The theme of speed was prominently displayed at the SAP Influencer's Summit in Boston this week. To the degree that manufacturers are dealing with a more rapid pace of business, a number of technologies seem poised to provide some 'relief'. Indeed, during one of the keynote panel discussions at the summit, a gentleman from Heinz made what I felt to be the defining comment of the day.
Paraphrasing, he observed that his company thinks about speed on two dimensions: the speed of the initial IT implementation and then the speed of decision-making to support the ongoing business. In this context, a couple of examples from the summit come to mind:
- In terms of the speed of the initial implantation, SAP has clearly taken to heart the perspective that long, drawn-out software implementations are no longer consistent with their customer's business needs. In today's rapidly evolving marketplace, how can a manufacturer possibly know; for example, what the business requirements will be for their supply chain at the end of a three year technology implementation project. SAP has responded by creating a series of Rapid Deployment Solution (RDS) modules to significantly shrink the duration of deployments. Over time, it does seem likely that some of these capabilities will migrate to the cloud, but for now the growing number of RDS modules is a positive step in the quest for greater speed.
- For manufacturers, speed to support the business is both about the ability to process growing amounts of data into useful information, and then to iterate the decision-making process more quickly; SAPs HANA/In-Memory technology represents a potentially game-changing approach to solving both of these problems. For example, the impending release of a fully-functioned, HANA-enabled Sales & Operations Planning (S&OP) module is being met with significant anticipation by the manufacturing community, as a way to expand the influence of the process. Although S&OP is not the most inherently complex business process, at least not today, and the use of HANA may be viewed initially as overkill, there is little question that as the process becomes more closely aligned with demand and supply planning - and the desire to do distributed S&OP - that HANA will become a necessary capability.
Speed and responsiveness are the key priorities, from my perspective, for manufacturing supply chains in 2012 - indeed, that is the central theme of our 2012 Supply Chain predictions - and it seems pretty clear that: SAP gets it!