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Anaplan’s software is designed to help organizations across finance, sales and operations improve accuracy, timeliness and collaboration in their business analytics and planning. I recently attended the company’s first user conference, Hub 2013, in San Francisco, which featured customer success stories and latest on product information. Anaplan has built its business on the subtleties of modeling and planning that are shared between sales, operations and finance departments, and it enables them to apply analytics to projections in revenue, sales, forecasting, territory planning, commissions, quotas and profitability – areas that are intertwined through many business processes. Anaplan’s team has more than decades of experience in the analytics and planning software markets that has led to its devised cloud-based, in-memory computing software.

At the conference Anaplan customer companies discussingVR_leadershipwinner their deployments included Diageo, McAfee and Pandora. Anaplan also announced that both HP and Salesforce have chosen its product; these global technology companies are not easy wins, being both demanding and skeptical about using other companies’ software. My conversations with many of its customers suggested that they chose Anaplan because it is easy to use and to engage with the cloud deployment, which offers a secure method to do business planning across the enterprise. Pandora gave a compelling presentation on its use of the product. It is both one of Anaplan’s earliest customers and the winner of our 2013 Ventana Research Leadership Award for the benefits it has derived in planning and collaborating across the business. Pandora models and analyzes its business needs in Anaplan.

Also at the conference, finance, operations, sales and IT people from McAfee had a frank discussion of the latency and lack of efficiency in its planning process before adopting Anaplan. A member of the audience asked the McAfee speakers about the security of data from planning in the cloud. McAfee of course is in the business of security and virus software and said that this approach is safer than the company’s prior practice of sending spreadsheets via email. McAfee, which won a 2012 Ventana Research Leadership Award, provided one of the most informative panel discussions that I have heard; it was probably the first time I have seen an entire team from across business lines on stage; usually you get one person to talk about a company’s use of a vendor’s products. By the way, we did a webinar on getting smart with planning with McAfee, and the replay is available.

Since my analysis of Anaplan last year, it has made great strides in simplifying the participation of contributors to the planning process and gaining input across the organization. Its new advances include more powerful presentation of embedded microcharts and maps, and more single-screen unified user interfaces, which should attract a range of business users who are not analysts but need to do interactive planning. Anaplan’s product is now more reliable in  performance and scalability for both data and users, and its patented vr_ss21_spreadsheet_maintenance_is_a_burdenin-memory HyperBlock architecture provides robust processing of analytic computations on models with a range of dependencies and interrelationships. At the same time Anaplan is making it easier to change model and business unit assignments, and creating new members of a model and recalculating values based on the changes is dynamic and interactive. This dynamic what-if modeling is essential for scenario planning and simulations to determine how changes could impact performance and is very efficient and saves significant time compared to other approaches that would require changes to data model or scripts to modify how calculations are performed. Our research into long range planning finds that those organizations that can perform what-if and scenario planning dynamically and to any level of iteration make better decisions in 84 percent of organizations compared to those that can only perform limited number of them. The ability to create and maintain models dynamically is the top capability requested as very useful or useful in 81 percent of organizations. Using Anaplan there is no need for complex spreadsheet approaches, which according to our spreadsheet research, could require up to 18 hours per month for spreadsheet maintenance; that’s a waste of critical resources, especially when you could directly update and interact with the model and the plan and it will reduce the risk of manual errors within spreadsheets. Our research into long range planning found that when teams of 20 or more people are involved that spreadsheets are a problem in 67 percent of organizations. The product also now enables dynamic filtering using the business levels of a hierarchy to automatically show information without interruptions from intermediary screens or dialogues; this ultimately saves time and helps analysts work more efficiently.

Anaplan has a significant opportunity to change how business analysts model and plan and also how they access the tools in the cloud, where they are easily rented and configured for use by anyone in business. Many organizations still use legacy technology installed long ago, in outdated versions of products like Oracle Essbase, vr_ibp_top_reasons_to_change_planning_processIBM TM1 and Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. Anaplan’s main challenge is to convince such prospects of the value of making the transformation to modeling and planning that can be used across the enterprise. It should emphasize the enhanced efficiency of business processes, the time saved from more effective modeling and planning, and the faster response to conditions and actions that can be taken and decisions made. Our research into integrated business planning found that the most important reasons to change planning processes with technology are increased accuracy (for 47% of participants), better insight into performance (41%) and a shorter process (40%). Anaplan is addressing these aspects and was validated by its customers at the recent user conference. Anaplan is growing rapidly in terms of new customers. Recently secured private financing will enable the company to invest more in marketing and sales to strengthen its market position and also to support other necessary technology advancements, for example, access through tablets and smartphones, which play an increasing role in the business environment. Anaplan enables a new class of business optimization through its modeling and planning software. It not only gives analysts more power than spreadsheets but enables them to collaborate and interact across departments to synchronize planning and improve performance. In my opinion moving beyond spreadsheets for business processes like this one is a sign of maturity and reflects an organization’s readiness to compete and be as profitable as possible in its chosen markets. Those in business aiming to dramatically improve its analytics and planning through dynamic modeling operated and managed by analysts should evaluate what Anaplan offers.

