It’s no secret that many companies are complex beasts, both in their corporate and technological structures. An old industry cliché states that these businesses are said to have many moving parts. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Such was the primary focus of an SAP-hosted event held at the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Toronto. With the help of its newly-launched S/4 HANA analytics platform, SAP is helping the enterprise community at large make the dream of simplified operations a reality.
Patrick Viau, vice president of HANA and Analytics for SAP Canada, opened the discussion with a statement that summed up the state of the business world of today.
“Before running simple, we have to realize one thing: we live in a complex world,” he said. “But I’m not even talking about IT; I’m talking about day-to-day (operations). We live in a world that brings a lot of complexities and complex regulations. It also brings a lot of national and inter-country regulations, which makes it very tough for us to do business or sell our products and services.”
Viau added that even SAP themselves has added to these complexities, some of which have benefited enterprises. Despite that, they are working to ultimately solve this pressing problem.
“We worked with the tools and processes that we had at the time to try and work and make it as efficient as possible,” Viau said. “The reality is that it is very complex. But how can we take a look at the data that we have, take a step back, and find data, patterns and processes that make it simple?”
Some of the answers to that question were delivered by keynote speaker Eric Berlow, a TED Senior Fellow, complexity scientist and practicing ecologist. Berlow got the ball rolling by proposing a possible solution.
“We are literally swimming in data now, and we desperately need to simplify that and cut through the smog. But how we cut through the smog matters,” Berlow explained. “We can either bury our heads in the sand, which is very simplistic, or leverage tools available, especially data mining tools, to find simplicity on the other side.”
Berlow expanded on the leveraging of existing resources to simplify data management by stating that it can sometimes be as easy as establishing some connections.
“We find simple by using our data scope to connect the dots between what causes what in aggregate so that we can see the big picture view that we didn’t see before,” he said. “When we do connect the dots, we can answer questions like what problems it solves, which is where we them focus our innovation.”
Snehanshu Shah, vice president of HANA’s Centre of Excellence for SAP Global continued the exploration of workplace simplicity by comparing the process to the standardization of shipping container sizes.
“Everything that you (consume) and that you have on right now probably came from another country. Everything got here on (a container ship),” Shah explained.
“In our global complex economy, all of these goods are moving around, and we don’t know anything about them. But in 1968, these containers were standardized. Prior to that, there were no standards for them. Depending on which shipping line you used, there was a different container size.”
Shah used this example to segue into the concept that the standardization of certain business practices is another possible solution to the problem of complexity.
“We’re going to a place where networks have become standardized,” he said. “We’re at a point where we need to start thinking about how we standardize and have standard data containers for everything we do in our businesses. But we don’t have standard ways of communicating or storing information.”
Simplification does not require enterprises to reinvent the wheel or engage in anything drastic. Rather, it is a procedure that begins with finding the best possible solution for the proper storage and management of analytics.
“If you want to simplify, the first thing you don’t do is rip down your house and try to rebuild it,” said Shah. “The first thing you do is (determine) where you can get the biggest bang for what you can do. This is what starting with innovation or analytics is all about.”
Although streamlining data operations may seem like a daunting task, it is not as difficult as many believe it to be. It is a process that involves a great deal of organization in order to achieve the desired result.
“This process is simple, and it’s all about planning,” Shah concluded. “It’s all about sitting down and developing a road map that’s linked to value and is adapted and customized for you.”
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