Software

SAP HANA: Concerns remain over tech skills, complexity, licensing – survey

Most deployments now complete on time and on budget… It only took 7 years

By Rebecca Hill

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Customer confusion and a lack of technical skills are still dogging migration to SAP HANA, but the days of deployment horror stories are fading, according to a report penned by an integrator.

The ERP giant launched its in-memory data platform SAP HANA in late 2010, but the firm had problems conveying what it actually was, and organisations found it hard to drum up compelling business cases.

This confusion, combined with reports of delayed and over-budget migrations, meant SAP’s task to convince customers to commit to ditching their traditional relational databases was even more of a struggle.

However, a report from SAP HANA managed service biz Centiq has indicated that - despite underlying confusion remaining - acceptance of the platform is on the up.

Centiq surveyed 250 UK punters of varying sizes about their opinions and experiences with SAP HANA, finding 68 per cent of respondents claimed SAP HANA had delivered its return on investment, and 75 per cent said projects were finished on time, on budget or both.

Paul Cooper, chairman of the UK SAP User Group - which wasn’t involved in producing the survey - said that the findings chimed with those of his own group, which has seen more people considering SAP HANA.

There had been a "huge effort" from SAP and its partners to “try and overcome the horror stories of the past,” and convince customers that things have changed, he said.

“It's a good sign if people are seeing that, because it indicates that the rhetoric is coming true.”

Direct access licensing

But there are still a number of issues SAP will have to overcome if it is to migrate its customers before 2025, when it has planned to cease support for some products.

Among them, the long-standing fears about direct access and licensing loom large, with 86 per cent of customers saying they are still confused on these issues.

But Centiq also outlined broader concerns around a lack of technical skills for migration and problems defining the migration strategy to SAP HANA.

It noted customers are now faced with more choices, such as weighing up the various benefits of on-premise, public and private cloud.

“For SAP users, as the cloud proliferates, it is unclear what role public cloud plays in their environments,” Matt Lovell, COO of Centiq said. “Whichever they decide, to maximise ROI, the key is not the flavour of cloud technology itself, but the business transformation it enables.”

The research also indicated, though, that even when an SAP HANA migration follows the firm’s wider organisational cloud migration strategy, there was still a lack of platform skills.

“Many organisations are still not optimising data landscapes and interfaces prior to commencing migration, an oversight that could save considerable time and licensing costs,” Centiq said.

The survey also revealed a difference of opinion within organisations about which skills were most important. Respondents with a data role said cloud infrastructure skills were lacking, while COOs pointed to business process skills, and CIOs want more knowledge of S/4HANA.

Digital transformation initiatives

Centiq put the differences of opinion down to SAP HANA projects being part of "larger business and digital transformation initiatives" that are increasingly seen as strategic to the business.

To support this theory, Centiq noted that the number of projects led by IT or technical teams fell from 52 per cent last year to 24 per cent this time around.

Cooper said that it wasn’t surprising that businesses felt skills were lacking, because the decisions are not simply about upgrades, but about a big shift in infrastructure.

"HANA is a step change in terms of how you use it, and in the way it operates very differently," he said, adding that these decisions will also vary depending on the size of the company.

For instance, he said: "If you’re a global multinational that has run your SAP platform on multiple SAP instances around the world, you may well be using this as your opportunity to reduce your number of instances."

Lovell said that, overall, feedback from the survey this year was positive. "On-time and on-budget projects have become the norm, and despite some shortages of key skills, the resounding message from our research this year is that SAP HANA is now delivering on the promises made at the time of its launch," he said. ®

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