Why You Need An In-Memory Action Plan

Timo Elliott

Get Ahead With An In-Memory Action Plan

This is a third post of a series based on a SAP-sponsored breakfast meeting organized in Sydney earlier this year with speaker Donald Feinberg, Gartner VP and Distinguished Analyst explaining the “Nexus of Forces”: social, mobile, cloud and information.

In the first two posts, Donald covered why in-memory is disrupting everything, and why every organization will be running in-memory in 15 to 20 years time, and the business impacts of the new in-memory computing possibilities.

In this post, Donald explains why you should have an in-memory action plan — and how to create one.

These comments are based on my notes taken from the speech, formatted for legibility.

Why you need an in-memory action plan

Why You Need An In-Memory Action Plan

You need to change the way you look at IT infrastructure, applications, and the infrastructure that’s running those applications. Truly, with some of these new technologies like in-memory technology, there are no barriers, things that you can’t do. Words like “no we can’t do it” start to go away.

I’m not going to tell you it’s going to be cheap, I’m not going to tell you there’s not going to be bumps in the road as you’re doing it, but things that you really thought were not possible are possible now. Period.

What do you do in your organization to start to adopt or use some of the in-memory technologies? You are going to spend money on this. Whether the TCO is less or not, you still have to build your skills, you still have to buy applications, you still have to buy the technology and infrastructure and things like that.

Why You Need An In-Memory Action Plan

Build a business case first. Show the value of what you’re going to do. The return on investment may be long or may be short. We recommend short at first. Small projects with quick return on investment will get you more projects that are bigger and have a greater impact on the company. But you have to prove it first – that’s the key.

Assign a small team of people to look at this. Most companies don’t have a research and development organization in IT (the big ones do). But there’s no reason you can’t have one person looking at the things that are possible with the new technologies, looking at how they can make your current applications more efficient, or start to change how you use them.

So set up a CTO or department of the CTO that has somebody in there who’s just looking at the stuff that’s out five years or ten years from now, so that you will be ready to start to do projects with it when it matures to the level of risk that you’re willing to take.

Always do a POC, proof of concept. Do not just assume that because it looks good on paper it’s going to work for you. You need to test it with your data, with your applications, with your people.

Brainstorming. A lot of people don’t realize that your business unit people are much more IT-aware than they have ever been before. Brainstorm with them on what some of these things can happen, in the business, and how they can make use of it. Who has the budget today? IT? Or the business unit? So if you don’t do this, they’re going to do it anyway, and they’re going to implement the technology without IT. The big disadvantage is that the company doesn’t get the broad skill base that is necessary, and that technology is not shared across the business units. It’s much better to keep it in IT, not because you order it so, but because you are moving along in these new ways, with the business units and what they need.

If you believe what I’m telling you about in-memory technology, as being part of your future, it’s not too early to start to define a strategy for how in-memory is going to enter into your organization and be used.

You may decide that part of the strategy is “we’re going to wait two years to let it mature”. That’s fine, but start looking now at where it can fit and when within the organization, so that you’re prepared and ready to accept it when it comes along. If you’re an early adopter, start tomorrow. If you’re more risk-adverse, next year, the year after.

But at least understand the strategy for how this is going to fit in your organization, because as we believe, it IS coming, whether you want it or not, so you may as well start now to look at a strategy for where it’s going to fit in the future.

Questions and Answers

What would you reply to somebody who said “I’ve already got enough problems in my organization already”?

From a short-term standpoint, I can’t disagree with that.

But some of the new architectures and the in-memory technologies can maybe help you with some of the issues that you have today.

It depends on what the issues are. One of the issues a lot of people have is speed: my applications don’t run fast enough. So maybe there’s in-memory technology that can speed that up. Or maybe moving it to mobile will make it run faster.

Looking at the nexus of forces and looking at technology as a solution to some of your problems may actually help you short-term.

Cloud – maybe cloud can save you some time. I’ll give you a simple example: how are your development costs? Use the public cloud for that. Let your developers develop on an Amazon AWS.

Why is that good? Your people don’t have to set up the development environment. You make a phone call, and you have it. When the project’s done, you make another phone call, and not pay for it any more. You don’t have to go out and buy a server that then you’ve got to figure out what to do with after the development project is done. So there’s a place where cloud immediately can help you.

