Is your organization ready for “After Big Data”?

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review by Thomas Davenport, professor and fellow at MIT, caught my attention. Davenport refers to the beginnings of a new era: “After Big Data” in his article Analytics 3.0. While organizations built around massive data volumes — such as Facebook, LinkedIn, eBay, Amazon and others — may be ready to move to the next wave of analytics, the full spectrum of big data capabilities is yet to be realized in the traditional organizations we work with on a daily basis. ???????????

However, despite the ever-improving technical advances and the continuous innovation of our customers, I am finding a common theme that also Davenport refers to in his article: “Competing on analytics not only in the traditional sense (by improving internal business decisions) but also by creating more valuable products and services” requires the resolve of the companies’ management, cross-disciplinary teams and more change management than ever. He mentions UPS’ Orion system for the optimization of routing for parcel delivery, in which more time was spent on change management than the actual technical implementation.

As analytics become more embedded into companies’ business operations, decision-making becomes more agile, more information-driven, it is critical that organizations not only implement the technology, but more importantly organize for successful analytics and ensure executives to employees are prepared for the inevitable change.

Over the past two years, I have spent considerable time working with companies to break down the traditional barriers of IT and business by supporting the design and implementation of the most optimal, yet dynamic structure to allow the organization to adapt to this new reality. As an example, the results of this transformation in several operating companies of the worlds largest telecommunications group have been tremendous. With continued pressure on headcount and operating expenses, these telecommunications companies were able to save greater 30% on OPEX, while increasing the satisfaction of business users with improved agility, governance and insight through self-service analytics.

The implementation of a new analytics focused, multidisciplinary organizational structure, an “Analytics Center of Excellence”, reporting directly into the most suitable C-level executive (i.e. CFO / CSO / CEO), ensures the necessary executive sponsorship and will provide the platform to prepare the organization for the next level of analytics. Only a focused approach — with information and analytics identified as a strategic asset of the company plus the change management to align IT and business functions — embed self-service BI in the day-to-day activities of line managers and employees alike will allow the organization to reap the benefits of the technical capabilities available today and into tomorrow. Perhaps it is time for your organization to review how it is approaching analytics?

 

 

 

Marc HaberlandMarc Haberland is the Managing Director of Clariba. He looks back on 14 years of Business Intelligence (BI) and Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) experience across many industries throughout Europe, the Middle East and North America. Marc currently leads his team of BI experts in Qatar, the UAE, Oman and Spain to deliver projects across the Gulf, KSA, in Europe and North America. Prior to working in the BI space Marc held various management positions in sales, marketing and product management with Picis and Hitachi Europe. Marc received his Masters in Technical Marketing and his Bachelor in Electronics Engineering from Polytechnical University in Munich, Germany.  Marc can be contacted at marc.haberland@clariba.com

SAP BW on SAP HANA: when and why?

In this article we will analyse the advantages of the SAP Business Warehouse (SAP BW) on SAP HANA solution in comparison with a Data Warehouse built directly on SAP HANA. We will also benchmark the performance of a SAP BW vs. SAP BW on HANA in a big data scenario. Most of us are aware of the last trends in BI/EPM market and where it is heading. SAP's mid and long term strategy shows that they are committed to convert SAP HANA in the core of many of their solutions including SAP ERP and SAP BW. SAP HANA can be used either as a database for other Custom Applications or as an Enterprise Corporate Datawarehouse (EDW) to take advantage of its big data and in-memory capabilities.

What options do we have when implementing an Enterprise Data Warehouse in SAP HANA?

When creating an Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) in SAP HANA, SAP customers have 2 options

  1. EDW in SAP HANA: Implementing a Data Model inside SAP using a combination of custom data models implemented by BI consultants, models created using SAP RapidMarts and SAP Data Services as a modelling tool.
  2. EDW in SAP BW on HANA: Implementing the SAP Business Warehouse on HANA by taking advantage of its complete data warehousing workbench and its rich business content, which provides Data Models and ETL for almost all modules in a SAP ERP system.

EDW in SAP HANA or EDW in SAP BW on SAP HANA?

Many SAP customers are now facing a dilemma. They want to go for SAP HANA, however, they don’t know yet whether to go for option 1 or 2.  My suggestion is that the following customers go for SAP BW on HANA:

  • Those who already have a SAP BW system. They can quickly migrate that system into a BW on HANA (and Clariba can help on that) and take advantage of in-memory and big data capabilities of SAP HANA by protecting previous investments on that BI system.
  • Companies with SAP ERP that currently don't have an EDW. SAP BW is a very good solution to create a data warehouse on top of other SAP Systems as integration between them is tighter and it comes with all pre-developed data models.

