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Accelerate Finance, Simplify Technology

experience_centreWith the explosion of data and data sources, financial departments have a greater demand for fast, accurate, accessible and up-to-date information but from a simplified source. Without the right technology data is useless.

This is where SAP HANA comes in. However, before companies can gain a better insight into their data and understand the simplifications, they will need to gain a better insight into HANA. Hence one of the reasons SAP have created their new Experience Centre.

The SAP Experience Centre is a fully interactive environment where visitors can experience SAP HANA and other SAP innovations first-hand and immerse themselves in the various, interactive scenarios which have been set up – from driving a Formula 1 car to using data to investigate and predict crime scenes.

Even though the Experience Centre is still a new concept, Invenio thought this would be an ideal venue for a Simplified Financials event. To make this event truly unique, Invenio made it as intimate as possible and hosted the first ever partner event to a select few within UK finance departments.

The event kicked off with breakfast at 9.30am and sharply progressed onto the first presentation by Varik Torsteinsen, Head of Innovation at SAP. He spoke about why the Experience Centre was created, how it can transform thinking and what really is SAP HANA.

SAP realises that it has an extremely powerful platform with HANA and is at the beginnings of investing in and creating thought leadership on how it will be able to be utilised in the future. For many organisations this will involve ‘thinking out of the box’ to consider the creation of services which were just not possible or affordable on the previous technology generation.

This followed onto a presentation of Invenio and SAP’s partnership where Invenio spoke about the considerable investment it has made into their HANA Lab  and how it could help organisations to gain from the HANA Platform including the facility to run proof of concepts using a  client’s own data.

The next presentation was by James Willis at SAP on Massive Simplifications on SAP Financials.

As companies seek to integrate their decision making with their data, they need to rely more on speed and have a clearer understanding of their transactional data. SAP Financials has been built to meet the increasing and evolving business needs of the finance departments. James led the delegates through the capabilities of the solution:

  • Provides a one-stop access to all financial and non-financial data
  • New on-the-fly capabilities for moving finance processing, such as month-end activities, from batch to real time
  • Innovative rapid planning and forecasting combined with predictive analysis to explore new business models and immediately assess potential effects on the bottom line
  • Enables flexible data drill-down to actionable information
  • Connections to business networks in real time to establish an integrated business ecosystem and help drive optimal collaboration with customers, suppliers, banks and government authorities
  • Ensures harmonised data without manual reconciliation

We then broke for lunch to prepare ourselves for the real fun part! An exclusive tour of the Experience SAP Centre.

The centre is split into 4 sections, we explored each of these as explained below. All of the delegates spent time testing out the different areas

THE EARTH

Exploding populations, devastating typhoons – the world is changing rapidly. The delegates came face-to-face with the challenges these factors present. SAP’s multi-sensory experience puts delegates at the heart of the story and takes them on a journey that can change lives for the better.

THE FORMULA 1 CAR

Data is a real game-changer in sport. In Formula 1 racing, the difference between winning and losing can be a millisecond.

McLaren trusts SAP HANA to provide critical real-time data and analytics. Helping the team make more informed decisions faster and each lap closer to perfection. Each delegate got their turn to race a real-life, Formula 1 car on the Abu Dhabi circuit.

CRIME ANALYSIS

In this room, the delegates took on the role of crime investigator to discover who has stolen a priceless piece of art in London. The delegates were able to use SAP’s predictive analytics to analyse past crimes and work through clues to predict future strikes.

DESIGN THINKING ROOM

This rooms enables organisations to look at their businesses differently using some of the latest innovations; cloud, in-memory computing and analytics. This high-tech centre can identify how to transform a business.

This event was a great experience and our delegate’s came away with a lot more knowledge and insight into SAP. To be the first to hear about our next event you can sign up to our mailing list by here Sign Up

Top Ten Verticals Adopting Big Data

In the last two posts from this IDC research series, we spoke about the IT challenges when implementing a Big Data solution and, the top ten business areas driving Big Data growth. In our final post, we look at the findings that some industries are becoming clear adopters of Big Data and Analytics. This can be due to a number of reasons but we believe this is mainly down to how organisations in these industries perceive the value of their data in not only responding to the demands of their customers, but for forward business planning and continuous improvement.

The top ten verticals:

1. Discrete Manufacturing and 2. Process Manufacturing
At the top of the adopters list are two manufacturing sectors. According to a recent study from the Aberdeen Group: on complex decision making and big data, top manufacturing performers are building up their Big Data and advanced analytics activities to help them take control of manufacturing complexity.

Manufacturing, especially in the UK, has had a rough ride over the past few years but a recent survey from the SMMT showed UK car manufacturing grew 7% in July, and year-to-date volumes are up 1.9%. Although this is only one area from the manufacturing sector, it is a great to see that after a number of rough years – through a double dip recession, UK manufacturers are seeing this uptick in the economy as a good time to invest in technology which can help them achieve many process improvements.

3. Government
Government organisations are well known for their huge volumes of data and, according to the Policy Exchange, the UK government could save up to £33 billion a year by using public Big Data more effectively. Governments are investing heavily in this new technology and in the many different areas they cover, such as; Tax and Revenue collections, Security, Fraud, Healthcare, Citizen Management and many others. Technology innovation adoption within the Public Sector normally lags behind the private sector so it is refreshing to see Government as number 3 on this list.

