A Real-Time Solution for SMEs

Photo: iStockphoto
Photo: iStockphoto

At CeBIT 2013, SAP announced restricted shipment of SAP Business One, version for SAP HANA – its first SME offering running completely on the in-memory platform. Put simply, this means that small businesses will now be able to carry out transactions and run analyses at the same time, in real time. Already, a small number of companies in selected regions are using the new product, and general availability is expected to come in mid-2013. But can SMEs afford SAP HANA? And do they really need it? On the following pages, we give an overview of the new product:

SAP Business One, version for SAP HANA

–          Why the new offering?

–          Who is the target audience?

–          What are the new functions?

–          What are the benefits?

Next page: Why the new offering?

Why the new offering?

In 2011, SAP announced its long-term intention to move every single offering in its portfolio onto the in-memory platform, SAP HANA. Now, two years later, that goal is being realized: SAP Business One is among the software company’s first solutions to run completely on SAP HANA.

Some argue that SAP HANA is too big and too costly for the SME market: that it is an innovative technology, but ultimately unnecessary for small companies. According to SAP, this line of thinking is usually presented by those who only focus on the speed of SAP HANA. The in-memory platform is really about a lot more.

More than faster processes, this technology enables new use cases that give companies a competitive advantage in the market – such as the ability to create individualized, real-time offers for customers at the point of sale. Like the iPhone, SAP HANA is a technology that users don’t know they need until they experience the business value it creates.

What about the other SAP HANA offering for SMEs?

Those with a sharp memory, however, may recall that SAP Business One customers aren’t completely new to in-memory technology. Last year, analytics powered by SAP HANA became generally available for SAP Business One. This offering allowed SAP Business One users to carry out in-memory analyses in a separate, and separately licensed, SAP HANA database. Transactional and operational data, meanwhile, remained in the Microsoft SQL Server. Essentially, it served as a transition phase between SAP Business One, run in a relational database, and SAP Business One, version for SAP HANA, run in an in-memory database.

While it’s clear that SAP HANA is the way forward for SAP, the company will continue to offer SAP Business One on the SQL platform. This leaves customers free to choose the offering that best meets their needs.

SAP Business One showing Cash Flows (Photo: Screenshot)
SAP Business One showing Cash Flows (Photo: Screenshot)

Next page: Who is the target audience?

Who is the target audience?

SAP Business One, version for SAP HANA is intended to be used by small and midsize businesses, especially those that process large volumes of transactions – in retail and manufacturing, for example – or those that need real-time insight into their data across the company. But what SME really needs to do business in real time?

An SME like Nashua Communications. This South African enterprise network and communications provider needs to meet the stringent service-level agreements it has with customers and respond quickly to customer problems in order to differentiate itself in the market. And Reprico, a Panama-based distributor of pharmaceutical products. For this SME, rapid changes in the market create a need for real-time inventory analysis and margin calculations in order to optimize shipments.

But any SME that conducts reports on its supply chain or wants to estimate optimal production levels would also benefit from the in-memory platform. That’s because with SAP Business One, version for SAP HANA, companies can also take external data sources, such as weather forecasts and market trends, into account, and make more informed decisions than those based on business data alone.

How much does it cost?

The pricing of the new version of SAP Business One is comparable to what users would pay for the standard solution, running on the SQL database. It includes a set engine price, as well as a per-user price. Furthermore, SAP offers a data migration tool that ensures a smooth transfer of data from the SQL server to the SAP HANA database. This makes the solution of interest to existing SAP Business One customers, as well as new customers.

SAP Business One Enterprise Search (Photo: Screenshot)
SAP Business One Enterprise Search (Photo: Screenshot)

Next page: What are the new functions?

What are the new functions?

With all processes running completely in-memory, SAP Business One, version for SAP HANA introduces a new level of speed to the business management solution. Like with SAP Business One before, SMEs can carry out tasks in financials, accounting, inventory, and customer relationship management – but now with a faster response time. So when a new order is entered into the system, the inventory immediately reflects the change in stock.

Beyond speed, a number of new analytical functions are included, such as embedded analytics and predefined reports and dashboards. SAP considers this an important area of development because it enables employees to conduct analyses themselves, without having to go through IT. This in turn allows for faster and smarter decisions to be made.

The most important new functions are outlined here:

–          Available-to-promise  functionality dynamically aggregates current inventory, ordered stock, replenished stock, and stock being delivered. And users can reschedule existing orders to optimize product movement.

–           Cash flow forecasting tracks everything from sales orders, POs, and down payments to recurrent postings in its calculations, bringing performance to the next level.

–          Embedded analytics appear directly in the transaction screens. This enables sales people to make create more relevant offers for cross-selling and up-selling in real time.

–          Reports come predefined for calculation-intensive tasks, like inventory analysis and monthly customer status.

–          Predefined dashboards include all those that were previously delivered with SAP Crystal Reports, plus three new dashboards exclusive to SAP Business One, version for SAP HANA: sales opportunity, stock analysis, and key performance indicators for CEOs.

–          Ad-hoc reporting lets users interact with data using familiar business terms and BI tools like SAP Crystal solutions. They don’t have to understand business rules or know where the data resides, so they don’t need to go through IT.

–          Freestyle enterprise search lets users search via keyword through all data in SAP Business One, version for SAP HANA.

–          Lifecycle management includes an initialization and duplication mechanism, backup and recovery, monitoring, and an administration console.

–          Mobile access is available for many of the new functions, including integrated enterprise search, available-to-promise check, and cash flow dashboards via the SAP Business One mobile app.

Next page: What are the benefits?

What are the benefits?

Small companies that use SAP Business One, version for SAP HANA benefit from the increased agility. With built-in analytics and predefined dashboards and reports, they don’t have to go through IT to get analytical insights into the company. They can make more informed decisions faster, which increases employee productivity.

This can be seen at the German Computer Company (GCC), which implemented SAP Business One, analytics powered by SAP HANA in 2012. As a cloud provider, GCC uses sophisticated pricing models and requires fast reporting and analytics capabilities. Before, whenever a customer would call, employees would take down their request and tell the customer that they would return their call. Employees then would look up customer details in the system, which took several minutes, and call the customer back.

Search across the company in less than a second

With analytics powered by SAP HANA, GCC is now able to conduct an enterprise search in less than a second, and complete the customer request in a single phone call. Employees are more productive, customers are better served, and the business benefits. GCC is planning to implement SAP Business One, version for SAP HANA in 2014.

Another benefit for customers is the ability to build applications on the SAP HANA platform. Today, customers and partners in the SAP ecosystem provide more than 500 add-on solutions for SAP Business One, but not all of them are ready for SAP HANA.  With this new offering, companies are able to build add-ons that not only enhance the functionality of the SAP Business One, but also take advantage of the capabilities of SAP HANA.