How to Build A SAP HANA Business Case for Your Investment


SAP HANA is really, really fast!”

Unless you’ve missed all the SAP marketing blurbs, analyst reports, and trade articles over the past year, it’s pretty likely that you know that SAP HANA is an incredibly fast database. In fact, SAP HANA is sometimes more than 100,000 times faster than traditional databases for query  response times.

So what???

In general, “fast” is regarded as a positive attribute for a product. However, that quality alone is seldom suficient to justify a purchase. If you can’t figure out how a super-fast database can help you run your business better, then how can you justify the expense and effort required to buy and implement it?

The approach to building a business case presented in this field avoids the “speeds and feeds” argument that has long plagued the software  industry. Instead, it examines how SAP HANA can enable organizations to execute their business processes more quickly and eficiently. It also focuses on the value of the real-time information that SAP HANA makes available, as well as the resulting level(s) of business value it delivers. The primary goal here is to help you address and answer the “So what?” question and to provide some guidelines on how to construct a convincing business case in order to justify an investment in the SAP HANA platform.

Why Do You Need A Business Case, Anyway?

There are various reasons for building a convincing business case, and the relative importance   of each reason will vary from organization to organization. Some of the most fundamental reasons are:

1. To demonstrate overall business value for the project

2. To provide an initial financial justification for purchase and implementation

3. To ensure that the project is aligned with the organization’s business goals and/or initiatives

4. To establish the base-line expectations for  subsequent assessment of the project’s success

5. To provide internal documentation explaining the expected business benefits to users (and possibly to other departments in the organization)

A well-developed business case is not just a collection of data. Rather, it is also a collection of opinions and views from relevant stakeholders — both supporters and detractors — as well as representation from both the business and IT departments.

If the primary goal of a business case project is to calculate total cost of ownership (TCO) and/or return on investment (ROI) of an investment in new software, then that case will likely provide an incomplete and potentially unreliable forecast of the quality of that investment. An effective business case must quantify not only the tangible value proposition of the project but also the intangible value, because both metrics are components of overall business value.

There are typically 4 main parts to the business case:

1. Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) savings
2. Productivity savings
3. Business benefits
4. Project costs

A strong business case for SAP HANA typically includes multiple use cases  or projects — concrete examples of how the organization will utilize the product in the course of business. The key here is to “Think big, start small.” The big picture helps shape the long-term value from the investment, but starting small enables you to build in quick wins that establish success early and then continue to build business momentum with later projects.

Going further, some uses cases should reflect “stretch” goals — ambitious projects that may span several years. At the same time, they should also include projects that not only can be implemented quickly but also demonstrate measurable business value. The final collection of use cases can then be used to build a ROADMAP for current and future deployments of SAP HANA. The roadmap will balance each project’s business value against the corresponding dificulty of implementation and/or risk involved. This approach will enable your organization to prioritize its various projects in a  thoughtful and comprehensive manner, thus maximizing the likelihood that the entire initiative will be approved.

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For  each business  case  you  build,  we  recommend the  following multistep approach:

  • CREATE the storyline
  • ADD the financial dimension
  • TIE it all together

The first step, creating the storyline, is fundamental to any SAP HANA business case. The storyline is what makes the business case unique to your organization. The use cases in the storyline should map to the goals and  processes that distinguish your organization from the competition.

After you have created a viable storyline, the next step is to add the financial dimension. No matter how impressive the story, by itself it isn’t suficient to obtain funding for the project. Adding the financial dimension extends the storyline to the expected business value and provides some quantitative measures that can be used in the evaluation process.

After these two steps have been completed, the final step is to package up the business case in a format that is appropriate for the individuals who will evaluate the project.

We will discuss each of these steps in greater detail throughout the segments. Before we proceed, however, we need to consider the fundamental concept of business value.

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Levels of Value

We’ve  mentioned business value a couple  of times already. Exactly what do we mean by this term?

“Business value” actually covers a relatively wide range of benefits, both quantitative and qualitative. Moreover, there are different levels, or degrees, of business value. The chart below illustrates a useful model for categorizing these levels. This model identifies three levels: Efficiency, Effectiveness, and Transformation. Let’s take a closer look at each one.

