SAP introduces HANA-driven CRM deployment

SAP has tied its HANA in-memory database to its CRM software. Analyst Denis Pombriant hoped the offering would focus more on connections and less on speed.

You can successfully argue that few companies have done more to embed analytics into CRM than SAP.

The exception is Salesforce.com, which has done as least as much -- and earlier and to a broader audience. But SAP has done well, too. And this week's announcement of its HANA-driven CRM deployment is an important marker.

HANA, if you don't follow SAP, is a powerful in-memory database that runs analytics and basic queries at memory speeds naturally, rather than at speeds that depend on disk I/O. HANA is a very fast solution to an old technology problem, namely how to eliminate bottlenecks in critical data analysis. 

With SAP 360 Customer, SAP has brought its customers a powerful CRM deployment in the cloud, capable of real time anywhere, and anytime support. They've got mobile down, CRM and social mostly figured out. And now, juiced up by HANA, the thing appears to scream.

However, after recently having a briefing on 360 Customer, I don't get the impression that SAP gets it from the perspective of new-fangled CRM. The big difference I see is that, in the new CRM world, social is used both as a communication channel and as a means for capturing customer data for modeling. Through analytics, social CRM eventually presents the right offers to customers at the right time.

The impression I do get from SAP 360 Customer is that it's a system that can operate at lightning speed to possibly accelerate customer decisions and drive more closed deals.

But the whole acceleration theme hasn't changed in decades. For all that time, we've been trying mightily to accelerate deals so that we could steal business from tomorrow to be booked today. But time is remarkably inelastic if you aren't traveling close to the speed of light. There's only so much you can do.

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That's why the introduction of social is so important. With social, we've identified ways to accelerate by cheating. If we can't accelerate, we can at least map the future to deliver the practical equivalent by removing latency through the precognition that analytics of big data enables. And I think that's what the HANA-ification of CRM is about.

So, my reaction to 360 Customer boils down to SAP's marketing message about the new product. It makes me scratch my head. SAP should be congratulated for its very good technology efforts, but there's more for it to do in promoting 360 Customer.

Logically, SAP is moving aggressively into the cloud and social, but the sales approach for 360 Customer is old school: one and done-- just "Sign here, press hard, the third copy is yours." The vibe is still about accelerating business and less about drilling into the relationship, which will set up the next deal as well.

I regard the maturity of a company's social offerings not by whether or not they have embedded analytics, but by how many different kinds of analytics they offer. We're all familiar with sentiment analysis, because it was one of the first things vendors gave us. But since then, we've taken a shine to natural language processing and analytics for really finely nuanced things like emotion, segmentation, influence, prediction -- and there's more coming every day. HANA's analytics will eventually be the engine of all this for SAP.

HANA is a powerful engine but she needs to get hooked up to more transmissions and, most importantly, to a more capable chassis for stability and control. Today's markets are all about stability and control, and not pure zero-to-60 acceleration, if you follow my metaphor. I have a lot of confidence that SAP can do this, and I bet that they're already at work on it.

This was first published in November 2012

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