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Tech Bytes: Three Disruption Insights from SAP’s Sapphire


The theme of SAP’s annual Sapphire conference, in Orlando, Florida, was “Run Simple.” SAP focused on how its HANA business intelligence platform and growing number of HANA-powered applications can assist companies with the complicated task of creating simple enterprises that run on real-time data.

However, underneath the SAP-specific information was a lot of more general insight into how IT is disrupting the way businesses operate and engage their customers. Following are three insights with particular relevance for retailers.

Data, Data Everywhere

The disruptive influence of increasing volumes of data available at faster speeds is not a new phenomenon. But retailers are entering a period where the enterprise-wide availability of real-time data feeds, combined with continually increasing processing capabilities, will allow them to make decisions using the most current information at their fingertips.

“Real-time data feeds will replace KPIs and PowerPoints,” Hasso Plattner, founder of SAP, said during a keynote presentation. “They will enable fact-based management.”

Plattner also said analytics can now be included directly within transactional systems, with increased processing capabilities eliminating the need to run separate systems for optimal performance.

“There will be no fixed aggregates,” said Plattner. “Data will be analyzed on the fly. New systems will not be systems of documentation.”

IT: Not Just for IT Anymore

SAP is using its HANA platform to deliver applications with enormous real-time processing power that can be implemented on a cloud-hosted basis in as little as 15 minutes, even by non-IT experts. This is part of a larger trend of technology vendors tapping into the potential of in-memory computing to deliver significant IT functionality via intuitive, hosted solutions.

As a result, IT is truly not just for IT anymore. Across the enterprise, different departments can easily implement applications that give them the data they need, when they need it, to make real-time decisions.

This democratization of IT should prove quite beneficial for retail, which combines low margins with the need for access to current, detailed information about customer demand. The need for retailers to maintain a dedicated IT department will not disappear, but cuts in IT budgeting and staffing are likely.

The More Things Change

Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP, told the crowd that the race for simplicity is a “race without a finish line.” Throughout different presentations and sessions, Sapphire attendees got glimpses of how technology will provide even more disruption in the next five years.

For example, SAP expects the full processing power of HANA to be accessible via mobile device in the near future. IBM has similar expectations for its Watson business intelligence platform. SAP also expects HANA will eventually support fact-based simulations of future outcomes based on detailed analysis of real-time data.

These are just the foreseeable developments in technology disruption. As Peter Del Giacco, CTO of the NHL, told attendees of a session on customer engagement, five years from now consumers may routinely connect to the Internet with a device that has not been invented yet.

“If you mind change and you’re in digital, you’re in the wrong spot,” said Del Giacco. And maybe that was the true message of Sapphire – change is always happening. If retailers stay abreast of change and leverage it in their business and engagement strategies, then as the old song says, a change would do them good.

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