1. Efficiency

The first level of business value, Efficiency, is the result of doing things the “right way.” Typically this means doing things faster, better, or cheaper or otherwise improving the way you do things (but not what you do). Of all the levels of business value, the gains from efficiency are the easiest to quantify. There are two basic subcategories of Efficiency: IT Efficiency and Business Efficiency.

IT Efficiency

Organizations are likely to focus heavily on IT Efficiency when

(1) the software investment under consideration is part of a broader effort such as creating an analytics center of excellence or shared analytical services and
(2) the main rationale for doing so is to reduce IT costs. At this level of business value, IT is viewed as a cost center within the organization — an expense or overhead item that needs to be managed and contained. The following list identifies some common examples of IT Efficiency.

  • Reducing  the  annual  maintenance  costs   of  older  applications  and databases
  • Reducing the internal costs of enhancing or upgrading software
  • Reducing the IT FTE resources required to manage older applications  and databases
  • Reducing the hardware infrastructure to simplify administration and minimize floor space/carbon footprint

Business Efficiency

The Business Efficiency level extends beyond issues that are purely related to the IT department. However, business efficiency/productivity is only an intermediate step in assessing the overall value of a project.

Line of Business Examples:

  • To better identify the most promising sales opportunities
  • To gain an enhanced perspective on cost drivers
  • To increase the productivity of knowledge workers

2. Effectiveness

The second level of value — Effectiveness — redirects the focus from “doing things the right way” to “doing the right things at the right time.” To properly assess this level, we need to discard many of the prevailing assumptions that underlie current business processes.

Although efficiency can deliver a fair amount of business value, effectiveness offers the promise of much more. In fact, SAP HANA provides organizations with the opportunity to fundamentally rethink their basic business processes (i.e., what they do and when and how they do it).

For example, organizations rarely, if ever, depend exclusively upon a total cost of ownership (TCO) analysis (i.e., Efficiency) to justify a business analytics initiative. Although cost is a concern, the top-performing companies in each industry incorporate analytics into their infrastructure in order to create and maintain competitive advantage.

At the Efficiency level of business value, business performance is improved first through visibility and then through insight. Visibility provides the ability to access relevant information quickly and in context. Then, insight provides a deeper understanding of the underlying causes of a situation or the likely outcome of a course of action under consideration.

Consequently, the business benefits it delivers extend far beyond improvements in IT operations. The examination of effectiveness gains  makes the assumption that IT is a strategic enabler and value creator, and  not just an organizational cost center.

Although effectiveness gains are usually more dificult to quantify than efficiency gains, their monetary value is frequently greater. Instead of precise estimates, effectiveness gains can be expressed as ranges of financial value, as illustrated by the following list.

  • Higher customer value Improved product mix (margins)
  • Better sales pipeline conversion ratio
  • Enhanced customer retention
  • More accurate demand forecasts
  • More successful segmentation
  • Enhanced understanding of real costs
  • Greater production yields
  • More efficient order fulfillment
  • Faster collections
  • Lower production costs
  • Reduced risk/impact of risks
  • More timely anticipation of market changes
  • More efficient asset utilization

3. Transformation

Business Transformation is the highest level of business value, but also the most difficult to achieve. The Transformation goes well beyond Effectiveness by enabling new business models and processes. Sometimes called “innovation” or “The Art of the Possible,” business transformation can generate extraordinary financial gains. However, the potential monetary value from this level of business value is the most dificult to quantify. By definition, Transformation involves things that have never been done before. Consequently, there are no baseline data to use for comparison.

At the Transformation level, the focus is on use cases that involve the invention of new business models and processes by leveraging innovative solutions and technologies, such as SAP HANA. If you are using a SAP HANA database, all transformations will be processed in the SAP HANA database as far as possible.

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When a transformation is activated, the system checks whether the transformation can be performed in SAP HANA. If the transformation can be performed in SAP HANA, you can set whether the transformation should be performed in SAP HANA or on the application server. You make this setting when creating a data transfer process.


  • Identifying and serving new market segments before your peers can
  • Providing personalized customer pricing and services
  • Enabling new products or pricing models
  • Creating new business models
  • Improving time to market
  • Reducing inventory
  • Increasing market share
  • Improving P/E ratio.


About Author

Ravindra Savaram is a Technical Lead at His passion lies in writing articles on the most popular IT platforms including Machine learning, DevOps, Data Science, Artificial Intelligence, RPA, Deep Learning, and so on. You can stay up to date on all these technologies by following him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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