What are the weak points of SAP BW on SAP HANA?

Companies with no other SAP systems in the landscape can theoretically go for SAP BW to implement their custom data models (no business content), however, that has some disadvantages:

  • ETL Implementation effort is not so quick as compared to ETL implementation with SAP Data Services
  • Data Models implemented within SAP BW will be a bit slower than data models implemented directly into a SAP HANA database. That’s because we are adding a layer with the NetWeaver  application server on top of the SAP HANA Database.
Data Warehouse SAP HANA diagram
Data Warehouse SAP HANA diagram

What are the advantages of SAP BW on SAP HANA?

SAP BW on SAP HANA has some advantages in front of a plain data warehouse in SAP HANA:

  • SAP BW is a data warehouse framework. You have several capabilities you may expect from a data warehouse. Plain SAP HANA is not so mature and complete.
  • Plain SAP HANA lacks Master Data Management capabilities
  • Data warehousing development workbench
  • It comes with and engine that automatically manages dimensions, Master Data ID’s, hierarchies. In comparison, implementing a Data Warehouse directly on SAP HANA seems to be handcraft and highly depends on the BI Consultant skills
  • Better capability to automatically manage data loads and solve issues/ ie: if a load fails, you can easily delete the load an repeat it
  • BW is a more business focused data warehouse  than a data warehouse directly in SAP HANA, which is more technical. You can carry out large SAP BW projects without scripting SQL queries. It’s not the same with a large project involving a plain SAP HANA data warehouse, in which you will need to script SQL

For SAP BW customers, what are the improvements of migrating to SAP BW on SAP HANA?

SAP BW customers need to assess whether the investment on a new SAP HANA appliance makes sense.  Cleary the investment is valid for customers with SAP BW systems containing huge amount of data and suffering poor query reporting performance. Also to consider that with SAP BW on SAP HANA less database space is used as fewer indexes are needed and aggregates are no longer necessary.

These customers must consider that the SAP HANA database in which the SAP BW will be running can be used for other enterprise applications, so your investment on the SAP HANA technology is not just for the SAP BW, but also for other applications.

What if we compare the SAP BW vs. SAP BW on SAP HANA?

We have a pool of sample data with millions of records coming from a telco scenario: prepaid recharges carried out by millions of customer during a frame of time. We want to compare the same scenario deployed in normal SAP BW vs. a SAP BW on HANA.

  1. Extraction of 2.5 million records from source system. That source system is another SAP HANA database. Yes, we should see the scores in a non SAP HANA database, but in another article.
  2. Load of these 2.5 million records into an Infocube. Transformation rules with 4 ABAP routines are used.
  3. Execution of consolidated (without displaying millions of records) BEx queries on that InfoCube
  4. Execution of a Web Intelligence report from that query.
SAP HANA Database
SAP HANA Database

Architecture

The scenario has been implemented on a SAP NetWeaver 7.3 SP9. SAP BusinessObjects BI Platform 4.1 used for the Web Intelligence reports.

Both servers have same RAM memory, hard disk, network speed, etc.

The following picture shows the architecture of both scenarios

  1. SAP NetWeaver BW on a MS SQL Server Database installed in the same box (no network latency)
  2. SAP NetWeaver BW on SAP HANA. The SAP HANA box is in a separate box and there is network latency.
Architecture SAP BW on SAP HANA
Architecture SAP BW on SAP HANA

Server 1 System Status

Server 1 System Status
Server 1 System Status

Server 2 System Status

Server 2 System Status
Server 2 System Status

Benchmark scores

Server 1

SAP BW 7.3

Server 2

SAP BW on HANA 7.3

vs.

Extraction of 2.5 million records  time from source system

34 minutes 36 seconds

26 Minutes 6 seconds

1.32x faster

Load of these 2.5 million records into a Infocube

1h and 3 minutes

3 minutes 27 seconds

18.5x faster

Execution of consolidated BEx queries on that InfoCube

27.8 seconds

0.414 seconds

67.1x faster

Execution of a Web Intelligence report from that query.

