M&S testing ‘operational resilience’ of SAP on HANA

Marks & Spencer is currently trialling SAP’s Business Suite on HANA in a bid to move towards real-time stock management for its general merchandise and food businesses, CIO Darrell Stein told Computerworld UK.

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Marks & Spencer is currently trialling SAP’s Business Suite on HANA in a bid to move towards real-time stock management for its general merchandise and food businesses, CIO Darrell Stein told Computerworld UK.

He explained that he is impressed with SAP’s technology and the real-time processing of the data, but still needs to prove that HANA is ‘operationally robust’ because M&S cannot afford any ERP downtime.

Stein also said that M&S had wanted to carry out the project within SAP’s much touted Enterprise Cloud for HANA, but found it too expensive. As a result, he is now deploying the kit in-house with SAP as a systems integrator.

HANA is SAP's flagship in-memory platform, which will eventually underpin all of the vendor’s applications in the future.

M&S implemented SAP for finance and procurement five years ago, with the ERP project completed two years ago. Stein said: “There wasn’t really a central ERP before that, there were about 1,000 different systems doing lots of different things and data in a million places.”

He explained that real-time stock management wasn’t a necessity in the past, but with the growth of online retailing HANA became an attractive proposition.

“Previously you could order overnight, it was in the store the next day - but the internet has blown all that away. You need to know what you have got right now so you can show your customers in real-time,” said Stein.

“We are using it in general merchandise, but we are also using it in foods for some real time activities.”
Stein describes the SAP HANA as a “key infrastructure project”, but one that is currently in “validation mode”.

“The technology works fine, the speed is okay, we have a lot of data to process. I would say there’s a question mark around operational resilience. Does it work? I know another company that’s used it for management reporting, but they used it with a thing called a side car – which means that if HANA doesn’t work it just goes back to the original management reporting. It would just take longer,” explained Stein.

“It’s not proven enough to be operationally robust. It’s got to be operationally robust. I wouldn’t say we have had problems, but that’s what we have got to prove. When I say it’s in validation, so that's what I’m looking at.”

Shortly after announcing Business Suite on HANA, SAP launched its own Enterprise Cloud – essentially a managed service - for the product. SAP has said that it has got “hundreds of customers in the pipeline” for Enterprise Cloud and claims that the offering allows a faster deployment of HANA – compressing the procurement process from three to six months, into two to three weeks.

However, despite wanting to go down this route, Stein found the Enterprise Cloud for HANA too expensive for M&S.

He said: “We are doing it ourselves, we couldn’t get the money to stack up on the enterprise cloud. Which is a bit disappointing actually, I would rather have done it that way. We just couldn’t get the financials to work.”