Traditionally, data analytics has been perceived as expensive, time consuming and, in many cases, inefficient. Novel optimised analytical technology platforms in Africa are now heralding a new age of business analytics by effectively giving organisations the ability to not only respond to market trends but to anticipate them – an unprecedented business advantage for forward-thinking businesses. A key factor in this new analytics age is the way in which big data (massive amounts of business-relevant information that is collected over time and is traditionally difficult to analyse when employing traditional database management tools) is being effectively harnessed.
Becoming nimble and agile in any market, especially a volatile market like Africa, is key to survival. African organisations that have realised that effectively leveraged technology is a crucial factor for sustained success have a myriad of reasons to consider platforms such as SAP’s HANA, an in-memory computing platform that combines database, data processing, as well as application platform capabilities.
What HANA does is bring lightening-speed, real-time functionality to analytics, business applications as well as data services, by leveraging the power of cloud computing. It gives businesses the choice to build, extend and run applications on HANA in the cloud; something very important in Africa where tech infrastructure often poses a challenge
Boosting productivity with SAP HANA
Reasons for moving to such a computing platform include the main benefits of upgrading to a big data platform, namely speed and cost savings gains. Utilising a cloud-based system enables companies of any size to have access to their analytics much quicker, and for much less, since they can subscribe to business intelligence (BI) as a service rather than investing in the hardware, database administrators and developers, business intelligence tools and training for the employees who will utilise the BI to make more informed decisions and ultimately promote profitability for the enterprise.
Another benefit is the ability to do more since a big data system is able to handle more system users, process more data and perform more complex queries. For example, a national retailer can run predictive analytics to peruse buyer trends over the short and medium term and then go on to perform a real-time inventory analysis across all of its retail stores in order to make sure that the right items are in stock in the right retail locations at the right time.
The third benefit of efficient big data systems is that they open up new business opportunities, for instance mobile BI as users are able to obtain BI from a range of devices (including smartphones and tablets) whilst they are in the field since their queries are processed in the cloud.
According to Pfungwa Serima CEO of SAP Africa, SAP’s solutions have been designed with a mobile-first user experience in mind, giving users access to both native applications and cloud-based software powered by HANA, as well as analytics tools.
This is especially important in Africa, he says, as general market indicators also point to another impending period of explosive growth in mobile commerce in the region. He says the reasons for this are varied and include the fact that there are more cell phones than people on the continent, according to the 2011 GSM African Mobile Observatory report, which says there are 59.5 million mobile phones in South Africa alone and adds that the number of mobile phones within the top 25 African countries (including South Africa), which contain 91% of the continent’s mobile connections, currently comes to 619.8 million.
“Key is that we offer our customers choice. African organisations can proactively support their business innovation via SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud by choosing between a number of deployment options. If they so wish, companies are able to build, run and deploy all of their applications in the Cloud or employ a hybrid system in which they are able to leverage SAP Cloud. Organisations that prefer to host their services from behind the security of their company firewall can make use of on premise deployment, wherein all SAP solutions are run on our flagship, SAP HANA,” commented Serima.
SAP runs SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud
For SAP worldwide, it’s very much a case of the organisation ‘drinking its own champagne’: SAP’s own global ERP (enterprise resource planning) solutions have been migrated onto SAP HANA, with the entire process from setup and testing through to completion in less than five months.
Amongst the key take aways and advice shared by Serima when contemplating migration were that companies should take care to involve all relevant business stakeholders closely in the project and ensure the on-site availability of key subject matter experts as well as project managers.