The Human Side of SAP Big Data

Blog Posts | July 26, 2017

In this blog I plan to step back from the tools and technology to explore the human side of SAP Big Data (Analytics). As Peter Drucker said, “it’s all about the people”.

SAP Big DATAI recently attended SAPPHIRE which always manages to surprise by its sheer scale and breadth of topics. This year’s headline act was Leonardo, SAP’s the Internet of Things (IoT) solution, a subject close to any data nerd’s heart. Combined with this was the underlying theme of the impact that attitude and positivity can have in life – not just with SAP but in the general course of the human experience.

That resonated with me not only because I am human, but because it dovetails with how I approach Analytics. That is, Analytics is a human endeavor aided by technology. All too often organizations throw money at technology and then sit back awaiting the “Solution to Their Problem” (caps intentional) and are disappointed with mediocre results. It doesn’t work that way and I was happy to see SAP acknowledge this issue.  Along with recognizing the “people” part of success in delivering analytical solutions, there is the job satisfaction dimension.

Back to Sapphire; I reconnected with friends and colleagues right from to 2001, my first days in SAP. Aside from the fun in reminiscing – one thing really struck me.  Being a Data nerd, I noted a pattern:  In short, the ‘transactional’ type folks – i.e. the MM, SD, CRM, ABAP, etc. – have been through a variety of jobs over the years, switching back and forth between modules, technologies, and jobs both inside and outside of SAP. On the other hand, Analytics folks pretty much stayed in Analytics. This begs the obvious (analytics-type) question – why?

Now, of course, I personally love Analytics, but that can’t be true of everyone (no one’s perfect, after all). But why does the field of Analytics, in particular, have such long-term retention in an environment and economy that encourages – almost demands – job changes every two years?

I considered whether it was the technology – HANA, BOBj and other presentation tools that are really cool (and HANA is paradigm-shifting – not a term I use lightly – in the SAP Big Data space). But the more I thought about it, the more I wondered: Can technology alone be the explanation for why people stay in Analytics?

In my presentation at SAPPHIRE and in presentations I have done at ASUG and on the web – I have constantly hammered home that successful analytics presentations require two sides of a coin – yes, the technology side (and HANA in particular) and the human side – the collaboration with the business, the KPI library – everything not technology – is vital as well.  If that is true for a successful analytics implementation, then why would it not be true for job satisfaction as well?

Of course it is.

Therein lies the answer…Analytics is the most ‘human’ part of ERP.  It must be. The very nature of the work demands it.  Analytics can’t be successful unless there is true collaboration between IT and the business. That collaboration must exist at all phases of an implementation or project and the subject matter changes all the time.  Think about it: SD people pretty much do SD all the time, MM people manage materials, etc.  Analytics people do it all – SD, MM, HR, FI, whatever.  It changes CONSTANTLY.  Every day is a new challenge, a new subject to learn, a new facet of the business to understand.  And there are always new people – from finance gurus to marketing geniuses with fresh ideas – that get involved in an analytics project.

Boredom is impossible in Analytics because of the human factor.

About the Author – David Knudson, Director of Analytics/Analytics Architect

David is a twenty-two year IT professional with over 17 years of experience as an expert in all aspects of technical development and reporting from large corporate ERP systems. His special emphasis throughout his career has been to help customers turn data into information, to understand the actual business behind “business requirements” and to help business users articulate and structure their own reporting needs. David can be reached at