In 2010, the Sokołów Group implemented the SAP ERP system. Its wide functional scope covers almost all business areas of the company. The system is responsible for finance, controlling and logistics. It provides a reporting platform (data warehouse) and an integration platform (EAI), together with interfaces and a portal-based access to data.
However, the appetite grows with eating and in the following years further projects of development of already owned SAP solutions and implementation of new ones were carried out practically all the time, with short breaks. Rollouts of the solution to further plants, implementation of subsequent tools, such as SNP’s in-house developed solution supporting business warehouse operations in the SAP system – including wholesale and retail, and finally SAP HR with innovative features for time evaluation and piecework accounting deployed not only for the headquarters and production companies of the Group, but also for distribution companies, including the business warehouses. The implementation partner in all these projects was SNP.
It will not be an exaggeration to say that the Sokołów Group has one of the most functionally developed SAP installations in Poland. So as to eliminate technological and performance limitations that could have been encountered by further dynamic business development, already in advance, at the end of 2011, a search for a more forward-looking platform was commenced.
The exponential growth of data
The number of processes supported by SAP has been growing each year, and the volume of data processed online in the system is also increasing with time. In Sokołów, due to the continuous handling of logistics processes (e.g. preparing shipments, loading and dispatching deliveries) an IT system must operate in real time 24 hours a day.
The exponential growth of the database, new systems included in the SAP landscape, as well as development of the meat industry leader’s business (new business units) – such an intense development of SAP installations and the scale of the business with the hardware limitations began to have a negative impact on the performance. The long response time of the system affected the work of users. Waiting too long for important reports to be generated is not only an inconvenience and a cause for annoyance, but it is also the risk of lower operational efficiency and a negative impact on the bottom line of the company.
Business reasons as well as technological and financial issues (an ending period of the old hardware platform support and rising costs of its maintenance) inevitably led to the conclusion that the Sokołów Group needed a new – fast, reliable and efficient platform that would eliminate performance limitations and that would not be a barrier to business development, while allowing for the overall cost of maintaining the IT infrastructure to be reduced.
The need to select and migrate to the new platform coincided with the maturity achieved by an innovative technology based on the in-memory processing – SAP HANA.
SAP HANA revolution
SAP HANA (High-Performance Analytic Appliance) is a revolutionary IT platform that changes the face of both the systems developed by SAP AG, as well as third-party applications.
It integrates a modern database based entirely on the in-memory processing and equipped with tools that enable incredibly fast writing and reading of data with aggregation or without aggregation in the system managing this database. The HANA platform has libraries that improve the performance of standard operations on data (e.g. statistical functions, planning functions), tools for data loading (ETL), and a number of standard access interfaces that allow you to connect third party applications and reporting systems. The close collaboration of the software and the technology layer is ensured by the certification of the hardware for this platform by SAP.
Due to a very high speed of data processing, the SAP HANA platform may perform the function of both an analytical platform and a database system, using for this purpose the in-memory technology for processing of gigantic volumes of data in real time. Similar solutions have been so far available only for the analytical area, offering the in-memory processing and a column layout of data to speed up reporting. SAP went a step further, creating a universal SAP HANA platform, which can be used for both analytical and transactional applications.
SAP HANA can interoperate with the majority of SAP systems.
A courageous decision of Sokołów
The significant increase in data in the company’s SAP system (2.5 terabytes of data in SAP ERP at the time of migration to SAP HANA) and the rapidly growing number of processed transactions in conjunction with the limitations related to the current IT platform and the high cost of its maintenance and expansion influenced the decision of the Board of Sokołów to select the SAP HANA platform.
The migration of key systems: SAP ERP and the SAP BW data warehouse to the new platform was decided to be the most important for business operations – and that was also the assumed scope of the project.
The whole migration program started in September 2013. The upgrade and migration of the SAP BW data warehouse system were completed at the end of 2013. The migration of the SAP ERP system took more time due to a much larger scope of necessary tests and the inability to freeze other changes in the system for the duration of the project. Finally, after taking into account the available maintenance windows, the migration of the SAP ERP production system was agreed to be held on June 29, 2014. The project was implemented on schedule and both the first days of work, as well as a month-end closing procedure ended successfully with a noticeable acceleration in the performance of transactions and reporting.
