When SAP launched its HANA database, it clearly articulated the performance improvements that the in-memory approach would bring across the various different SAP services. And, while I have accused SAP of talking less about a business outcome, and far too much about a technology outcome, it has, over time, applied HANA to its product line to start delivering those benefits.
So given that context, it is interesting to see SAP announcing the general availability of the latest version of its planning and consolidation product. The solution, named in a very German-like way “SAP Business Planning and Consolidation (BPC) 11.0, version for SAP BW/4HANA” is all about the planning area of an organization – budgeting, forecasting, financial consolidation and reporting.
This is particularly interesting since the space (often referred to via the acronym BPM for business planning management) is awash with a number of third-party solutions – Host Analytics, Anaplan, Adaptive Insights are but a few examples. Once again we see a tension between the “best of breed” third-party solutions that focus solely on BPM and native solutions that are built on top of the core ERP being used. It’s a theme being played out across the industry – pretty much every ERP vendor does a dual dance; offering their own BPM functionality but also attracting ecosystem players in the BPM space.
SAP reflects on this best of breed versus suite theme when it points out that “by integrating the aggregation and computing power of SAP HANA with SAP S/4HANA and SAP BW/4HANA, finance departments no longer require separate systems for transactions and analytics. This simplified architecture eliminates data replication and reduces hardware and administration costs while allowing customers to perform real-time analysis and planning across entire ERP landscapes.”
It really is a case of horses for courses. There are those who point out that BPM is an overarching business process and hence one which should not be tied to any one particular system – BPM should equally be applied to ERP as it is to SCM and CRM, these proponents ay and, as such, a standalone solution gives the most flexibility by avoiding platform lock-in.
On the other side of the spectrum, we have those who point out that leveraging a third party tool does come with a price tag in terms of integration, data replication, and potential slower results.
Where your organization sits on the spectrum will depend on your own perception of the benefits or otherwise of a single technology platform. As for the HANA benefits, clearly HANA is an impressive piece of engineering and will speed things up, but as is so often the case, I suspect it will be less about technology and more about strategic decisions that convince organizations to purchase this SAP offering.