138 seconds

11 seconds

12.5x faster

Conclusions

In this article we tried to compare the performance of SAP BW on SAP HANA vs. a non-SAP HANA BW. We used the same data model and amount of data in both cases just to quantify the difference in performance of both scenarios with real numbers. These are my conclusions

  • SAP BW on SAP HANA in much faster than BW on non HANA database. That improvement can range from 10 to 67 times, depending on what we execute.
  • SAP BW on ASP HANA performance on extraction depends on the speed of the source system. It can be a bit faster as records, once read, are inserted faster in the SAP HANA Database.
  • Loading records in Infoproviders of SAP BW on SAP HANA can be 10x or 20x times faster compared to a non-SAP HANA BW. That is highly variable depending on the database we compare with (in our case, a MS SQL Server)
  • Query and Analysis on SAP BW on SAP HANA is much faster. However, it depends on the type of query. If we just want to calculate figures, it will be faster than if we try to retrieve large number of records.
  • Web Inteligence reports on top of SAP BW on SAP HANA are faster, however the performance improvement is not so great when compared to directly executing the BEx query. This is due to the fact that SAP BusinessObjects needs to move data from sAP BW server to the SAP BusinessObjects server and load it into the Web Intelligence report. Will SAP release a SAP BusinesObjects system on SAP HANA? Let's wait and see

Clariba holds the SAP Strategy Management Expert Session in Muscat on November 26

The second edition of our SAP® Strategy Management (SSM) Expert Session took place in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman on November 26. It brought together SSM senior executives from SAP, SSM experts from Clariba, strategy execution experts from The Palladium Group and a range of companies from the Muscat area. Mohamed El Aref

Luca Spinelli

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marc Haberland — Clariba’s managing director — opened the event with his views on the importance of strategy for a company. Mohamed El Aref from The Palladium Group shared with attendants the challenges of executing strategy and how companies can overcome them. Luca Spinelli from Clariba introduced SAP Strategy Management, an SAP tool that helps organizations to monitor their strategy execution. Following Luca, Raed Abdallah, a senior enterprise performance management consultant from SAP involved in the development of the newest SSM release, spoke about where SAP is taking its strategy management solution and demonstrated important new features, such as the new available Arabic version of SSM.

In order to give attendants a taste of what a thought-out strategy planning and execution process  — aligned with the proper technology — can do for a company, Buthaina Al Kuwari, IT manager of QAFAC took the stage. She explained QAFAC’s journey from taking their strategy management from Microsoft® Excel® sheets to a professional, centralized solution that is now giving them the KPI and strategic objectives visibility they need to achieve their goals. To learn more about QAFAC’s experience with SSM, read their success story.

Raed Abdallah

Sergi Marin

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sergi Marin — SSM expert in Clariba — closed the presentations walking the audience through how Clariba engages with customers like QAFAC and applies their unparalleled SSM expertise to deliver an optimal solution that fits in with customers’ needs.

The event finished with a lunch where attendants were able to meet the experts for 1 to 1 discussions.

SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence report showing prompts with scientific notation

A while ago I was delivered a relatively easy task: create a SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence report that only needed one user entry in the prompt to calculate all the needed parameters for the query. After creating all the calculations and receiving the correct data in the Universe I proceeded to update the query of the Web Intelligence report, but encountered a problem. Due to unknown circumstances the report started showing the numbers and dates with scientific notation. When modifying my Web Intelligence report with the new values for the prompt, the SQL generated was showing the numbers in exponential form. "5.93e2" for example, as opposed to the actual value "593".

After several tests (and hours of research) I found a workaround that gave me satisfactory results. I went to the universe and copied the object with which I was doing the prompt but changed its type to a String instead of a Numeric. I proceeded to change all of the other object calculations types to String. Once this was done, I tried to use it in the report prompt. I was still getting the numbers in exponential form. I was missing one step, which was to get my desired values by applying substring (or any formula applicable to a String) on the object, despite the fact that it was a String.

Once I did this, and tried to run the prompt of the report again and everything was working like a charm. I could see the correct values for all my calculations in the Universe and in the Web Intelligence.

If you want more information about this bug, I found a SAP note that could help you - SAP note 1838027. This note did not give me the answer to the problem, but helped me to think about how to develop the workaround.

If you have an installation with BI4.0 Support Pack o8 or higher, this should not be an issue for you.

I hope that you find this tip useful for your SAP BusinessObjects implementation in a Unix-system; and please, if you have any questions or anything to add to help improve this post, please feel free to leave your comments so we can help you.

