Newcastle University: #SAPHANA Experience Leaves Them Skipping!

At the recent itelligence 2016 user conference (theme: “Making Digital Real”), I was invited to do a presentation on “Evangelism and the Future of Digital Marketing”, talking about the transformation of the marketing function, the importance of the end-to-end customer experience, and the SAP CEC solutions.

Despite some video glitches (thank you, PPT for Mac — grrr), the feedback was very positive: “Genuinely being thought-provoked”.

Out of the various presentations I attended, the highlight was Chris Burns and Alan Cecchini of Newcastle University, presenting their project to move to the SAP HANA platform.

The first phase is a migration of ERP, BW, CRM, and SRM from Oracle to SAP HANA without making any application changes except for some tuning. The QA was completed in early May, and the system is due to go into production in early July.

Some key quotes from the presentation:

  • Why SAP HANA: “Faced with SAP HANA, Oracle have chosen to put their license prices up — turkeys do vote for Christmas!
  • On the project: “The project has been fairly simple so far — in comparison, the upgrade to NetWeaver 7.5, Unicode, and the BI upgrades were much harder than SAP HANA
  • The success of the proof of concept: “Yes, you heard me right — the POC enthused a load of jaded analysts that had been in business for years — we’re not quite skipping to work, but there’s a certainly a bit of Little House on the Prairie there…
  • On moving from Oracle to SAP HANA, “The basic level of compression, no archiving, no deletion, nothing special, made the basis manager (me) clap like a small child in a sweet shop!
  • On the business benefits: “A lot! This is an amazingly slick product!
  • On building a business case: “Big shout out to itelligence. They persuaded our CFO that this was the thing to do — wouldn’t take the internal view alone, and it probably wouldn’t be here today without their help.” and “If we tried to build a case for business value up front, we would have struggled — we’re big fans of first getting the platform in, then getting the value over time” 

Here are more details on the project, from the presentation:

Why does Newcastle University want to move to HANA?

  • Support for non-HANA Business Suite end in 2025 and next generation S/4HANA only runs on HANA
  • SAP support for Oracle starts to decrease after 2017, and Oracle is increasing licence cost to 21%
  • Offers solutions to business process requirements we can’t currently meet: solutions to system growth and system complexity e.g. back-ups, BW chains, overnight batch job processing
  • To leverage Fiori, we need to be on HANA and hence S/4HANA
  • Offers real-time information to support decision-making including big data analysis and predictive analysis: chance to change oru business processes
  • Simpler unified landscape and database layers, in time easier and cheaper to support

Just moving the data from Oracle to SAP HANA — without any other changes — resulted in big storage gains: about 75% reduction, for both ERP and BW.

newcastle university compression comparison

On average, the move to SAP HANA resulted in a 2x speed gain, without any changes, although some processes were slower before optimization. In order to test SAP’s claims, such as “regardless of data volume and complexity, any question can be answered,” the team did a series of comparison tests:

Test 1: Confirmation and Clearing report — display applicant numbers for all courses for academic year 2015.

  • Benchmark — 2 mins 54s (1st run), then 22s on subsequent runs.
  • SAP HANA unoptimized — 57s (2.6x slower, one of the rare examples of slower speeds)
  • SAP HANA optimized code — 1s, 22x faster.

Test 2: SAP ERP report —

  • Benchmark: 8 mins 9s
  • HANA unoptimized: 4 mins 8s (2x faster)
  • HANA optimized: 1s (489x faster)

Test 3: Data Feed, write all applicant records to file

  • Benchmark: 18 mins 24s
  • HANA unoptimized: 10 mins 57s
  • HANA optimized: 11s (100x faster — and nine seconds of that was network transport of data!)

Test 4: BW on HANA

  • BW process chains ran much faster with a smaller technical footprint and offered the opportunity to leverage real-time reporting.

The team also looked at transforming the end user experience using SAP HANA and the Fiori interface.

One example application allowed users to search for different elements. The application using native HANA search procedure, and required just 5 lines of code for a single dialog box regardless of type of item searched. This compared to 300 lines of code in Oracle, with multiple dialog boxes for different types of search.

newcastle University fiori    newcastle University fiori tiles

The team also looked into the feasibility of using Fiori tiles and a real-time data push of data to show a real-time view of the student clearing process, showing the number of students accepted for different courses.

Benefits that Newcastle University has got, or expects:

  • Slick, relatively bug-free, product. For version 1.0 of a software product, its robustness is extraordinary
  • Significant compression of database size which means reduced system copy, patching/iupgrade and backup times.
  • Data download BW chain times also reduced so our overnight schedule will be freed up
  • Faster processes, leading to possible “just do it” running of jobs rather than batching them up overnight.
  • HANA will enable real-time number crunching, allowing business modeling, projections and predictions to take place on the fly.

Summary of expected SAP HANA benefits:


  • Improved productivity, freeing up user and system time
  • Better insight (e.g. data push/event-driven scenarios)


  • Leaner solutions that are easier to build and maintain
  • Enhanced user experience leading ot improved sentiment adoption and engagement


  • Projects delivered sooner as less admin/dev/test/user effort

Creating the Business Case

The team built a business case on “speeds and feeds”, but with the idea that the released capacity could be used to do do innovation.

  • “Faster business processes alone wouldn’t have been enough. The team had to show, through the proof of concept, that there was a strong possibility of reengineering business processes. Its fine to do things in less than one second, but what are people going to do with the rest of the eight minutes it used to take?”
  • “We shared what others had done — for example, the University of Kentucky was an early adopter, and had used it for interesting student retention and engagement projects.”

 Other Highlights:

itelligence UK CTO Andy Steer did a great presentation explaining the pragmatic steps the audience could take to get to S/4HANA

Two key slides caught my eye: First, Andy explained that S/4HANA is indeed new, but inevitable for SAP Customers, and not to be feared: “nobody expects to run Microsoft Dynamics on Oracle, or Oracle eBusiness on DB2…”

preparation for s4hanaAnd that waiting to make a decision is in fact a decision — to forego keycurrent and future enhancements.

no decision is a decision

Overall, it was another great itelligence conference. It continues to be one of my favorite of the year, and I highly recommend that you attend next year if you get the chance!