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Blogs > MWD Advisors

SAP 360 Customer - evolving the use case of HANA and CRM
Helena Schwenk By: Helena Schwenk, Principal Analyst, MWD Advisors
Published: 28th November 2012
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License
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During its recent Sapphire conference SAP announced the launch of 360 Customer, an offering that brings together a number of technology components and applications – not least SAP CRM running on HANA –   to help organisations change the way they service, market and engage with their customers as part of delivering a personalised and relevant customer experience. While use cases for HANA have thus far concentrated on real time operational reporting and running SAP’s data warehousing platform, SAP BW, this is the first time the in-memory platform has been used to fully support and run one of the company’s transactional systems, in this case CRM.

So what I hear you ask, is 360 Customer? To be honest, finding out some of the finer details about what constitutes 360 Customer at Sapphire proved to be a little hard; however from what was discussed at the conference there are a few important things to point out namely:

  • 360 Customer is best described as a bundling of different products that include but are not limited to Sales OnDemand, Customer Value Intelligence, Jam collaboration platform, Audience Discovery and Targeting, Social OnDemand and SAP CRM – all of these products are underpinned by HANA’s in-memory platform. Similarly 360 Customer includes capabilities from partners – for instance the sentiment analysis functionality that underpins its Social Intelligence application is provided through Netbase. So in short, 360 Customer perhaps is best described as an umbrella term for a number of  customer engagement applications and capabilities.
  • Secondly, although 360 Customer is talked about in the context of a transactional in-memory CRM system, you don’t necessarily need it to run SAP CRM. The system can, for instance, be used stand alone, or, as part of the SAP 360 Customer offering. What makes 360 Customer different is that it can combine both transactional as well as analytical applications  running on HANA.
  • And finally, while SAP announced 360 Customer as a fusion (or to borrow their term “nexus”) of different technology disruptors – namely social, cloud, mobile and Big Data – within one system, it’s still not all together clear how much cross-fertilisation there is across these technology forms. For example, not all of the applications and/or products are necessarily cloud- or socially-enabled.

Despite the degree of ambiguity about what 360 Customer actually represents, the one key takeaway from all of this is that the company has chosen to launch SAP CRM as its first transactional system on HANA ahead of its legacy ERP business application – a point that keenly underlines the increasingly strategic importance the company is placing on Customer Experience Management and transformation and how CRM forms a core component in this. As we know, enhancing and transforming customer management processes as a way of building a differentiated experience in today’s digitally connected, socially networked, and rapidly changing world is an imperative that few organisations can ignore, especially if they want to  grow and survive in today’s highly competitive global environment. It’s also a place that competitors such as Salesforce and Oracle also want to inhabit.

Hence it’s not surprising to see that SAP is framing 360 Customer and all its composite features as more than just ‘CRM on HANA’. SAP is pushing to position it as a system of engagement (as opposed to a system of record) that can be used to connect and engage customers and business partners to support faster and better business outcomes. Again the detail behind what SAP actually means by “system of engagement” are a little hazy, but the ability of Customer 360 to support in-memory processing across both transactional as well as analytic applications, internal as well as external data sources and both structured and unstructured data, remains a key part of its proposition.

At a less abstracted level the promise of 360 Customer is that organisations will be better to placed to run their operational customer management processes more efficiently whilst having the ability to act on business insights in a real- or right-time manner by, for instance, predicting next best actions or offers based on a contextual awareness of the customer’s situation via their location, channel of interaction, social profile, transactional history, and recent interaction history as a way of delivering more personalised and relevant offers and interactions.

As you would expect, customer examples and proof points are always valuable here and there does seem to be a shortage. But that’s not totally surprising considering 360 Customer is a recent announcement and doesn’t even have a release date as yet. That said, one customer mentioned at Sapphire – Bigpoint  - has worked alongside SAP to develop a real-time offer application that uses HANA to crunch large amounts of event data in real time, and uses it to create a personalised game environment and real-time and relevant offers for its players.

None of these highly performant and scalable applications are possible however without the backbone of HANA, and in particular HANA SPS 5.0. The latest service pack release includes a number of new features including built-in natural-language-based text analytics, predictive analysis functionality, enhanced business rules management features as well as extended application services that enable customers to deploy, for example, HTML5 and Javascript applications directly on HANA without the need for a separate web application server. A lot has been packed into this release and it’s  all designed to make the HANA platform a more versatile, robust and realistic prospect for supporting mission critical customer applications and capabilities. SAP also expects a number of its key partners such as Accenture, Capgemini and Deloitte to  implement and sell 360 Customer too as part of their clients’ customer experience transformation projects.

It’s my intention to keep you updated as more details and case studies about 360 Customer are released. But before I sign off I’d just like to make one final point, in particular about the name 360 Customer… I’m not a big fan of the rather overused and over-hyped term – “360 degree view of the customer” – which presumably SAP’s offering is based on. At best I think it’s a rather over optimistic ideal rather than a practical working solution. Will we ever be in a position to get a true 360 view of all of our customers? Not only that: I have, over the years, talked to several organisations who’ve had their fingers burnt by promising a 360 view only to find that data quality as well as organisational and political issues have thwarted their efforts. Whether you can get these organisations to buy into 360 Customers is perhaps still up for discussion.

Make sure you don’t miss any of my updates on this or other issues relating to analytics by signing up for a free MWD Advisors account.

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