Analytics like never before – Clariba featured in the Private Sector Qatar Magazine

The business intelligence (BI) trend is making waves across the globe, and the Gulf region is certainly a part of it. Marc Haberland, Managing Director, Clariba, shared his insights on the trends of business intelligence solutions in the Gulf region. Read the full story here: Clariba on Private Sector Qatar - Oct 2013

Clariba on Private Sector Qatar - Oct 2013

 

Migrating SAP BusinessObjects Explorer spaces to BI4

This article explains how we overcame the challenges faced when moving the content of Explorer Information Spaces from an old environment to a new one, while doing a SAP BI4 migration for one of our biggest customers.

In case you didn't know, Explorer migration is not supported out of the box in the Upgrade Management Tool or any other tool, which left us no choice but to rebuilt everything our customer had in the old environment (Information Spaces, Exploration Views, Bookmarks, Etc) in a new one.

It was not too straightforward as the universe the Information Space was built on had many objects with the same name, but in different classes, which made it difficult to identify which objects were actually being used.

I will share a set of steps we followed in order to:

  • ease content rebuild through:
    • web intelligence export
    • universe design object name change
  • improve user adoption with tomcat web server redirection

 

Optimizing the content re-build via export to WebIntelligence

Explorer spaces do not show the class an object comes from. This becomes a big issue when dealing with big universes with many objects with the same name. What can you do to overcome this issue?

 1) Within the information space to rebuild (source environment), click on the “export the chart or data” button and choose the WebI option to send the information space to you inbox as a WebI document.

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2

3

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2) Once the WebI document is in your inbox, you need to enter the edit mode and click on every object in the query to highlight them in the left pane, this way you will clearly identify which class each object is coming from.

While working in explorer there is not an easy way to know which class the object is coming from, so performance issues could be caused accidentally by choosing a wrong object. Therefore by having WebI and Explorer opened at the same time, we can re-create the Information Space much quicker and safer.

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Ensuring the explorer variables are made from the correct objects

3)  Coming back to Explorer, in the “Add calculated measure” options, the first and second measure box sizes are fixed, this makes it tricky to pick the correct measures when the name is too long, therefore it is recommended to temporally rename the measure at a Universe level to make sure we are picking the right measure. If you don't do it, there is a risk that the measure that Explorer chooses is a random one despite of your selection. Taking the precaution ensures that our query picks up the correct objects.

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4) The new Information Space can be finalized and saved.

 

Using a Tomcat re-direction for existing hyperlinks

A bookmark is a hyperlink fixed address to the Explorer space with a particular data selection and graph configuration. The problem with explorer bookmarks is not only that they cannot be migrated but also that the address will change in the destination so any previously distributed link would become invalid when the old environment is shut down, the solution for this is to recreate the bookmarks from scratch in the new environment.

In our case there were already many bookmarks created within the old environment and the costumer did not want to lose the existing hyperlinks, therefore we came up with a way of redirecting the traffic to the new tomcat server. Here are the steps we followed:

1) Get the bookmarks created in the old environment from the users in order to replicate them in the new environment.

A bookmark looks like this: http://server-name/explorer/index.jsp?application=portal&documentId=c62cffe8-dc4c-45cd-ac74-69a94c5faeae&bookmarkId=1a90a0a6-6def-4653-a1e0-74fbd585787b How it is composed: http://SERVER-NAME/explorer/index.jsp?application=portal&documentId=INFORMATION-SPACE-ID&bookmarkId=BOOKMARK-ID

2) Record & Reproduce selections (measures, facets, sorting) in the Information Space:

Identify every measure, facet and sorting used for every bookmark to reproduce it on the new environment.

 

3)   Create a script to redirect the traffic from the old web server (Tomcat) to the new web server (Tomcat) at the beginning of the index.jsp file in the following path SAP BusinessObjectsTomcat6webappsexplorer to make it impact free for the users.

String Application = (String) request.getParameter("application");
String DocumentId = (String) request.getParameter("documentId");
String BookmarkId = (String) request.getParameter("bookmarkId");
 
if (Application == null && DocumentId == null && BookmarkId== null ) {}
 
else if (DocumentId.contains("A")&&BookmarkId.contains("B"))  {
                   response.sendRedirect("http://nlrat-wias117/explorer/index.jsp?application=portal&documentId="+"C"+"&bookmarkId="+"D");}
 

Where:

Old Environment: A: Information Space ID B: Bookmark ID

New Environment: C: Information Space ID D: Bookmark ID

 

Summary

After following these sets of steps, you should be able to replicate the content of SAP BusinessObjects BI Explorer in a new environment with minimal user impact. The benefits of following these best practices are:

  • High user acceptance of a BI4 migration
  • Ease of migration of SAP BusinessObjects BI Explorer
  • Save hours of work while migrating SAP BusinessObjects BI Explorer

I hope this article is useful to you and it brings positive feedback from your end users. Please feel free to leave a comment or question below.