So some of this new technology is mature enough to solve some of your problems. And then, when you start putting your head together with the business units and start to have an impact on the competitiveness and the bottom line of the organization, that’s where you can really make a difference. Some of this technology may enable you, if you’re a retailer, to turn your inventory one more time a year. Is there any retailer that doesn’t want to do that? And not be out of something when somebody wants it?

If the business unit wants to be an early adopter, but the IT unit is risk-averse and conservative, how does the business user drive this change?

I’ve been around a while in this business. If there’s one thing I’ve heard over and over since I started in the 60s, it’s “IT has to communicate with the business”.  We’ve learned that lesson – that doesn’t work. Going out to dinner with your business liaison once a month and talking with them is nothing.

So one of the concepts that we came up with around twelve years ago, with respect to BI specifically, is the BI Competency Center. The reason that has worked is because it takes business people and IT people and puts them together, working together, not talking. So they make decisions together.

If I’m going to do a new project, all the business units decide what the priority project is. This is a concept that works. Some of your companies can’t afford to have full-time people in it, so you do it virtually: you have a meeting once a week. But they still manage projects, they still make buying decisions on products, they still set strategy for the company. The group should not be run by IT (which is hard to swallow sometimes) – but by the business unit. And most important: the CIO can not be the sponsor. It must be higher in the organization.

So if I’m going to have a “business technology competency center” where people from the business and the industry are going to get together to look at new technologies and where they may work, the sponsor has to be the CFO, the CEO, the Board, somebody like that. Then they will work together to do this.

Risk-adverse IT organizations are normal. You have a job to do to keep the lights on and you’re not going to do it if you take risks. It’s that simple – you’re not going to have a job if you take risks.

So how do you fit that with adopting new technology? Again, just like with the research and development with one person, you can take a couple of people from your organization as part of this “business innovation competency center”, sponsored by the CEO, so you can go hire some new people to do it if you need to, or move people over and backfill them.

They may take on a project with a business unit where you see tremendous value to the business, and you look at something that is, say, in beta. And you look at that technology to enable that business unit to be more competitive, more productive, more profitable, and it doesn’t affect the rest of your organization. You still can deliver the things you’re doing, because it’s “outside”. How do you get to that? You have to get senior management in the organization – not the IT organization – behind you. How do you get that? A small project, to demonstrate to them the value of this kind of thing.

Now one thing that comes to mind immediately: if you look at what’s happened in the past ten years with data warehousing – my area – every time there’s been a recession, database sales and data warehousing sales have dropped off. Except in the 2008/2009 worldwide recession, where every segment of IT was negative growth except DBMS, which was flat. In that environment, flat was positive.

Why? Because when the CIO came in to the CEO and said “I need more money to spend on my data warehouse” and the CEO says “are you nuts, with this economy?!”, you pointed to a flat screen on his wall that had key metrics of the business in “real-time” – for the first time, senior management, the CFO, COO, CEO, could physically see the value that information was bringing to their business.

If you can demonstrate physically to them the advantages of some new technology, then they’re going to buy into it and start to fund it. You can’t say something like “I want a new ERP package” – in an economy like 2009, that will get you fired for asking. But if you have some real strong value that you can demonstrate quickly or instantly to them, they’re going to spend money on it if they think it’s going to save money or help them. So that’s what you have to do. Lots of people say “only large companies can afford that” – but anybody can put it together with at couple of visionary people from the business units and one or two people from IT to put this together, and they can be virtual.

Pfizer is one of our BICC case studies. They have 150 people full time in the BI competency center: 75 employees and 75 consultants. Most people can’t afford to do that, and I’m not suggesting you do. But here are models in-between that make sense, that will fit in everybody’s budget.


About Timo Elliott

Timo Elliott is an innovation evangelist and international conference speaker who has presented to business and IT audiences in over forty countries around the world. A 23-year veteran of SAP BusinessObjects, Elliott works closely with SAP development and innovation centers around the world on new technology directions. His popular Business Analytics blog at tracks innovation in analytics and social media, including topics such as big data, collaborative decision-making, and social analytics. Prior to Business Objects, Elliott was a computer consultant in Hong Kong and led analytics projects for Shell in New Zealand. He holds a first-class honors degree in Economics with Statistics from Bristol University, England.



Why 3D Printed Food Just Transformed Your Supply Chain

Hans Thalbauer

Numerous sectors are experimenting with 3D printing, which has the potential to disrupt many markets. One that’s already making progress is the food industry.