It is worth noting that while the migration of SAP BW is an already well tested and described process, the migration of the SAP ERP system to SAP HANA in Sokołów is a pioneering project – the first of its kind in Poland and one of the first in Europe. It was decided that this project would be also implemented together with BCC (since 2018 SNP Poland).
SAP HANA – speed and comfort
When making the decision to move to the SAP HANA platform, the Board of the Sokołów Group was torn between two issues. On the one hand, a huge slowdown of reporting due to the high level of complexity and the number of reports (at that time the Sokołów Group had two different shareholders with two separate systems of analytical and financial reporting), as well as a growing pressure on the deadlines of providing financial results (one of the shareholders was listed on the Helsinki Stock Exchange).
On the other hand, there was a fear of implementing the IT solutions that had not been thoroughly tested by the market. The information on the provision of an unprecedented technical support for all participants of the implementation process was definitely helpful in making the final decision.
SAP on HANA is like replacing an old car with a new one with a super powerful engine and rich equipment. The basic features seam to be the same, but the speed and comfort of driving are completely incomparable.
Janusz Jastrzębski, Vice President of the Board for Finance, the Sokołów Group
Setting new routes always involves risks. To minimize them and to analyze business benefits numerous preliminary steps were taken. For example, SNP completed beforehand a project of test data migration from a data warehouse to the SAP HANA platform (a proof of concept project, 2012), which allowed for the expected benefits to be estimated, among other things.
Furthermore, in the SAP ERP area, in addition to training consultants and purchasing its own equipment for the HANA platform, SNP migrated its own ERP systems to the SAP HANA platform. This “training” also helped gather experiences that were unique on the SAP implementation market.
In the SAP BW area, the project of test migration to the new platform demonstrated the possibility of multiple acceleration of report execution and significant simplification of the data warehouse management as well as intensification of the employee self-service. It also became possible for business users to create reports without the need to prepare elements optimizing the performance by the IT department. The test migration of the ERP system showed a significant acceleration of data reporting and execution of transactions in the ERP system.
After such encouraging results of tests, the target project was commenced.
Controlling: a spectacular increase in performance
The controlling team recorded a spectacular increase in the system performance actually in each area used by us. The time of month-end accounting and closing in controlling was reduced by half. For example, the time of generating report sections was reduced 20-fold! So this is an argument in favor of rebuilding most of the analytical tools in the near future. We plan to consolidate a group of reports which are a source of data for very complicated analyses. I believe that this project will shorten even more the process of preparing very extensive analyses which at this moment must be drawn up on the basis of partial reports obtained from BW. With SAP BW, HANA Live and Business Objects, my team will be completely self-sufficient also at the stage of preparation of new reports based on the data warehouse and SAP ERP transactional data.
Zbigniew Kostka, Controlling Office Director, the Sokołów Group
Project: organization, running, management
In terms of the scope, the migration to the SAP HANA platform was divided into two parallel projects – the migration of the SAP BW data warehouse and the SAP ERP system migration. At the same time, other SAP systems (the portal, the XI messaging system, the Solution Manager, application servers) were migrated from the IBM iSeries platform to the platform based on Linux SLES on the Dell hardware. The division into smaller parts allowed the project risk to be reduced and the involvement of key persons to be better arranged in time.
Next, each of the migration projects was divided into two further subprojects – an upgrade to the version compatible with SAP HANA and the migration project itself. Since each of the SAP BW/ERP systems consisted of several environments – development, test and production, each of the subprojects dealt with these environments (more about technical part of the project).
Due to the unique nature of the project (the first migration of the SAP Business Suite in Poland) and the need for close software and hardware collaboration (HP hardware certified for SAP HANA), the scope of project management was extended. The provider of hardware for the platform – HP and employees of the SAP HANA manufacturer both from SAP AG in Walldorf and from SAP Poland were added to the standard parties (Sokołów and SNP) involved in the project.
