In this exclusive interview with SAP News, Mala Anand, President of SAP Analytics, explains what happens to companies when data becomes a strategic asset, how decision-makers can harness a tsunami of information for business outcomes, and the incredible transformation customers can expect from SAP’s embedded analytics strategy.
SAP News: What’s your take on how analytics fits into the next generation enterprise?
Mala Anand: The hyper-connectivity of people, processes, data and things disrupts traditional data management and analytics. In this new world, data is a strategic asset, making analytics exceedingly important in creating a data-driven culture. In other words, analytics is the fuel in the digital world. Decision makers have to translate a tsunami of information from devices, sensors and processes for business gain. They have to isolate the signals from the noise. Data is moving from structured, unstructured and real-time to quantum—shifting analytics and companies to predictive, preemptive and adaptive analytics, infused with automated stochastic modeling and deep learning algorithms. All of this supports the adaptive enterprise driven by the automation of complex events, allowing companies to take full advantage of innovations like machine learning and cognitive computing resulting in outcomes for the enterprise.
What are the three most important things business people need to understand about analytics today?
First, business leaders need the ability to use data as a strategic asset to gain insights. Second, they need to create a data-driven culture for competitive differentiation. And third, they have to translate insights into outcomes with measurable ROIs, making both the data and outcomes available to line-of-business owners across the enterprise. Putting this information into the hands of business decision-makers transforms the company into a self-service, data-driven culture from the boardroom to the manufacturing floor.
Uniqueness, structure, integration, quality, access, privacy and governance are all important elements across a data value chain that need to be addressed. These elements are fundamental to gaining a competitive edge using analytics. Any organization that wants to succeed with analytics needs to start identifying the data that it alone possesses—and recognize the value in it.
What was the major motivation for you to join SAP?
In today’s demanding business environment, best-run industries demand precision across entire facets of their industry, which permits them to take action rapidly with enhanced imminent competence and suppleness. This is especially true if your business comprises SAP software.
SAP is the universally leading business software vendor and one of the largest autonomous software contributors in terms of profits. Although the competition is very fierce, with each and every day new competitors enter the market from small to large, SAP is still a chief leader in ERP with respect to business processes.
A paradigm shift is happening, creating the next generation connected enterprise – it is moving beyond packet transport, VOIP, video, collaboration—to things, devices, and applications that are all culminating into insight driven experiences. Business processes are pivotal to this shift, creating insight driven experiences across a connected ecosystem.
The depth and breadth of SAP and its install base is very impressive. Our ability to start with customers from a business process orientation, using the skills and relevance that SAP has in its install base, bringing that into its solutions, and driving that level of outcome derived from mass data intelligence for our customers is very exciting. I recently met with a number of our top customers and the loyalty they have for SAP is amazing. They are confident SAP will take them into the future, embedding their next generation of applications with rich insights from advanced analytics, machine-learning and cognitive computing. And it’s no wonder, given the wide and deep domain expertise of SAP’s talent across the board.
I had a choice about where to come to work. I came to SAP because I believed it has the depth and breadth of business process domain and will have massive differentiated impact with our customers by leveraging the mass data intelligence across the ecosystem of business processes. I recognized how we could empower people to do stellar things with our creations and ultimately lead our customers in this digital economy. I knew there was no better company to join if I wanted to make a difference. Leveraging the intelligence and insights embedded across enterprises in their processes and ecosystems – there is tremendous opportunity at SAP – where we are perfectly poised to take advantage of our scale and relevance in this digital transformation with our customers and being able to create an exponential growth lever with analytics – is very exciting.
What are the biggest challenges companies face when it comes to analytics today?
Data-based decisions lead to clear business outcomes, yielding a measureable ROI. Yet companies are challenged to isolate the important signals from the noise and harness that data to change outcomes.
The number one challenge enterprises face is turning the explosion of data that’s widely distributed into insights and outcomes to drive material ROI for the business. The short shelf life of data means traditional ways of analyzing it are no longer scalable. Companies need to modernize BI, bringing data away from just IT and IT super-users directly into the hands of people in marketing, product management, sales, support, and operations who can explore it, understand its value, and take action for measurable ROI across the organization.
Organizations have to marry business strategy with data strategy
With over 20 years in the business, how would you advise companies to address those challenges?
Organizations have to marry the business strategy with the data strategy. Decision-makers need to know how to apply analytics for certain outcomes. The only way to ensure everyone has the right analytics is to have in place the expectation of a data-driven culture whereby data is viewed as a strategic asset. You have to map the right technologies to support these processes, shifting the organization into an agile, self-service culture.
Looking ahead, can you share a sneak look at what companies can expect from analytics and SAP?
There’s a tremendous opportunity for analytics to become an exponential growth engine for SAP. Analytics is the fuel in a digital world. High performance enterprises recognize that data is a strategic asset and strive to adopt a data-driven culture. Here-in lies tremendous opportunity.
We are disrupting traditional data management and analytics by providing horizontal analytics solutions that span everything from data ingestion to data visualization embedded with machine learning, cognitive and predictive analytics. By bringing together the intersection points of BI, planning and predictive we’re delivering new capabilities to create a pervasive modern BI stack that enables free-form data interactivity for business users and insight delivery via sharing, collaboration, story-telling with open APIs. An analytics footprint embedded into every SAP application completely changes the game for our customers and their customers. These analytics solutions will enable new ways to connect enterprise scale BI with self-service capabilities, giving our customers the ability to easily translate data from across their enterprise into insights and outcomes.
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