The U.S. Army hopes to use 3D printers to customize food for each soldier. NASA is exploring 3D printing of food in space. The technology could eventually even end hunger around the world.

What does that have to do with your supply chain? Quite a bit — because 3D printing does more than just revolutionize the production process. It also requires a complete realignment of the supply chain.

And the way 3D printing transforms the supply chain holds lessons for how organizations must reinvent themselves in the new era of the extended supply chain.

Supply chain spaghetti junction

The extended supply chain replaces the old linear chain with not just a network, but a network of networks. The need for this network of networks is being driven by four key factors: individualized products, the sharing economy, resource scarcity, and customer-centricity.

To understand these forces, imagine you operate a large restaurant chain, and you’re struggling to differentiate yourself against tough competition. You’ve decided you can stand out by delivering customized entrees. In fact, you’re going to leverage 3D printing to offer personalized pasta.

With 3D printing technology, you can make one-off pasta dishes on the fly. You can give customers a choice of ingredients (gluten-free!), flavors (salted caramel!), and shapes (Leaning Towers of Pisa!). You can offer the personalized pasta in your restaurants, in supermarkets, and on your ecommerce website.

You may think this initiative simply requires you to transform production. But that’s just the beginning. You also need to re-architect research and development, demand signals, asset management, logistics, partner management, and more.

First, you need to develop the matrix of ingredients, flavors, and shapes you’ll offer. As part of that effort, you’ll have to consider health and safety regulations.

Then, you need to shift some of your manufacturing directly into your kitchens. That will also affect packaging requirements. Logistics will change as well, because instead of full truckloads, you’ll be delivering more frequently, with more variety, and in smaller quantities.

Next, you need to perfect demand signals to anticipate which pasta variations in which quantities will come through which channels. You need to manage supply signals source more kinds of raw materials in closer to real time.

Last, the source of your signals will change. Some will continue to come from point of sale. But others, such as supplies replenishment and asset maintenance, can come direct from your 3D printers.

Four key ingredients of the extended supply chain

As with our pasta scenario, the drivers of the extended supply chain require transformation across business models and business processes. First, growing demand for individualized products calls for the same shifts in R&D, asset management, logistics, and more that 3D printed pasta requires.

Second, as with the personalized entrees, the sharing economy integrates a network of partners, from suppliers to equipment makers to outsourced manufacturing, all electronically and transparently interconnected, in real time and all the time.

Third, resource scarcity involves pressures not just on raw materials but also on full-time and contingent labor, with the necessary skills and flexibility to support new business models and processes.

And finally, for personalized pasta sellers and for your own business, it all comes down to customer-centricity. To compete in today’s business environment and to meet current and future customer expectations, all your operations must increasingly revolve around rapidly comprehending and responding to customer demand.

Want to learn more? Check out my recent video on digitalizing the extended supply chain.


Hans Thalbauer

About Hans Thalbauer

Hans Thalbauer is the Senior Vice President, Extended Supply Chain, at SAP. He is responsible for the strategic direction and the Go-To-Market of solutions for Supply Chain, Logistics, Engineering/R&D, Manufacturing, Asset Management and Sustainability at SAP.

How to Design a Flexible, Connected Workspace 

John Hack, Sam Yen, and Elana Varon

SAP_Digital_Workplace_BRIEF_image2400x1600_2The process of designing a new product starts with a question: what problem is the product supposed to solve? To get the right answer, designers prototype more than one solution and refine their ideas based on feedback.

Similarly, the spaces where people work and the tools they use are shaped by the tasks they have to accomplish to execute the business strategy. But when the business strategy and employees’ jobs change, the traditional workspace, with fixed walls and furniture, isn’t so easy to adapt. Companies today, under pressure to innovate quickly and create digital business models, need to develop a more flexible work environment, one in which office employees have the ability to choose how they work.

SAP_Digital_Emotion_BRIEF_image175pxWithin an office building, flexibility may constitute a variety of public and private spaces, geared for collaboration or concentration, explains Amanda Schneider, a consultant and workplace trends blogger. Or, she adds, companies may opt for customizable spaces, with moveable furniture, walls, and lighting that can be adjusted to suit the person using an unassigned desk for the day.

Flexibility may also encompass the amount of physical space the company maintains. Business leaders want to be able to set up operations quickly in new markets or in places where they can attract top talent, without investing heavily in real estate, says Sande Golgart, senior vice president of corporate accounts with Regus.

