SAP Upgrades Performance Management Suite - InformationWeek

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5/16/2011
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SAP Upgrades Performance Management Suite

EPM 10.0 software announced at the Sapphire Now user conference makes it easier for front-line managers to help develop realistic budgets and plans.

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Enterprise performance management (EPM) applications have plenty of traction within finance departments, but SAP says its EPM 10.0 release, announced Monday at the vendor's big Sapphire user conference in Orlando, will expand adoption among front-line managers and executives who have a stake in accurate planning and budgeting.

EPM 10.0 is a major release that completes a three-year effort by SAP to bring together core applications that originated with four acquired vendors: Pilot Software, Outlooksoft, Cartesis, and ALG. The release not only completes the integration of strategy-management, planning, budgeting, forecasting, consolidation, and profitability-and-cost-management capabilities, it also delivers a unified, Web-user interface that SAP said makes it easier for non-finance employees to contribute to performance management initiatives.

Broader adoption translates to improved accuracy because front-line managers tend to have a better grasp than do financial managers on what's probable and what's possible in supply chain, manufacturing, sales, service, and other operational areas.

Sports apparel manufacturer and retailer Under Armour has used SAP's EPM applications to transform its planning, budgeting, and consolidation processes. Before SAP's EPM apps were deployed in late 2009, it took two finance managers as long as eight weeks produce a revised budget, a process that required communications with stakeholders using spreadsheets, email, and follow-up phone calls.

It now takes about two weeks to revise the budget at Under Armour, in large part because line-of-business directors and sales and operations managers are now hands-on participants in the process through SAP's budgeting, planning, and consolidation apps.

"That gives us great confidence in our budgets because the people that provide the information are much closer to the details," David Roberts, corporate manager of planning and analysis at Under Armour, said in an interview.

At least 40 employees now contribute to the fast-growing company's budgeting and planning process through EPM, and another 110 employees access final budgets and plans. EPM 10.0's unified and simplified interface will help Under Armour expand the number of contributors and consumers even more broadly, Roberts said. He added that the upgrade also adds data-sourcing capabilities that will enable the company to tap into third-party warehousing and point-of-sale applications.

The list of technical upgrades in the 10.0 release is long, but high points include new mobile delivery options, including Apple iPad and RIM BlackBerry Playbook tablets, and support for SAP's Hana in-memory appliance to power data-intensive planning and consolidation activities.

Mobile and in-memory are two core themes at this week's event, and SAP is also talking up the blend of the two capabilities. In the EPM context, for example, the speed of in-memory computing will enable mobile executives to quickly drill down on financial plans and do root-cause analyses where they see variances from plan. Fast query response is that much more important on mobile devices, SAP said. Access to the very latest data--the real, real-time access that SAP touts--is crucial in end-of quarter scenarios when sales and top executives need to know exactly where the company stands against plan.

The prospect of in-memory-powered EPM is forward looking in that Hana production deployments are still hard to come by. SAP executives and customers are expected to detail a handful of the latest Hana deployments at this week's event.

SAP declined to offer statistics on the number of Hana deployments in production, but SAP analytics executive Steve Lucas, who oversees Hana sales, told Information Week that the company has several hundred customer in "early stages of engagement."

Virtualization can hide performance issues from traditional tools. This report provides guidelines to help you understand the hurdles that virtualization puts in front of APM, and how to get over them. Download it here. (Free with registration.)

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