Regards,

Mark Smith

CEO & Chief Research Officer

At this year’s annual SAP user conference, SAPPHIRE, the technology giant showed advances in its cloud and in-memory computing efforts. It has completed the migration of its conventional VR_2012_TechAward_Winner_Logoapplication suite and portfolio of tools to operate on SAP HANA, its in-memory computing platform, and made improvements in its cloud computing environment, SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud. The last time I analyzed SAP HANA was when it won our firm’s 2012 Overall IT Technology Innovation Award. Now HANA has been transitioned from just a database technology into a broad platform. SAP wisely consolidated its efforts previously known as SAP NetWeaver into SAP HANA. This resolves some confusion regarding HANA and NetWeaver in the cloud, which I assessed. The recently announced SAP HANA Platform now provides the enterprise class of HANA implementation in the cloud. It comes with a trial edition of the data and visual discovery technology now called SAP Lumira, whose price has been reduced to encourage adoption (and which I discuss more below). The use of in-memory databases for big data is accelerating: According to our technology innovation research, 22 percent of organizations are planning to use this technology over the next two years, and through 2015 it will have a higher growth rate than other approaches.

SAP HANA is gaining functionality as a platform and has made an important step forward with its service pack 6. This new release expands integration of the technology into data across its applications and systems. HANA now has virtualized access to data in vr_predanalytics_benifits_of_predictive_analyticsHadoop and a range of other databases along with supporting the necessary data integration. Integrated with Sybase SQL Anywhere, HANA enhances mobile use of that technology; it also works with Sybase ESP to integrate event streams and machine data, and with Sybase Replication Server to connect with Sybase ASE and other databases. HANA’s increased spatial processing capacity handles this type of data, which then can be accessed by tools and applications. Our latest research into location analytics finds new applicability for this across business processes and our next-generation business intelligence research reveals that applying location-based analytics is important to 40 percent of organizations. The latest version of HANA has advanced data modeling capabilities through SAP HANA Studio to make it easier to use data and build a range of business models including predictive ones. Majorities of research participants said that such capability through predictive analytics provides a competitive advantage (68%) and new revenue opportunities (55%).

SAP supports text or natural-language processing needs. At some point I hope it enables HANA to dynamically create text as a result of its analytics; that could communicate better with people than just showing charts and data. This capability already is available in the workforce analytics products of SuccessFactors, whose Headlines technology won our 2012 Overall Business Innovation Technology Innovation Award; however, that does not yet seem to be part of SAP HANA and other applications, which could be a business benefit and product differentiator.

SAP also is expanding its software partner ecosystem to spread use of HANA with a range of applications. An early example is Tagetik, whichprovides its financial application suite on HANA for in-memory computing. SAP also announced recognition of innovative SAP HANA based applications including Warwick Analytics and Semantic Visions that are well worth examining. SAP also is adding integration points with other network storage, data center integration and even business intelligence and analytics. To this point, however, not many vendors are certified on SAP HANA, and my inquiries with various software company executives found they have more work to do and are not getting strong support from SAP to streamline the process to become certified. Elsewhere in its technology ecosystem, SAP announced further cooperation with HP in what is called Project Kraken to create an appliance with 16 processors and 12 terabytes of memory, designed to operate SAP HANA effectively for any range of analytical and transactional needs. Success of this computing appliance is equally important to HP, which is in a do-or die-battle against IBM and Oracle who are advancing in this area. At the same time SAP’s one-time partner Teradata has a competitive approach, whose recent advances in in-memory computing with its new intelligent memory and appliance that I assessed is well worth examining.

HANA is now part of SAP’s overall business intelligence strategy, as my colleague Tony Cosentino has pointed out. This is a positive step as the company works through the challenges of keeping a very large customer base happy as it moves its product line into the future. One of its key points for its future is the newly announced SAP Lumira, which was previously known as SAP Visual Intelligence, a more self-explanatory product name for the intended audience that is engaged in business analytics or even big data analytics. SAP Lumira is really the new face of its business intelligence products whether on-premises or in the cloud; it meets a need for discovery technology, which I outlined and is important to the future of business analytics. This was challenged by partners MicroStrategy and Tableau who were demonstrating their approaches at SAPPHIRE showing its competitive approach and how it can make good use of data from SAP and inevitably SAP HANA as they work through integration of the technology. Our research into technology innovation found that data and visual discovery is not available to 19 percent of organizations, ranking third behind the most unavailable predictive analytics (27%). SAP Lumira interoperates with other SAP products along with supporting Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. SAP also has released SAP BusinessObjects 4.1 with improved access to Hadoop through MapReduce and Hive, and also to Oracle’s Exadata and Essbase technologies. A new edition of SAP Crystal Server and Edge edition furthers support of BI for small and midsize businesses (SMB). SAP continues to have fierce competition in IT departments for BI and to overcome it is working to help business analysts and management use business analytics.