Thinking about the workspace like a designer elevates decisions about the office environment to a strategic level, Golgart says. “Real estate is beginning to be an integral part of the strategy, whether that strategy is for collaborating and innovating, driving efficiencies, attracting talent, maintaining higher levels of productivity, or just giving people more amenities to create a better, cohesive workplace,” he says. “You will see companies start to distance themselves from their competition because they figured out the role that real estate needs to play within the business strategy.”

The SAP Center for Business Insight program supports the discovery and development of  new research-­based thinking to address the challenges of business and technology executives.


Sam Yen

About Sam Yen

Sam Yen is the Chief Design Officer for SAP and the Managing Director of SAP Labs Silicon Valley. He is focused on driving a renewed commitment to design and user experience at SAP. Under his leadership, SAP further strengthens its mission of listening to customers´ needs leading to tangible results, including SAP Fiori, SAP Screen Personas and SAP´s UX design services.


What If Chelsea Manager Jose Mourinho Could Be Proved Right In Medical Staff Row?

Mark Goad

Big Data and the Internet of Things brings new level of insight to sports medicine

With the 2015-16 European football (soccer) season underway, we are already seeing the impact of the huge pressure to succeed. In some cases, it is boiling over even this early on, with Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho getting involved in a very public row with his medical staff over the treatment of Eden Hazard during a match. As the season builds momentum, all clubs know one of the most vital aspects of winning trophies is keeping the best players fit so they can play at the top of their game as often as possible.

Last season, just like in every season, we saw injuries that affected teams’ results and possibly their final standings at the end of the season, while other teams capitalized. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger blamed injuries for the team’s failed title bid, while Real Madrid suffered injuries to players like Gareth Bale and Luka Modric at a crucial stage of the season and lost the title to Barcelona.

There’s no doubt that football clubs, especially the bigger teams, employ first-rate medical staff – physiotherapists, doctors, sports scientists, and so on – but they can only do so much to keep players off the treatment table. Players are human, after all, and keeping them injury-free for such long and grueling campaigns is a big ask. This season again will see players on the end of crunching tackles, over-exerting their bodies, and over-stretching.

What’s less talked about than lost games and league titles when discussing injuries is the salaries paid to injured players. The estimated average cost of player injuries in the top four professional football leagues in 2015 was $12.4 million* per team. Remarkably, every year teams lose an equivalent of 15%-30%** of their player payroll to injuries.

As salaries continue to rise, injuries are becoming just as much of an off-the-pitch boardroom issue as they are an on-the-pitch issue. Consider that if Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, the world’s highest-paid player, spends just a week out injured, the club still has to pay his weekly salary of around $1 million. Not only that, but there’s the huge potential for lost revenue from missing out on UEFA Champions League progress or domestic success because key players are out.

Just as winning seems to mean more than ever, so does football as a business. So with the spotlight firmly on “sweating the assets” – extracting maximum value from the entire squad – clubs are looking to Big Data and Internet of Things technology to consider how player injuries can be prevented with new levels of insight.

Prevention is better than cure

In July this year we saw what could be a huge landmark in the potential of monitoring the risk of injuries, when football’s international governing body FIFA announced its approval of wearable electronic performance and tracking systems during matches. As well as collecting data on statistics like distance covered and heart rate to determine decisions like substitution timings, this also paves the way for wearable satellite devices that keep medical staff updated on the likelihood of a player picking up an injury from over-exertion.

Emerging injury-risk monitoring software uses the concepts of Big Data and wearable technology to pull in and apply mathematical formulas to an exhaustive range of relevant data about players: fitness levels, recent levels of exertion, opponents, age, technique, hydration, even weather. This could help medical staff predict the risk of future injuries with much greater accuracy, allowing them to run simulations and take corrective actions in real time. Imagine a seemingly non-injured key player being substituted during a tightly contested match, only to find out afterwards that monitoring software had indicated he was at a high risk of pulling a muscle. This could very much be a part of the future of professional football.

Going back to Jose Mourinho and his reaction to the Chelsea medical staff running onto the pitch to treat Eden Hazard, it’s interesting to consider how in the future this kind of technology could either support or discredit his position in the dispute. It could help managers work more closely with physiotherapists, as they can visualize the data that shows the risk of injury to players. Although the pressure to win will likely keep on rising, the risk of expensive players injuries could see a big reduction.

