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02 Mar 5 Things You Might Not Know About IBP on SAP HANA

(By Mike Raftery)

This entry started out as a shameless plug for the SCM Connections webcast series covering all aspects of implementing S&OP on SAP’s Integrated Business Planning (IBP) application.  It evolved into a bit of a retrospective on my experiences putting those webcasts together with the SCM crew. (note to self: SCM Connections should take up crew).  So let’s get the shameless plug out of the way and then get to the lessons learned throughout the experience.

SHAMELESS WEBCAST PLUG:

On-Demand Recording: Getting Started With S&OP on HANA

TBD: Supporting the Plan: How S&OP on HANA Will Help With Your Demand and Supply Balance

TBD: IBP Inventory and Safety Stock Management with HANA

OK now on to what I learned…

1. Releases Coming Fast and Furious

This is an application constantly under construction.  Bug fixes of course, but more importantly, new features pop up with each new release.  A few times I’ve thought, “It would have been nice if….” And then that feature was in the next release.  New capabilities are available with each release as well.  None of the IBP applications are fully established as SAP’s rollout schedule demonstrates.  That means new toys with each new version; it’s like Christmas for nerds!

It also means that with new functionality comes more issues.  Sure there are fixes with each new release, but you find bugs as well.  If you have the patience, it’s actually not that bad.  You realize you’re on the cutting edge of something and this is the price you pay for pushing the envelope.

2. It’s Really Fun

Who doesn’t love learning something new?  While not quite as fun as learning to ride a motorcycle and not quite as pretentious as learning to speak Mandarin, it’s still a great experience.  Here’s what I like about it: I find a new feature, play around with it to get it to work and then come up with a few new scenarios that it can solve.  After that I usually call one of my colleagues all excited, and he tells me that he found that same thing two days ago and it kills my buzz.  But it’s still fun thinking that you found something new (to you anyway).  For me it’s fun solving problems that were once unsolvable for a client.

3. We’re All Learning

Everyone is ready to help: there is a rejuvenated community out there.  With the aforementioned issues and new releases coming regularly, everyone is looking for the same answers and there are plenty of people trying to provide them.  Since IBP is relatively new, the quality of answers varies widely, as does the level of support.  However, as a community, there seems to be quite a bit of patience and at the same time plenty of energy focused on getting this right.  There’s a fraternal feel to it (less the hazing) and that makes it an exciting time to be a part of the extended SAP supply chain planning community.

4. Getting Used to an Application on the Cloud

For me, this is a first: working with an application in the cloud.  After using it for a bit of time I’m convinced it’s the future of IT, but there needs to be answers to quite a few questions before it can be used without a second thought.  Basically you end up trading control for a lower TCO and speed.  I think this is a fair trade. However, a few questions need to be ironed out ahead of time.  For example, how much say do you have over a release calendar?  What happens to the data after you stop using the application?  What is your recourse if the data is lost?  How do you manage customization, if at all?  The list goes on.  However, questions like this need to be considered and answered before moving to the cloud can be the default position.  I have no doubt all these issues and concerns will be addressed, and the cloud is the future, but we’re not there yet.

5. It’s Really Stinkin’ Powerful

Yeah it’s pretty cool.  The data model, the performance, the reporting, the fact that IBP uses Excel as a front end.  I’m all in.  This is going to change the game for SAP, and their customers.  Not quite today, or even maybe the near future.  But it is coming and organizations that plan with IBP sooner rather than later will see those benefits quickly and become that much better than the competition.  There’s a delicate balance around when to move to IBP and in what order to migrate.  Done properly, it will truly accelerate a supply chain organization by removing the barriers created by years and years of IT limitations.  The hardware and applications inherent in SAP’s HANA solution architecture provide a business application in IBP that users will barely notice.  And isn’t that the whole point to begin with?

Back to the regularly scheduled promotion.  To join us on the journey to the future of planning with IBP, please stay in touch with us on our blog, website, webcasts, presentations and conferences.  We love to talk supply chain and IT with our fellow nerds, so take us up on it.

IBP, A Year Later and a Look Forward
The Beginners Guide to Implementing S&OP on IBP