In the realm of business applications, SAP has fulfilled its promise to make HANA the underlying platform across on-premises deployments and the cloud. Its SAP Business One application suite version 9 is designed for SMB and runs with HANA and even Microsoft SQL Server. Simultaneously, the SAP Business Suite is now available on SAP HANAAs my colleague Robert Kugel explained, that makes it possible for customers to avoid using Microsoft or Oracle database technology and take advantage of new technology and applications built on HANA. Examples of this are SAP’s release of its fraud management application on HANA, which Robert assessed, as he did for advances in its EPM portfolio for finance. A word of caution here: Companies that use SAP’s applications on third-party databases have to be careful as the license in most cases only allows for application-specific access to the database, limiting the potential of other business uses. The range of new applications and tools running on HANA is steadily increasing as partners make progress adapting to it; SAP’s digital marketplace dedicated to HANA shows what is available.

SAP is so bullish on its ability to design consumer-friendlyUntitled applications that it also announced efforts to bring that quality into the enterprise through the SAP Fiori apps for common business functions; it also has simplified the user experience of its applications. This is nothing new for SAP which has long emphasized usability and made improvements in a continuous improvement cycle. SAP has invested significantly into the user experience and created AppHaus to build demonstrations of the latest advances. Even so, after looking at the range of new applications, I think SAP still has to improve upon the user experience and design of the applications. SAP is heading in the right direction, but it ought to build an application assembly and design environment that the teams at SAP, and its customers and partners, all can use to build people-centric applications, especially for use on the Web and mobile devices. I got to test applications that demonstrate user experience advancements, but they all were custom-built, and I saw others with primitive user interfaces for business applications; these fall short in trying to engage users across a range of experience and facilitate the natural collaborative aspects of their responsibilities. Those aspects are critical, as our research across every line of business finds usability to be the top evaluation category for software evaluation, and it was the top criterion in 64 percent of all organizations. My analysis suggests that SAP needs to consider the critical aspects of personalization based on role, responsibility and experience and adapt the user experience to them. As well, less can be more when presenting information for the majority of business purposes, and guiding individuals to what is relevant is more important that piling up charts or information on the screen.

Separately from its HANA efforts, SAP has advanced enterprise-class readiness for mobile technology, has outlined a comprehensive mobility framework and deepened support for security through a partnership with Mocana for any applications that embrace SAP’s mobile portfolio and technology. This addresses an evident need, as our technology innovation research into mobile technology finds the top barrier to business deployment is security and risk issues, found in 47 percent of organizations. SAP has to also consider in the world of BYOD the preference for native platforms (39%) over the Web or HTML5 (33%), along with no preference (20%); it won’t be easy for SAP to make everyone happy, especially when half of individuals have a distinct preference for their type of smartphone or tablet. Our research finds fewer than one-third (32%) of people satisfied with their organization’s mobile access to applications and information. I did not hear much about SAP HANA in the company’s mobile strategy except that it powers tools and applications that operate on a smartphone or tablet. But overall SAP is investing more into advancing mobile technology than other technology suppliers, and its potential is yet to be realized as business and IT begin a transformation to mobile readiness.

Since my analysis after last year’s SAPPHIRE SAP has brought to reality its cloud computing strategy with products that are now available. I thought that more could have been highlighted in SAP’s sustainability efforts in including its software, for which last year vr_bti_br_access_preferences_for_innovative_technologieswe provided a 2012 Leadership Award to its customer Danone for its use of SAP products. I was more surprised that SAP was rather quiet about its efforts in business and social collaboration as it works to transform its technology by embedding the Jam product in its software. SAP is working to ensure its products are simple but sophisticated, available on any platform or device and localized to any country in the world – and that they operate on SAP HANA. It is also working to deliver faster methods to onboard and experience its software through rapid deployment. SAP’s focus is to inject the technology innovations into its platform and applications while also supporting what our technology innovation research finds is the desire for a variety of access methods: on-premises, on-demand and hosted approaches that are distributing quite rapidly. It is clear that organizations want choice in how they access technology and applications; SAP is prepared to address this as it enters a new era of opportunity built on SAP HANA.

Regards,

Mark Smith

CEO & Chief Research Officer

Mark Smith – Twitter

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