The stakes have never been higher for businesses to become data driven as they battle against a perfect storm of challenges. Customers have unprecedented product choices across geographies, regulations are increasing, competition is growing fiercer, and — oh, by the way — there is a worldwide pandemic that is not disappearing anytime soon.

Applied effectively, data gives business the agility to succeed against all odds.

“Instead of transaction-based practices that focus solely on cost-efficient mass production, businesses today are operating in a highly dynamic world, applying real-time data from many places so they can be as targeted and agile as possible,” said Gerrit Kazmaier, president of SAP HANA and Analytics. “It’s no longer about how well we execute the process, but rather what process we execute [and] when. For example, at the height of the pandemic crisis, companies needed to quickly adapt their supply chains to keep stock levels in sync with highly changeable customer needs. Some organizations fell far short of demand, while data-driven businesses had an advantage.”

Beyond Dashboards to Real-Time Insights and Action

Unlike the past, data is no longer the exclusive purview of IT – it is incorporated into every business department.

During a SAPPHIRE NOW Reimagined broadcast, Kazmaier shared how companies were using SAP’s holistic strategy to turn data into business value. In the spotlight was Porsche, which developed an “anti-fragile” data landscape to reduce complexity and become more powerful despite a stressful and fast-changing environment.

“Companies need to understand the past to plan their future and be predictive so they can anticipate events and surface patterns in their data,” Kazmaier said. “We bring data value creation together in SAP Data Intelligence Cloud, SAP HANA Cloud, SAP Data Warehouse Cloud, and SAP Analytics Cloud, giving companies the ability to become a data superpower. SAP Digital Boardroom brilliantly combines data from all these solutions, providing business leaders with the ability to learn from the past, set goals for the future, and explore predictive scenarios to get there.”

Data is a Lifeline for Business Survival

When I caught up with Kazmaier after watching the SAPPHIRE NOW broadcast, he explained that real-time data was critical for companies dealing with constantly changing information that is typically located in numerous places.

“Data is not a static asset at rest,” he said. “It’s always moving, reflecting the speed of business, and meaning the interactions people have with processes in the system. People in every line of business – digital commerce, procurement, finance, and others – need to understand and work with the freshest, most relevant data in the context of their plans and decisions. This is why Porsche and other customers are so excited. Using this technology, they can digitize their operating models.”

One European-based consumer products company turned to SAP HANA Cloud to bring together millions of data points from various systems into one single source of truth. A global chemical company conceptualized a future-proof data integration architecture using SAP HANA Cloud, harmonizing data from customers, suppliers, and ecosystem partners worldwide. A Swiss-based biotech company brought in SAP Data Warehouse Cloud and SAP Analytics Cloud to modernize its data architecture for agile innovation.

“Business leaders have realized that data is just like any other important asset on a company’s balance sheet with value far beyond the cost of systems,” Kazmaier said. “The challenge companies have is combining and making business sense out of multiple sources of disparate information.”

Symbiotic Relationship Between Human and Machine

As recovery moves ahead in fits and starts worldwide, business will need greater agility to constantly reexamine trends and adjust business practices. It is important to keep in mind that being data-driven is actually a symbiosis of fact-based machine intelligence with human creativity, empathy, and judgment.

“The pandemic has only reinforced the importance of having a data-driven business, Kazmaier said. “Human and machine intelligence provide companies with the agility to understand, react, and take action when running a business during good or challenging times. Long after the pandemic, standard management principles will encompass a greater understanding of your network – from suppliers to consumers and employees. When companies can manage the quality and usage of their data, that’s when they become data-driven businesses that are better able to meet customer demands and industry regulations in the toughest competitive landscape.”

Follow me: @smgaler