SSM 10.1 is now available

The SAP Strategy Management (SSM) version 10.1 is now available for customers. Here is a quick list of new features and benefits of the new release.

SAP Strategy Management 10.1 - Arabic

  • Arabic language is now supported (great news for public sector companies in the middle east)
  • HTML 5 is now applied instead of flash
    • This means more flexibility on screen customization 
    • Mobility is now much more easily achieved than before
  • Cause & Effect tab now gives a better idea of the concept with mindmap style graphs rather than blocks/tables that were difficult to understand
  • Improved ad-hoc reporting capabilities on top of SSM models

As soon as SAP starts sending out documentation on the new release, we will update the post to add any missing features.

If you have any questions or comments about SSM, please leave a comment below.

 

SAP Strategy Management Expert Session - Muscat - November 26

Bring your strategy to life with SAP Strategy Management

SSM expert session

Register Now

 

Dear Valued Customer,

SAP and Clariba cordially invite you to attend the exclusive SAP Strategy Management (SSM) Expert session. In this half-day event we will walk you through how SSM can help close the gap between strategy planning and execution, align your whole team on key objectives, and give them access to tools for collaborating and assessing performance.

With the presence of senior SSM executives and customers currently using the solution, you will gain valuable insight on what it can do for your business from real-life scenarios and how the product will evolve.

Our agenda will cover:

 8:30 Registration and networking breakfast
 9:30 Welcome & Overview
 9:45 Where is SAP Going with SSM

A closer look at the SSM Roadmap to address important features such as SSM in Arabic.

 10:30 Excellence in Corporate Strategy

Best practices for implementing and executing your corporate strategy

 11:15 Networking Coffee Break
 11:30 SSM Customer Experience (Qafac)

Insights into how Qafac has been benefiting from SSM.

 11:45 Taking SSM to the next level

Discover Clariba’s FastTrack for SSM, an accessible and complete package to get SSM up-and-running in no time.

 12:30 Q&A
 12:45 Meet the Experts over lunch      

 

Register Now

 This event is invitation only, when registering remember to add name, company, job title and contact number.

Clariba & Spinneys SAP HANA success featured in Arabian Computer News

We at Clariba are ecstatic to have our SAP HANA implementation success story at Spinneys Dubai supermarket mentioned in the October issue of Arabian Computer News. The article “Unlocking the potential of HANA” features Dr. Vishal Sikka, Executive Board Member & head of technology and innovation at SAP. Vishal talks about why SAP HANA was created and how SAP is bringing it to the market. Look for our story in the "HANA early adopters in the Middle East" section.

The in-memory database SAP HANA and SAP's real-time data platform are allowing Spinneys and other Clariba customers to achieve better results, streamline operations and lead the way with customer-focused innovations.

Read the full article here: Unlocking the potential of HANA_Arabian Computer News

Clariba & SAP host the first SAP Strategy Management expert session in Doha

On September 24, Clariba and SAP welcomed customers and guests to the first live meeting of their recently created SAP Strategy Management (SSM) User Group — a discussion group where clients can share their experience and best practices with SSM.

Clariba & SAP's SSM expert sessionth keynotes from top-level executives of the Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) field — Chris Clay (EPM Solution Management, SAP), David Ormerod (Director EPM Solutions, SAP) Erwin Clerx (EPM Senior Solution Sales, SAP) — and Clariba’s SSM expert,, Luca Spinelli (Sales and Operations Qatar, Clariba), and insightful client testimonials from Buthaina Al-Kuwari (IT Manager QAFAC) and Seraphim Mansyreff (Sr. Applications Analyst, Qatar Gas), attendees have taken the first step at exploring how SSM can help close the gap between strategy and execution, align teams on key objectives, and give them access to tools for collaborating and assessing performance.

 
At the top, Buthaina Al-Kuwari shares QAFAC’s experience with SSM.
In the middle, Chris Clay EPM solution manager from SAP shares what is SAP’s plan for the SSM solution in the future. 
At the bottom, Seraphim Mansyreff walks the audience through what led Qatar Gas to implement SSM.