SAP’s own injury risk monitoring software is currently in the proof-of-concept phase and will be entering development in the near future. The goal is to build IRM on the SAP Sports One platform as an additional component, and to provide integration to the existing modules of SAP Sports One solution. SAP Sports One was launched earlier this year and is the first sports-specific cloud solution powered by the SAP HANA platform, providing a single, unified platform for team management and performance optimization.

*Statistic calulated using 2015 Global Sports Salaries Survey

**Bleacher Report “Inside the 2014 Numbers of Each MLB Team’s Regular-Season Injury Impact” and NBA Injury Analysis


Mark Goad

About Mark Goad

Mark Goad is a Client Partner at SAP. His specialties include social media, digital marketing, analytics, strategy and management.


Big, Bad Data: How Talent Analytics Will Make It Work In HR

Meghan M Biro

Here’s a mind-blowing fact: Research from IBM shows that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. I find this fascinating.

Which means that companies have access to an unprecedented amount of information: insights, intelligence, trends, future-casting. In terms of HR, it’s a gold mine of Big Data.

This past spring, I welcomed the Industry Trends in Human Resources Technology and Service Delivery Survey, conducted by the Information Services Group (ISG), a leading technology insights, market intelligence, and advisory services company. It’s a useful study, particularly for leaders and talent managers, offering a clear glimpse of what companies investing in HR tech expect to gain from their investment.

Not surprisingly, there are three key benefits companies expect to realize from investments in HR tech:

• Improved user and candidate experience

• Access to ongoing innovation and best practices to support the business

• Speed of implementation to increase the value of technology to the organization.

It’s worth noting that driving the need for an improved user interface, access, and speed is the nature of the new talent surging into the workforce: people for whom technology is nearly as much a given as air. We grew up with technology, are completely comfortable with it, and not only expect it to be available, we assume it will be available, as well as easy to use and responsive to all their situations, with mobile and social components.

According to the ISG study, companies want HR tech to offer strategic alignment with their business. I view this as more about enabling flexibility in talent management, recruiting and retention — all of which are increasing in importance as Boomers retire, taking with them their deep base of knowledge and experience. And companies are looking more for the analytics end of the benefit spectrum. No surprise here that the delivery model will be through cloud-based SaaS solutions.

Companies also want:

• Data security

• Data privacy

• Integration with existing systems, both HR and general IT

• Customizability —to align with internal systems and processes.

Cloud-based. According to the ISG report, more than 50% of survey respondents have implemented or are implementing cloud-based SaaS systems. It’s easy, it’s more cost-effective than on-premise software, and it’s where the exciting innovation is happening.

Mobile/social. That’s a given. Any HCM tool must have a good mobile user experience, from well-designed mobile forms and ease of access to a secure interface.

They want it to have a simple, intuitive user interface – another given. Whether accessed via desktop or mobile, the solution must offer a single, unified, simple-to-use interface.

They want it to offer social collaboration tools, which is particularly key for the influx of Millenials coming into the workplace who expect to be able to collaborate via social channels. HR is no exception here. While challenging from a security and data protection angle, it’s a must.

But the final requirement the study reported is, in my mind, the most important: analytics and reporting. Management needs reporting to know their investment is paying off, and they also need robust analytics to keep ahead of trends within the workforce.

It’s not just a question of Big Data’s accessibility, or of sophisticated metrics, such as the key performance indicators (KPIs) that reveal the critical factors for success and measure progress made towards strategic goals. For organizations to realize the promise of Big Data, they must be able to cut through the noise and access the right analytics that will transform their companies for the better.

Given what companies are after, as shown in the ISG study, I predict that more and more companies are going to be recognizing the benefits of using integrated analytics for their talent management and workforce planning processes. Talent analytics creates a powerful, invaluable amalgam of data and metrics; it can identify the meaningful patterns within that data and metrics and, for whatever challenges and opportunities an organization faces, it will best inform the decision makers on the right tactics and strategies to move forward. It will take talent analytics to synthesize Big Data and metrics to make the key strategic management decisions in HR. Put another way, it’s not just the numbers, it’s how they’re crunched.

For more on the power of talent analytics, see Talent Analytics: Predicting HR’s Way Out Of The Fog.

Image source: Simonebrunozzi via Wikipedia