flawed due to an inadequate use of available data analytics and forecasting technology which cast a very unrealistic image of what was actually happening in the nation.

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