“Delight in every bite” is more than a mantra at Ferrara, the global candy-maker behind SweeTARTS, Trolli, Black Forest, and myriad other world-famous brands. It is a challenge met every day by a joint business and IT team, which makes decisions based on up-to-the-minute views at every level of the sweets giant — from executive-level demand forecasting to a shop floor machine’s throughput.

“Data really needs to be accurate, and it needs to be available in real time,” Ferrara Vice President and CIO George Lesko told SAP at the candy maker’s headquarters in downtown Chicago. “SAP HANA and analytics actually does all of that for us.”

Ferrara uses the in-memory database from SAP to significantly reduce its reporting times, from weeks down to minutes and often from minutes to seconds. The 112-year-old confectionary juggernaut drives innovation with speed, agility, and accuracy thanks to SAP HANA — part of SAP’s Business Technology Platform — as well as a comprehensive suite of applications, including SAP ERP.

This technology enables an unprecedented partnership between Ferrara IT and business, Lesko said in an SAP video. And it helps the company envision what’s possible with other technologies on the horizon.

The Right Stuff Right Away

Getting the right information to business users at the right time was the challenge solved by Ferrara Senior IT Director Mustafa Mustafa and his team. They sought new solutions after traditional technologies failed to provide the necessary agility and time-to-value.

“Ferrara selected SAP because of the unprecedented capabilities of SAP HANA being in-memory, and the versatile capabilities of analytics from SAP to enable us to have a variety of tools to really meet each individual’s unique needs,” Mustafa said. “It really took the information and put it at the fingertips of the business within seconds versus minutes.”

SAP HANA has reduced Ferrara’s data storage footprint by 94 percent, compared to legacy database technology, according to Mustafa. And the first SAP dashboard that Ferrara deployed saved the company $200,000 within the first 15 weeks. Plus, accurate real-time data enables Ferrara’s salespeople to actively engage with their customers and better meet their needs.

“Ferrara’s differentiator by using SAP HANA and analytics is enabling us to make real-time decisions [and] effectively execute upon our goals,” Mustafa said. Looking forward, the company wants “embark on Big Data — applying machine learning and artificial intelligence, so there’ll be other applications within the portfolio that we’re going to add to marry all those together.”

Ferrara Fast, Inside and Out

“‘Ferrara Fast’ is at the core of our culture. We take pride in our agility and our ability to work together to solve problems,” Ferrara Vice President of Sales Operations & Integration Patrick Degnan said. “SAP technology adds tremendous value to our business. It allows us to combine data sets from different sources and view it in one common hierarchy and reporting structure.”

This allows Ferrara to dive into the data, analyze and understand business trends, and solve problems — faster than ever, according to Degnan. This helps drive growth, both for Ferrara and the retailers that stock its candy.

“When they come to us with quick fixes or quick opportunities, we’re able to collaborate and work together as a team to bring them solutions,” Degnan said. “It truly is a competitive advantage for us and it’s something that our retailers truly value as business partners.”

Delight in Every Byte

“The SAP HANA system gives us a data warehouse that allows us to pull data, not only from Ferrara’s SAP ERP system, but acquired companies as well,” Gene King, senior manager of SAP BI and App Development at Ferrara Candy Co., said. “Our Ferrara business user cannot tell where the data is coming from — whether it be Ferrara’s own system or the acquired business’ system. It’s seamless to them.”

And there is no overnight batch process, King stated. Transformation happens at query time.

“If there’s a logic issue, we adjust it,” King said. “Boom! Immediately the user is getting the corrected results, no wait time, no outage.”

Ferrara’s IT can respond right away to business issues and executives, according to King. Analytics that would have taken days now happen almost instantaneously. This, in turn, helps Ferrara’s business users better respond to their customers’ needs.

The Way Forward

“I’ve been doing this since the late 1980s [and this is] so much better than anything I’ve used before,” King said. “One thing I love about the SAP HANA in-memory database is its total paradigm shift from what we used to do to provide analytics.”

With its eye on the future, Ferrara has even developed its own custom applications using SAP HANA extended application services. In addition to accessing data, users add comments and contextual information and then save them to the database, according to King. No more sending emails to clarify a situation; just attach your comment to the data, and others can see the explanation right away.

“SAP HANA has allowed us to move on to look at machine learning, artificial intelligence, and predictive analytics,” King said. “We’re ready to move to that next step now.”

Rising to the Challenge

“SAP makes a lot of investments in this type of challenge; they’ve been a great partner for us,” Ferrara CIO Lesko said in a video. “SAP HANA and analytics allows us to move quickly when it comes to analyzing the information and making decisions, and that’s really our biggest differentiator.”

The speed, agility and accuracy of real-time in-memory analytics has also fostered the partnership between Ferrara’s IT professionals and their business colleagues, according to Lesko. “They see this as a something that delineates us from other IT teams that they’ve worked with in other companies. It’s really helped us gain the credibility that we need to continue investing in other areas of IT.”

Follow Derek on Twitter: @DKlobucher.
This story originally appeared on SAP BrandVoice on Forbes.
Top image via video.