So many participants pose, of course, additional challenges in project management, such as identification of persons involved in a given process, or setting reporting paths, however this approach provided Sokołów with the required safety and the ability to effectively solve potential project problems.
The good cooperation of all parties of the project resulted in smooth go lives and the customer’s satisfaction with the achieved outcome. The developed methodology of migration to the HANA platform (based on SNP’s in-house developed methodology Go Forward) will be undoubtedly used in future projects of migration of the SAP Business Suite to SAP HANA.
Firstly – acceleration
After the migration of SAP BW and the SAP Business Suite to the SAP HANA platform the speed of data loading and planning increased tenfold and the speed of reporting from the SAP BW level increased more than a hundred times. Generating reports directly from the SAP Business Suite, where the productivity increased a thousandfold, is even faster.
This data was obtained on the first days following the migration. Further acceleration will take place probably after launching the HANA tools for acceleration and optimization of the system, which will allow for even more efficient use of the database.
The HANA platform implementation brought tangible business benefits arising not only from the high speed of data processing by the SAP HANA platform. Faster access to real data translates into bigger comfort and better quality of work of both business analysts and other employees who use SAP Business Suite applications in the management of finances, accounting, purchasing or customer service, among others. Both of these groups can also create business reports without having to involve the IT department.
Business users can now create reports themselves at the level of line items, regardless of the limitations of aggregated data (aggregates may still be used, but they are no longer necessary). Many reports can be created on an ad hoc basis, which was earlier impossible due to the limited performance of data processing. The data management in the data warehouse is now simpler, and the data retrieved from the SAP ERP system can be refreshed more frequently.
The processing of logistics transactions became smoother and the execution time of the month-end closing functions in finance was reduced by more than half.
With no need to worry about the loss of the IT infrastructure performance, the employees of Sokołów SA can now use SAP solutions such as SAP ERP or SAP Business Objects more effectively, carry out dozens of additional transactions, increase the number of analytical views and ably use the newly implemented tools: SAP Business Planning and Consolidation, SAP Accounting and SAP Cash Management. The applications powered by SAP HANA assist their users in the areas of planning and budgeting, financial and accounting data management as well as controlling and forecasting of cash flows in real time.
The dramatic increase in the performance of the data warehouse and business applications on SAP HANA was accompanied by an equally significant simplification and reduction of the total costs of the IT infrastructure maintenance. The previous database could store about 2.5 TB and after migrating to SAP HANA it was compressed to less than 600 GB. The system management and backup were simplified.
Importantly, the system now has a “capacity reserve” for a few more years. During this time, the development of the Sokołów Group’s business will be effectively supported by SAP systems based on the modern SAP HANA platform.
– an increase in the SAP BW system performance in the reporting area
– intensification of employee self-service in the reporting area
– a changed approach to reporting
– reduced costs of the data warehouse administration
– better cooperation of the SAP BW data warehouse with SAP BusinessObjects reporting tools
– a faster and more frequent update of analytical data
Technical project, benefits for business
The projects of migration to a new hardware platform are mainly of a technical nature, however the new capabilities offered by SAP HANA are most likely to bring the most important benefits on the business side.
The new platform offers also HANA Live – a tool which provides great possibilities of direct reporting from SAP ERP (analyses), without BW. The capabilities are enormous, e.g. in the employee self-service or controlling area. SAP HANA replaced traditional databases used so far by Sokołów SA for the SAP Business Suite.
In-memory: new standards
“We congratulate Sokołów SA on the choice of the latest SAP solutions and the success of the pioneering implementation of the SAP Business Suite on the SAP HANA platform. This project sets new standards for the use of the in-memory technology in our part of Europe. I am convinced that SAP HANA will allow Sokołów to strengthen the market position and to develop new, more efficient business processes”.
Kinga Piecuch, President of SAP Poland
Innovation in IT
The migration of SAP environments to the SAP HANA platform is one of the most innovative projects implemented by SNP in the recent years. The successful implementation in Sokołów confirms that with SAP HANA Polish companies can make a significant progress in the use of IT tools for business data planning and analysis.
Andrzej Moskalik, Director of Client Services Department at SNP Poland