4. Communications and Media
While the digital age has been hard on almost every segment of the media, it also offers significant opportunities for forward-thinking organisations to harness the masses of online data to help uncover new revenue streams and improve the utilisation of existing assets. With Big Data, media companies are embracing a culture of data-driven decision-making to make the most of their digital assets. For a more in-depth view of how analytics can support media companies in an ever-changing digital world please click here.

5. Banking and 6. Professional Services 7. Insurances
We group these three verticals together under the banner of “Financial Services” owing to the similarities in the ways that these sectors use Big Data. A survey published in June 2013 by the University of Oxford revealed that 71% of financial services organisations already use Big Data and Analytics – almost double the number of just two years ago. For these firms, Big Data delivers much needed competitive advantage in an industry that’s still feeling the effects of the worldwide financial crises. For example, Big Data can help improve profit margins using insights extracted from many disparate sources including daily transactions, market feeds, customer account and service information, location data and click streams. The result is real-time intelligence and insight that can be used to transform go to market strategies and to create new business models and services.

8. Retail
With the vast amounts of data gathered by retailers every day, Big Data opens up new opportunities for organisations to improve operations in almost every area of the business. Large retailers can use Big Data to streamline operations, improve the customer experience, analyse marketing campaigns, increase sales and maximise profitability. According to a report by Mckinsey, a retailer using Big Data and Analytics to the fullest extent could increase its operating margin by more than 60 percent.

9. Healthcare
As healthcare costs continue to rise, private hospitals and healthcare organisations are looking to apply Big Data to help improve care, reduce readmissions and increase the effectiveness of treatments. Data in the healthcare industry resides in multiple places like individual EMRs, lab and imaging systems, physician notes, medical correspondence, claims, CRM and finance systems. Improving access to this data and using it for advanced analytics can help healthcare organisations to improve patient care and outcomes, incentivise the right behaviour for staff and clinicians and drive internal operating efficiencies. Not only will this benefit the healthcare organisations financially, but the benefits to the patients’ health should also rise.

10. Utilities
Big Data can offer dramatic business improvements to companies in the utilities industry. Advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), commonly known as “smart metres” are now replacing aging, traditional meters that require manual readings. With years of historical customer data combined with smart metre data, a utility company is in possession of the data that’s needed to improve efficiencies, reduce downtime and improve customer service. Big Data and Analytics will offer utilities companies a way to intelligently exploit masses of smart metre data to better monitor and forecast energy consumption patterns, identify inefficient energy use and improve customer segmentation to tailor service offerings based on customer behaviour.

As the story of Big Data transformation continues to grow we’ll no doubt see other industriesAnalytics and Big Data embracing the benefits of this new technology too. Mathematician Lord Kelvin was famously quoted “If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.” Which is exactly the premise of Big Data. Without a doubt, Big Data will improve the customer experience and will provide richer, more informative analysis instantly. The only question that remains, is when will you embrace it?

The IDC is a global provider of market intelligence and advisory services for the IT and telecoms industries. These three blog posts represent research from the IDC, sponsored by SAP.

Top 3 IT Challenges to Delivering a Successful Big Data Solution

In a previous post we spoke about the anticipated growth in Big Data and Analytics over the next 5 years, according to research from the IDC. Continued on from this, here are the Top 3 IT Challenges that the IDC considers could hinder the success of a move Big Data and Analytics if not sufficiently addressed:

1. Lack of Sufficiently Skilled IT Staff and Cost of Technology
IT Directors today need to show a good return on investment from new technologies and so must have a very clear idea of what the business can achieve with Big Data. In addition, employing and maintaining the right skills in a highly competitive market also needs to be factored into the cost of embarking on a Big Data project and so, again, IT Executives must have a clear idea of these costs to assess the return (and indeed the viability) of Big Data.

2. Managing Data Quality
The information you get out of any system is only as good as the information you put in. Data quality problems usually arise because no one person is responsible for the complete “data picture”. Without a central custodian ensuring that all data, across all systems is correct, consistent and up to date, the quality of data can vary significantly from one system to another. Of course, this isn’t a problem that’s new to Big Data – but nevertheless it is an important point to consider when assessing the viability of a Big Data project.

3. Data Integration
Another age-old problem that IT functions will be very familiar with is that most organisational data is highly fragmented. This creates challenges at several levels when embarking on a data integration project of any nature: syntactic (how do we define a common format for our data?), semantic (what are the agreed definitions?) and political (who ‘owns’ the data?).

While the above factors do indeed pose a challenge to CIO’s, they are not insurmountable. Indeed, the benefits that Big Data offers will, for most organisations, considerably outweigh these challenges.

It is often quoted that some 90% of the data that exists today has been created in the last 6 years. This data explosion, combined with the rising sophistication of analytical tools and the speed offered by Big Data technologies, means companies should be addressing these challenges sooner rather than later to ensure they can maintain competitive advantage.

Next week we will be looking at the top ten verticals signing up for big data and analytics. Sign up to receive this next post straight to your inbox.